On avoiding a trivial life.
By happy chance, I was saved from a trivial life, not by success, but by failure. I should clarify that - not so much failure, as not abundant success.
I shall explain. You see, there is nothing more trivial than the modern actor, as conceived in the filmic world. It doesn't have to be this way - but it is. Modern film actors are almost always substanceless beings, devoid of real meaning and real artistic worth. Many of them cannot truly act, but are there for their natural gifts of appearance and charm. Those who can act, are often not allowed to, by film vehicles that require them to be little more than living props to special effects. The result is that few modern actors get the chance to be truly something worth being: a creator of "real" people.
I have been an actor. It is something I used to enjoy very much. I acted on stage, tv and the odd film - but, luckily, and I say this with great personal gratitude, it didn't take off in a big way. I did not become a star of film or tv. I am glad that this is so, because, I realize now, it is too easy to be tempted into a shallow life, if one is successful in such an arena. The opportunities on offer are not really creative opportunities and so it would be easy to waste one's life being uncreative in a supposedly creative way. By this I mean that the demands upon the modern actor do not usually admit the possibility of much creativity and even if they did, that creativity is secondary to the script and to the work of the director. The result is that actors do not, generally, have the chance to be what I term primary creators: builders of something truly new and unique.
The actor's life is a seductive but ultimately empty one, if that is all that you are doing. There is the fame, the money and the adulation that go with a successful actor's career - but these are all, in the end, shallow things if they are not accompanied by true creative accomplishment, which, in most cases, they are not.
I have had a lucky break, therefore. I was lucky enough to have the chance to act in diverse roles, but not so lucky as to be ensnared by the seductive life that could have developed, indeed, would have, had it taken off in a big way. Thus, I have managed to enjoy what acting has to offer, as an art, but without having to suffer the emptiness that follows upon making that one's sole lifelong pursuit.
There are other more worthy means of creation than acting. Writing is one which I enjoy. Scientific research is another - which I also enjoy. Then there is art, music, philosophy and so on. There are so many other ways to express one's humanity which afford more opportunity for creativity than does acting. I am lucky in that I presently pursue two of these other areas: science and writing. They give my life more meaning and substance than acting alone would have done.
That being said, there is merit in combining the life of an actor, with the life of another type of creator. That would be a more balanced, though rarely chosen course of action. Most actors, though, don't make such a choice largely because it is not possible for them: they don't have any other means of communication and creation, they are stuck within their own narrow facet of life and its observation.
For me, an ideal life has at least one form of true creativity as a significant part of it...preferably more than one form. A life without creativity is not, as far as I see it, a complete one. So, too, an actor's life, without another form of expression, is also incomplete and unsatisfying. Most actors, though, would disagree with me. They find wholeness in their partial creative lives. That is their choice and their understanding, but it is not mine.
I wonder, now, would I be pursuing research and writing had acting taken off in a big way for me? (I lacked the contact base to make it so, but in a way that seems fortunate now). I cannot know. I hope I would have had the wisdom to seek greater completeness of expression, but I cannot know, from this vantage. I only know, now, that this way has merits the other does not. So, in the end, life has brought me to a productive place that is worth being in. It is just that, at the outset, I could not see that I would get to this particular place at all.
I must say that the life of an actor is not the only shallow choice. A pop star, for instance, is another choice that seems glamorous but which is ultimately hollow. So, let it not be thought, that it is to acting alone that I direct the observation of shallowness: there are many areas to which it could apply.
It is funny to think it, but I am happy to lack great success in one area of my interest. That is a thought, I would once never have thought it possible to think - yet I do. How about you, too? Are there are any areas of your life that you now, in retrospect, find yourself happy not to have succeeded more fully at? You might be surprised at what some honest reflection reveals. Write your reflections below, please.
(If you would like to learn more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, 10, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, 6 and Tiarnan, 4, this month, please go to:
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