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.