09 July 2008

I'm Trying to not Live in the Past, Now


I'm a silly, sentimental S.O.B. It probably doesn't seem like it much anymore, because I so frequently fail to email people back, or forget they gave me such-and-thus, or throw away show cards the moment I get them. (Sorry 'bout that.) All this behavior, however, has been built up over the years to combat the horrible side-effects of being a sentimental sort of person. Getting sucked into the past is second-nature to me, and the real trick is extracting myself completely once I am, and so I avoid going through old photos, reading old letters, attending reunions . . .

. . . signing up for services like Facebook(TM).

Way back 'round about when I started this here 'blog, I signed up for teh MySpace(r). I've pretty much loathed it ever since. Why I can't exactly say, but I attributed it to my general reluctance to be reunited with people from my past. This theory has since been disproved by how much I'm enjoying the constant and nigh senseless connectivity of teh Facebook(U). Maybe I've changed in the past couple of years. I'd like to think so. Maybe too, however, it wasn't so much that I feared reunion with my past, as that I feared falling into old patterns as much as I feared getting stuck in nostalgia-land. That's a lot of fear, I realize. What can I say? I'm good at it.
An actor is expected to live in the moment, at his or her own peril, and to his or her own possibility of great reward. As with some of the techniques and methods employed by actors, we can occasionally take such rhetoric a bit far, in my opinion, shamelessly extending a psychotically permissive or artificial attitude into our daily lives. It's very easy to do. Imagine spending several hours each day, with great regularity, practicing a certain approach to living. When you leave the rehearsal room or stage, some of that practice is bound to stick to you and your actions. This, in many cases, is a helpful thing. It can make the sensitive and responsible actor more honest, self-aware and receptive in his or her personal life. It can also mean that for two hours following an intensive Meisner workshop, an actor is inclined to repeat every sentence another person says before responding to them. Which, though initially novel, gets old. Fast.

As I've mentioned here before (see 12/31/07), I've found a new priority for embracing my past. This is a personal choice, but it is also somewhat motivated by observations of my progress and personality as an actor. As we've had ground into our ethos...es (ethi? ethae?) by innumerable history and civics classes, those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it. This, I think, includes the details of our personal histories as much as any war or natural disaster. I can never make up my mind about the nature of humanity and our propensity for change, so philosophically I take a very balanced (ambiguous) view. I believe people can make choices for change, and that there's a core to each person that is uniquely theirs, unaffected by circumstance. To put it another way, I think we should always strive for positive change in ourselves, with a constant forgiveness prepared for those aspects of the "me" that may simply be given. I do this better some times than others, and I believe that getting my feet snared in nostalgia happens when the balance between ambition and acceptance falls a little heavy on the ambition side. One never feels so much a failure, I think, than when one regrets the person--or people, if we do change--they have been.

"The moment" is good to live in, certainly. The best formula for happiness probably comes from a life so lived. However, if we fail to embrace our past, particularly the best and worst bits, with love and acceptance (not just tolerance), we may never change. We might not grow. I know I can't love myself without loving the fallible adult right along with the naive kid.

Nietzsche was fond of the phrase amor fati, which is Latin for "I meant that our need for God is dead, you morons." Wikipedia contradicts my translation, however, insisting amor fati refers to a love of one's fate, and since everything I ever needed to know I learned from Wikipedia, I'll run with that. It's been a favorite phrase of mine since my (somewhat) more pretentious days of youth, because it's helped me to understand a lot of touch choices and a few (too many) disappointments. Somehow I always applied it, in my thinking, to my future. Perhaps this is because we tend to think of what's ahead of us when we consider "fate." I would look ahead to the daunting choices to be made, and the ones I had already made yet not acted upon, and be comforted. The mantra applies just as much to our pasts as well, though. Maybe we have regrets, and definitely we have mistakes back there, but those can be loved in their way, too.

But I'm not posting my high school yearbook picture. Uh-uh. No way. There are limits even to loving, after all.

9 comments:

Davey said...

Let us not forget that Dave posted pictures of me all through the years, and I was none the worse for it. Let the past be loved!

Jeff Wills said...

Oi. I just got a little queezy just imagining such a thing happening to me. You are truly brave, sir. (Not that you exactly had a choice in the matter...)

dave said...

Yeah, reading this post I was cursing my lack of foresight when I left the yearbooks behind in storage. Davey, be a dear; find a scanner and humiliate Jeffrey for me, would you?

Jeff Wills said...

Hold the cell, there, fellas. I still have my yearbooks, too. And Megan has a scanner. And she's deft with the Photoshop(TM), so everbody imagine the possibilities and just calm right on down!

dave said...

Megan's in there too; I see no reason to fear.

Jeff Wills said...

This is turning ugly. How about this? We all put down our yearbooks and scanners, and reflect upon the wisdom and temperance of aging?

Karen Cordano said...

Is Davey Mr. Davey Cruz? If so, how the hell are you?

Jeff Wills said...

None other, Karen. None other. He is my east, my west, my summer sun and my Sunday best. Or something like that.

But if you post those pics, D, I'll put Nair in your shampoo.

Davey said...

Consider me threatened into submission. Dave, I'll just have to think of another way to get pictures of Jeff to the masses without posting them on my blog.