I was plagued by remorse, but my remorse seemed inspired by insignificant dumb things—things not really worthy of bona fide remorse. That didn’t make it any less painful or plague-worthy, as I was still riddled with disgrace on a minute-by-minute basis, so I decided to conduct a scientific study to analyze the cause(s). Then I could modify my behavior so as to behave in a way that would not cover me with dishonor. Remorse is akin to regret but more violent than regret. The overall atmosphere in my case seemed to derive from generic self-loathing. But that was too vague. Once I conducted the study, I would be able to identify more exactly the source of the trouble.
Meanwhile I went to Rigoletto at the neighborhood movie theater where they stream productions from the Royal Opera House in London. I had no real expectations because usually in their presentations you have to watch these super annoying blond-haired women in evening gowns effusing in an airhead way about the opera for what seems like an eternity before the performance starts. You have to grit your teeth to get through that—and then they do it again at intermission, plus between the acts. Even their erudite-sounding British accents cannot rescue these breathy blond-haired women in ball gowns from their realm of being incredibly annoying and idiotic.
But they didn’t do it that way this time—maybe they got too many complaints about how excruciating it was; instead they had the conductor making scholarly points, such as how the light is mixed in with the dark, which is what distinguishes Rigoletto, he noted. As it also does Don Giovanni. The comic and the tragic alternating, the ridiculous preceding the sublime.
The singing was celestial—angelic music of the spheres. The Duke must have reminded me of Don Giovanni, for I could not stop thinking of him. His love of life, his hopeless philandering, the robust way he throws his voice into its registers, the effort visibly emanating from his physical frame. I was ecstatic—to be moved by something, to feel, to think, and to remember.
A return of my old obsession with Don Giovanni consumed me. I found a new production of it to stream on my device when I got home—noting that its star, Erwin Schrott, was the same one who had played the role twenty years ago when I attended the opera in Washington, D.C. He had struck me deeply at that time. He was young then, I remember noting at the time. I marveled at his youth. He was twenty years younger than me. Now he would be twenty years older—like me. So this would be a profound rotation. And there was an additional rotation from twenty years before that, when I’d first become obsessed with Don Giovanni and studied it endlessly on the screen porch of my apartment in New Orleans, while the streetcar rumbled past.
The philosophical idea of the rotation often comes up in the novels of Walker Percy, the hero of my youth. Walker Percy seemed to have got the idea from Kierkegaard and then run with it in his own way. I would have to pursue the original rendition of the concept to seek more understanding of its elusive meaning.
Kierkegaard was so not what I expected. I started reading his works in chronological order. First he keeps talking about how boring everything is. “It is a curious fact that those who do not bore themselves usually bore others, while those who bore themselves entertain others. Those who do not bore themselves are … the most tiresome, the most utterly unendurable.”
Many fine points about what is annoying and boring follow. “The unpleasant is merely a piquant ingredient in the dullness of life.”
Which explains why it is so diverting to analyze things that are annoying.
So far Kierkegaard was everything I adore: he’s in a bad mood, everything annoys him, and he is not afraid to repeat himself. Kierkegaard was my bible, my blueprint, it was turning out. And it was all leading to the key issue—the Walker Percy rotation or Kierkegaardian repetition.
Which I would apply to the Erwin Schrott–Don Giovanni situation.
“It is in your power to review your life, to look at things you saw before, but from another point of view.”
Erwin Schrott playing Don Giovanni: Was it the same or different twenty years ago, and if so, how?
So it is about what is different, among the circumstances, of the thing itself that is the same (Don Giovanni)? The thing is the same, but you are different?