Thursday, December 10, 2009

Alchemical Advantage

I think the anguish of realizing our own vanity is the purgation for restoring our innocence.

DB - The Vagabond
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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.

DB

5 comments:

Gerry said...

I do know this as a struggling playwright that a great deal has to happen before your work can actually be embraced by people in a theater, both performing and seeing your words performed. A great deal has to happen before your novel can be read by many, and most of the time this process gets derailed before success can happen. I think mainly because society takes those processes for granted and when they fail most have no idea why. I think you and I are in different worlds because you have experienced success in some part of this process, while I am still knocking on the door of opportunity at an age where it is not likely to happen. I often think how can I relate to DB. I think it is as important to chart how the creative process fails as it is to chart success, because it more often fails. I think DB has not quite reached me yet in this place I reside as a playwright. I still feel there is a river to cross of understanding. Why I feel this I don't quite know. But I think there is a valiant effort going on to reach across the abyss. Do you know what I mean? Maybe words get in the way. Words are the key to our connecting but words could also get in the way. I have a feeling you know if you think about it what words might hide you instead of reveal you. Be a perpetual cloak that you wear even when it is not cold. We are all playwrights in a sense. Success failure at the end we are all reduced to dying, so as we shed our cloaks of life as we know it, what is left? I am interested in that essence because I am so close now to being completely stripped of my protective cloak of words, exposed to the nerve, invisible reality shining like quicksilver....

Big Mark 243 said...

I recognize myself as a messenger, a conduit for some of those ideas through the telegraph of creative imagination.

That is something that has echoed in my life... but it is something that can be fatiguing. It takes a lot of energy to stand being a gateway, having those great energies flow thru you.

Sometimes, don't you ever wonder why that kind of duty came to you? It isn't that it was asked for or chosen, but thrust upon you. I know that I would like to think that my greatness will be thrust upon me, so I carry on.

And one day, I expect for it to happen!

Judith Ellis said...

"If you successfully rake over all the foibles of self illusions, clean out the shed of pretensions and thrown 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."

DB - This is an immensely thoughtful post that I will ponder some more. The last sentence is profound. Thank you for these words.

Cathy said...

Yes indeed, we certainly are hypocritical humans aren't we. If only the act of being charitable didn't make one feel so mighty, so "above the fray". Then we could just bask in the delight of giving for giving's sake alone, not for the kudos or halo. What I do for those who have less than me, is so petty for me to mention. I may give thousands. But see that need to count ourselves amongst the givers? When I was homeless I had no qualms about accepting charity - I was hungry. Now I'm not. In that simple scheme I can see the very top and lowest of the low. All that should matter is: are we caring for those who need it? And if so, go about your life and keep it to yourself, no one should be the wiser. I thoroughly enjoyed this, my artful friend.

Bucko (a.k.a., Ken) said...

Even the poorest of us can be rich in the gifts of life. And those of us fortunate to help others, by what ever means available to us, private kudos. When it becomes a contest or a requirement, it becomes meaningless.