Theatrics of Life -curtain rasier, the introduction
Theatrics of Life
In the beginning there is always a word, and the word multiplies and becomes a book.
To begin a book is needed. Later the book is shelved. It has to be. But, if the book is always around, opened every moment, referred and re-read instead of being remembered then either the book or the user is inadequate. The remembering has to happen with spontaneity; labour is most often love lost! Any reading should be a beginning to end reading. This series of articles is an introspective interaction at the end of which our roles as the writer and reader may change too.
As succinctly said by Shakespeare, “ all the world’s a stage, and all men and women merely players; they have their exits and entrances; and one man in his time plays many parts…”. Life indeed is drama. The scenes happen according to the script (not in the fatalistic escapist sense), but in the script of life, the artiste can improvise his role and thereby even change the course of the script. The performer can make the scene belong to himself just by focusing and relaxing. It is towards this enhancement of performance in life that we all strive till we exit.
Any performance needs light. As in any theatrical production, in life too there are spot lights and flood lights. The spot light is what Alan Watts called focused consciousness.
It is like this- there are times when your actions are deliberate and purposeful and this is in the spotlight of intense awareness. Many times we act in reflex, and this is in the floodlight of intuitive consciousness. In a spotlight the artiste needs to perform with precision, while in a floodlight he can move along with others and perform with ease and the comfort of company. Life is performing mundane, profane and even puritan acts on a daily basis.
Drama is ever present. In this wonderful theatre there is an ever-going interactive drama in which we assume, shed, resume, redefine, refuse, grudgingly comply and perform various roles at various moments in various places with carious persons.
We act, constantly. Acting is not mimicking or miming, not imitating, but responding and provoking, invoking, inviting, inciting, initiating and interacting – even through inaction. Onstage is the performance of daily living and off-stage is the performance in dream arena. In the theatre of life, to live well is to perform well. To perform well is to know the role, learn the role and be the role.
Though roles can shift in a miniscule of a second, they have to be performed to perfection to ensure smooth and successful progress in the drama of life. To know the role one has to feel the role. Stanislavsky, the theatre genius said, “when you encounter with a role, the first meeting like on that happens to lovers; the second meeting is like pregnancy and the third onwards, it is birth and rearing.” Though his description was to help artistes to conceive and develop their acting abilities, this can be relevantly construed to constructively create and enrich our repertoire of roles in life.
To learn a role one has to be aware of the encounter with the role. First impressions are the deciding factors in a role’s effective action and success, or defective display and failure. They are seeds with virginal freshness- unexpected, direct, unpremeditated, unprejudiced and unfiltered by criticism. A receptive frame of mind is essential to approach these roles. This receptive state of mind is an inner state of readiness and need, clarity and desire, composure and focusing.
The emotional encounter with a role that we watch or perform is the basic and most important aspect of creativity. When creativity is lost, charm vanishes; the performance is painful to the audience and the artiste. For, just as how a seasoned actor can take his role in a scene for granted, and because of repeated successful performances , we too presume about our roles in life, and often perform out of a rusted library that has outdated references. When such lackadaisical performances happen the results may not cause alarm or lead to failure, but the fire of life will be smothered, and performance in life become painstakingly boring. To be effective in a role is to remain sensitive and alert. It is about love.
Work is love, labour is pain. Life is loving- loving the self and the other. To love is the basic function of human machine, and the tools of emotion are intended for this functioning to be smooth. Love has to be experienced. It is an inner energy that needs the milieu to surface. Life is all about loving, yet, it is philosophised with so much pretentiousness that the simple and spontaneous act of breathing becomes a panting.
“ Thou to me the harp of gold,
I to thee the fingers bold “ –( Bharathi)
Was one of the greatest expressions of unison, greatest definition of creativity. The golden harp contains music yet needs the finger to emanate the notes. The finger knows the music yet needs the harp to produce the notes. Here production is not procreation but creation; it is not about productivity, but about creativity. It is not about interdependence but about inner interaction unaware of the action. This is the golden rule in performing the lover’s role. A lover in her/his role becomes the role and cannot be outside and objective. It has to be inside pouring out of every pore. It is an action, it is a performance, but it cannot be taught or premeditated. It has to happen. Top make this happening happen, one has to learn about other roles and others’ roles in life.
Learning and loving happen spontaneously in infancy, and then the teachers squash the musical babble and cook the human cookie. It tastes good to itself the first time. Confidence becomes a trifle overconfidence, and soon noise replaces notes and pretends to be music. Pretensions are ofcourse a natural process of learning. But with the passing of each test, poor imitations delude themselves as original naturalness.
The first lesson is always imitation. Unknowingly a model is selected to mould one’s role. The safest model is the least risky. It is one that is comforting and rewarding. To please to be pleased is the first concept understood at this point. As in any development, this has to be experienced and outgrown. To grow out of a developmental stage and to move onto the next phase, one has to identify, understand and resolve conflicts.
Any conflict is a difficulty of expression – to take in or give out the right response, meaningfully and in time. To express is to understand and make the other understand. It is the effort of the animal to become human, and the human to become the universe.
To express is to emote- appropriately and adequately.
The primal list of emotions, as defined in ancient Tamil and Sanskrit texts of India, are-
Love, Humour, Empathic sympathy of pathos, Anger to the explosive ultimate, Heroism of truth and valour, Fear, Disgust and the Wonder at the magic of mystery.
Love, joy, sorrow, fury, enthusiasm, terror, disgust and astonishment….these are the primary emotions. Life is painted from the palette of these emotions. These eight emotions interact with each other to present as drama in life. The beauty of classification of these emotions in Indian Texts (Natya Sastra in Sanskrit and Tholkappiam in Tamil), is intensely wonderful by the fact that after enlisting the eight primary emotions comes the description about the ninth state of mind, santhi – blissful peace and peaceful bliss. The idea is that all these emotions have to be understood and brought under one’s will in order to enable the mind to experience blissful peace and to continue life in peaceful peace.
All the plots of life’s theatre are scripted with and around these emotions neutral in gender, common to all, emotions are controlled by socio-economic and health factors. Controlled and even concealed they may be, but never prevented from appearing on the mindscape. This is the reason why an Indian uneducated villager can understand the smile, tear, frown or fear on the face of a Harvard topper. Emotions are instinctively acknowledged in the mind; but when expressions of emotions are to be adequately tuned to the frequency of social comfort, they have to be understood. Life’s drama always starts with a shriek and a cry from the mother and the baby; the smile and joy follow later. Perhaps the initial encounter with emotional roles may cause a painful moment of truth, but they would make life easier, to be continued!