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to act or not to act

Someone seems phoney and we condemn them- 'he's a real actor, it's all an act'. Someone is ill and they put a brave face on it and refuse to burden others with their woes in situations where burdening isn't useful for anyone- that person is a model citizen. It all depends on the act, your acting. What is this acting we do in everyday life? (I am reminded of a line in the movie My dinner with Andre; 'Grotowski gave up the theatre because he thought we were all acting so well all the time anyway...') What about the person who says- what you see is what you get- I don't hide anything? What they hide is their desire to hide things...Being upfront about everything is a kind of crudity, certainly it means you are reading your own signals before being sensitive to those of the situation. Of course you can be TOO sensitive...Politeness is supposed to be an act, so are good manners- but the best manners are simply being considerate- which you can observe in the poorest, and richest, of people. Of course you can be TOO considerate...Acting is following a template or model of behaviour for a situation rather than re-acting using habitual responses. You either act or re-act, you can't escape it. When you're acting you may get 'stuck in the role'- my character just wouldn't do that actors complain to a writer. Make your character do it! You're surrounded by friends and family and feel very relaxed- how do you act? I imagine you suppress half unconciously certain aspects of your life that won't quite fit in in this environment.

In the traditional world your act is given to you on a plate. Everything about a traditional society has survived for good reason- and it breaks down for good reason too. You can't go back, however to observe it you can see that the demeanor, words, clothes, rites of passage, manner of address are all programmed into the society rather than, as in a modern 'free' society being largely the responsibilty of the individual. Of course you have to 'act' by putting on a suit, being polite to your boss- but the act is often resented, if only you were a millionaire you wouldn't have to act at all! But an actor doesn't resent his costume, he just tweaks it so that it 'works' for him- or her, the actress Archie Punjabi insisted on always wearing boots when she played a certain role- it made her feel tougher, which enhanced the act. So those people who are always 'themselves' might just be using props that allow them to stay 'in character'. So become aware of props, costumes, mannerisms which make acting a certain way effortless.

As a teacher in front of a class of children you have to act- you cannot react. People who are 'cool' are those who have habitualised certain responses early on in life. It looks like they aren't acting which is why they sometimes make good actors in movies.

You can look at acting as deciding on a certain persona or stance you conciously adopt for which you face most situations in life. It's OK to go with the flow, but it stops you from drowning if you have a boat. Doesn't have to be that big either.


desire for oblivion

Desire for oblivion often masquerades as humility. But it's just another form of giving up. Using the 'I'm not good enough' excuse to not do things can feel like you are being 'humble' and lacking in self-centredness. But doing things, even if they aren't wildly 'successful', is more positive and has more developmental possibilities. If you've got a donkey why not ride it? No one gets anywhere just looking at their donkey and seeing all its faults.


honour and acknowledge your multiple selves

Micromastery- doing a small thing well- is a good way to acknowledge and honour one of the many selves of which you are composed. No one is just one thing, one leviathan-like unity. We are like multiple strands- not even woven, and our life is the fight between them for the honour of carrying the little monkey that is climbing up...

The strands compete; sometimes one strand tries to strangle another. You get obsessed with one thing and let everything slide- but another strand of self will re-assert and condemn the 'addiction'. The secret of the traditonally wise was to try your best to integrate all the strands, weave them together into one rope that pulls in one direction.

But prior to integration you need to find some stability. You need some distance on your mutliple selves. This doesn't come from navel gazing- it comes from honouring each self with recognition. It doesn't have to be much. For example, if you have a military self don't join the army and kill your artistic self- simply wear a uniform for a day or two every so often. If you have an artistic self draw and frame a picture every month. The rest of the time you can run your business- which may be boring at times but is honouring your ambitious worldly self.

Micromastery- doing an eskimo roll, juggling, making a perfect omelette is a way to instantly access the self involved with each task. Once accessed and honoured (chef self is rewarded by everyone praising his great omelette) you can rest assured that self won't try and sabotage your life.

Because most people spend a lot of emotional energy putting out fires started by their competing selves.


interesting or emotionally affecting

If you write, draw, paint or take pictures you'd be odd if you didn't ask yourself- is my stuff any good or not? Quiet apart from stylistic and compositional or formal qualities I think it is a good idea to ask yourself- 'is my work interesting?' and 'is my work emotionally affecting?' It has to be one or the other. Interest is to be found in new information, new sights, new ways of looking at something. Emotion is to be found in melodrama, domination and submission, tugging at heart strings, nostalgia, suspense, in your faceness, violence and sex. If your work is neither interesting or emotionally affecting it probably is 'thin' and needs a rethink, reboot or moving on to something stronger. Get used to asking yourself- 'how interesting is my work?' 'How emotionally affecting is it?' This is more useful than asking 'is it any good?' You can increase emotion in something that is lacking interest by increasing contrast- literally in a photograph or picture, and through cutting away the nuances in writing, the shades of grey.


don't be assertive, be more curious

Assertive people are held up for us to admire and yet though we try we don't REALLY like the brash abrasive feeling of putting ourselves first and not really being interested in others. So we go around moaning that we should be 'more assertive'. Actually we should be more curious. People who want to be assertive often lack the means to effectively get attention- that is one point, and this blinds them to their main stance which is a basic lack of interest in others. If you get more curious about why others think as they do then they will be more interested in you. Giving and getting attention- the basis of civilisation as Idries Shah puts it in his documentary 'One pair of eyes'  (well worth seeing- you can find it on Youtube). Switch from a general stance of 'I already understand' to one of 'help me to understand'. This doesn't require endless questioning (which can be mechanical and empty) - all it needs is observation, which has verbal and non-verbal parts. Once you really understand someone they will tend to find reasons to listen to you.


happiness is wide angled vision

Happy people are easily distracted. They are interested in many things. Because they don't have to shut out the world they welcome it in. Obsessives, specialists, tunnel visionaries, one trick ponies are all trying to lock the world out. they vainly hope that if they only drill deep enough the world will reveal all its mysteries. Strangely they discover that the narrower the drill hole the easier it is to drill...

But herein lies the problem, the conundrum- to get anywhere or learn anything you need to specialise. This will make you more obsessive. You'll find that though you're not exactly 'happy' a kind of dry fleeting happiness is available to you if you pursue with vigour your obsession. Other people and things become something to be co-opted or avoided. The world starts to bore you a little. You live only for doing more and more of what you narrowly do...

But if you flit from interest to interest you never really 'achieve' much- certainly money seems to be hard to find. You get a little bitter that the world doesn't recognise your talents, your effusive interest in so many things...and as you get bitter you find you are suddenly rather interested in only one thing- doesn't matter what it is- you find that doing this thing obsessively brings some relief, you don't need to worry about the world, success, money. You begin to specialise, drilling your own deep and solitary hole...

I would offer micromastery as one way out of this conundrum. You may specialise but also feed that specialisation with defined and easily mastered activities...I offer it...but I also know that everyone in this world has to find their own balance between obsession, happiness, polymathic interest.


different kinds of teacher

There are several different kinds of teacher. For example in a martial arts dojo the head teacher may have a big reputation that attracts talented students. In the controlled environment of the dojo he may work stuff that looks like a miracle. Certainly he or she will be impressive- but they probably won't have normal friendships with their students. Part of being 'open' to a teacher precludes to some extent the banter and rough and tumble of ordinary friendship. This teacher is there, among other reasons, as a magnet for attracting the right calibre of people. Also he supplies an energy for general improvement. But within the dojo you will probably find a person who can be your teacher in a different sense. Maybe you are their only student, the only person who really pays attention to what they say and do. You can see all thier flaws, however they have something you admire or want to emulate so they become your teacher. Because they do not have the worries and cares of many students they can direct a different kind of attention to you. 

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