Monday, November 8, 2010

How To Disturb The Universe

He who seeks rest finds boredom. He who seeks work finds rest.

Dylan Thomas
One day I was talking with a young fellow, a high school senior, who had done a few plays in school and was considering majoring in drama when he got to college and then going into show business. He asked me what life was like for an actor. I don't remember everything I said to him, but it went something like this.

Life for an actor is interesting, exciting, aggravating, irritating, satisfying, fulfilling, frightening, insecure, fascinating, difficult, exhausting, vivifying, unpredictable, confusing, revealing, contorted, visionary, preposterous, challenging, inspiring, dangerous, resuscitating and extraordinary. The one thing it definitely never is, is boring.

People don't get into the arts in order not to be bored, but once in it becomes clear that work time is of the essence and down time is spare. If an actor is not memorizing lines, searching the script for it's hidden beauties, working his body, voice and spirit in rehearsal designing and fulfilling his role, taking the great leap into performance when all things else are of no matter, he is out looking for work. And there is nothing boring about it.

I for one am grateful that I was able, and still am, to be an artist. It's a mysterious, magical way to live. Most artists don't talk about it or even notice how special the work they do is to the world. T. S. Eliot wrote "Do I dare disturb the universe." A good artist is at the point of disturbing the universe every time he picks up a pen or a brush. Why? Because he is using natural law as his tool. Because art is not an imitation of nature, it is an imitation, or explanation of the essence of nature, "to hold as 'twere the mirror up to nature" as Shakespeare put it, to explain the universe to itself. Physics tells us that when a thing is observed and contemplated it changes it's behavior. It is disturbed.

What gives us the right to do that? I don't know. I only know it's true. There are many excellent ways to live one's life, being an artist is only one of them. But we are given a special trust to do the work we must do. Most artists take it for granted.

I don't know what happened to that boy. Maybe he's a busy actor these days. That would be good. But I'm grateful to him for asking me that question so I could articulate what I know.


(This is not a contest.)

At what event of the past do you wish you could be present? Why?

8 responses so far.

Thank you.


Arlene (AJ) said...

DB in your field of work you have met many interesting people, you have indeed been blessed to share your thoughts with all of them. Have you checked the internet on this young man, you might be able to find out what he's been doing since your talk. Hope you are having a good day your way.....cold in SC, but beats the super hot summer we had.

pacifica62 said...

I do not consider myself to be an artist because I am not involved in any of the activities that encompass that term. I can't see anything that I do as "disturbing the universe". However, I do what I do even if my work will never hang in the Louvre, I will never earn an Oscar, Emmy, Pullitzer or Nobel Peace Prize.

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

It is true, when one finds something that you are passionate about, boredom is not an option.