In the drama school where I was trained, you weren’t allowed to have any “gods or idols.” With that they meant that you weren’t allowed to worship anyone or anything without questioning. Our principal came from Russia and had trained at GITIS, where they worked with the Stanislavski system. What our principal came to discover when he left was that Professors on Stanislavski all over the world had very different opinions on what Stanislavski had meant with this or that, but most people, himself included, just worshipped the man and did not question him. However, if no one understood him, how could he be “right”?
Don Miguel Ruiz’s The Mastery Of Love says the same thing. He has 3 rules:
- Don’t believe me.
- Don’t believe yourself.
- Don’t believe anyone else.
So what does he mean? Well, you might have heard that Buddha said something similar and probably every other “guru” there ever was. What I believe they are trying to say is that first of all, just because a person is in a position of authority, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are right.
In Blink Malcolm Gladwell talks about a famous experiment where the subjects were told, by a person with authority, to submit electrical shocks to people when they answered incorrectly to questions posed. People followed suite to the point where the electrical shocks where lethal (what they didn’t know was that it was actors acting out the shocks, not receiving them). (You can read about it here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milgram_experiment#The_experiment) Of course it is easy for us all to say that we wouldn’t do that. Again I have to refer to mentalism…the things people can make you do are stunning (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=befugtgikMg). Basically – we listen to some people and not to others, we trust some people and not others, but why we do it isn’t always the right reasons. We simply do so because they behave in a certain way, they put forward their words in a certain way, we have certain things in common with them, or a certain amount of people already believe in them. Not because their message is true.
Secondly, look at your own thoughts. Has it ever happened that you wanted Chocolate Fudge Brownie AND Half Baked ice cream and couldn’t decide which one to buy? Have you ever wanted to date this person AND that person? Have you ever thought this is true BUT that is also true and they are complete opposites? Well, if you had one mother and one father, that’s probably the case. One person said one thing, one said another and you came to believe in both. In most cases you don’t even know where you got the ideas you got from, but you hold them all for being true, even if they are seemingly opposite. For me the only resolution is to meditate, because it feels like I rise above the conflicting issues and look down on them. I am no longer sitting in them. Usually, I realize that none of them are the ultimate truth. I just see that one part of me was formed by certain influences and like one idea and the other part of me that was formed by different influences like another idea. I’m not sure I can completely disregard these influences, after all, all I am is what I know, but I can do my best to look at life from a perspective of totality rather than engaging in either part(s) of me.
It’s the same thing when you are cheering on the anti-hero of a story. The nice thief. The lovely criminal. And haven’t we all been in love with a lovely criminal at some point or another? The person we know is either morally corrupted or utterly insane, but we still like them? Because a part of them ring true to a part of us and depending on how big that part is, we are more, or less, in love with them.
I’m not saying we shouldn’t admire people for certain talents/skills they have. It’s all very well to seek inspiration, but when we get that slightly glassed stare in our eye and we wax on about something…it’s time to watch out. The person we are talking about has in some way or other made us putty in their hands. And we will focus ONLY on what we like about them, the other things will be swept under the carpet. We are also very unlikely to question what they say and it’s nice to question things even if they are good, because we then find out more about them. A good example is when I went to see Shutter Island a while back. I always say that DiCaprio + Scorsese = Match Made In Heaven. I really, really wanted to say I loved that movie, only I didn’t. There was something lacking in the direction, because I did not see the characters for what they were. Sure you are meant to be tricked by the story, but not by the characters. To me, the hospital workers seemed mean. They weren’t supposed to be mean though.
With the years I have learnt that people are human. Even the (biz)man of all men…Richard Branson. I enjoy looking to people for inspiration. I enjoy learning from people. And I get passionate when I talk about them. However, to believe that they are flawless is a folly. And if anyone has ever talked to someone they really respected and they have looked at you and grimaced in distaste, well…you felt bad, but who should really have been feeling bad? I think the person that just behaved like an ass.
What’s more, when we admire people, we often put them above ourselves. As mentioned – we give over our opinion for them to decide. They say it’s good, we agree. We don’t question because we don’t see ourselves as equals, i.e. their opinion is worth more than ours anyway, so why question them? Yet, as I’ve said in previous posts: we were born into this world as empty bowls. Then we became filled with experiences – life got poured into us. And from those experiences we start forming opinions, beliefs, thoughts…some conscious, other unconscious, and until the day we take charge (if this is possible, I’d like to think so, but for a fact I only know what I have experienced even if I say from now on I want to meditate before I act) the inside of our bowl run our lives. We are only good, bad or great because we were shaped that way. Don’t fool yourself into believing someone else is better than you. They were just shaped differently. Don’t like your shape? Reshape yourself. Just for goodness sake don’t do what I did and beat yourself up if you don’t immediately end up on the page you want to be, because life will continue to happen. You cannot plan what will happen tomorrow. You cannot force opportunities into your life. If you keep seeking, it is likely you will find answers to your questions and if you keep practicing you are bound to become great at what you are practicing, but you might not get to practice as often as you like. You might get sidetracked by events. You might have a bowl filled with things that make it harder for you to learn than it was for x, y and z. The learnings that take you where you need to go might hurt, until you learn to see them differently. And no matter how great you become, you might never get a chance to direct Leonardo Di Caprio (but I sure hope that I will 😉 )
Let me tell you a personal story. When I was 6 my mom died from cancer. The last time she saw me she refused hugging me because she was in severe pain and really high on morphine. My dad told her off for not hugging me though (he was distressed). She died the next day. And she didn’t leave me any notes saying she loved me (she got sick very quickly and died shortly thereafter). Whilst my mom was sick, one day she peed in her pants and told me about it. I started laughing hysterically. Because I was panicking, I was out of my mind. Shortly after her death I was playing with a friend, having a good time and laughing and she told me it was very weird I was laughing, because she would never laugh again if her mom died.
Now, I was six. After all these events took place I believed my mom didn’t love me and I believed I was bad for not loving her enough – my laughing proved this, right?!? Of course I had it all wrong. Looking back I’m like Jesus, why didn’t someone tell me? Because no one knew what was going through my head. But one thing led to another and I slowly just shut down. I went from outgoing to shy, I became bullied and my life became a mess. It’s taken me years to recover my self-confidence. Because obviously the bullying led me to think I was even more shit. And then I hid even more. And people thought I was even stranger. But I was just a kid that got it all wrong.
Nowadays I meet a lot of people that praise me. Others that desperately want to get my knickers off. Some admire me. Yet, I know I’m the same person people told to shut up every time I spoke. The same person people thought “no one could ever fall in love with”. Why have people changed their minds? Because I behave differently. I don’t think I’m unlovable anymore. I’m still me though. And that in and of itself says a lot about admiration.
What’s more about admiration is this: who do you like? Who likes you? Do you all have the same “good” abilities? Usually people like you because you have what they would like to have, or feel comfortable showing off they have. If they dislike you, it’s usually because you display what they are scared to show. To this day I have a hard time hanging out with people others percieve as geeks. because I immediately think I will be called “geek” again and my life will once again become hell on Earth. And God forbid when I have to act a geek in a play or movie….I go into a state of frantic panic. Of course I catch myself, my judgments of others (both my judgment of the geeks and my judgment of the ones I think will judge others for being geeks) and I tell myself to, quite frankly, go fuck myself. It’s just fascinating to see that that’s still in my brain though.
Today when I react unfavorably to something (like geeks), it’s crap, because I know a little bit more today. I can choose a bit more how I react. So yeah, it’s crap when I react unfavorably because I know I’m doing it, or I catch myself some time later. But like every other mofo I was programmed. And sometimes that programming takes over. I’m on autopilot and I behave in ways I rather wouldn’t. I still get terribly shy and think no one likes me at times. Am I bad for that though? Am I bad if I never become as famous as Scorsese for my directing and Branson for my biz ventures? Nah. My bowl was filled with other things than theirs and I wanna enjoy what’s in mine. Once again – I’m here to experience, not to achieve. Not to judge. Just be.
So next time you think someone else is the coolest person on the planet…maybe…think again…