NO IMAGE PROJECTED. COMPLETE DARKNESS.
Miranda descends from podium.
Brienne: Any alliance can strengthen us. These two are not merely be allies. They've chosen each other for something much closer than that, and they've chosen carefully.
I invite the betrothed to express, as best they can through the inadequate medium of human speech, what each member of this partnership means to the other.
Ruby and Miranda ascend the podium, face each other.
IMAGE 6 PROJECTED ON PLANETARIUM
Brienne: Ruby, you may speak.
Ruby commences admiration speech.
There is a name I call Miranda. It is not ‘honey’, ‘cutie-pie’ or anything of the sort. I call her ‘Braveheart’. Yes, this name is used elsewhere for someone rather different from Miranda and for rather different reasons. That does not matter. To me, this name captures who she is.
We speak here of all that must be done, of the bad things which must be stopped and the heights towards which we can strive. These aims are natural to me. From youth, I was told that the world was created for me, that I was God’s chosen, my purpose to transform the world according to his will. I always knew that I was important and responsible. This didn’t bother me; my pride demanded that I be significant, and while my responsibilities weighed on me, there was no question that I would take them.
Miranda is different. She does not seek greatness, grandeur, or importance. She does not need to be a hero. For a long time it was her plan to live in one town, have a few kids, be a nurse for forty years. That simple life would satisfy almost all of her. And she would tell you that in another world, it is the life she would like to live. She will say that it has been hard, all those around her telling her that she cannot live out her dream, that being a nurse isn’t enough, that she could be more, should be more, must be more.
The instinct might be to turn back, walk away from those pushing her. Go, and stay in her small town, be the best nurse she could be, for she doesn’t need to be a hero. But Miranda didn’t do that. While it is counter to so much of her, she did not ignore the call that she was needed. So much needs to be done and there are too few doing.
She is brave and answers the call that she did not ask for. She doesn’t do this meekly, half-heartedly, or resentfully. Rather, she has thrown herself into her mission. She gives it her all, she outperforms those who take it for granted they should be at the centre of the story.
Time and again, Miranda pushes up against a limit, a sensitive point here or there, but she never backs away. She tells me she wants to talk about things especially when they hit a nerve, a weakness she might overcome. She hits something scary or unpleasant, withdraws, goes and mulls about it for a day, and then throws herself at it with full force.
A trite example, but so emblematic: we were shopping for wedding shoes and after finding what we were looking for, Miranda realised that she actually has a deep-seated dislike of heels. They clash with her self-image, and her desire to be always physically agile. I suggested flexibility around such things, since a corporate career might have occasions which demand certain dress. She wasn’t happy about this. But when I came home the next day, I found her practicing running in heels in the hallway, because dammit, she’s not going to be limited. Time and time again.
Talk is cheap, and we have talked a lot today. But Miranda does. She cares about doing, about the world, about virtue more than she cares for herself. Who else delights in gruelling 16 hour shifts where glancing away for too long could result in an actual, immediate death? Who else never says no to a request for help? Almost incapable of putting herself first?
Miranda doesn’t speak in grand terms about the widespread suffering on this planet the way I and others have today. There is a reason for this. We can do so, because we are not truly feeling the pain of the people we are talking about - it is somehow abstract, distant, even though we know it is there and motivates us. Not so for Miranda, the suffering of other people is real. Another person, right here and now in pain, strikes her hard. To dwell too deeply on the plight of all humanity would be unbearable - and so she doesn’t talk, she acts.
I hope to be worthy to act alongside you, Braveheart.
Brienne: Miranda, you may speak.
Miranda commences admiration speech.
The world is broken, and that’s terrifying.
I knew this from the beginning. I grew up knowing that I lived in a fundamentally neutral universe that didn’t know or care about my existence...and thinking that if I was particularly careful, if I learned enough and worked hard enough, I’d probably be able to survive in it. I knew I was lucky in a lot of ways. Lucky in the genetic lottery, lucky to live in a first world country, lucky to have my friends and family. Lucky enough that maybe I could do more than survive; maybe I could help some other people survive, too, the ones who were worse off than me. I would learn a useful skill, work hard, carve out a small safe place in the chaos. I just thought I was being realistic.
And my assessment was realistic, in some ways. The world is broken in more ways than I could wrap my head around at twelve years old. People are suffering, and the future is frightening.
It never occurred to me that someone might look at all of this, and see what I saw, and instead of hunkering down to survive the storm, they might stand up and say “well, this isn’t okay, I guess we’ll have to fix all of it.”
In all of my planning for the future, I think I’d thought that I would be alone. Not literally alone–there would be people I could live with, work with, care for. But there’s a kind of partnership that goes much deeper than that. A partnership of beliefs, of values, of goals. You can stand by someone, protect them even as they protect you, as you fight together for the same vision of a better world.
With that, more feels possible. More than just survival. More than carving out a place for myself and my friends, and making that better. With shared resources, shared skills, you can do something bigger.
Ruby and I want the same things. We look at suffering in the world, and want it to stop. And even once that’s fixed, once things are basically okay, that’s not enough. We want there to be more happiness, and beauty, and people growing and thriving and building things together. We can agree on that. But he’s the one who can stare into the abyss and have the audacity to think that we can fix it. I was the one who, deep down, just wanted to be quietly useful.
When you take two people who care about the same things, and can agree on the same goals, but who are seeking out different and complimentary roles...well, that’s the foundation of a really good team. A partnership. Partnerships are a thing because they work–when people are aligned, coordinated, in sync with each other’s work and goals, the massive complexity of the world and all its chaos starts to look a little more tractable.
Ruby and I each have our strengths, and our corresponding weaknesses. With his unbridled belief in his own ability comes the weight of responsibility; with my desire to quietly help others, comes a fear of being important. These are things that hold us back, and we can help each other smooth them out, providing security for each other in these specific ways. Being different, it’s easier to see each other’s flaws. If you care about becoming stronger and continuing to grow – as both of us do – this is pretty important.
My dad once said to me, “the thing that makes a scientist is finding an important enough problem.” For people other than scientists, you could also say: the right project, the right team, the right partner. The world has no shortage of problems that need solving. In that chaos, I was looking for a place to stand. Someone I could reach out a hand to, and say, which problem are you solving? And can I be useful?
I’ve found that person.
Ruby and Miranda remain facing each other.
PLAY SONG 2: BUILDING HEAVEN BY JESS PENNER