Twofish's Blog

July 19, 2006

Nessun Dorma

Filed under: academia, china, massachusetts institute of technology, Uncategorized — twofish @ 2:46 pm

I was only able to get some sleep last night by listening to Puchini’s opera about no sleep.

           Il principe ignoto

Nessun dorma!… Tu pure, o Principessa,
Nella tua fredda stanza
Guardi le stelle
Che tremano d’amore e di speranza.
Ma il mio mistero è chiuso in me,
Il nome mio nessun saprà!
Solo quando la luce splenderà,
Sulla tua bocca lo dirò fremente!…
Ed il mio bacio scioglierà il silenzio
Che ti fa mia!…
Voci di donne
Il nome suo nessun saprà…
E noi dovremo, ahimè, morir!…
Il principe ignoto
Dilegua, o notte!… Tramontate, stelle!…
All’alba vincerò!…

In the world of operatic fantasy, problems can be solved by answering riddles and a magic kiss between the prince and princess.  Reality is a lot more brutal.  You go to sleep half-hoping that some nasty event in the past would go away, but when you wake up, the past and the injury is still with you.  There are no magic kisses, and thinking about them that way just makes things somewhat more painful.

You really try hard not to think of a magic kiss from a fairy princess that would end everything,  You really try hard not to imagine going to sleep as the frog, and waking up as the fairy prince sleeping next to the fairy princess, because that is not the way things work, but its hard not to.

It’s embarassing to be a growup thinking about fairy prince and princesses.

And it’s even more embarassing to have be talk in riddles and codes.
Reality bites.

But operatic fantasies aren’t the only fantasies out there.  Magazine articles about young achievers also have their elements of fantasies and fictions.  I know in that in one case, there is off to the side of one of those stories, another story that is more tragic than any opera you can imagine.

I’d like to tell the tragic story of a fairy prince and a fairy princess, but it’s too painful, and other people own the rights to parts of the story.  Let me tell another true story which I own the rights to…..

One of the problems with stories of young achievers is that they really don’t tell you want to do.  Yes it is wonderful if you happen to have the world’s most perfect family, but what if like the most of us you don’t.  I’m a father now, and there are just no guideposts for what a father should do.  When I was in college, a lot of what I was supposed to do was determined by my parents, but they are both dead now, and their stories have ended.  I am no longer following my parent’s script, but I have to write my own.  The “classic immigrant story” doesn’t help me because that movie has ended, and I’m working on the sequel.  I wish I had that “idyllic childhood” that you see in the movies, but I didn’t.

When I was fourteen, my father, who was a professor at a community college, died of liver problems.  He had been ill for many years before that.  By a lot of current standards, he would have been considered a rotten father.  He had a bad temper, he never really played with us, or had any sort of personal interaction.  I remember some nasty arguments between him and my mother who also had a bad temper, but I remember not one expression of affection between them.

He was a wonderful father and husband, and the fact that he would be considered awful by today’s standards just illustrates how unrealistic those standards are.  Because every morning he got up, went to work, went home, and collapsed because he was completely exhausted.  He never missed a day of work because of his liver problems, he never complained, he never asked for help.  He just got up, did what he had to do to get the bills paid, came home.

One day he didn’t come home.  They had to carry him out of his office at the college.  His liver finally failed, and from what my mother said there he had been vomitting blood all over his office.  There wasn’t a direct line out of his office, so when my mother had to call home, and have me call the ambulance.

That’s his story, and when I think of what I have to do to be a father, that’s the type of fanatic dedication to family and duty that I try to emulate.  At one level, I’m incredibly proud of what he was and what he did.  At another level, I really wish I had someone else as a father.  But wishing serve no purpose, you have want you have.  There are some things that you can’t control.

But there are some things you can.  The story of my father, that is just a story.  What I choose to emulate and choose not to emulate, that is my choice.  My father never complained.  I’ll complain (I suppose that is because my mother was a complainer).  I’ll complain about how rotten things are to anyone who will listen to me.  I’ll complain because complaining helps me do what has to be done.

Let me complain about something….


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