… We are actors.
I’ve been thinking about this in relationship to some of the writing I’ve been doing. The opening lines are a Tom Stoppard quote. The scene originates with The Player complaining that he has been deprived of the one thing that gives his life meaning: an audience.
So much of who we are is defined by an audience. If no one is looking, are we rude or polite? Powerful or weak? Victim or perpetrator? All of these roles, these traits, they require agreement between two people at the bare minimum.
Power in particular, is an agreement. The monster/banker/lover says “I’m in charge,” and somewhere, we must agree. If nothing else, our fear is an agreement that there is a cause for fear.
Defiance isn’t an answer. Defiance exists within the paradigm and just confirms the original agreement. Defiance depends on the relationship with the opposed: to maintain opposition, you must have the other.
What happens when our identities are dependent, both on what we defy and the expectation of an audience? What happens to the Stock Broker when no one is there to confirm that his money matters? This hoard of people who want to be famous, or who are famous for little more than living in the limelight and their trips in and out of jail? I propose that obtaining identity from the notion that someone somewhere is watching, that someone somewhere cares is a fragile foundation. They are the weakest possible example of humanity, because who they are is entirely dependent on an audience. They say to the world “I am interesting,” and the world agrees.
But the audience goes home and makes dinner and loves their kids and plays with their partner and turns their attention to things that matter and the “fascinating” individual is left on stage with not a damn person in sight.
In theory, this adds up to an opportunity to re-examine the agreements you’ve made. What happens when you rescind your agreement that the office bully is in charge? When you decide that the judgmental voice in your head is no longer allowed to dictate your sense of what is possible? It isn’t just external entities that we make these agreements with. The voice in my head that says “I’ll never run a marathon,” is only right for as long as I agree with her assessment of my possibilities. Granted, running 26.3 miles just to prove that I can doesn’t seem like a sensible thing to do, but it illustrates the point.
Make your agreements carefully. Walk away from your dependence on the notion of an audience. Rely on those things you know that do not require another’s agreement. I could be wrong, but I think we’d all be a little more stable in our own umami if we could focus on something other than the hope/fear that someone is watching.