These Two Ever-Present Scraps

After the remark about movies (and all of Art) serving only as fodder for conversation, I (years later) found, as a response, something that Thornton Wilder wrote. Because, you see, after Dad’s insult, it became my mission in life to find how art mattered beyond simply a diversion for afterward surface discussion — that is, beyond, “Oh, I loved the set, the pretty costumes, the superb acting, the clever writing,” etc.

Wilder wrote:

“The response we make when we ‘believe’ a work of the imagination is that of saying: ‘This is the way things are. I have always known it without being aware that I knew it. Now in the presence of this play or novel or poem (or picture or piece of music) I know that I know it.’ It is this form of knowledge which Plato called ‘Recollection.’ We have all murdered, in thought; and been murdered. We have all seen the ridiculous in estimable persons and in ourselves. We have all known terror as well as enchantment. Imaginative literature has nothing to say to those who do not recognize—who cannot be reminded—of such conditions. Of all the arts the theatre is best endowed to awaken this recollection within us…”

I copied it out of the Preface to a collection of his plays. It’s folded up in my wallet, pressed between the leather back of a side pocket and my Allstate insurance card. This quoted scrap has been snug there for fifteen years; at least once a year, I take it out and re-read it. Someday, I’ll read it aloud to my ever doubting father — when I’m through punishing him with the silent treatment.

Likely, if ever, I’ll be reading that quote aloud to his tombstone.

Pressed there, in that wallet pocket, also, is the only thing Denise ever gave me. Her home phone number and address. When she handed back the scrap I had torn off for her to write upon (a scrap, incidentally, off a CBS Message pad I swiped from the production offices of The Young And The Restless), she told me that she didn’t give such information out to just anybody. She presented this statement with a twinge of playful irony. You see, I was never as special to her as she was to me. But, quite possibly, it is a quality (or whatever you’d call it) that I seek out in women. Maybe, as demonstrated in my last relationship, I’ll get bored if I’m clearly more important to her.

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