POST: 'Phalaris’s Bull: Solving the Riddle of the Great Big World' - is logic stronger than sorrow?


What's it about?

For the Phalaris’s Bull: Solving the Riddle of the Great Big World, Steven Friedman allows the audience to travel to various moments of his life through monologues that were accompanied by poignant visual and audio stimuli. From his hardships, his strengths, and his love for philosophy, together we learn the answer to the riddle of this great big world. 

What'd I experience?

Phalaris’s Bull: Solving the Riddle of the Great Big World was, for me, an oddly moving and empowering experience. While I was experiencing the show I had little to no idea what to make of it. His words were soaring so fast that it felt as if my mind was constantly running to catch up to him. I was desperate to understand Friedman and take away as much as I could from his show.  On more than one occasion I had to fight the urge to whip out my trusty moleskin notebook so I could write down some of my thoughts, questions, and opinions.   

The show left me with so many unanswered questions and made me question who it is I am and who I want to be when I grow older. When I left the theater I felt like a different person - I had different perspectives to think about, alternatives ways to deal with unwanted emotions, and a hunger to learn more about what I'm capable of as a person.

So here I am, it is currently 4:11 AM and there are two specific ideas of this show that has seemed to stand out to me the most. If the first thing you think about is sleep at this hour, congratulations you’re a normal human being. If you’re like me and you like staying awake during ungodly hours of the night thinking about the meaning of life, then congratulations you get no award only get chronic deep set under eye bags.

During a certain point of this show Friedman begs the question “Is logic stronger than sorrow?” 

This question seemed so hard hitting that almost instantaneously it was imprinted on my mind. Is logic strong enough to stop sorrow? Is that possible? At the very core of this provocative question, it is essentially referring to two forces within a person, the heart and the brain. I believe that we each have an answer to this question: if you think with your mind or if you think with your heart.

Steven Friedman has faced a lot of sorrow and loss throughout his life but the way he dealt with it was his overabundant logic, he never let his emotions win. When his soulmate had left him, his sorrow had taken control of his life but once his mind regained control he took that logic and used his sorrow to create a play. When his second love interest left him, instead of letting sorrow win once again, he learned how to paint. 

Personally, I think with a varied combination of the two but my mind takes on most of the heavy lifting. When I was younger I used to think with just my heart and as a result I suffered tremendously. When this began to take a toll on me it was as if my brain hit the big red emergency button and took control before my heart did any more damage. My brain became my constant source of protection. Whenever something bad happened my heart shattered but my brain kept the pieces together as best it could.

So, maybe logic is stronger than sorrow.  Because there is so much room for good and for improvement. There is a lot of sorrow in this world, there's no doubt about it. When things get hard and when things get scary, usually the heart has the first reaction. Some people would rather go with what their heart is telling them. Logic would tell you it is okay to feel the way you’re feeling but you should take the time to understand why and figure out the best way to deal with it. It’s like when people say education is the best way to combat ignorance, the more you understand the better of a person you’d become.

One of the most empowering and uplifting ideas of this show is that you should not let go of opportunities because you believe they will yield bad results. This is because your past does not dictate your present or your future, it is your future that dictates your past and your present. Friedman drills this ideology towards the later half of the show, to him this is one of the biggest answers to the riddle of this world. 

I find this idea to be incredibly beautiful. I think it is the road less traveled when thinking about the future. When you think your past holds the power, you believe that your present and your future have already been set. When you think your future controls your present and your past then, what is possible? Depending on the person, the point of view they’d rather take will vary. Some people would like a stable prediction of their future and some people would like to live their lives not knowing what will come of it.

Both point of views are valid, but the fact that there are two (and probably dozens more) is mind-boggling to me. Sometimes I forget that everyone I meet on a day to day basis from an acquaintance to my brother to a random man on the street are all human beings. And they all have their own stories to tell, they all have loved ones, they all have problems, they all have different perspectives, and the list goes on. There is so much to this world that I do not understand, so many ideas to be learned about.

So, it is currently 5:23 AM, I am sitting on my bed crosslegged with pillows all around me wondering what the meaning of life is and why it is that an 18 year old such as myself is so engrossed in this idea. I suppose it’s because when I think like this it makes this bleak world far more beautiful. A place where chaos and pain reigns supreme but knowing that the negativity masks an underground way of thinking that prompts one to live a life that is worth living. It gives me hope when it seems like there is no such thing. To think about the beautiful is to think about the good. My future is wide open, my opportunities are abundant, my sorrow can be beaten with my mind, my past does not define my present or my future, and I will flourish. 


Want to see it?

$27.25 Tickets
(thru TDF Membership)

Phalaris’s Bull: Solving the Riddle of the Great Big World 
Theatre Row - Beckett Theatre
thru Jan. 16