I think the anguish of realizing our own vanity is the purgation for restoring our innocence.
DB - The Vagabond
Most people want to believe that their lives are important, interesting, colorful and worth talking about. But what if you aren't poor enough to brag about it or rich enough to flaunt it? What if you are neither beautiful enough to be admired nor ugly enough to be shunned? What if you aren't intelligent enough to be consulted, stupid enough to be pitied, old enough to be respected, young enough to be pampered, ill enough or healthy enough? What if your life falls between the cracks of the special?
I was recently in a discussion with someone about how poor we were growing up and hence how generous we are in giving money and time to help the less fortunate. I suddenly realized that we were in a competition. It was the I-was-poorer-than-you contest. I stopped and thought how pointless it was. Why brag about poverty?
Furthermore I thought how fruitless it was to try to value myself in anyone's eyes by how much money I give to help save the whales and feed the children. Such contributions should be anonymous anyway, if possible. Sometimes contributions are given out of charity and compassion and sometimes out of conscience or for tax reasons. It doesn't matter. I don't care if my 15 bucks goes to help defray administrative costs or puts a bowl of beans down in front of some unfortunate African boy. And don't tell me about some charitable organizations being less honest than others. That's a simple matter of research. I trust the charity to put the money where it's needed. You buy the beans.
Look in the bright daylight as if you've never looked at yourself before and you will see an embarrassing array of affectations, pretensions and illusions. justifications and erroneous zones. It's frightening.
I think my life is important to me and perhaps to a few other people. But why should I think the words I write, the pictures I paint, the music and poetry that come from my heart belong to me. If I didn't write the words or paint the pictures someone else would, in different forms, of course, but the messages would be given because they exist in the universal bank of ideas. I recognize myself as a messenger, a conduit for some of those ideas through the telegraph of creative imagination. As an actor I was frequently in awe of the great writing the marvel of theatre was giving me the right and privilege to speak on the stage. When the applause comes some actors forget that the beauty came off the pen of a gifted playwright. And so does the audience.
I was doing a production in East Hampton, New York written by a favorite playwright, Joe Pintauro. After the show had been running for a while the two of us went out for lunch at a well known seafood restaurant in the area. As we were leaving we passed a table of four people near the door. The all applauded me. So I introduced them to Joe. They were equally impressed with him.
The alchemy of theatre works this way. A writer gets an idea from the universal bank and turns it into literature. The actor takes the literature and adding to it the skill of the performing artist turns it into events. An audience comes to watch the events and turns them back into ideas. And so on. And all through the process the beauty and greatness is loaned to the participants from the universal bank.
If you successfully rake over all the foibles of self illusions, clean out the shed of pretensions and throw out the many masks hanging in your closet it will be humbling and depressing. But eventually you will get to the point where you are free to laugh at yourself, at what you've been and what you thought you were. When that happens you are ready to be invited back into your own innocence.