The world is going to hell in a basket and I am hiding in my class room teaching Macbeth. While outside across an ocean or two the stock market is crashing, house prices are plunging and Iceland is trying to stave off bankruptcy I am immersing my students in the perils of a 12th century Scottish King. Strangely I am finding parallels.
In order to reach apodictic change the world needs to come crumbling down before it can start its steady climb back up again. It is part of the cycle of greed and respite. People need to stop buying cars and houses that they can’t afford and borrowing the hell out of banks, making other people rich. Once you jump deep into the well of consumption enough is never enough.
Macbeth who starts out tempted by the idea that being King would be grand ends up on a killing spree that no idea of hell can prevent. His greed infects him to the point that he sinks deeper into sin just to retain what he has gained, lest he think of obtaining more. While the whole Kingdom seems to be turning against him he must safe guard his crown that was never rightfully his. And if his problems were not enough, his wife keeps telling him that he is not a “real man” and that only weak women worry about scruples and consequences.
Few 16 year old teenagers can think beyond their next algebra test or boyfriend crisis to find a link between Macbeth’s troubles and the present state of the world. But some can. When it happens it is pure magic.
A great book or a great film can transport one out of the hell basket or drop one into a different one. Parallels can be drawn or life can be escaped but in any case hiding under my duvet with a fabulous book or sitting in a dark theatre before a celluloid screen is my absolute favorite thing to do.
I have seen two films in the last two days. Both these films made me feel like I had been dipped into a deep book. The camera took its time, pausing for long moments on a face, allowing the story to wash over us rather that pull us in and yank us back. Both these films were also desperately sad with stories of lost individuals searching for new lives to cover gently the memories that haunted them. Whether absorbed in these characters’s lives or talking about Macbeth and his choices I am reminded how important it is to turn to a fictional life to remind us that all dilemmas are really universal.