Can we live without being actors?

“The world is a big theater, and men and women are a fistful of actors” William Shakespeare

In the article Making life a work of art we saw how there is nowadays a clear tendency to live through life only to tell it.

This question is a little deeper than if we post or not photos on Facebook, since it sinks its roots into the question of whether a human being can live without being an actor. Sometimes the “depth” of a topic is used contemptuously: here we refer with this to the closeness that something has to this center of things that we value the most.

Undoubtedly, freedom is one of these things. Nevertheless, in The unbearable lightness of being, Kundera argues that all human beings are actors, since even the word person comes from the Latin personae, a mask that actors were used in stage plays.

Having said this, Kundera pass on to explain the existence of four types of actors. The first ones are those that act for mass of acquaintances, always being anxious for being respectable to their friends, family and dog. Others are lovers of reputation, acting for a supposed mass of strangers that is pendant on their lives. Also, there is the furious lover who does everything so that his dear being has a good concept of him. Finally, there exists one who operates for an imaginary being that, as it arises from its own imagination, in fact what it does is acting for himself. These are the poets, artists and Bohemians for whom it doesn’t matter very much what people say, but to have peace of mind.

Although the world looks in many opportunities like a Human Comedy, this reality responds to a particular context. With the growth of societies, direct contacts between people were progressively going a direct meeting to a mediation with rolls that could handle the anonymity. Prejudice became like this way a central part of modern societies, turning the mask and the image a limit to intimacy.

This is why the mask as requisite for a successful sociability is a contemporary phenomenon. Our reality, where we can spend hours, days and years walking through the world without knowing at least one person in the street was completely strange for our distant ancestors. In the period of hunters – gatherers, were small societies existed, direct contact between people made unnecessary and even annoying the mask. These were groups where they were falling asleep, fighting and dying next to a community, therefore there did not exist the current Separation that has led to the growth of the world of intermediaries, as it is the mask.

Knowing all this: can we live without being actors? The person who lives through its life only to tell it lives in a mental amphitheater where there is a public and an actor, where little by little we turn into slaves trying to maintain an image. The main consequence of the relationship between images is duality, and with it power relations.

On the other hand, another problem that generates the mask apart from the destruction of freedom is the creation of an spectator. Our stories, if we are not you conscious of their effect, turn into orders to act in a certain way. The whole baggage that is tied to a role like being Latin-American comes with a social expectation of, for example, dancing salsa. Soon, we are not participants of life but rather spectators seeing every event happening in front of us as in a TV set, without any class of responsibility or conviction for what we do.

The crucial point to understand is that all forms of acting are, in fact, created by us. The mind splits between a spectator (observer) and a (observed) actor. The observer is the internal police, the conditioning that imposes a duty to be on an actor whom, if it wasn’t for the hierarchy that the spectator creates, would be spontaneous, transparent and full of life.

Let’s put an example. You are walking along the street and, out of nothing, there arises the desire to dance la bamba. Obviously: what madman would dare to dance in the street? (the observer questions through thoughts). Then, if the impulse does not act as it arises, a division is created between the current thing, which is alive in your body, and what the observer imposes. This mental sovereign creates a kingdom in which nothing is authorized without its permission, therefore there is a game of justification or rejection that does not allow any spontaneity or even progress, as any action becomes a repetition of the known.

 What we have to realize is that this observer is very limited, as it’s constructed from thoughts. Is it possible to think about everything? I doubt it, since thought is always partial and needs to categorize a reality that does not come in fragments but like a whole. Also, in this attempt for controlling the new thing all the individual and collective past is perpetuated, since the observer is a framework of culture, education, human impulses, beliefs and others. The discipline that is created on the new thing is the search for safety, continuity and permanence, which are impossible targets beyond the mind.

All these mental images (nationality, attraction and repulsion, tastes, fears, desires, etc) gather together around a center. Without any class of identification with them, would the center exist? This is a question that each one must answer for himself if he wants to experience this state in which the observer IS the observed, as Jiddu Krishnamurti frames it.

Having arrived to this point, we can answer the initial question. Can we live without being actors? The only way would be living without ideas, without a center from which everything is organized, not without thought, but without thinker, without anything that we think inmutable, without the ego. For this, meditation.

If you’d like to know more about these topics, I recommend the work of Jiddu Krishnamurti and Milan Kundera

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