I really have to get over this compulsion to write down absolutely everything in my thought process. It really doesn’t work, and sometimes it stoppers up the flow of discovery. I leave blank pages in my notebook and skip over them so that I can go back and finish them later. But do I go back to finish them? No. Why go backwards?
First rehearsal for Songs For a New World today. It was great, and long, and exhausting, and inspiring, and challenging, and work. It was definitely work, and I feel like I was worked and did work and that – in the end – it actually worked. Or the beginning of what could work. It’s all an exercise in loosening up, in allowing, in remembering to stand strong in myself, to maintain my core strength while being pliable to be directed and molded as well. Work, like I said.
I am not saying that philosophy can be likened to acting because lecturing on it involves a kind of acting. I am only claiming the right to speak about acting, because lecturing on philosophy requires a carefully contrived performance, not to create an illusion but to express and project one’s own involvement.
So what are the parallels worth emphasising? I start with interpretation. It is hardly controversial that the actor interprets – gives life and body to a text. The words are given but he uses the resources of his personality to make something of them. The philosopher too is an interpreter. The given text is life, is human experience and it needs making sense of. This is one of philosophy’s important jobs. And this making sense, remains, as is the case with acting, an intensely personal matter. Of course you can’t make life what you will according to your whims, as you can’t act Hamlet in any odd way. But there are no fixed criteria of getting it right, there is leeway for individual points of view. These two points involved in interpretation need underlining. Neither in acting, nor in philosophy can we abandon the idea of truth, of criteria for a better and worse interpretation. Of an acting performance we may say that it is convincing, coherent, consistent, st imulating, thought-provoking or, of course, the opposite. We say the same kinds of things about philosophies. Yet interpretation always represents a point of view, it is someone’s interpretation and reflects the interpreter’s outlook, temperament and situation. It is this curious balance to be struck which is interestingly like the actor’s job.
Sometimes I’m not as good with the transition from theory to application, from pure philosophy to applied, from thought to action:
There is one more, final, aspect which reinforces the power of our analogy. Acting is clearly not a theoretical but a practical activity. Whatever thinking and theorising may go into acting, it is literally manifest, observable, and physical activity. It means waving your arms, walking about, kissing, fighting and the like. My point is that philosophy too is not a purely theoretical activity like pure mathematics. We cannot distinguish pure philosophy from applied philosophy in the sense in which we can distinguish pure and applied mathematics.
It is something that will stretch and strengthen within me in this process, I am sure of that. Goodness me.
No more words, no more writing or thoughts. To bed. Off to bed with her.
P.S. I will reply back to your email in full tomorrow, I do promise.