Traverse City Record-Eagle

September 23, 2012

A choice: Awful, or awe-full?

By Loraine Anderson
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---- — Thought waves this week:

Lily Tomlin was in town last weekend and laughter ruled the City Opera House for two hours as she reprised characters from the popular 1960s comedy show "Laugh-In" and her one-woman play "The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe," which premiered in 1985.

Six-year-old Edith Ann and phone company operator Ernestine came to life again. And so did my all-time favorite Tomlin character — Trudy, a bag lady who stands at the corner of Walk-Don't Walk, waiting to tune in to her space chums, via her umbrella hat. They are looking for intelligent life in the cosmos.

They tell her about "awe-infinitum" and she explains what she knows about human beings, mysteries of life and reality, which she calls "nothing more than a collective hunch."

"My space chums think reality was once a primitive method of crowd control that got out of hand," Trudy/Lily told her City Opera House audience last weekend. "In my view, it's absurdity dressed up in a three-piece business suit."

Trudy says her space amigos describe "awe-infinitum" as "that moment when you are in awe of something incredibly large and mysterious, like a star-filled sky, and you suddenly realize you are a small part of it. It's that moment when you know you will never really understand the meaning of life and might as well sit back and enjoy its mysteries."

Speaking of reality and awe, I have to tell you that I dislike election years.

They bring out the worst in certain parties, which may be why watching Tomlin revive characters from her long and successful career broke through my election-fatigue and touched my heart last weekend.

I wish the socio-political debates of present-day America could be more awe-full than just plain awful and mean-spirited. I wish they could be more genuine, selfless, open-hearted and solution-oriented. I wish they could pull our country together instead of polarize it.

Trudy is timeless. Her words in the 1985 play Tomlin and writer/partner Jane Wagner wrote still are relevant.

We need more awe-infinitum and less angst, political and otherwise.

My favorite Trudy monologues come at the end of "The Search for Signs "¦" when Trudy takes her space buddies to the theater because they want to experience "goose bumps." And they felt them, but not by watching the play. They had their eyes on the audience.

"I like to think of them out there in the dark, watching us," Trudy says in the play. "Sometimes we'll do something and they'll laugh. Sometimes we do something and they'll cry. And maybe one day we'll do something so magnificent everyone in the universe will get goose bumps."

Awe, where does one get an umbrella hat?