Saturday, September 29, 2007
In my life upon the stage
According to long-time fave, Mr. Shakespeare, we are all merely players, strutting and fretting our hour on the stage of life. I think we can find all the great guides to life in the words of silly Willy. Personal foibles, human triumphs, comedy, poor judgment, redemption, sex, politics, religion everything is touched on in the Shakespeare plays. Summed up nicely in Macbeth is the idea that we play roles in life and, like actors on a stage, we change depending on the requirements of the story and the other characters we are interacting with at any given time. We do it to get what we want, whether it be material things, approval or love.
We all do this. Some to greater degrees than others. Some people change vastly in differing circumstances, some remain more consistent with their behaviors. We are one way with our parents, another with a surly store clerk, still another with a sweet child, another with a passionate lover, and on and on. But, like actors, what costumes we wear and what words we speak, what gestures we make and how we act, are not always what rests at our core, our deepest beliefs, our dearest dreams may be hidden by the parts we play, but they flavor our performances always.
No matter what roles we play at any time, disparate as they may be, as we attempt to make a good impression or stand up for ourselves or support others, the human desire to be known, to be truly known and understood by the world, or even a solitary individual, prompts us to disclose ourselves even as we believe we are shielding ourselves. We are islands hoping for someone to stumble upon us and see who we really are. This is why people create art - it's the greatest reveal available.
Even if we do not create Art, we reveal. Every day we tell the world exactly who we are - who we believe ourselves to be. It may come out as self-effacing humor, it may come out as defensive cover-ups or offensive disclosures to avoid being hurt by having the reality of what we are thrown back at us as 'not good enough'. But we reveal - every day and right from the first.
If, like a master poker player, you pay attention, watch for a while, listen closely, you will see the 'tells'. You will see what a person truly is, so that when you go on and learn through examples of behavior instead of the words you heard in the beginning you can say to yourself: AHHHH-but I knew that, they said that in the beginning - WHY didn't I listen? Why didn't I believe?
Ask any actor who has to play the part of a character who is repugnant to them. Someone despicable whose ideals clash dramatically with their own - how do you play that part? The answer is usually that the actor becomes the character and the character, to himself, is not at all repugnant - there is always a good reason for their behavior. As an actor you tap into that character's core, there you find that they simply believe themselves to be on the side of right so you can play the part without judgments. In life we meet people who look at the world in vastly different ways than we do, we may believe them to be insane, villainous or just plain misguided but they see themselves as correct. If someone knows your take on something is opposite of their own they may play a part to keep the peace between you or to try, somehow, to fix you.
After a time you learn to see and hear the reveals right away. You can distance yourself from the here and now and look forward to see that what people say about themselves is always exactly what they really are. Because despite the costumes, and the performance, people WANT to be known. Naturally they also want to be loved and accepted for what they truly are, not just the trappings of the role they are playing. This is why people reveal. We are all, deep down, the man behind the curtain of the Great and Powerful Oz hoping for just one person to pull aside the curtain and see us as we are: and make it all okay.
Sadly, it seems that for the most part people will want you to be what they are. They will want you to be something other than what you are - some people fall into this trap and continue living their lives playing a role. They may reveal themselves to people who refuse to look beyond the curtain seeing only the costume and the lights. They may continue to live their lives with people who, for whatever reasons, simply do not want to accept them as they really are and only want an actor to play the part in their own play. That may work for some people, how I do not know. But I guess it can.
Me? I'm pretty much what I say I am. I've learned not to play to audiences I don't agree with just to be accepted - though God knows I will work a room for a laugh if given a chance. I have learned, after many many years of observing, being hurt, trying to fit molds that make my quirks more acceptable, that you can only be yourself. You can play roles to suit situations, to keep peace, to be polite and mindful of other people's differing beliefs or social mores and none of that is bad - it's just having consideration for others, but when it comes down to the person you live with every day, the person who looks back at you from the mirror: you can only be what you truly are - and if that suits no one but you, that is reveal enough.
Life is too short to fake it. It's too short not to like yourself. It's far, far too short to waste trying to make other people happy if you are not happy yourself or to force a situation into being that requires you to keep wearing a mask 24/7. I'm going back to the source to sum up: this above all, to thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man.
Be who you are. If nobody likes it but you, that's really all you need. But if you are yourself, and someone sees your reveals and you see theirs and you click, isn't that better than living your life pretending?
That's my take on it any way.