July 19, 2005
A couple of weeks ago I watched Phantom of the Opera (the movie) for the first time. I have no idea how it compares with the stage production, but as it was, I really enjoyed it. Since watching it I’ve thought a lot about the ways the show depicts so much inside all of us. So much inside of me.
The scene in the dressing room where Christine meets Raoul for the first time since childhood, though – that was hard for me to watch. Not the part with Raoul, but the part after Raoul leaves, where the Phantom gets jealous and possessive and Christine says to him (he’s still speaking to her from hiding), “Angel, I hear you. Speak, I listen. Stay by my side, guide me. Angel, my soul was weak, forgive me. Enter at last, Master!” Oh, that was hard to watch. Hard to hear her desperate pleading, offered to the tyrant she mistook for a god.
It was hard to watch because that was me in that scene.
I have phantoms, too. Things that pose for a long time as promise – promise of safety, of popularity, of being in on some insiders’ game – but that ultimately reveal themselves as threat. The hardest part about that dressing room scene was the way it reminded me of the phantom I mistook for God for so many years. A God who really seemed to talk to me, coach me, comfort me, stay faithfully by my side. But who had a really awful flip side, too. One that was gamy, pouty, insecure, demanding, self-centered. One that would intentionally cause me harm in order to make me a better person. One that would objectify me in order to get his own agenda accomplished, and be glad when I bowed my head and broke my will and silenced my voice in order to make that possible.
He wasn’t all bad. No – if he were, he wouldn’t have had such power over me. Christine wouldn’t have been mesmerized by her Phantom if he had shown his cards too blatantly or soon.
But he wasn’t an angel. No. Most definitely not.
I think phantoms come in many forms. I think they can be blogs. I think they can be self-talk. I think they can be clubs or churches or jobs or people. Alcohol, even. Pornography. Anything that’s magic for us, pulling us in with a sense of promise, making us lose ourselves and our better judgment in a swirl of assurances of wished-for things…or warnings of all that would be lost without them. Our phantoms do all this, but simultaneously seep poison into us. Jail us. Demonstrate themselves to be dictators, twisted and jealous lovers.
I want to be free of my phantoms – the ones posing as God and otherwise. I want to cultivate my inner Raouls, and friendships with outer ones, cause Lord knows I can’t get free on my own. Lord knows the second our phantoms whisper in our ears, we’re melting again, swooning again, relocking our handcuffs willingly. “Don’t leave me,” we say to our offended kings. “I’m sorry I thought about freedom.”
In my moments of clarity, I say no to all that. I say no to captivity and darkness. No to un-gods. And I sing a massive, operatic YES to freedom. This kind of move may not let me live anymore in the magic of a personal “angel,” like Christine long thought she had. I may no longer sing the songs that such “angels” can inspire. And I grieve both losses.
At the same time, though, I think life outside the caves, outside the haunted opera house, is magic enough for me right now, and is full of hope and love and light around so many turns. This makes me so happy. This truly makes me want to sing.
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Extremely thought provoking. Instead of phantoms or Gods, we could even substitute the word addiction, I guess. It is all that is razzle, dazzle--and ultimately so shallow--and can be killing.
I did see Phantom in the theatre, but didn't see the film. Maybe I'll check it out of the library this summer. I'm in my Greek phase right now!
Posted by: Fran | Jul 19, 2005 10:11:50 PM
Fran, yes! Addiction is the perfect word to substitute there. And a Greek phase? Do say more...
Posted by: Kristin | Jul 21, 2005 8:50:11 PM
I've just blogged about some very similar thoughts - the questions were raised listening to a Tori Amos song, Little earthquakes, which has the lines:
Give me life, give me pain, give me myself again
Its a bit of prayer mantra for me at the mo...
Posted by: Paul | Jul 26, 2005 7:01:54 AM
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