Moon #15:  “This is How We Make Our Fortune”


Moon #15 Painting: "Fortune" by Larissa Tokmakova
Moon #15 Painting: “Fortune” by Larissa Tokmakova

“Tonight’s the night.”

Mike Daisey opens the fifteenth episode of All the Faces of the Moon with a consideration of the Moon itself, which on the night of this performance (September 18, 2013) was full.  A Harvest Moon.  The production was meticulously scheduled around the 29-day cycle of the Moon so that here – at the halfway point – the Moon would be in precisely this stage.

It is an immense thing, the Moon.  Not just in its size and the way its gravity affects everything from our biology to the oceans; the way Daisey tells it, it’s true immensity lies in what it represents.  It represents time – particularly the long, long stretch of time that happened before we humans even existed.  We’re “a fart in the wind compared to the vast sweep of time,” Daisey points out.  “We’re like soap scum on the outer rim of a bowl of something.”

Astronomer Carl Sagan simplified this idea marvelously in his TV Series Cosmos by mapping the 13 billion year history of the Universe onto a standard 12 month calendar.  In Sagan’s model, the Big Bang happened at 12:00 am on January 1st, the Earth was formed on September 1st, and all of what we consider “civilized” human history occurred within the last 15 seconds before midnight on December 31st.  The Moon, something both old and alien in the near vicinity, is like the face of this great clock.  It keeps the time of our true insignificance.  Try as we might to convince ourselves that we are the most important thing in the Universe, the Moon will not be ignored.

The rest of episode fifteen finds most of Daisey’s cast of characters struggling in the face of similar age-old enormities.  Livia finds herself confronting both her dream life, where she inhabits the body of a Chinese girl in a gigantic iPhone factory, and the ancient pact between a council of vampires bankers and the paper of record that almost led to her being sacrificed.  The fluidly gendered Jack, having relinquished his role as the mythic “fool,” must suddenly contend with the overwhelming mechanics of life and the pressures of being the center of his late father’s Dionysian sex cult.  Hell, even Daisey’s dog, a tiny black pug, grapples with his ancestral legacy in his dreams as a wolf.

Two episodes ago, real life banking mogul George Soros joined the story; he is a billionaire, a humanitarian and, in Daisey’s cosmology, king of the vampires.   Yet, young Soros also glimpsed a staggering truth about his own destiny decades ago in Hungary, when the Golem Saul rescued him from a group of Nazi’s.  “There is no God but you,” Saul tells him, “And you have a dark fate.  Do what you can.”   Daisey himself has accepted his role within a larger construct.  He pulls rank on the Grey Lady and Soros by announcing himself as “Death’s Representative.”

It’s fitting that at this point of the story that each character has accumulated a different kind of celestial weight, like an interlocking solar system of mythologies, ancestries, and symbols.  At the close of the episode, a ladder of light emerges from the World Trade Center in Tribeca, visually not dissimilar to the two spotlights used yearly to commemorate 9/11.  The ladder leads to heaven itself, where a seat has been made available at the “biggest table.”  It is invisible to “muggles” like us, but to Daisey and the motley crew of demigods he’s introduced it represents the ultimate form of upward mobility.

Last Thursday, I was fortunate enough to see Daisey perform the final episode live at Joe’s Pub, so I also know that this ladder will play a significant role in the endgame.  Like the Moon, this ethereal ladder is charged with primordial power, but signifies something different about our relationship to time – namely that it is running out.

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