Recommended soundtrack to listen to as you read:  1) Iron Maiden, “The Prisoner”, the third track from their 1982 album The Number of the Beast.  2) Jimmy Eat World, “The Middle”, the third track from their 2001 album Bleed American.  3) Georges Bizet, L'Arlésienne Suites, as recorded by Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic in 1968 , and first released in 1972 by Colombia Masterworks.

“The work is in the Middle” – Robert Fripp, Guitar Craft aphorism

The Space Between

June 3, 2024

David Scharf, CCA President

The beginning began with a bang. The energy could be felt in the air. My term as CCA President had just begun. Our officer terms begin and end at CCA’s annual meeting, our signature event. As we start our term, there is a palpable excitement, full of hope and expectation. But it is not long until we find ourselves where we are now, right in the middle of that year.  No one dreams of the middle. We love the excitement of the beginning, the jubilation of the finish.   However, most of our time is spent in the undreamed middle. And it is that very middle that provides the substance that gives shape to what bookends it.  So for this blog post, let’s take a dive into the middle. And what better place to do so than with the second-best dramatic television series of all time, Patrick McGoohan’s 1967 masterpiece, The Prisoner.*  

Hopefully, many of you have been fortunate enough to have watched this series.  But for the sake of those who have not yet (it came out in 1967, what are you waiting for?), I promise to keep this spoiler-free.  The  opening episode, titled “Arrival”, is a beginning like no other.  We are introduced to The Village, this strange mysterious place that both protagonist (played by none other than Patrick McGoohan as Number Six) and viewer are challenged to make sense of.  The series final episode, titled “Fall Out”, is ambiguous, baffling, controversial, and dramatic.  The dramatic intensity and heightened emotions that arose from the contentious nature of the finale, reportedly led to a nervous breakdown by Leo McKern (playing the antagonist as Number Two) in a most masterful and powerful performance.  Furthermore, the abstract nature of the finale led to some fan fall out, forcing McGoohan to go into hiding for a period of time following its air date due to safety concerns.**

But this blog post is about the middle. And without a strong middle, The Prisoner’s opening would have fallen flat and the closing would be nothing more than an empty exit. McGoohan developed a closely knit script, each episode of pertinence and importance to the story’s development.***  And it is during the middle, in the episode “Hammer into Anvil”, where that development begins to show a shift in storyline as well as in protagonist. Number Six has finally figured out how The Village “works” and begins to use that understanding to his advantage.  The episode is suspenseful, has psychological depth, and is full of action; strategy and subterfuge, role reversal, and fast-paced sequences abound throughout.  Georges Bizet’s L'Arlésienne Suites (featured in the soundtrack above) plays predominantly in this episode, and there are indeed similarities in theme between The Prisoner (and this episode in particular) and Alphonse Daudet’s play L'Arlésienne (for which Bizet composed the musical score).

Back to reality, back to 2024, to where we are now, in the middle of the year.  A time when CCA’s communities are active, webinars are airing, and papers are published. For a couple of examples of what we have been up to, see my corresponding video message for this month.  And if you are not familiar or involved with what we are doing, I encourage you to check out our website at www.ccactuaries.org to find out more and become more active.  

So how am I feeling about the middle of my presidential term? After the initial excitement and fanfare faded from the beginning of my term, there was a lot to learn and a lot to do – more so than I had expected.  Similar to Number Six, it took a fair amount of time to understand how the CCA presidency “works”.  Unlike Number Six, I am fortunate to have terrific people supporting me – within the inner CCA world of board members and staff, and from all of you reading this blog; and I am happy to report that I have passed that critical point of understanding how things “work” and have now shifted into this second part of my term with renewed energy and even a bit of a bang.

All this musing upon the middle has left me feeling more inspired by what we have accomplished and what we still will achieve during this year, during the space between the annual meetings; that space where the work is done, the work of the middle.

*Obviously this rating system is according to my own measurement, with first place honors going to David Lynch’s dark, charming, and bizarre series, Twin Peaks.  I should also caution readers to not confuse The Prisoner series discussed here with the remake that was done by AMC in 2009 as a mini-series, where the entire essence of the original series was either poorly understood or purposely disregarded and discarded (again, according to my evaluation).

**Hopefully neither fate awaits me at the end of my term!

***The exception being a few filler episodes that the network forced McGoogan to add to increase the number of episodes in the series.

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