Tuesday, December 12, 2006

TERTIUM QUID (a 3 act play)


[Four people are sitting at a round metal table in an open area for shopping mall cafes. Mall noises assault the audience, but diminish as the conversation begins. Charles (50-60ish) wears a designer suit. Charlene (30-40ish) wears a thin blouse, short dress, and crosses her legs frequently, nonchalantly revealing her upper thighs. Alan (40-50ish) looks disheveled, wears glasses, a sweater, and carries a briefcase. Donna (40-50ish) is smilingly detached and wears a colorful kimono.]

Donna: Well, here we are. Let's get to it.

Charles: Yes . . . God, what a sewer this place is.

Alan: Does it really make a difference?

Charles: No I suppose not, but we could have met at my club.

Charlene: Maybe, but this place is usefully anonymous.

Charles: Whatever -- anyway, where do we begin?

Donna: We begin where we are. We begin with our common intuition that practically everybody is full of shit about practically everything.

Alan: [laughing] God DAMN, Donna, talk about getting to the point!

Charlene: Yeah, well directness is what we need right now -- isn't that why we're here?

Charles: [peering over his slurping soda] Is everyone feeling as awkward as I am? Stumbling into each other in cyberspace was one thing, but now that we're together, physically, for the first time, I've got to tell you I'm disorientated as hell.

Donna: I think we all are.

Alan: Pig in the middle.

Charlene: Say what?

Alan: Pig in the middle. Somebody has got to be pig in the middle.

Donna: Alan, please, no phrase making -- just say it!

Alan: Yeah, you're right. I'm just throwing things out there, aren't I? Sorry.

Charlene: Hey, Babe, we're in this TOGETHER, don't forget that. Nobody's judging you.

Alan: [taking a deep breath] Thanks, I'm not used to that.

Charles: What are you used to?

Donna: [ignoring Charles' question] Look, here's the thing. We've "found each other", can I say it like that? And I think we DO know why we're here and what we want to do . . . what we NEED to do.

Alan: Right, so let's begin with Donna's axiom that practically everyone is full of shit about everything -- and that precisely BECAUSE OF THAT, life is basically wall to wall misery?

Charles: Yes, that's the essence knowing of my life.

Charlene: I think I knew it when I was TEN -- it's just gotten stronger and stronger.

Alan: Yeah, but what do we DO with it?

Charles: Well for openers, it's wonderful to discover that other people share this knowing. Science has been my whole life, you already know that, but believe me, that's the LAST place you'll ever hear THIS intuition! Science has just become another religion. Everyone thinks they have answers for everything.

Alan: Ah, but what about the scientific method? I thought science was supposed to be "applied humility" or something. You know, no abracadabra, "Just the facts, Ma'am", controlled variables -- shit like that.

Charles: Yes, that's what I thought too when I was younger. In fact, that's why I went into science in the first place.

Donna: So what happened?

Charles: What happened is I discovered a mind set just as locked into myopic arrogance as astrology. Increasingly, everything in my life was wanting go n-dimensional, but here I was, wearing a white cassock, preaching to the infidels. Certainly science has a "piece" of the real, that's obvious, but it's just a slice of an intelligence pie that's dimensionally vaster than all the king's horses and all the king's men in monograph land.

Charlene: God, Charles, I can't tell you how much it reassures me to hear that. You mentioned astrologers. You know, once upon a time THEY were the answer people. THEY were the ones you would take the extraterrestrials to who wanted to be "taken to our leaders". Now, for Christ's sake, it's the scientists! When I watch these pontificators on television, I KNOW they're wrong -- just like as some people must have known astrologers were full of shit.

Donna: Yes, but they're certainly not ALL wrong!

Charles: Indeed not. Astronomy's a quantum jump improvement over astrology!

Alan: But . . .

Charles: Yes, yes, the but -- the ALL important "but".

Donna: The "but" is what you were alluding to before [speaking to Charles], and it certainly isn't that science is wrong or irrelevant. I also take it seriously, but science is so candyass about SUFFERING. And yes, yes, we all know the ad nauseam bennies of science: penicillin, plastic, and plasma . . . and germ warfare and industrial waste. But what about our fear of death? What about how we feel when we see a dog turned to jelly in a busy intersection? Hey, there's no end to this. This ocean of suffering is bottomless. It's a shit marriage, or inoperable cancer, or a dying loved one, and there's a CHALLENGE in all that that science MISSES ABSOLUTELY!

Alan: But this is just where I get confused. Agreed, science DOES act like it's independent of human suffering, but wouldn't the Devil's Advocate response be, "So what?" Why SHOULD science concern itself with human sorrow? It's frying other fish!

Charles: Your "Devil's Advocate" thing is great, Alan, and here's my response. It's PERFECTLY FINE for science to be frying other fish. That's not the problem.

Alan: Which is?

Charlene: The problem is the miasma of implication that anything worth knowing is ONLY knowable by science.

Charles: Or the sense that science "equals" intelligence -- the MORONIC conclusion jump of the last few centuries. But intelligence is a symphony and science is a piccolo, and it's JUST THAT SIMPLE. Of course, the mind stretchers in science usually well know this. They sense they're pulling on reality threads which transcend any agreed upon definition of science.

[A family walks by their table and a little girl spills her drink on Donna, who jumps up angrily.]

Donna: Jesus CHRIST, be careful!

The Mother: Jennie, my goodness, look at what you've done! [talking to Donna] Oh, I'm so very, very sorry -- and your dress is so beautiful. [talking to her daughter] Jennie, you've just got to be more CAREFUL! [back to Donna] I just can't tell you how sorry I am.

[The girl begins the cry, but Donna speaks impatiently.]

Donna: Well, I think it's a little late for apologies, don't you? I'm drenched!

The Father: [coolly] Can we pay for the cleaning?

Donna: No, let it go. Hell, just forget it.

[The family moves on, but the thread of things has been broken . . .]

Charlene: Well, accidents will happen I guess.

Donna: [snappily] That's easy for you to say, but this kimono cost me a fortune.

[Charlene stiffens and pulls back. End of Act 1. The mall sounds re assault the audience.]



[The same four people are sitting on benches in a park with afternoon sounds in the background which pan down as the conversation begins. Everyone but Donna is wearing running clothes and is breathless and apparently sweating as they intermittently mop their arms or faces with sleeves and handkerchiefs.]

Alan: Jesus [puff, puff!] did THAT feel good!

Charlene: Yeah, I have to admit, it was a great idea.

Charles: So where's the Jacuzzi?

Donna: Well, since you're all so full of oxygen, let's get back to work.

Alan: Ms. take charge as usual -- but also right as usual.

Charlene: No, not so fast, I've got some "unfinished business" here. I want to remind us why we stopped talking the last time.

Charles: You mean the kid with the slippery fingers?

Charlene: Yes, slippery fingers -- and slippery tempers.

Donna: I assume you mean me.

Charlene: Yes, I DO mean you and I suppose this is tricky to talk about, but our conversation was unraveled more by your tantrum than a ten year old who wasn't paying attention to where she was walking.

Charles: I guess I agree, but why are we talking about this?

Alan: Because it's a reminder how easily these intuitions can slip away from us and what life becomes when we allow that to happen.

Donna: [defensively -- but not dismissively] Yes, I suppose guilty as charged. I lost it, but that carbonated crap really did ruin my kimono.

Charlene: And yet a minute or two before you were talking, rather eloquently as I recall, about how science is oblivious to suffering (dogs in intersections, etc., etc.), but that detachment sure dissipated fast once your kimono was on the line.

Charles: That's a little strong, isn't it, Charlene? Plus, to be fair, I think your buttons were pushed during those last couple of remarks.

Charlene: You damn right they were. I was being snapped at and the whole business threw cold water on everything so far as I'm concerned.

Donna: So what are you saying? You want to stop all this simply because I lost my TEMPER? Holy shit, am I in some fucking CHURCH?

Alan: NO, absolutely not! We should see it rather as a challenge to follow through with alternative ways of living.

Charles: Look, since this has come up, may I tell you how I see it? What this "incident" means to me (and trust me, similar things happen to me HUNDREDS of times a day!), is the delicacy and unspeakable subtlety of what we're wrestling with.

Charlene: Go on.

Charles: Very well. [he collects himself] We all sense there's something rotten in the Denmark of the human condition. Right? That's why we're here. There's something crazy, stupid, and cowardly in our species sense of things. And not to go to the MARROW of this, to the "reality" of it, is to perpetuate the joke/misery of the world.

Alan: Yes, yes, now we're getting back to it.

Charlene: But you seem to be suggesting some connection between this knowing and what happened in the mall.

Donna: OK, my turn. I don't give a rat's ass what anybody thinks about my public behavior and for now I'll leave it at that, but TRUST me, in a different setting I would have a shit load more to say about being "moralized at" -- which I never allow anyone to do to me EVER!

[Everyone stirs uncomfortably, but Donna holds the floor . . .]

Donna: [continuing, now more calmly] Having said that, I'm also sensing something exceedingly weird's going on with me, and yes it DOES have to do our plunge into the abyss.

Charlene: [now interested] What? What are you sensing?

Donna: That I've stumbled into being Alan's "pig in the middle" and, to understate it, there's more going on here than meets the eye.

Charles: Yes, screw the theory. Stay with THIS. Stay with the GIVENNESS. Please, please continue.

Donna: Well, I'm not sure how to say it -- I'm certainly not seeing anything very clearly. This is big time "through a glass darkly", I can tell you that.

Charles: May I throw in my two cents? Most of the time I feel I'm living in two different worlds, different "realities" really, with only a tissue paper thickness between them. One of them is grounded in this intuition we seem to share, and the other is "the world". What happened in the mall was a "world event" and MOST of what goes on, certainly in my life, are "world events" -- even though that's not the whole show, all these divorces, wars, anxieties, and depressions. But the part that's even HARDER to talk about is that world events aren't just "negative events", they're also the seemingly POSITIVE things too. A fat inheritance, a published book, a cancer going into remission, etc., etc., etc. The "failures" OR "successes" of the world are somehow vacuums of intelligence, caricatures of what's "really happening".

Donna: I imagine most of your colleges would agree with that, but wouldn't they argue that what's "really" happening" is the subject matter of science?

Charles: Indeed they would, and indeed they do.

Charlene: But they're wrong. I know in my BEING they're wrong.

Alan: We all know they're wrong, but LIVING this knowing is the quantum jump of life, a quantum jump which probably reaches back into pre history -- the sense that the world has always has its head so far up its ass that it's untrustworthy ABSOLUTELY.

Donna: You know, this beginning to sound like we're talking about religion.

Alan: Excuse me while I throw up.

[Thunder rumbles in the background, with lightening flashes, and a trickle of rain seems to fall on the conversationalists. However, Donna and Alan came prepared and share their umbrellas with everyone, and the conversation continues . . .]

Charlene: Yeah, what the hell, let's just stay here. This looks like it's going to be a brief shower -- and, God, doesn't that air smell FANTASTIC?

Charles: Is this called "roughing it"? I so rarely leave my office.

Alan: [patting Charles on the back and laughing] No, Charles, this is called doing the public park thing. Not to worry, our lap tops are behind those trees.

Donna: You're a lap top man too, aren't you?

Alan: Correct -- always on the lookout for news.

Donna: Do you plan to write about this -- why we're here, and what we're talking about?

Alan: God no! My scribblings are on the other side of Charles' paper wall. I'm think I'm here to stop being "me" -- to stop being a self.

Charlene: "To stop being a self", what a strange way to put it, but I know what you mean. It's another way of saying "practically everyone's full of shit about everything", isn't it?

Donna: Yes, because you have to be a someone to be anyone.

Charles: Oh this is so wonderful to be hearing SOMEONE ELSE saying these things!

[Everyone laughs, softly and poignantly at Charles' remark.]

Donna: [taking deep breath] OK, where are we now? I know where I am. I'm actually glad as hell that kid ruined my kimono!

Charlene: [surprised -- and respectful] My God, why?

Donna: Because it DID help me see that I was stuck in some "intellectual" understanding.

Alan: You've got to unpack that.

Donna: Well, I'm not saying anything "self critical", since that's just a game in a game . . .

Charles: [gently interrupting] Hear, hear.

Donna: [continuing]] . . . but that "going off" of anger was a measure of how far I was from REALLY knowing these things -- knowing them in my guts, in my quarks.

Alan: May I ply my trade and tighten up the language a little? Off and on during our time together, someone says something that hits me like a bolt of electricity and I always want to say something like, "would you say that again -- differently?" You know what I mean?

Donna: Do I ever! I've been thinking the same thing myself. There's so many bullets whizzing around here, it's hard to keep up.

Alan: Well, you guys are going to shoot me, but I'd like to go back to Charles' "what's really happening" -- especially if it ISN'T the subject matter of science.

[The thunder rumbles two or three times, while everyone deep sea dives into Alan's question.]

Charlene: There's the answer.

Donna: What, what?

Charlene: The THUNDER, or whatever "word" we use for it. Goddamnit, that's REAL, and so is this rain.

Alan: . . . and so are these bodies.

Charlene: Yes, yes, and so are these bodies.

Charles: Real, as opposed to what?

[more silence]

Donna: As opposed to what I was acting out with that kid -- a bunch of mind/gorp/bullshit.

Charles: Yes, mindgorp bullshit -- that's "the world".

Alan: Is this conversation mindgorp bullshit?

Charles: [quickly] No. Or rather, yes and no, but more no than yes.

Donna: I agree.

Charlene: You know, something else I like about where we are now is that it's ok to turn on a dime.

Donna: Oh I LIKE that! Say it again differently!

[everyone laughs]

Charlene: [still chuckling] It's the world thing again. On THAT side of the paper wall, you have to know where you're going and all the 1, 2, 3, 4, 5's about how to get there.

Charles: e.g., computer manuals.

Donna: OR Buddhist Sutra's -- crib notes for Enlightenment.

Alan: But what are YOU saying, Charlene?

Charlene: I don't know, it's sort of like Donna was saying earlier, seeing through a glass darkly, but there's a FREEDOM in this talking that's like the rain -- which seems to be stopping. There aren't any paths or sidewalks anymore and without paths and sidewalks, parks have a way of turning into . . . jungles.

Charles: . . . which is beginning where we are. Which is what's really happening.

[End of Act 2]



[The four are sitting around an outdoor table at a restaurant near an ocean. Sea birds and surf sounds are heard in the background. They're eating, drinking, and talking . . .]

Donna: [chewing] Christ, now this is REAL fish food, not that refrigerated crap I get in Kansas City.

Alan: [singing, while raising his wine glass] "Everything's up to date in Kansas City. They've gone about as far as they can go."

Charlene: "Oklahoma", right?

Alan: Yep -- greatest musical ever made.

Charles: We're a long way from Oklahoma right now. Listen to that surf.

[surf sounds]

Charlene: [lost in thought while she sips her wine] I lived on an ocean for a couple of months, a few years ago.

Charles: My goodness, you're the first person I've ever known who's ever done that.

Charlene: It was with a boyfriend -- actually it was on the Mediterranean, around Sicily.

Alan: Ah, romance! [and he pours himself some more wine].

Charlene: Not really, the asshole turned out to be a sexual freak, into SM and all that shit and I couldn't get off the fucking boat.

Donna: What happened?

Charlene: Not much. I just stayed in my cabin and waited until we ran out of food.

[much laughter]

Donna: Then what happened?

Charlene: Oh, I hung out in Europe for the next year or two, painting for tourists, perfecting my water colors . . . and missing my children.

[discrete silence, broken by Charles]

Charles: Ah yes, our children. There's always that, isn't there?

Alan: I don't have any. Never got married -- other interests.

Charles: Any regrets.

Alan: The biggest regret of my life [his voice breaking].

Charlene: Well I had two (HAVE two) [she corrected herself], but I let them slip between my fingers, so I've got some regrets of my own.

[long silence]

Charles: OK, time to get back on the horse again.

Donna: Excuse me?

Charles: What's really going on here? The meal, the booze, the surf, and memories. A rich mix and not to be discounted, BUT as you said [speaking to Donna] there's as "challenge" in all this too.

Donna: Yeah, I did say that, didn't I? I wonder what I meant?

Alan: We know what you meant. You meant the seductions of the world are infinite, BUT they're also almost certainly "resistible".

Charlene: Yeah, well . . . it's that "almost certainly" that's got me worried.

Donna: Perhaps this is the white wine talking, but the strongest knowing in my life is that sorrow and truth aren't mutually exclusive.

Charlene: Meaning . . .

Donna: Meaning, sorrow isn't "transcendable", and there's a perfection in that which blots out the sun.

Alan: Maybe I'm free associating like crazy from what you're saying, but I think this is related to my contempt for religion.

Charles: Explain please.

Alan: Religion is always babbling and whining about sorrow, but it never really DEALS WITH IT.

Charlene: I'm still not clear . . .

Alan: Look, sorrow isn't a problem to "solve". I've seen too much of it in my work.

Charlene: Yeah, and I've painted too much of it . . . so did Goya.

Alan: But mindgorp bullshit (you know, like we were talking about earlier) ALWAYS has answers for sorrow. Like some bullshit meditation technique, or some bullshit salvation experience in a fucking "tent", or some bullshit pop psychology infomercial. These assholes are always babbling about Salvation (capital "S") or Enlightenment (capital "E"), but what's REALLY going on is that they're wetting their pants trying to stay on the other side of the planet from anything REAL!

Charles: [gently] And for you, what are they avoiding?

Alan: [almost crying] They're avoiding sorrow, they're avoiding the existential sadness of life. Look, hear me out some more with this. I never get to say these things "point blank", the way I am now.

Charlene: That's why we're here, Baby. To talk from our guts, our souls.

Alan: I need another drink. It's just wine, what the hell. [after a swallow or two, he continues] One of the reasons I don't talk about these things is that everyone will probably hear it as being too "negative". Isn't that the politically correct word? But I don't think I'm being negative OR positive. I'm just saying it like it is. Life is a pitiful piece of shit. Yeah, I also know about love and courage. I know EVERYTHING'S not "negative". I know about creativity, beauty, and genius -- and the children I never had [Donna touches his arm as he says this]. In fact, life can be FANTASTIC, and it's fantastic for me not infrequently. I adore sex and classical music and ocean mornings -- Jesus, I could go on and on, but I ALSO know the root meaning of "passion" is SORROW, and that religious fundamentalists are the dead weight of the planet because they're always sucking their thumbs about solutions and answers where there AREN'T any fuckin' solutions and answers. [pause, taking another drink] OK, does this make me a nihilist or fatalist? Am I preaching doom and gloom here? You know what, I don't think it's that at all. I'm just saying if the ultimate lover in your life isn't UNTRANSCENDABLE sorrow, then you're the goddamdist coward in the universe.

Charles: Whew, I feel like I just got rolled over by a 747!

Donna: Thank you Alan. What can I say? I agree. I agree with every syllable you said, but I couldn't have said it so eloquently.

Alan: Yeah, well we writer types never shut up, one way or another. For us, it's communicate or suicide. Except I never communicate about THESE things -- and I suppose is this is all tangled up with my not having kids.

Donna: Which you still CAN HAVE, you know [but by now, Alan's lost in his reveries].

Charles: [shifting gears] You know we seem to be running out of options here.

Charlene: What do you mean?

Charles: Well . . . so much for science and so much for religion -- isn't that what we're saying?

Donna: Damn straight! Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dumber, Republicans and Democrats. Jesus CHRIST, time for a quantum jump!

Charles: I see it like this. Civilization has always tiptoed through the millennia, hanging on like grim death to alleged "answers" from the past -- but isn't that like trying to drive down a street by looking into a rear view mirror?

Donna: Perfect. But that's the macro version. The micro version is "thought". IT'S THE SAME THING. Thought equals mindgorp bullshit.

Alan: . . . so what's the alternative?

Charles: The alternative is opening up to the REAL. The alternative is this groping conversation. The alternative is not specializing away your birthright intelligence into science, or listening some glassy eyed religious fundamentalist tell YOU who/what you are! And the alternative is realizing that ultimate realness is WHERE WE ALREADY ARE -- this IS the Kingdom of the Point Blank.

Alan: "The Kingdom of the Point Blank" -- [chuckling] Whoa, I don't know if I can handle that one!

Charles: You already are. You don't have any choice. That's the delusion of thought -- that we can somehow put giveness into a "thinking about perspective". What a joke! And just where are we supposed to be while we're doing this? On the outside looking in? WHAT outside?

Charlene: [laughing] Yeah, I see what you mean. If reality's over there and I'm over here, then I'm in deep shit.

Alan: Or you aren't "in" anything, because YOU aren't anything. Yes, yes, I love this. This is all of a piece with not being a self.

Charlene: Oh NOW I see what you meant by that, because if nothing's on the "outside looking in", there isn't any "separate self"!

Alan: [speaking softly] I've been on assignments in war zones and take it to the bank nobody trapped in THAT horror thinks they're watching what's happening on television. All that metal in the air clarifies your mind wonderfully about shit like that. And all those eyes -- those frightened rabbit eyes . . .

[He attempts to light a cigarette, but trembles unsuccessfully with a match, so Donna reaches over with her lighter.]

Alan: [continuing, talking through exhaling] All those frightened, DISILLUSIONED eyes. Eyes of vulnerability. Eyes of truth. Eyes no longer plugged into one up identities of separateness, I can tell you that.

[A Bach solo cello piece emerges from offstage, continues for around three minutes, and then fades with the lights . . .]

[End of Act 3]



[Donna and Charles are in bed. Jazz is playing softly.]

Donna: Well, here we are -- two middle aged marrieds getting our rocks off.

Charles: Yeah, because we're not married to each other. [both laugh]

Charles: Jesus, what a weekend!

Donna: Any regrets?

Charles: You mean with you?

Donna: NO, you dork, I don't mean with me. I mean all this "soul searching".

Charles: No, I loved it. I can't tell you how much I loved it. It's the most interpersonal "reality" I've ever experienced in any two or three days of my life.

Donna: [abruptly] You happy in your marriage?

Charles: Is anyone?

Donna: Hmmm, slippery answer.

Charles: Speaking of slippery . . . [and he reaches over for a kiss]

Donna: [after an unhurried and mutual embrace] For a physicist, you've sure got a libido!

Charles: You inspire me.

Donna: [giggling] I can tell.

Charles: Donna, I know we're still in the ozone where the four of us have been soaring during the last few days, but I've just got to know more about you.

Donna: Be careful love, sometimes it's best not go into too many details.

Charles: I know, I know, but I've practically never strayed outside my marriage, so this is intensely personal for me.

Donna: It is for me too sugar, but I'm not sure if we should get too personal about this.

Charles: I can't help it. Sex and "making love" have always been the same thing for me.

Donna: You're a strange one, Charles. For most men, they're on different sides of the planet! Believe me, I know all about that one.

Charles: Are you passionate in your marriage? Is it OK for me to ask that?

Donna: OK to ask -- doesn't mean I'm going to answer

Charles: I'm sorry. I'm not being nosey. It's just that I've discovered I was born into the wrong country and century when it comes to marital intimacy.

Donna: Well, I know a few happy couples.

Charles: So do I . . . but it's easier to answer the, "is there sex after marriage" question, than, "is there life after death".

Charles: [tentatively] Donna . . .

Donna: I love the way you say my name. You were asking?

Charles: Frankly, I guess I'm confused why you got so upset when that girl spilled her drink on you. You know I'm not saying this critically -- it just seemed odd somehow.

Donna: Well, since you now "know" me in the Biblical sense, I'll answer that, but it's a complicated answer.

Charles: You're a complicated woman.

Donna: Too bad my husband never put that together, but that's another story. The demon of my life is anger. It hasn't always been like that, but after a lifetime of playing worldly games by the worldly rules, AND having everything, and I mean fucking EVERYTHING blow up in my face, I decided to turn and fight. Freud used to talk about your love and work life as being measures of functionality, well, let me tell you MY love and work life are wall to wall shit. In other words, you're getting it on with a very, VERY disillusioned lady!

Charles: [moving toward her] Speaking of which . . .

Donna: [a little impatiently] No, no, let me finish. You asked, I'm answering.

Charles: Cool. I'm listening.

Donna: [giving him a kiss] I know you are sugar, I know you are. The thing is, disillusionment can be freeing, and, trust me, I take NOTHING seriously anymore if it tells me to do little dances and I'll get pie in the sky. Be faithful, and you'll have a great marriage. Bullshit! CEO your own business or get PhD’s, and you'll have a great financial life. Bullshit! Finally I realized the dance of life doesn't any steps painted on the floor. All that accumulated crap in our brains is just recycling the past. All those institutions, all those formulas and guarantees, all those prayers and mantras, are bullshit at the beginning, bullshit in the middle, and bullshit at the end.

Charles: [gently] And what's not bullshit?

Donna: What we've been talking about. "Reality" isn't bullshit, reality and love (maybe the same thing). If reincarnation is legitimate (which I doubt!), then you can spend your next thousand incarnations going down all the "paths" of life -- religious paths, marital paths, even scientific paths, and you'll end up exactly where you started. NOTHING will change, because change never comes from seeking change . . . because there isn't any path . . . and there isn't any seeker.

Charles: Listening to you now is like listening to life itself talking.

Donna: I felt the same thing about what you were saying earlier.

[a quiet moment]

Charles: But where does this leave "us"? Look, let's face it, we're both going back to intimacy deserts, and yet here we are, bare assed and communicating -- and I mean REALLY communicating! How can we walk away from this . . . but even more mysteriously, why is this important in the first place?

Donna: I lost you there, lover.

Charles: I don't know -- if identities of separateness are delusional, then what's happening here? I mean, we're "relating", aren't we? Doesn't that require "relatas".

Donna: [critically, but affectionately] "Relata's"! Yeah, just as I thought, you really are a man. Jesus Christ, Charles, what's this "relata" shit? Let's bag the abstractions, OK? This is person to person time.

Charles: No, no, that's what I mean too! It IS person to person time, and with a few circumstantial changes, I think we could fall in love with each other. And sex to me is SACREDLY personal.

Donna: Oh my weird physicist, what a lovely thing to say.

Charles: But what does this mean? [now asking with hint of desperation] Haven't we got two CONTRADICTORY truths here!

Donna: OK, OK, but slow down, let's just look at this. You've got to tell me more what's bothering you, Baby.

Charles: [seemingly relieved to go into it] What I'm saying is that for the last couple of days we've all been talking about the big, BIG picture stuff, relative to which even things like science and religion are, at best, special cases.

Donna: Go on . . .

Charles: We've been opening to vistas of intelligence which aren't limited to recycled civilizations or fantasy "personalities". Intelligence is BEYOND all that, it's n-dimensional and it ISN'T, as you pointed out, limited to science or indifferent to human sorrow.

Donna: Yes, that's the vision, that's the intuition which seems to be the core realization of us all.

Charles: But if personalities are delusional, then what's this saying about "personalness"? What's this saying about intimacy? SCIENCE is certainly indifferent to what's happening between us right now -- or to ANY kind of loving and relating (including with our children!). In fact, that's the main reason I turned AWAY from science. Not because the no brainer religioso's are right and the universe is a "motel" for their salvation sitcoms, but because INTELLIGENCE ISN'T LIMITED TO SCIENCE. And sorrow is real. And love is real. And BEAUTY, goddman it, that's real too!

Donna: Oh, Charles, Charles, what a song you're singing. Keep going, Baby, don't let anything stop that song . . .

Charles: [nearly crying] Maybe this is related to what Alan was talking about earlier, to the utter "vulnerability" of life -- and death. All these intuitions which seem so [pausing] "freeing", so realistic, where are they now for our loving? How do they relate to . . . our hearts? Jesus, I don't want to make the same mistake SCIENCE makes. I don't want to be indifferent to human suffering, to human loving. There's GOT to be someplace in this (woo woo!) "mystical big picture" for intimacy, for person to personness -- EVEN IF separate selfness is delusional gobbledegook.

Donna: [softly] OK, OK, I think I now see where you are with this. [long pause] I don't know, Charles, I think what you're talking about now is less a problem for women than men, but I don't mean anything sexist by that.

Charles: I know you don't Donna, but help me out with this if you can.

Donna: In the first place, it's probably a lie to say women are more grounded in their feelings than men. Of course, lot's of women DO say that and maybe they're right, or maybe just they've got their own agendas, but I'm convinced feelings are hard wired into being alive -- and believe me, I've known some cold blooded bitches in my day. But, having said that, I think men and women tend to "live out" their feelings differently.

Charles: Meaning . . .

Donna: Meaning, this problem which bothers you so much, would be a no problema for most women.

Charles: Why?

Donna: Because even though women don't "feel more" than men, I think they "trust" their feelings more -- something like that. It really wouldn't occur to a woman so much as a man, especially a physicist [giving him a kiss], that science could explain away their hearts. Even if science "seems" to imply that, most women wouldn't give a rats ass and would simply go with their hearts. A mother, for example, who loved her children, would be ABSOLUTELY INVULNERABLE to any intellectualizing point of view (probably coming from a man -- no offence), which presumed to explain away that love. It'd be like trying to explain away the sun.

Charles: Hmmm. Interesting. Yes, that's a different take on this.

Donna: But you see your wariness of this heart discounting thing, to me, is another kind of love. You, in YOUR way, are honoring and protecting your children, your dreams, and your loves. And even though I don't feel that danger the way you do, I'm glad you're out there, keeping up the force field, holding the line against impersonalness. And not just against science, but ALSO against, perhaps, some of our shared intuitions which seem, at least to you, to dissolve away intimacy and personalness.

Charles: [slowly] Yes, the razor's edge between religion and science can get pretty thin. Neither heart at the price of realism -- NOR visa versa. I think the challenge of my life has always been to keep those two wings in synch.

Donna: Charles, Charles, Charles. What do you think making love is for? [and they embrace].

[The play finishes with Thelonius Monk's "Straight, No Chaser".]