So We Live Past Hope

Angels in America

PRIOR: I still want…My blessing. Even sick. I want to be alive.

ANGEL: You only think you do.
        Life is a habit with you.
        You have not seen what is to come:
        We have:
        What will the grim Unfolding of these Latter Days bring?
        That you or any Being should wish to endure them?
        Death more plenteous than all Heaven has tears to mourn it,
        The slow dissolving of the Great Design,
        The spiraling apart of the Work of Eternity,
        The World and its beautiful particle logic
        All collapsed. All dead, forever.
        In starless, moonlorn onyx night.
        We are failing, failing,
        The Earth and the Angels.
        Look up, look up.
        It is Not-to-Be Time.
        Oh who asks of the Orders Blessing
        With Apocalypse Descending?
        Who demands: More Life?
        When Death like a Protector
        Blinds our eyes, shielding from tender nerve
        More horror than can be borne.
        Let any Being on whom Fortune smiles
        Creep away to Death
        Before that last dreadful daybreak
        When all your ravaging returns to you
        With the rising, scorching, unrelenting Sun:
        When morning blisters crimson
        And bears all life away,
        A tidal wave of Protean Fire
        That curls around the planet
        And bares the Earth clean as a bone.

PRIOR: But still. Still.  Bless me anyway. I want more life. I can’t help myself. I do. I’ve lived through such terrible times, and there are people who live through much, much worse, but…You see them living anyway. When they’re more spirit than body, more sores than skin, when they’re burned and in agony, when flies lay eggs in the corners of the eyes of their children, they live. Death usually has to take life away. I don’t know if that’s just the animal. I don’t know if it’s not braver to die. But I recognize the habit. The addiction to being alive. So we live past hope. If I can find hope anywhere, that’s it, that’s the best I can do. It’s so much not enough. It’s so inadequate, but…Bless me anyway. I want more life.

From Tony Kushner’s play Angels in America (1991)

Photo: Prior Walter (Justin Kirk) and the Angel (Emma Thompson) in Mike Nichols’ 2003 film of Angels in America

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