Sunday, December 27, 2015

Thoughts On Final Fantasy in the Windy City

The hum of the multitude fills the veranda, excited chatter, indistinct conversations, like the sound of a colony of bees in full production mode it envelops me. I see faces very young, old and everything between and smiles abounding; it seems that tonight's festivities hold a universal appeal. I see many in their finest clothes, sweaters, scarves, boots, dress pants, ties and the like. I see others in cosplay, they aren't difficult to pick out, pinpoints of color awash in a sea of proper black and white standard dress. I see pink hair, blue hair, and white hair alike, characters from world's I've never known manifested right before my very eyes. This group smiles the most frequently, and the most fully. 

The storied venue, beautiful and rotund, shows off the elegant trim lacing the balcony sporadically accented at points with clusters of warm, glowing lightbulbs. The stage stands strong carrying the weight and dignity of many decades worth of performers, while a great chandelier hovers above the milling multitudes gradually streaming in to find their seats, a timeless sentinel which has presided over many a show. 

On the stage, musicians pluck and tweak their instruments. Always diligently pursuing that elusive specter of excellence, only to have it vanish upon their arrival, reappearing further ahead and beckoning seductively to the pursuant. It is a fruitless quest they find themselves in, yet it is a noble one as well, the spirit of excellence always propelling them to overcome life's natural inertia, driving them forward into the unknown, raising them above the others who have resigned themselves to mediocrity.

Everyone is dressed sharply on stage. Dark dresses, flowing to the ankles of the women. Shirts are freshly starched, bold whites contrasting deep blacks, every gentleman with a neat bow tie, shoes catch the gleam of the sentinel from above, and display their shine. 

We take our seats and the lights dim.

Out from the darkened side stage emerges the Concert Master. He initiates the tone which allows the musicians to undo all their prior tweaking. The rich washes over the audience. At first disparate, the product of many autonomous instruments, as it continues the disparate quality diminishes as the tone becomes one. One solid note. Now they are ready...

No more than a minute after the Concert Master takes his seat, our Conductor comes forth from the wings, graciously acknowledging the applause. He bows, then waits as the noise peters into nothing. An electric, anticipatory silences now charges the room, this is the moment we've been waiting for. The conductor stands alone elevated above the crowd, before a dark stage which is dimly lit by one hundred musicians' music lights. He is the one has the next two hours of our lives in his hands, this is his stage, his moment to release the tension which has been building to the point, and release it he does...

With a flick of his baton we are immersed in the worlds that those characters from the lobby has stepped forth from. The music hits with the force of a prizewinning boxer, strong and powerful. A screen above the stage displays dazzling visuals of lands unknown, and stories untold to me. I allow the music to lift me into its flow, this flow is immensely volitaile one minute caressing my ears with a hauntingly beautiful melody, the next angrily assaulting them with the sound of an epic battle theme, and I love every minute.

The drama unfolds, tales of the good there once was, of innocence and light, shattered by darkness, tales of the evil and powerful advancing while the good look on helplessly, tales of despair and longing for things to be right again, tales of emerging heroes seemingly weak, yet defying all odds and overcoming the foreboding power brokers who have enskaved the world.


The music tells a story words could only hope to mimic. It speaks to my core, my soul. It dawns on me that the reason for this is because these stories aren't simply the product of some fantasy world. These stories are our story. Continually admonishing us to find the hero who lurks within us. To rise when all seems lost, and when we think that we have been forsaken. These stories inspire us to live boldly in the face of adversity and to discover within us the power we all hold, the power to make real substantive change in a decaying world.

Fantasy can help us to identify that which we've lost sight of in our very own life. Too often we buy the lie that the only epics are those in the books, games or songs, all the while ignoring our very own story unfolding before our very eyes. The makers of this particular Fantasy, I think, would wish their fans to know that this is our story. That we have a part to play standing up to the rampant darkness, which runs free in the world. That even the smallest of us is, as Marianne Williams would say, 'powerful beyond measure'.

The music slows now, the ending is near, I can feel it, my soul has soared in the highs, ached in the lows, despaired in the darkness, and learned, once again, the meaning of hope in the rebirth. The challenge now is to take this experience from this venue. To understand that this wasn't simply a fantasy, but the truest reality. We all have a story to live, and our pages are limited, so what will we make of that story?

Final note. Cutoff. Applause.

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