“Allow, Accept, Be”: Terrence McNally’s Engagement with Hindu Spirituality in A Perfect Ganesh


At the height of the AIDS epidemic in America, and following the deaths of his two closest friends, Terrence McNally drew upon his experiences traveling in India to suggest to the audiences of A Perfect Ganesh how a person may continue to live with joy and dignity even in the shadow of enormous loss. Hinduism offered McNally a religious alternative to institutional Judeo-Christianity, which in much of the public discourse surrounding AIDS at the time considered the syndrome to be God's punishment for the "sin" of homosexuality. In Hinduism, McNally emphasizes in A Perfect Ganesh, death is not the reward of sin, but is a necessary part of the life cycle that humans must learn to "allow, accept, [let] be." In particular, McNally was taken with the figure of Ganesh, whose iconography reinforces the moral imperative in Hinduism that opposites (male and female, dark skin and light, young and old, gay and straight) can and must life in peaceful co-existence. Like the Japanese tourist who comforts Margaret with the gift of a beautiful kimono, causing her to protest that "it's not warranted, such kindness," McNally wrote a play that is founded on grief yet as luminous as the Taj Mahal, and that serves as a gift of grace to others who are grieving.

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