01 February 2007

Sticking Up


A little something from my passive-resistance, anti'blogger friend (see 1/7/07 for said friend's impressive dramaturgy), who met a young actor at an educational gig:

"C____ was actually a really interesting guy, who had only been acting for about four months, and had already had a speaking part in the upcoming Ridley Scott/Russell Crowe movie--Russell Crowe pulls a gun on him. So awesome! But he used to be a stick-up kid. He talked really honestly about it later when S___ and I were walking back to the subway with him. He also said that he felt the need to pursue acting because of what had fallen in his lap--that from talking to other people on set he had begun to realize and appreciate how hard it is to do that, how hard the life is, and how hard it is to work to perfect the craft. He felt that to honor it--the opportunities that have been flung on him, and the lifestyle that usually accompanies it--he had to see it through to wherever this took him. So there's something for your blog (make no mistake--I do not condone that sort of thing): choosing this life because in part it chose you. And honoring what you have intrinsically. That there's some idea of a blessing involved, and that giving back, utilizing these tools is part of the respect you pay to the work. I think it's rather beautiful."

I agree.

This is not a perspective I come to naturally, this idea that some people have gifts (or "talent") that others do not. I would even go so far as to say: Most people who say they believe this idea, when pressed or drawn into a need to defend their position, would discover they were operating from an assumption. There are these axioms we are all inclined to accept through the sheer pressure of public opinion. It reminds me of a conversation I had with my sister (who, being a fellow Unitarian Universalist, tends also to be a questioner--1/3/07) on different subjects, but with the same question applied to them: Why? Why is saving a life automatically the best choice in every situation? Why should there be someone out there for everyone? Why should it be that people have natural talents, rather than abilities that are either cultivated or not?

The Why Cycle is a vicious one, of course. Ever have that conversation with a beebler (read: fully verbal but very young child) that starts out with something simple, like, "Why do birds fly?", only to end up with a question equivalent to "Why are we here and how do we, in fact, know we are here at all?" Ah, the birth of abstract thought! Ah, the Medea-complex it can inspire! So let's not build an Escher staircase, please. But the question "why" was made to draw back the curtain, show us through the frame to a broader horizon of possibilities, so it's a good place to start.

C____ reminds me of my mother, midway through seminary. (Stick with me here.) (Come to think of it, he reminds me of myself, midway through college [see 1/29/07]. But my Mom has always been more inspiring, so:) A middle-aged Unitarian Universalist at Wesley Theological Seminary (an ecumenical Christian school) studying to become Reverend Wills. She came from teaching elementary school for years, and after volunteering for a year or two as Director of Religious Education (DRE) at our church--AUUC--began setting her sights on the ministry. That part of the story's unique enough, but the point (yes, I have one this time) is that about midway through her ten-year tenure as a student of ministry, her peers began to swap stories about their Calling. This is not calling, as in holla-back-shorty, but Calling, as in holla-back-Jesus. (Jesus: I ain't no holla-back prophet, but here's some blessing for the effort. And Haddock. H-A-D-D-O-C-K... [Just a little ecumenical humor, all in good fun...Sir...]) Of course all the acknowledged Christians had little difficulty with this in concept, regardless of how it might apply to them in practice.

My Mom, however, had to think about it for a bit. (It's what we do, UUs: think. Alla' time. It's irritating.) She also had to soul-search, pray, meditate and probably do some new age crap that I still respect but is awful, awful crap. Ahem. Sorry, New-Agers. And Wiccans. I do some of it myself. I'm just an upstart UU. WATCH OUT! Anyway--and this is funny--I can't remember what conclusion she came to. Which is the funny. I thought I had a point, and yet I have made a liar of myself. God did it, probably, for my non-UU-ness a few lines ago. Thanks, God. I needed that like I needed another crisis of faith. Anyway, my Mom is indeed Reverend Wills now (she even answers the phone that way; try it: 301-745-6576) so she and God must have gotten right about it somehow.

But how's this for a point: For whatever reason, my Mom is absolutely gifted at being a mother. It's what she was born to do, no doubt about it in my mind. Something silent in her reaches out to you in whatever need you're in and--whether it's by conduit to God or a powerful ability for empathy--gives you what you need. It's a fact of faith for me, and I don't have too many of those (mostly I have theories of faith, which is how we UUs generally like it).

My point, my friends, is that it doesn't matter how we do what we do. The source(s) of our power in the world, be it nature, nurture or divine providence, does not seek to answer the question of "why." What matters is that we do it. Perhaps we were meant to do what we're doing. Perhaps we've just spent a lot of time working really hard at it. I believe it's good to honor something other than yourself with what you do with your life. Any ambition means more, and will accomplish greater things, when it is serving a larger purpose. So honor thy mother and father, honor humanity, honor God, but honor something say I. Though not L. Ron Hubbard, please. That was based on a bet. I guarantee it.

There's a lot of banter between actors about the specific "right way" to get into character (it was a much-heated debate toward the beginning of the 20th century; now it's mostly just banter [like religion in the west, more and more people are beginning to see multiple perspectives with the same goal]), with camps that claim success is achieved when you become your character, transformed, and camps that insist success lies in the character becoming you, essential, real and true. A thousand grays lie between. I, and most peers with whom I've discussed it, see it as a meeting halfway. Halfway in this context meaning a point in time (rather than distance) when the two converge; sometimes the actor has to do more traveling, sometimes the character. I willfully apply this scenario to the question of our choice, or being chosen. And I think it is a constantly shifting ratio. Sometimes we just have to keep choosing and choosing and CHOOSING to do what we love. And sometimes, the love calls to us.

Holla-back, love. Holla-back.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Seems to me the best love is a simple love that accepts what it can't appreciate.

Jeff Wills said...

Yes, Anonymous. I would have to agree.