Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Philosophy of Acting starring Con Artists, co-starring New Age Pickpockets

So, Lord, I’m supposed to do this? I’m really supposed to write some sort of Philosophy of Acting?

I mean, yes, there’s what I ran into a few weeks back and posted on, the rejection of humor by the Puritans. And indeed I realized that there’s more there than just a lesson on comedy and humility. The Puritan rejection of humor is ultimately a rejection of all dramatic art, as well as a rejection of all literary art. Yes, even novels. For a good novel presents characters in all of their humanity, the great mish-mash of ape and angel, sinner and potential saint that every real-life-character is. This is offensive to the Puritans, who want to cut out the heart of salvation by dehumanizing the process, by taking out the “human” (i.e. sinful and foolish) element, an element redeemed by God but not crushed by Him. In quenching the man, Puritans are quenching the Spirit. In this way the Puritans have much in common with the secularists who love dehumanization for the power it gives them – which is the secret thrill behind Puritanism as well.

And in that is something that’s key to what an actor does. An actor has to have Sympathy. Sometimes this sympathy is expressed in the ability to imitate another, to catch a way of speaking or walking or brooding that another has. But more than that, sympathy is an utterly Christian virtue: it is a “suffering-with” another, an understanding of another, a pouring out of one’s heart to another. And an actor must have an element of this to portray any character. Such sympathy is also the key to a true sense of humor, even a satiric or lampooning sense of humor. Without sympathy, humor can become mean and bitter, the derisive laughter of children mocking a victim on the playground. Without sympathy, jesting becomes derision and caricature becomes contempt.

Compare this with the humor of Charles Dickens, whose novels contain characters that are always rounded and sympathetic, even when they are most ridiculous and absurd. It is this fullness of appreciation of our fellow men and their foibles, it is this understanding of sin that seeks not to condone sin but to transform it in the context of the dramatic story being told, that most offends Puritan sensibilities.

And yet Puritans are not the problem within the world of show biz. Within the acting community, we don’t see Puritans, we see Libertines – Libertines who are what I was before my conversion, hungry for spiritual purpose with an inkling that such a purpose could be found on stage.

But how are such devotees of the craft treated? How is their spirituality channeled in the acting world?

First it is either ignored, or else it flows into sexual libido where they find both great opportunities for pretending and also the everlasting drama of the real life backstage soap opera of the promiscuous or perverse. Their energies are usually canalized into the self-serving hedonism and egotism that actors are justly famous for.

But what is inspiring me to write this, Lord, what is goading me, getting under my skin, what is annoying me, is this.

A lady contacted me a few weeks back who is hoping to start at her parish some sort of acting troupe that would meet regularly and focus on the spirituality of acting. I encouraged her to do this.

But yesterday she sent me the proposed agenda for the troupe, and one of the things it includes is reading so-called “spiritual” works, one of which is The Power of Now by someone who calls himself Eckhardt Tolle. This book, from what I gather, is nothing but excrement bound. Endorsed by The Oprah, Tolle’s spiritual insights include such tired commonplaces as “the transformation of consciousness, a spiritual awakening [is] the next step in human evolution.” This is bound up in “transcending our ego-based state of consciousness. This is a prerequisite not only for personal happiness but also for the ending of violent conflict endemic on our planet". ( link ) Excuse me. YAWWWWNNNNN.

Tolle also bravely advances the unheard of notion that all religions are not only the same, but that all religions are barriers to spirituality, except the liquid religion in the snake oil bottle Tolle is touting. Oh, wait. That’s not bravely advancing an unheard of notion; that’s simply parroting the spirit of the age, the spirit that has given birth to the culture of death.

Tolle was (of course) inspired by Buddhism and is (naturally) devoted to Nothingness and feels (you can see this coming) that emptying of self is key – not emptying of self for the sake of the Truly Real (God), but emptying of self for the sake of the great Illusion that Nothing is Real – in other words, a sacrifice for the sake of the Lie. Tolle is a new age con artist, the type we’ve seen before, the type you could easily parody on stage. His story is typical – troubled childhood, bouts of depression, a sudden realization that Nothing is everything and everything is Nothing, a change of name and identity, a hint of Prussian mercilessness, a pop culture deification in his success that makes him a victim of the false gods he serves, and so forth. It’s a story I could tell in my sleep. It’s a story we see again and again in this day and age, and it’s a story that’s dragging souls to hell, with Tolle the pied piper leading his followers to where he’s headed himself.

Now, speaking of Sympathy, one must feel for this poor guy and his poor insipid idiotic followers. But why on earth would this be required reading for a Catholic Theater Group? Why on earth, if the actors want to study spirituality, don’t they plug into the great, beautiful and true patrimony of spirituality that we have in the Catholic Church? There stands Hamlet, showing his mother two pictures. “You’ve turned from this,” he says, pointing to a picture of St. John of the Cross, the Little Flower, St. Francis de Sales, “to THIS?” he says, pointing to a picture of a used car salesman wearing a yin-yang necklace at a Joyce Meyer meeting.

So, Lord, if you want me to write something more on the Philosophy of Acting, I can at least begin with this.

Actors, the devotion you feel in your hearts for your craft, the self-sacrifice and abnegation you practice for the sake of what you love, the willingness to suffer so that the show must go on, the Spirit that thrills you on stage, He who inspires you, He for whom your hearts are hungry is not your acting coach, not your co-star, not the fame or applause that excites you, not the author of the latest Oprah book-of-the-month club paean-to-suburban-Buddhism, not even the little blonde chorus girl or boy in the back row. He for whom your hearts are restless is He who is calling you to the vocation of St. Genesius. And He is neither Nothing, nor the illusion of Maya, nor the quenching of your rational soul. He is Truth. He is Love. He is Real.

Turn from the lies that surround you and turn to Him.


Benjamin. said...

I was asked to come on to the blog because you blocked me from your youtube channel, for reasons I am grasping to understand.
I simply said that I didn't want to be prayed for if it was going to be a prayer to anyone but the Trinity.
I believe that talking to the dead and using them as a mediator between man and God is against the words of Christ.
I hardly see this as an attack on Catholics.
If I am wrong, enlighten me. Don't stomp on my concerns. If I am concerned with Christ, why put me down for not following the ways of the Roman Catholic Church.

Please don't block me for my concerns. They are not like that of a nonbeliever. They do not show works of the flesh, for it is written;
"Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like:.."

Show me my wrongs if they are present here.

The Unknown Poet said...

Hello, Benjamin.

I blocked you on youtube because you were ignoring the points I was making and slamming what you call "The Roman Catholic Church" in a rather bigoted way. Plus it's best if we continue the discussion here where we have more room to comment.

I will be happy to dedicate a post to these issues, for you bring up good points. But I will touch on a bit of what you said here in the combox.

First, yes, you are a fellow Christian and I welcome you here - as long as you follow the rules of good behavior and good debate!

Secondly, you kept saying on the youtube combox that you don't "talk to the dead" the way "Roman" Catholics do. I referred you to Luke 20:38 and elsewhere where Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (in other words God Himself) addresses this very issue.

My one question to you, Benjamin, is what does Jesus say about "the dead" when addressing the Sadducees in the passage I site?

And to answer your question as to which of St. Paul's "works of the flesh" you are indulging in, the answer is "variance" (i.e., breaking away from Christ's teaching), "strife" (causing unneccesary dissention), and "heresy" - though your guilt for such sins depends upon your willing cooperation in them.

Now, Benjamin, I don't expect you to agree with the points I'm making, but if you ignore them, and come back at me saying, "You Roman Catholics talk to the dead," after I've used Holy Scripture and the Words of Christ to answer you, I will block you from this blog as well.

I don't mind disagreements, but I do mind people who don't argue fairly, and part of arguing fairly is to acknowledge what the other person is saying when he answers a question you pose. Address the point he is making; don't ignore it.

So let's begin with this: I have answered your question about which sins apply to you from St. Paul's list. Answer mine. What does Jesus say about "the dead" and their relation to God? And while you're at it, when the rich man dies and sees Lazarus in Father Abraham's bosom, he addresses Father Abraham, who is likewise dead. Is he condemned for "talking to the dead" (Abraham) or for his reprobate life while living? And when Jesus is transfigured on the mount, He is seen conversing with Moses and Elijah, who are ... um ... dead. What does all this tell us about "talking to the dead"?

Now obviously when Saul goes to a witch to raise the spirit of Samuel from the dead, he is practicing witchcraft and "divining", and we would both agree that this is a sin. I am not defending ouija boards or witchcraft, both horrible sins.

But I am saying that while raising ghosts is witchcraft, recognizing the communion of saints is not. When Catholics "talk to the dead", we are conversing with fellow members of the Body of Christ, in order that they might lead us closer to Christ. We are not invoking ghosts or spirits from hell - unless all dead people are ghosts or damned souls.

But is that the case for all who are dead? What does Jesus Himself say about this?

And by the way you are right to be on guard against such sins, things you think will keep you from God rather than usher you to Him. I admire that in you, Benjamin.

If in fact the (rigtheous) dead are not fellow members of the Body of Christ, if in fact they do not lead us to Him, if in fact talking to the dead is necromancy or witchcraft, then you are right, it should be condemned.

I am saying it isn't and your zeal is misplaced.

Welcome to the blog!

Benjamin. said...

All I could find on Jesus and the relation of God to the dead was Mark 12:26-27.

I think it is different for Abraham to talk to the rich man, because both had already died.

As for Jesus speaking to the dead, I don't think it means we can. Jesus is part of the trinity, and of course should have access to such things.

The Unknown Poet said...

Well, it's in Luke as well, Ben. Probably in Matthew, too, for that matter.

But what does Jesus say to the Saduccees? What point does he make about the dead?

Benjamin. said...

From Matthew 22,
"God is not the God of the dead, but of the living."
Is this what you were referring to?

I hardly see how this excuses vain repetition in prayer.
And I will bring up other points. I hardly see why I should be banned for such thing.

If I have evil, show it to me, and prove what I say to be wrong.
I am bringing up concerns I have, and what I see as bad.

You may ban me, but I will speak, for I see it as my duty here.

The Unknown Poet said...

Yes, Ben, that's what I'm referring to. That's the same quote as Luke 20:38, to which I directed you earlier.

Those words of Jesus address your original accusation (which you made in my youtube combox) - that Catholics "talk to the dead". Obviously, those words of Jesus have no bearing on vain repetition. I never claimed they did. I am still focusing on your original accusation, that Catholics sinfully "talk to the dead".

As I say, I understand why this is a concern for you. You are right and diligent in being concerned about this. But let's focus on this one issue and follow it through. We can deal with vain repetition later. I will also address your very reasonable replies to my argument about the rich man talking to Abraham and Jesus talking to Elijah and Moses. You made some good points.

But first, let's stick with this one thing before we touch on others. You began this by saying, "Catholics talk to the dead." Jesus in three Gospels says, "God is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living."

My question remains, what do you think He means by that?

Remember, He is answering a group of people who deny the Resurrection. He didn't just say, "Well, I will raise you all at the last day." Instead He brings up Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (three dead people) and says, "God is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living."

Again, I ask you, Ben, what do you suppose He means by that?

Now, then, you're not banned here. We have room to discuss here. We're not limited to 250 characters of type as we are at youtube.

If you continue to argue cogently, as you have been, I won't ban you from here - even if you disagree with me. Just make sure you continue to follow the argument as you have been and we'll be fine. You have much more room here to make your point, so feel free to.

The Unknown Poet said...

But first, answer my question. What does Jesus mean, when he says (in Luke's Gospel, Chapter 20)...

"The children of this age marry and remarry;
but those who are deemed worthy to attain to the coming age and to the resurrection of the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage.
They can no longer die, for they are like angels; and they are the children of God because they are the ones who will rise. 9
That the dead will rise even Moses made known in the passage about the bush, when he called 'Lord' the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob;
and he is not God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive."

Benjamin. said...

He seems to be implying that the people he has saved are living.

Surely, we also recognize what it means when someone has died.
If someone I had known had died, I would say he was dead. I would accept that he may be in heaven. It is known what this means.

The Unknown Poet said...

So if those saved by Christ (what we would call the Saints) are not dead, but fully alive in God and to God (for He is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living), then how can talking to Saints be talking to the dead?

I can see how conjuring spirits around a Ouija board is talking to the dead, or talking to demons, but if Christ talks to Elijah and Moses and if Saints are not dead - even now before the General Resurrection - then how can Catholics who talk to Saints be talking to the dead?

Dr. Eric said...

Let me give an example of some more "vain repetition."

Psalm 136

[1] Praise the Lord, for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever. [2] Praise ye the God of gods: for his mercy endureth for ever. [3] Praise ye the Lord of lords: for his mercy endureth for ever. [4] Who alone doth great wonders: for his mercy endureth for ever. [5] Who made the heavens in understanding: for his mercy endureth for ever.

[6] Who established the earth above the waters: for his mercy endureth for ever. [7] Who made the great lights: for his mercy endureth for ever. [8] The sun to rule over the day: for his mercy endureth for ever. [9] The moon and the stars to rule the night: for his mercy endureth for ever. [10] Who smote Egypt with their firstborn: for his mercy endureth for ever.

[11] Who brought Israel from among them: for his mercy endureth for ever. [12] With a mighty hand and a stretched out arm: for his mercy endureth for ever. [13] Who divided the Red Sea into parts: for his mercy endureth for ever. [14] And brought out Israel through the midst thereof: for his mercy endureth for ever. [15] And overthrew Pharao and his host in the Red Sea: for his mercy endureth for ever.

[16] Who led his people through the desert: for his mercy endureth for ever. [17] Who smote great kings: for his mercy endureth for ever. [18] And slew strong kings: for his mercy endureth for ever. [19] Sehon king of the Amorrhites: for his mercy endureth for ever. [20] And Og king of Basan: for his mercy endureth for ever.

[21] And he gave their land for an inheritance: for his mercy endureth for ever. [22] For an inheritance to his servant Israel: for his mercy endureth for ever. [23] For he was mindful of us in our affliction: for his mercy endureth for ever. [24] And he redeemed us from our enemies: for his mercy endureth for ever. [25] Who giveth food to all flesh: for his mercy endureth for ever.

[26] Give glory to the God of heaven: for his mercy endureth for ever. [27] Give glory to the Lord of lords: for his mercy endureth for ever.

Benjamin. said...

Praying to saints: All right. So that is what you believe.
Then you do it to the glory of God.
But why not use Jesus? He is our advocate. He is perfect.

Repetition: But don't some Catholics repeat the rosary, saying the exact same things multiple times in a row? What good is that?

The Unknown Poet said...

The idea behind the prayers in the Rosary is not to say the prayers over and over again, but to say the prayers while meditating on the mysteries of the life of Jesus. It's the meditation that is the soul of the Rosary, not the repetition of the words.

And any prayer said merely out of "rote" or merely to say the words with no true attempt to pray is "vain repetition" and should be avoided.

And we Catholics are not prevented from praying to Jesus, or to the Holy Spirit, or to the Father, or to all three at once - our God. I can pray directly to God anytime I want, Benjamin, as can you.

The idea behind asking saints to intercede for us is the same as asking friends to intercede for us. For instance, I ask you now to pray for me to follow Christ more closely. I can ask Him to help me do that, too, and I will. But it would please me if you, as a mutual friend - a friend of mine and a friend of Christ's - would ask Him the same. Asking the saints who are in His presence to do this is similar to asking our friends on earth to do this.

However, I will admit that some Catholics might let saints come between them and God (though I have yet to meet any Catholic who has done this); and certainly all Christians must guard against vain repetition in prayer, even in a prayer as beautiful as the Lord's Prayer. You are right, Benjamin, to be on guard against things that stand between you and God and to guard against meaningless words in prayer.