Caring & Not Caring – Life’s Balancing Act
Thanks again for all your replies about happiness and “The Provisional Life” a couple of weeks back – I think I’ve replied to them all now, but please nudge me if I’ve missed yours! These ideas, about deferred happiness and the collective delusion that “real life” will begin as and when we get round to it rather than being something that’s happening now, are things I’m continuing to explore in a few different projects, so I’m going to write a bit more about it this week, having reflected more on all your responses.
Some of you pointed out that, of course, nobody actually has something in mind that they sincerely believe will put an end to all their wondering and wanting and make them truly, completely happy and fulfilled all of the time. Anyone who went round genuinely thinking life works that way must have missed out on a few key building blocks for how to meaningfully engage with the world. But that general attitude – that life is a sort of waiting room, and the “real thing” will start once we’ve ticked off a certain number of goals or things to get out of the way first – did seem to resonate with a lot of readers. It seems to be a way of dealing with the world that we can’t help but slide into, even when our rational brains remind us that this, what we’re doing right now, is our life, and that we should respect and enjoy it as such.
A couple of readers, interestingly, equated that attitude with hope, which was a word I had somehow not considered yet in thinking about this subject, but now it’s been brought to my attention, it feels fairly crucial. Thinking “I will be happy when I have this amount of money, or live in a property like this,” or whatever it might be, sounds like an unhealthy way of looking at life to me, but “I hope I make more money one day,” or “I hope I live in a nice house one day” sounds more positive and healthy (whether or not we agree with those specific goals as meaningful ones will vary, but the language is certainly more healthy and sustainable, I think). Another reader asked me:
“Is there a moment where we realise that the conditions of our “Provisional Life” might never happen, and if so, does it make us sad?”
This is the big one, I think, and it’s part of the reason I’m trying to dig into these subjects across various projects at the moment. I think that this way of thinking about life is so universal that actually, the realisation that “It’s not going to happen” is something we’re guaranteed to have to process eventually. That doesn’t mean that we’re never going to get anything we want, it just means that because of how we’re wired, if we do achieve the thing we hope for, our brains will probably attach themselves to some reason why actually, that doesn’t really count any more, and now something else is needed for “real life” to begin. Learning to navigate that feeling is crucial to learning how to be more present and appreciative of everyday life, I think.
This powerful, provocative image is here to illustrate the concept of “walking life’s tighrope,” or trying to maintain balance. It is reproduced here courtesy of Google Images. Thank you for your time.
Last week I worked on a really fun short film by the writer-director Anna Southgate called Team Building, and ended up chatting to some of the other actors about auditions. These actors were more used to the process of auditioning than I am – I’m coming off the back of 10 years working in a field where, essentially, I am the person in creative control of what work I do, whereas they had 10 years’ experience of working in a field where the work you do is mostly decided by other people. We were talking about the tightrope you have to walk between caring and not caring. If you don’t care about auditions at all, it will be apparent in the performance you give and predetermine their decision not to give you the part, but if you care about them too much, then when you inevitably have to field the rejections that come your way, it’s too easy to feel completely crushed and destroyed by them.
It’s the same when you’re writing and pitching stuff in comedy – John-Luke Roberts once said it’s hard to find that balance between investing a project with enough of your heart and soul to be able to give it its best chance of expressing what you want it to express, while also holding enough of your heart and soul in check that if someone comes back saying they’re not interested in it, you’re able to not take that as too personal a rejection, and to continue to believe in the things you have to say.
I think this tightrope that you walk as an actor and as a writer or a creative is also one we all have to walk as people in our day-to-day lives – we have to care about the things we do in life, and the things we want and hope for, and at the same time we have to learn how to let them go, to not hold them too tightly. It would be as silly to hope for nothing in life as it would be to live only in a state of perpetual hope, unable to actually take pleasure in what’s happening outside your front door.
I’m trying to work up a theatre show about all this stuff while also writing a scripted project about it, and am doing as much reading on and around the subject as possible, but I’d love to keep hearing your own thoughts and feelings about it all! Do you ever find yourself letting go of hope in order to reorient yourself around your actual lived experience? Or is hope, and the idea of reaching for something, important to you in terms of motivating you towards your goals? Let me know which direction means the most to you, or whether you attempt to walk the line between the two!
A Cool New Thing In Comedy – The Roundhouse have announced a month-long comedy festival in August. It might be of interest to comedy fans in or near London who are unable to go to the Edinburgh Fringe this year because of the spiralling accommodation costs. More info here.
What’s Made Me Laugh The Most – The corpses scene in the new Dungeons & Dragons movie. Expected it to be fun, did not expect it to have any genuinely very funny scenes in it.
Book Of The Week – How To Be Good by Nick Hornby. This was fun. It made me laugh a lot. It’s about a wife and husband whose marriage is put under strain when he arbitrarily starts trying to be a really good person, and she ends up being surprised by how much she resents it.
Album Of The Week – Love & Money by Katie Melua is her recent 9th album. I can’t believe she’s released nine! I stopped keeping up with her after her second one. She’s been making very lovely music this whole time! This new one’s nice.
Film Of The Week – Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves. The most fun I’ve had in the cinema since the new Matilda movie. This is just a blast. Hugh Grant is having the time of his life (albeit recycling his performance from Paddington 2 note for note – it’s like he walked off the set of that film and onto the set of this one and just didn’t stop acting).
That’s all for this week! As ever, let me know what you thought, and if you enjoyed the newsletter and would like to send it to a friend or encourage others to subscribe, I’d hugely appreciate it! Take care of yourselves until next time, and all the best,
PS Here’s a peacock I met in Corsham this week while doing tour support for John Kearns. Peacocks are like rats in Corsham, apparently.