Scene: A television studio in New York City with an overflowing audience abuzz with excitement; around a large table are seated four distinguished gentlemen, none of them dressed in ordinary garb, and the host, a rather small lady wearing an extremely attractive and fashionable babushka (floral).
Joanna from New York (host): Good evening, everyone, and welcome to tonight’s edition of “Do You Expect Me to Believe That?” the program dedicated to examining and answering life’s most perplexing secrets. I’m Joanna from New York, and I will be your host for this special program, which features the most difficult enigma we have faced to date: “Where does star tenor Rolando Villazón—opera singer, director, artist, author, TV personality, clown, and brain surgeon--get his trademark charisma?”
JNY: For years, scientists, philosophers, poets, and theologians have debated this controversial issue with little to show for it but a few black eyes and more than a few insulted grandmothers. But ours is a program that does not shy away from the most difficult challenges, no matter how daunting. Ladies and gentlemen, such is this magical man’s gift that Webster’s Dictionary has been compelled to create a new word to describe him: the man of charisma, the magician, has been dubbed “The Great Charismagician.” But the time has come to unravel this riddle once and for all. Rolando Villazón—The Man, The Myth, The Legend--prepare to be exposed! Audience gasps with delight and applauds enthusiastically.
JNY: Tackling such a Herculean task requires the greatest minds of not only our age, but of ages past. To this end, we have assembled a distinguished panel consisting of the finest intellects of this or any time. Please join me in welcoming Dr. Sigmund Freud, the father of modern psychology; William Shakespeare, poet and playwright; Friedrich Nietzsche, philosopher and world-class sourpuss; and His Holiness, Pope Francis.
JNY: Welcome, gentlemen, and thank you for joining us for what is sure to be a lively discussion.
JNY: Let’s begin with you, Dr. Freud. I would imagine that, in your estimation, the root of Villazón’s charisma lies buried deep in his subconscious.
Freud: Well, maybe it does. But I have been studying Villazón for years and I…and I…I cannot decipher this man or this so-called “charisma” he radiates! No amount of psychoanalysis can explain The Great Charismagician! It...has…driven…me…mad! It haunts me day and night! Why is this man such an enigma? I have never failed in analysis before! I’m wracked with self-doubt! My self-esteem is in shambles!… (breaks down in tears). It’s too much.
Other panelists attempt to offer solace (to no avail).
Freud, sobbing, reaches under his chair and retrieves a bag from which he pulls yarn and knitting needles and begins to work feverishly, almost desperately.
Freud: I hope you don’t mind if I knit. It always settles my nerves and makes me feel better about myself. I’ve just been a mess about this lately. (Pauses.) Wait! I know! Maybe I’m experiencing some sort of…envy??
JNY (abruptly): HOLD ON, Dr. Freud! This is a family show!
Pope Francis (interrupting brightly): I’m loving your scarf, Sigmund! What cheerful colors!
Freud: I knitted it myself! Would you like me to make you one?
Pope Francis: If it’s not too much trouble! These boring Papal robes need some pizzazz!
JNY: Excellent, gentlemen, you can all place your Christmas orders with Dr. Freud after the program. But now, let’s continue with philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche. Herr Nietzsche, what are your thoughts on Villazón, existentially speaking, of course?
Nietzsche (profoundly): It is the role of philosophy to reveal the truth behind mere appearance, and this instance is no exception. I refer, of course, to the fact that Villazón is the quintessential model of the classic Apollonian and Dionysian dichotomy, which, of course, juxtaposes reason against man’s primal desires, and…
Shakespeare (slumped in his chair, grumbling semi-incoherently): I have the worst hangover of my life, and he has to yammer on like that!
Freud (mumbling under his breath): I’d love to stick this sock I’m knitting in his mouth.
JNY: Gentlemen, play nice. Mr. Shakespeare, we have yet to hear your thoughts on this baffling subject, which can perhaps only be captured by the vision of a true poet such as yourself. Uh…Mr.
Shakespeare…(loudly) MR. SHAKESPEARE!
Shakespeare (roused from his drunken stupor): Hey, what? To BE charismatic or NOT TO BE charismatic: that is NOT the question for Villazón. He doesn’t have any choice. All the world is a stage for that man. Just accept it, everyone, and be done. Eat, drink, and be merry! Hey, nonny, nonny!
JNY: “Hey, nonny, nonny?” No disrespect, sir, but you are The Bard. Is that all you can do to give us an insight into the complex soul of The Great Charismagician?
Shakespeare: Yup. Those are the best words I ever wrote, and they’re as good as any in capturing whatever smoke-and-mirrors tricks that guy is up to. I wouldn’t mind partying with him sometime. Now can I get back to my dreams of saucy wenches, carousing, and strong ale?
JNY: Go for it; I’ll be there in a minute. Ahem. And finally, we would like to call upon His Holiness, Pope Francis, for a theological assessment of the Villazón question.
Nietzsche: Religion has nothing to do with it! God is dead, damn it!
Pope Francis (proceeding undeterred): Thank you, my children. I believe that what I am about to offer will surely answer the question once and for all.
The audience, unimpressed by the other panelists, leans forward, waiting anxiously for something, anything, to finally solve the mystery.
Pope Francis: This is how it REALLY happened. Just before their birth, a number of new souls were standing in line, waiting for God to give each one of them that one special gift that He thought would aid them most in life. To this one, He gave courage. To that one, strength. To yet another, good health. When Villazón’s turn came, God looked at him closely, nodded, and said, “Oh, yes, of course! Rolandito, I give you a very, very special gift: the gift of…CHARISMA. Go and light up the world!” Well, the funny thing was that young Rolandito had his headphones on, head-banging to John Denver’s Greatest Hits, and he didn’t really hear everything God said. The only part he heard was “car,” something, something, and he thought, “Wow, I’m getting a car?! I’m growing up to be a race car driver! What a fantastic gift! Vroom, vroom!” So he quickly yelled out, “Great! Let’s have it!” before God could change His mind. Seeing his enthusiasm for the gift, God emptied not just the small customary amount (usually enough to power a small city) but the whole bucket of charisma, every last drop, on Rolando’s head and sent him on his way. And…well…here he is today, in all his glory!
Nietzsche: You’re not serious. You’re saying that the so-called “Charismagician” is the result of nothing more than a ridiculous accident? No wonder God is dead—he can’t get anything right!
Freud: Stop picking on the Pope! He’ll be selling my scarves all over the Vatican this fall!
JNY: Gentlemen, please, enough! All these “explanations” seem shaky at best. How are we ever to know or decide which, if any of them, is true?
All furrow their brows, preparing to have to settle for a stalemate, when a small boy with a mop of curly
black hair and large dark eyes, unnoticed until now, emerges from the shadows and stands before them
JNY: Uh, hello, can we help you?
Little boy: You are all asking a question about why that man has charisma, right? Well, maybe it’s for the same reason that rain is wet…or that you will never see your face except in a mirror…or that “up” is “up” and not “down.” Because in this magical universe, that’s how it is. (Smiles and disappears into the shadows.)
Joanna from New York