Death of a Writer

I watched “Death of a Salesman” last night on DVD. It was a production with Dustin Hoffman as Willy Loman and John Malkovich as his (miscast) son Biff. The reason I’d rented it was just to be conversant about the archetype of Willy Loman—the schlub who works his whole life to make a buck, only to die broke and unappreciated.
The character of Biff was a bit more relatable, though I found his characterization a bit off. First off, John Malkovich cast as a kleptomaniacal, contemplative jock was, in my opinion, a bad choice. Malkovich, lithe and brooding, is a cerebellum masquerading as an actor. Someone a bit rawer would have inhabited the role more completely. However, the prodigal son waiting for the perfect opportunity to shine, is an archetypal figure I certainly can relate to.
I wanted to see the play because I like to keep death on my mind. While I have many moments of deep satisfaction in my life, I also see how I like Biff am waiting for life to start. I’m looking for the right opportunity at the right time. But there is no right opportunity. There is no right time. There is only life and death and our grasp thereof. In other words, there is only appreciation for the moment and all it entails and appreciation that that moment is in the context of finality; that one day there will be no more moments to behold.
I’m a bit different from Willy and Biff. While I’ve striven like Willie, I’ve never striven that hard, and it’s generally been in my own context. For example, I road my bike across country, but constituent of achievement was self-defined. Willy was out to achieve things for recognition from others; I was out to recognize myself because I didn’t want to bother with other people. Both strategies are set-ups. Both strategies have arbitrary points in the future where our happiness resides. Whether we reach those points or not doesn’t matter. Happiness is always something out there to be acquired.
And I’m different from Biff insofar as I’ve never really been recognized for anything. I’ve never been the top of my class. I’ve never gotten an award. I’ve been published few times and recognized fewer still. All of my romantic escapades were handed to me. Biff, on the other hand, was an all-city high school football player, and a lady’s man. I fortunately never had this peak to fall from. Everything has been up for me since high school.
But we all suffer from the same basic delusion: that life is interminable. In the play, Biff is 34 and Willy 63. I will be 34 in May, and there’s still a large part of me that is waiting for my life to begin. And in waiting for my life to begin, the end is nigh. Every beat of my heart is one step closer to death. Every moment elapsed is one less opportunity to tune into the frequency of my life. The future, for all its brilliance and promise, is a fallacy.
Much of my hesitation to live fully is predicated on the mistaken notion that in the future I will be more prepared. I’m analytical by temperament and subconsciously I think I am preparing for the time when I will know best. This is particularly true of my writing. While I’m more than happy to spout off about my beliefs verbally, writing it all down and sharing that with others denotes a level of commitment to my lack of readiness. What I write is a testament to my wisdom, but it’s also a testament to my ignorance. “This is what I believe,” but what happens when those beliefs are in error? And yet, it’s all I got right now—I can do no better than what I am doing now.
So I shall make this declaration—perhaps into the wind:
I will not strive.
I will not wait for the right moment.
I will act with present resources—mental and otherwise.
I will start now.
RIP Willy and Biff Loman.

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