Point of View: Our Gaze

Should we accept beauty and suffering as the opposite sides of the same coin?

How we react to suffering is one of the questions raised in David Margulies’s arresting play, “Time Stands Still.”

That it is a fact of life we know, something we all must endure, to varying extents. Should we embrace it? Should we avert our gaze inasmuch as we are able? Should we accept beauty and suffering as the opposite sides of the same coin?

These different points of view are given voice in the Hampton Theatre Company’s production, which will be at the Quogue Community House through the weekend: A war-zone photographer finds it hard to avert her gaze, her longtime boyfriend, a reporter, similarly traumatized by the spilled blood he’s seen in the Mideast, finds in the end that he must avert his gaze to some extent, and their middle-aged editor and his young fiancée — a bubbly figure of fun initially who perhaps comes to embody most of us as the play progresses — choose what beauty there can be had in a world where suffering, because of the almost instantaneous speed with which news now travels, seems at times always to have the upper hand.

“They’re all trying to affirm life in their different ways,” Mary remarked as we, preoccupied by thoughts the play had engendered, got up to leave a recent matinee performance.

Were we guilty, for instance, in trying to put, as we have, suffering at one remove, reluctant as we have been to embrace what some say is its character-building, annealing quality? Have we distanced ourselves by choosing to live in such a beautiful place? Admittedly lucky, can we remain connected with others, as we should?

I would like to think, as the young mother, cradling a newborn in her arms by the play’s end, seems to say, that we can, that we can focus our gaze on both joy and woe.

What is the sound of one columnist caught napping?

Talk about suffering, I am chagrined that I mixed up the two Suzukis last week. D.T. Suzuki wrote “Essays in Zen Buddhism,” and it was Shunryu Suzuki whose talks were the subject of “Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind.”