Tuesday, January 15, 2008
These are the Days of Our Lives
Arthur Miller points out a fact that I have been contemplating all week. This fact is that acting is inevitable as soon as we walk out our front doors and into society.
My question to Arthur is--has this always been so? Have humans always known how to act, how to hide, how to deceive, how to tell the convenient truth and not the inconvenient truths? Has this sense of being different with different people, putting on a happy face, putting on a sophisticated aura, putting on bright red shoes...are these acts of acting, or merely the human as mercurial as only humans can be? Is the acting not acting because we are acting like who we really are, or is the acting acting because we are trying to hide who we really are?
And if that confused you, think about this:
In our time television has created a quantitative change in all this; one of the oddest things about millions of lives now is that ordinary individuals, as never before in human history, are so surrounded by acting. Twenty four hours a day everything seen on the tube is either acted or conducted by actors in the shape of sitcoms, talk shows, all the way to the news anchor men and women, including their hairdos. It may be that the most impressionable form of experience now, for many if not most people, consists of their emotional transactions with actors which happen far more often then emotional transactions with real people.
How many of you have related more to a movie lately than to a regular human being? I certainly have, hello I spent more time with the movie ONCE last week than I did with my friends!
This makes me think of two things....my individual life, and the life of the political show in our nation.
First of all my individual life. Many of you know that I lost a friend to a tragic shooting two weeks ago. She was going to church on her 30th birthday with her mother. Her husband followed her there, got out of his car and shot her ten times in close range and murdered her. How can this happen? How can someone you have lived with, made love with, had children with, and told intimate secrets to be someone so incredibly different than what you thought? Are we all just acting with one another? I know I am simplifying this man's underlying psychological problems and chalking it up to pretending. I don't know how else to process it right now, I guess.
Second of all, how do we choose our country's next leader? I echo Miller when he says that "it seems to me that when one is surrounded by such a roiling mass of consciously contrived performances it gets harder and harder for a lot of people to locate reality anymore. Admittedly, we live in an age of entertainment, but is it a good thing that our political life, for one, be so profoundly governed by the modes of theatre, from tragedy to vaudeville to farce? I find myself speculating whether the relentless daily diet of crafted, acted emotions and canned ideas is not subtlely pressing our brains to not only mistake fantasy for what is real but to absorb this process into our personal sensory process."
So, what is your reaction to this? How are you choosing who to marry, who to vote for, who to believe, who to follow, who not to follow, whether you should be someone that others should follow, or if you just would rather have no contact with most people at all?