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ROGER ROSENBLATT: The name of the season has fear and beauty in it, beauty and fear. Fall, to fall, to fall down. Everything that stands falls eventually, a terrifying business for the people who do the falling. But when it happens, they often look better than ever, more appealing, more attractive, more alive. People who fall from power become more interesting in their descent. Richard Nixon only achieved tragic stature when he fell, especially because he brought about his downfall himself.
SEN. BOB PACKWOOD: So I now announce that I will resign from the Senate.
ROGER ROSENBLATT: The same may be true of Bob Packwood. It’s still too early to tell. Falling makes people much more interesting than those on the rise. They catch your eye by dropping from a great exhilarating height, like Icarus, his wax wings melted by the sun he almost touched, tumbling down to the sea like a bird on fire. The golden boy turned one last shade of gold. Look at those leaves. People who fall from grace often wind up coming to light for the first time. Adam and Eve were kind of boring until they took the plunge.
Samson was a long-haired palooka, King Lear an old fool. The modern British royal family has taken a nosedive of late. The royals always seemed like stiffs until Charles did this and Diana said that and Fergie and Prince Andrew and on and on. It’s not a happy time for the Windsors, but the houses have never been more brightly lit. Let’s party. It’s wild. Look at those leaves. Maybe the act of falling is our essential condition, the thing our lives tend to from the start. The best moment in sports so far this year came the Orioles’ Cal Ripken, Jr. broke Lou Gehrig’s record of consecutive games played.
All year long, baseball fans have been sour on the players and the owners for their greed and selfishness in last year’s strike. Then Ripken committed an act of pure endurance and all was forgiven. But with his magnificent achievement, something fell. Lou Gehrig’s record fell. And still, his record in the act of falling looked as impressive as ever. It was ennobled in the act of falling. The act of falling recalled the worthy feat, the struggle, the life of the man. That record-breaking night belonged to Gehrig as much as Ripken.
CAL RIPKEN: Tonight, I stand here, overwhelmed as my name is linked with the great and courageous Lou Gehrig.
ROGER ROSENBLATT: Ripken acknowledged that. His record will have its own special colorful beauty when it too falls someday. Look at those leaves. Of course, the element of fear in the word is just as strong. No one wants to fall. It’s terrifying, painful.
ACTOR IN FILM SEGMENT: For God’s sake, David, what are you doing?
ROGER ROSENBLATT: In the movie “Mirage,” the political tyrant who is about to assert his power suddenly falls backwards out of a window in a high office tower. Instinctively, he flaps his arms to resist the air. His face is a mask of disbelief. It isn’t possible, unthinkable that he could be going down forever, that gravity is prevailing over all he had ascended to.
At the moment he peaks, he falls. Look at those leaves. Fall in battle, make a noble sacrifice. Fall on your sword, make an honorable suicide. Beauty and fear, that’s the fall. So what does it mean to fall in love? Why do we choose that particular metaphor? A man and a woman fall for each other, tumble for each other, as if to say that they gladly abandon their former balance and stability for a state of plummeting chaos and lost control.
To fall in love is a contradiction in terms, the descent is a climb. The lovers have never been higher or more afraid. Their faces blush pink and red. Their eyes glow. Their hearts are in flames. Their hands tremble. Their bodies shake like a leaf. Look at those leaves.
I’m Roger Rosenblatt.