“Three Sisters,” One Parent

Andy and I recently attended a performance of Chekhov’s Three Sisters.  As I mature, I find myself moved and fascinated by many of the things that once bored me to tears as a young, angry and impatient rebel with an allowance—a youth where I had the luxury of cynicism and grandiose artistic ambition, followed by a life of hard work in the wake of my father losing all his money in what turned out to be a blessing, at least for me, of the most liberating magnitude.

As I offer up these blog words in the service of love and encouragement for us all to be our best Selves (as parents and as “parents” of our shared world, as well as nurturers of, and participants in, its unfolding consciousness), I found Chekhov’s words, as well as his temporal and political context, incredibly resonant—prescient, modern and eternal.

The first director of Three Sisters was Stanislavski, the pioneer of naturalistic acting that came to be called “the method.”  Out of this school of radical authenticity, and interiority, on stage, came Marlon Brando, James Dean and later Pacino, Hoffman, Streep.  In a world of overwhelming falseness, sometimes the quest for what’s real must unfold behind the third wall of a stage… art itself being a living remnant of communing with spirit, with the Truth of what just is… of what we cannot, by our brains, hope to know.

As parents, we are often hammered by the mundane and conforming (not to mention race-to-nowhere fear-and-money-driven competition), and thus we must continually unearth and give flight to the transcendent and the luminescent, the compassionate and the connected, to be found and lived in the small moments of our big-enough lives.

Chekhov writes from a time on the cusp of vast turbulence and tumult that would radically transform Russia, and all our world, through multiple incarnations in the years between the premier of Three Sisters and its continued resonance in our own uncertain times.

Two quotes from Three Sisters:

First, the “lovesick Major,” Vershinin, an optimistic man who has worked his way in the world:

“It seems to me that everything on this earth must gradually change, and it is changing already in front of our eyes. After two or three hundred years, perhaps after a thousand – the exact figure is not important – a new and happy life will emerge. We ourselves will not be a part of it, of course, but that is what we are living for now, we are working for it, even suffering, but we are in fact creating it. And that is the sole purpose of our existence now, or, if you wish, our only happiness.”

And Tuzenbach, a man who has never actually worked, and therefore idealizes the work he never does:

“It is not a question of two hundred or three hundred years, for even after a million years life will still be exactly the same as it was before. Life does not change, it remains constant, following its own particular laws, laws which are outside your scope or, at the very least, laws which you will never know. Migratory birds, cranes for example, keep on flying and flying, and no matter what thoughts wander into their heads, whether they are sublime or petty it is no matter, they will still keep on flying and not know why they are flying or where they are flying to. They fly and will keep on flying whatever philosophers might be born amongst them; and let them philosophise, as much as they wish, as long as they keep on flying…”

So, what about parenting, and love and a better world?  Could it be that life is now as it always is, always has been?  Could it be that history is not the issue, nor progress, but rather the opening of consciousness?  Could it be that this is an unimaginably beautiful time, a time of cranes and philosophy, and at the very same time an epoch of widening consciousness?

Could it be that it all depends on the softness of our open hearts, on the grace of flying birds?

Just in case this is so, perhaps we might place our wondering, loving, tenderness and parenting in the service of all our collective children—the embodiment in the here and now of unity across time and flesh, love in the floating mist of our eternal Truths.

Namaste, BD

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7 Responses to ““Three Sisters,” One Parent”

  1. Lindsey Says:

    Three Sisters has long been among my very favorite pieces of literature. I find it immensely moving, and love the passages you cite here. And yes, yes … I think it does all depend on the softness of our hearts and the grace of flying birds. Yes. xox

  2. Katrina Kenison Says:

    “As parents, we are often hammered by the mundane and conforming . . . and thus we must continually unearth and give flight to the transcendent and the luminescent, the compassionate and the connected, to be found and lived in the small moments of our big-enough lives.”

    Is there a way we could get these words out to every single parent in the country today? I wish there was. Instead, I take them to heart myself, gratefully, as the reminder I need right now, that life is enough, and that compassionate and connected are the words I want to live by. Thank you.

  3. rebecca @ altared spaces Says:

    In college I was fortunate to be in a production of this play. What a time! Thank you for the reminder. Opening. Gentleness. Slowness. Watching the birds. Yes. It’s stunning to go to a performance of that play, isn’t it?

  4. BigLittleWolf Says:

    Another lovely musing, Bruce. I find myself drawn to the Russian literary soul (as a literary Russian soul-spirit?) – and like you – often find much in great works read decades ago. Another example of the sort of layering of consciousness and opening that can come with time?

  5. rudrip Says:

    Bruce: Love these passages that you’ve cited. It reminded me of the line in Tolstoy’s The Death of Ivan Ilyich : “But on the whole his life ran its course as he believed life should do: easily, pleasantly, and decorously.”

    Thanks for sharing this.

  6. Pamela Says:

    As parents, we are often hammered by the mundane and conforming (not to mention race-to-nowhere fear-and-money-driven competition), and thus we must continually unearth and give flight to the transcendent and the luminescent, the compassionate and the connected, to be found and lived in the small moments of our big-enough lives.

    Bruce – these words blew me away. This is IT right here. I am constantly struck by how often my boys say the most amazing things as soon as I slow down and sink – soften- into the mundane. For me, slowing down is both the work and the softening.

    I love this post so much. Thank you.

  7. Meagan Says:

    This post is art too. To put such rock-solid truths onto the wings of the philosophical cranes…it’s breathtaking. I love the places my mind and heart go when I read your work. I have not yet seen (or read) “Three Sisters” and I am moved to do just that. This is a parenting reminder, but a human reminder too. Off to give flight to the compassion…amazed there are so many ways to do that 🙂 Thanks for this!
    MMF

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