With each passing year since I hit eighteen, my mental faculties have declined. As a child I enjoyed doing things like arguing in favor of debunked revisionist theories of history, like that the munitions manufacturers had been responsible for World War One (“Look! It’s all right there in the Nye Commission report!”). Nowadays I read books with titles like Pawn of Prophecy or Enchanter’s Endgame, and if I comprehend the headlines on the front page of the paper on my way to cheerleading practice it’s a good day. Simultaneously, my brotherwho was always the unintellectual, athletic oneis getting a Ph.D. in American history; our apartment is slowly but surely filling up with books with titles like Waterfront Workers of New Orleans: Race, Class, and Politics, 1863-1923.
However, the undergraduate musical theater writing class I co-teach at NYU is about to start again, and my co-teacher and I are substantially revising the syllabus, out of a desire to take a broader perspective. We’re considering starting out with a class about the oldest origins of musical theater; that is to say, Dionysian ecstasies.
So earlier tonight I went out and bought Nietzsche’s The Birth of Tragedy Out of the Spirit of Music and am slowly but surely making my way through it.
And my God, I’d forgotten how wonderful it feels to think.