Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Note on an unfinished aria.

One night, as I was waiting for the bus to take me to work on the midnight shift as a data entry clerk at what was then Mellon Bank, I began composing an aria for Baron von Frankenstein.

I'm serious. I had had a conversation with someone who was working on a musical based on Mary Shelley's horror story, and I began imagining how one scene might go.

The scene takes place in Frankenstein's lab. The stage is crowded with the accoutrements of his madness. At the back, the roof of the castle gives way to a large sloping window, under which lies the bed in which the Baron collapses when he is too caught up in his work to go to his bedroom, but too tired to continue.

As the scene opens, he is in bed. Lightning flashes outside the window, and crashes of thunder give way to roiling cellos and ominous brass chords as he tosses, turns and finally wakes from his nightmare - which he strives to recall. In song, he describes the dark vision of a countryside laid waste, not just by his creature, but by a larger plague of terror and wrath. In the dream, he encounters a boy, no more than 12 years of age, who explains that all that the Baron is seeing has sprung from his own hand.

These are the last lines:

" 'This isn't what I wanted!'
And at his answer my blood froze:
'How peculiar, Baron Frankenstein -
for this is what you chose.'"

As imagined, that last line could produce the most chilling moment of the entire play.

Life is full of unintended consequences. Wisdom consists in large part of getting better at anticipating what results our actions might produce, beyond those that we intend - and even more so in learning to avoid or prevent results that we really, truly, deeply do not want. For even when our choices do not make unintended consequences inevitable, they make them possible.

Is the failure or refusal to consider possible unwanted consequences of one's choices, and to work at preventing them, a form of evil?

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