Friday, June 1, 2012

Floyd Collins: Jim DeSelm, Alone in the Dark

If I could self-diagnose for a moment, I believe I have a nasty case of restlessness.  I stopped wearing a watch because I would constantly, nervously check the time, even when I had nowhere to go, no future event to anticipate.  This would cause my wife to ask reasonable questions like, “I’m sorry, am I keeping you?”  I am a disciple of my smart phone, because it allows me to talk to someone, listen to something, and do something completely different all at the same time.  I’m fidgety; I’m easily distracted. I’m frequently overextended, and find myself in a culture that seems intent on allowing me to exercise all of these habits.

Have you ever found yourself forced to be still?  Ever had your phone taken away, ended up in a place with no television, found yourself alone in the dark, forced to stop moving, to be silent, to simply be?  Who do you meet there? What do you see?

Floyd Collins is a man who is chasing things.  He’s done with being a farmer, and believes wholeheartedly that his “glory” is awaiting him in the next crawl.  He wants to show his father that he’s wrong about Floyd being a “crazy caving fool.”  It drives him to move, to push harder.  And then, in that cave, call it a twist of fate, call it the Hand of God, call it plain bad luck, he is forced to stop, to hold still.  He can’t move his feet, he can’t help himself, he can only fill the dark, cold space with his own thoughts.

Floyd’s story invites us to put ourselves in that dark, cold space, and this prospect can be downright terrifying.  Not just because you’re trapped, but because the person you meet when you’re alone in the dark is yourself.  And what if that’s company you’re not actually willing to keep?  Maybe I’m chronically restless because the motion keeps me from communing with the hard things I know to be true about myself.  And maybe being forced to be still is really the cure.

-- Jim DeSelm can be seen in the title role of BoHo Theatre's production of Floyd Collins which opens June 15 at Theater Wit. Jim lives in Chicago with his lovely wife, Karri.

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