Friday, January 17, 2020

Miming has Actual Emotional Content

It is hard to avoid assertions about ontology. Even when I'm careful not to make them, they are active somewhere below the level of observation. Indeed, by the time you're thinking about asserting/not asserting, some degree of assertion has already taken place.

But maybe "ontology" is too abstract here. Maybe that word isn't reasonable in my vocabulary.

What I mean is that I often experience a temptation to assert that I know more than I actually know. This temptation is probably roughly equal to the extent I suspect I don't know.

But also, there is a difference between saying "I don't know" and "I can't know." And the distinction matters.

Also, there is a difference between thinking about these things in a studious way - a scholastic morning here, a scholastic afternoon there - and then actually trying them out in your living and observing the results.

So writing can be a way of seeing what you are doing with gaps in your knowing and evaluating it. It is also a way of seeing how what you say about the gaps is compromised because you are not actually doing anything with or to or in the gaps.

Johnstone points out that "we have strong resistance to being overwhelmed by gifts, even when they're just being mimed" (Impro 101). I've been thinking about this ever since I read it, wondering if it will extend beyond the range of exercises for actors. The subtext of Impro is that it's not just a handbook for actors but a handbook for living for all of us.

Sometimes I am overwhelmed by gifts. But not always. Sometimes I am covetous. Sometimes I am mostly interested in gifting others.

What's really interesting about that Johnstone quote is how miming has actual emotional content. That is, things that are hard when we do them for real are also hard when we mime them. Feelings don't distinguish what is "real" from what is not.

Thus, you can't say - based on your feelings - if what's happening right now is reality or just mimics reality.

Am I a mime? Is this an act? Am I pretending it's an act when it's not? How would I know? My emotional response can be the same in both instances.

You don't know what's real; you only think you do.

It all seems real but you don't know what's real.

Every conclusion you reach - every decision you make - is based on inferences you make between what appears (which includes your ideas - including these right now) and a proposed external objective reality that you are certain exists in the form you are certain it exists in.

But those inferences are not justified; others could be just as valid. Because you don't actually know what's real; you only think you do.

How will you know? What game will you play to find out? What game will you stop playing?

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