Monday, January 27, 2014

Are Michael Caine and Marlon Brando Right? Is There Only One Viewer? And Are We All Actors as a Way of Maintaining Human Civilization?

For all of my many complaints and worries about the negative impact of social media and the Internet on human communication and social relationships, there are moments when they afford us opportunities for learning that would have required such an excess of time and energy as to be prohibitive--if not impossible--not too long ago.

I admire effortless expertise (thus the obvious question, how good and skilled does one have to be for their expertise to appear so natural and easy?); I admire, even more, those true experts who are able to communicate their gifts to a general and interested public.

Skilled writing for any venue or format ought to be deeply and intensely personal. Moreover, as I have shared here on WARN many times, blogging, being a serious member of the online commentariat or essayist, freelance writer, or other type of media personality in more traditional and conventional mediums is a performance. In those venues a person has to be "more real than real". Do they not?

And borrowing from the philosopher Judith Butler, most people are "performing" some type of identity as well--be it gender, race, sexuality, ethnicity, nationality, or class.

Thus, what is taken as "natural" are in many cases a combination of biology and socialization. For most of the above categories they are wholly fictive.

In all, our performed identities are socially constructed scripts. Do not make a common error in inference here: these identities are no less real because they are performed. These identities are paradoxical: we hold on to them tightly because the performance of identity is so natural that many of us cannot imagine any other possibilities.

The Internet offered up two great finds that I would like to share on these matters.

The legendary actor Marlon Brando suggested, to the consternation of his host Dick Cavett, that we human beings are all performers, pretending, dissembling, and putting on a show everyday of our lives.

His peer Michael Caine conducted an actor's workshop for the BBC. There Caine explained that one should trust the camera--the Gaze--and not try to overreact or force one's presence. A right and proper actor will also learn to be intimate and perform as though they are talking to just one person. The camera is your/our best friend.

My read of Caine's advice is that those actors who try to "act" will never find success in their craft.

Cain and Brando's wisdom is so welcome, and yes, challenging. Are you/me/us all actors and actresses in life? If so, how do we excel in either our chosen and/or imposed upon roles?

To that end, what script are you reading from on the day-to-day?


Myshkin the Idiot said...

Interesting questions. Soto Zen Buddhism focuses on those questions in life. Ego and egolessness.

Some good readings on the subject can be found in the Lankavatara Sutra, The introduction has some great concepts and ideas.

or the Shobogenzo, which is an essential Zen Buddhist text. A free version of it can be found here,

but I prefer the translation by Gudo Nishijima and Chodo Cross as their footnotes and indices are very helpful at translating between Sanskrit, Chinese, and Japanese characters. You can buy them on Amazon.

From what I understand about ego and egolessness or selflessness is finding a balance between being yourself, complete with your personal experiences and knowledge, and letting go of an idea of self. But what do I know, I am essentially a novice, maybe even a non-practitioner.

kokanee said...

Shakespeare anyone?

Macbeth, Act 5, Scene 5:
Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury
Signifying nothing.

As You Like It, Act II, Scene VII:
All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players:
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first, the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse's arms.
And then the whining school-boy, with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress' eyebrow. Then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honour, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon's mouth. And then the justice,
In fair round belly with good capon lined,
With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances;
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slipper'd pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side,
His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank; and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.

Sourced from and

purveyor1 said...

I enjoy the Bard! MacBeth, Henry V and Hamlet…

DanF said...

Fear not - odds are overwhelming that we are merely a computer simulation. If we are able to maintain our current growth curve in computing power, in seventy-five/one hundred years it seems reasonable that we will be able to simulate a universe inside whatever passes for a computer at that time. And we'd likely do it for multiple universes; eventually millions of universes. Why would we possibly imagine that we are the first ones to do this? ;-)