Monday, December 6, 2010

That Old Devil Moon

The fortunes of us that are moon's men doth ebb and flow like the sea.

One of the most important scientific events of the 20th Century was the discovery of the subconscious mind. Though what it is and how it works are still being argued it is undeniable that the research and understanding of something influencing us that is hidden from immediate conscious view has been a great help for doctors attempting to cure mental and emotional problems, and the resourcefulness of doctors and others to utilize what is known to carefully affect cures.

I did a season of summer stock in a theatre on the shore of the Atlantic Ocean. Summer stock is difficult work. It's very busy and takes a lot of activity all day, every day. To prepare and perform a play a week demands intense concentration and discipline. In contrast to that there was a young man who came to the beach every morning, when it wasn't raining, with a quart of beer. He would sit down, stick the bottle in the sand and stare out at the ocean. Every now and then he would take a sip of beer, but otherwise he just sat and stared. At midday he would get up and go somewhere, presumably to have lunch, and then return with a fresh bottle of beer and sit staring at the ocean until the evening.

He never spoke to anyone and was never seen in any company. I was told he was a composer. Well, maybe he wrote music at night but his day was spent in a beer fueled contemplation of the ocean. I called him a "solatic," a solitary individual who was the opposite of a lunatic.

A lunatic is someone who is wildly manic, but whose insanity is supposedly affected by the phases of the moon. The term dates back to the 14th Century. I once knew a mystic philosopher who opined that since there was liquid in the body and the moon influenced the tides there was no reason why it couldn't do the same to us. Though it may not drive us crazy, he thought, it should have some result.

The human mind to me is like a combination of a well kept garden, a beautiful forest and a jungle. I enjoy reading books and articles on psychology: Freud, Jung, Adler, Laing and others. The study of psychology itself is a trek through the jungles. The unusual flowers and plant life, the strange and dangerous beasts, the unexpected and hidden beauties of nature are all to be found under the surface of our conscious mentality.

We all experience the phenomena of thoughts popping into our heads from nowhere. Strange and unfamiliar images and ideas occur to us and we don't know where they come from. We have also learned that similar things happen unconsciously. While we can discard the conscious thoughts as being not what we really think or want to think and thus avoid any effect on our activities and behavior, or at least we can choose to do so. But what if we are influenced by appearances out of the jungle that we are unaware of and hence unprepared for? That's where reason and a clear sense of morality come to our aid. We need to know who we are, what we believe and how we allow ourselves to behave.

Friedrich Nietzsche wrote "Socrates established a permanent state of daylight against all dark desire - the daylight of reason." It's one of the reasons I enjoy reading philosophers. Great philosophers, like great playwrights, and great novelists are psychologists.

I was playing a scene with a young actor in which his character had a fit. I stood watching it. We were in rehearsal and in the note session the director wanted to know what I was doing during the fit and I said I was trying to figure out what his tactic was. The actor said there was no tactic and that "Sometimes a cigar is only a cigar." I said a cigar is always just a cigar but on the stage it means something and that there must be a tactic even if the character himself doesn't know what it is. The actor was impressed. He had just learned something about himself, acting and the workings of the human mind.

Reason is the human mechanism for keeping our sanity. A lunatic is one who loses it at certain moments. There was nothing apparently manic about the solatic on the beach, but, quite the opposite, a picture of a man who was unable to do anything but stare at the ocean as the tides rolled in and out.

Fortunately we have reason to protect us from the jungle creatures, to safely accompany us as we walk through the forest of imagination and to keep our fortunes from ebbing and flowing like the sea.

DB - The Vagabond

(This is not a contest.)

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

Only 8 responses so far. Let's go, let's go.

Thank you.


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

Not only is the mind a garden, jungle, and such, but also a terrible thing to waste :o)

Liz said...

I believe we all inherit our subconscious mind from our animal ancestry.
It was fine-tuned for survival.
Within this unmapped country instinct and intuition can be found.
Imagination and invention are our guides.

We may think that our conscious mind elevates us above the animal world but without a sound subconscious foundation we are reduced to mindless clay that will be moulded by time into whatever shape natural forces decide upon.

We will all truly be actors on the world stage without any control over our destiny.