Monday, December 12, 2011

"Because I Can Interrupt"

A week-end rich in reveling in the human imagination, including the children's first screening of Duck Soup (oh the laughter and the multiple riffs on the mirror scene!), yields all sorts of hope for humanity, love of the holiday season, and absolutely no desire to grade yet more papers.  So a brief musing on something Eleanor said yesterday which has kept me smiling....

Hmmm - I wrote that a week ago Sunday. Note to self: never title a post with the word "Interrupt" in it, for it is doomed to be interrupted.  Life has been as hectic and at times as absurd as that in Freedonia, but without the leadership of Rufus "All I can give you is a Rufus over your head" T. Firefly. We've since seen Duck Soup about ten times and the kids can do several of the dialogues ("You can leave in a huff; if that's not fast enough, you can leave in a minute and a huff" is the current favorite) and a pretty tight mirror scene.  We're hoping that Santa brings more Marx Brothers into our lives because that would only be appropriate.

Eleanor's comment, which I can still savor, had to do with this absurd dog toy that she won in France at the end-of-the-year festival (yes) - a squeaky doggie newspaper. She loves this toy, sleeps with it, carries it around, brings it to school, makes drawings of it.  It finally dawned on me to ask her why she loved it so, and she replied: "Because I can interrupt."  The power to interrupt: this small, squeaky, annoying toy gives her that power, and she loves it for that reason. Never mind what she might interrupt - Eleanor is unencumbered by the transitive needs of the verb. She just can.  And she has: we've heard that damn thing squeak in the midst of the most intense conversations/frantic searches/power struggles. That high-pitched squeak of the air going out, the breathy whine of the air coming back in.  What a joy, what a fantastic disruptive joy, to be able to interrupt.  Ask Groucho Marx.

MS. Rawl. liturg., f. 13 Bodleian Library, Oxford
At the end of the semester, and an especially good group of students in the Gothic Art class (the class about class), I see afresh the vigor with which images interrupted text in medieval art.  We read a lot of Michael Camille, and so that power was relished in religious manuscripts, secular streets, and everything in between it seems.  For funny and surprising examples of marginalia interruptions, see this wonderful blogger. I'm just going to spend a couple of minutes on this interruption: the Annunciation to the Shepherds ('tis the season and all that). Now this scene is not nearly the Interruption of a Lifetime that Mary received at her Annunciation, but it registers interruption very nicely nonetheless: drop your spinning, and your bagpipe, your bread cutting, and your barking - there's a new idea, a new presence, an interruption in the steady flow of human and divine relations.  Most of God's manifestations are interruptions, aren't they? A steady flow of interruptions from Abraham to Jacob to Moses. Unsought, intense, absurd. But the more I think about them, the more necessary and terrific interruptions are. It's a complicated word, etymologically: rumpere already means to break, and then inter just intensifies it with its meaning of between. Interruptions can really spill your world wide open. They deter and deflect, render you incapable of finishing what you started, make you forget why you're here in the first place.  But Eleanor delights, Groucho ruffles, and God's been known to try and reveal a thing or two. Is it any wonder, as we enter exam and grading week, that I shall welcome all interruptions?

1 comment:

  1. Love, love, love this story: the power to interrupt. Perfect!