Things that make you say, WOW.
I’m not normally a person who attends plays I’ve never heard of, featuring actors I don’t know. But when a text from my friend, Linda, said, “Do you want to go see “God of Carnage” at the Dallas Theatre Center Friday night? I watched myself reply, “YES!”
Seriously?!?!? Without even asking what that could possibly be about? (I usually try to avoid any sort of carnage as entertainment, but I was just recently on a bus for a week with lots of teenagers, so a quiet theatre and adult company sounded pretty good.) And even now that I’ve seen this oddly enlightening play by Yasmina Reza, I really couldn’t begin to describe it — except to say it struck some very familiar chords. And, strangely enough, it relates quite directly (as I’m finding that most things do), to the revelations we gain through our interactions with midlife horses.
Like horses, this play puts people in an environment chock full of assumptions, and then peels back each of those assumptions to reveal the fragility of human nature. Working with horses sometimes confronts us with circumstances that challenge what we think we know to reveal the unvarnished truth.
As “God of Carnage” demonstrated (and any horse worth his salt will teach you), when our ego-created “bubble of reality” collapses, everything comes down to basic needs, desires and protective instincts. That’s when you drill right to the heart of who you are and what you need, courtesy of your half-ton teacher (who may or may not be horse-laughing at your arrogance as he invites you to check your ego at the barn door.)
“If you don’t reconcile with these things every once in a while, you’re bound to get a very nasty smack in the face,” says “God of Carnage” director Joel Ferrell in his Playbill interview (Joel most likely doesn’t know he could be a horse trainer and clinician if this Director thing doesn’t suit him). Ferrell says he wanted people to leave this play with the understanding of how close to that edge we all live, all the time. “At any moment — after a meeting with your boss, a near accident, or the subway gets stuck— anyone can be reduced to his or her five-year-old self.” (I immediately thought of trying to get Rio to lope in the round pen without dropping his shoulder. Except that usually, five-year-olds don’t yet know how to string that many four-letter words together.)
Ferrell suggests that real redemption and real knowledge can only come if you are willing to look at everything stripped down, without pretense. “I think what is hardest about finding a sense of peace or connecting with a higher power in the modern world,” he says, “is the ‘bubble world’ we have fabricated that appears to serve all our needs.”
In “God of Carnage,” Ferrell says that playwright Yasmina Reza speaks to change and redemption and the real human condition in its most vulnerable of places. “ I don’t know of anything as accessible that also feels as smart and dangerous as her work,” he says. Clearly Joel has not spent much time with horses.
Which bring me (at last) to my point.
The lessons brought to us by our midlife horses are universal. We get this vital information from our horses because our love and interest in horses makes us receptive to this mode of delivery. We can, however, come by this information in other ways; we just have to find something that speaks as directly to our heart. And often, as I just experienced, once a horse opens a particular door for you, we as midlife searchers find echoes of these lessons in other venues (in this case the Dallas Theatre Center) that adds texture, depth and context.
So here’s the question. What lessons from your midlife horse have you discovered in other formats and venues so far removed, yet so parallel, you just have to say, “WOW.”