Before a theatrical performance, a scene in a film, a dance, we rehearse. We rehearse before we go for a job, we rehearse before we cook, we rehearse before we make a big speech, we rehearse before we enter into a contract, we rehearse before we go on an important date, we rehearse before we have a child and we rehearse before we wed. Rehearsal has entered every facet of our life because it is necessary to get things right. We place so much pressure on ourselves to get the job, to land the man or woman, to impress an audience and to prepare for the worst. It is important to know what we are facing when the actual event occurs. But have we become so worried about our mistakes that we’ve lost our lust for the original and spontaneous?
Actors rehearse their lines over and over to feel more like the character they are set to portray. They rehearse their lines, learn them impossibly well and then they embody the character. They rehearse their little nuances and train their reaction to events in that character’s life and the outside world to really get to know that individual. In a real social, physical setting, we rehearse so we can produce the same result. Alike theatre, we practice how we would react to certain questions and certain events; we rehearse our conversations with people of different backgrounds, of different ‘social status’. We do this because so much rests on the success of these social transactions. We can get a job, a business contact, a friend, a lover, a direction, and perhaps a livelihood.
It is the great challenge in life to maintain character, showing pride in what we are and remaining confident that we can succeed as the person we are. As many have said before me, being born into our own bodies is a life sentence. We are given one body, one complex and unique genetic code and one life. We don’t get a chance to be who we want to be. We just have to deal with it and attempt to do the best we can with what we are given. There’s no dress rehearsal for our debut performance in the open air. Our fate is in the hands of the directors. Once we are born we slowly develop the consciousness to be able to mold our lives into something of substance. Yet, in saying this, we might not have the natural ability to be exactly who we want to be. Hard work can only get you so far if you are not an innately crafty person and you want to be an artist, or you are not athletic or tall enough to be a great volleyball player. Genetics throws us opportunities while simultaneously forcing us to consider our boundaries. Thus, as we grow into adults, we start to understand that chances to succeed or fall in love or do something truly out of the ordinary are few and far between. Rehearsing for these scenarios becomes impossibly important, particularly when you are not born into fortunate circumstances.
This returns me to the point about playing a character. Our lives, with the influx of sophisticated technology, are becoming more and more rehearsed as our existence becomes more computerised. I’ve previously written about how the Internet has made me feel lonely, so it is not a huge jump to say that the Internet is making me feel over rehearsed, over saturated and yet, completely devoid of life experience. Rehearsal is a very important aid to focus our attention on what we want to achieve and the mechanics of achieving it but what happens if we overdo it? We become so focused on achieving perfection in a task that it can become robotic and uninspired. If there’s no emotion delivered in the performance, and I refer to the performance being the situation that is put before you; be it on stage, making a speech, at a job interview, on a date or simply in conversation, then there will be no connection with the audience. Most people can differentiate between real and feigned passion just as they can tell when someone is not connected to what they are saying or doing. That’s why over rehearsal can be a rather dangerous thing.
As people grow older, we can sniff out desperation from a mile away. Desperation for sex, money, recognition and love for example. In the same way, we grow to understand when someone is lying or perpetuating a false reality. I mentioned earlier that we all play different characters in our lifetime, but I’m not stating that we are lying while we play these characters. We filter our personas to suit the occasion. What we say with friends is completely different to how we speak to a potential client or employer, similarly to how we adjust to the climate and the setting. But in likeliness, the more we filter our behaviour, the more we either lose our own unique spin on humanity and blend into the crowd, becoming just another number, or become a parody of our own self. This is the risk we take in being over prepared for something. Sure, there are situations when it is somewhat of a requirement to become just one of the crowd but it doesn’t necessarily have to be in that watered down, yes-man style. Let’s not get too bogged down in something that is fundamentally flawed, but the Australian bipartisan political system just shows us how pointless debate is when the agendas are compromised by a desire for a team to conform to aspects of policy that they don’t necessarily agree with as individuals. (That’s for another day… I’m only one man and my soul is still warm.)
Perfection is a real twisted idea that has sunk into our membranes. We seek perfection because we are told it exists, knowing full well that perfection is probably the most subjective theorem we will ever come across. If we could be perfect, we would never age and we would never die. We would never offend anyone because we would define what is considered taboo, we would never talk out of line because everyone would already be listening to us, we would never have trouble sleeping, we would never get disgustingly drunk and high, we would never have to sleep in until midday, we would never hate ourselves so much that we couldn’t look in the mirror at night and we would never have to rehearse again. We rehearse to achieve perfection. But perfection is just an idea, and one that in moderation is a great foundation to sculpt a quality existence on. But in excess, perfection can drive us crazy and lead us down a path to an existence filled with insecurities, inadequacies and bitterness.
All the systems in the world that serve to correct our mistakes are not enough to remove the essential truth of life. That being, we are sloppy flawed beings with mistakes shadowing our success and crushing disappointments melding with those soaring victories. How many recourses of history do we have to go through before we ultimately come to the conclusion that we all desire to be bold, brash and viewed in a favourable light by those close to us and additionally probably those who aren’t so close to us?
Being raised to seek perfection, to make the most of what we are given is just a fact of life when you’ve had the privilege to be given more than the average startup program. But this does not mean that an individual is necessarily happier or more spontaneous with taking things on. In fact, there appears to be more reluctance to strive to be great instead of taking a risk, which could be the source of humiliation and failure. Ego can maketh the individual but also be the chief destroyer of potential. This comes as we consider the consequences so deeply that we simply concede and step out of our shadow and into the innocent light where the shades of grey don’t exist.
So, as we practice our conversations before entering into a social transaction of great risk; as we write out our 15th draft for a document we have to get just right; as we block every step, every turn, every laugh and every smile, think about what you are sacrificing. Look around a room where no one is dancing. How come? Because everyone is afraid to be the first to wave his or her arms around and look like an idiot. Enter a room where no one is talking and measure their heart rate as a question is put to the floor. The fear of saying the wrong thing will consistently cut down the quality and quantity of the discussion.
So maybe tonight is not the night to run into the street, scream out that you’re alive and you’re ready to live. I’m not the one to preach when I’m not exactly the converted. The nerves eject themselves from my body with no parachute attached to their back every time something is on the line. However, when the night is really quiet and the world is still, I either smile about the moments where I was the one who took the first step out of line… Or the time I was simply too worried to be the one to express how deeply I felt about something, how intensely beautiful the moon looked, or how I just wanted to grab her hand and hold it until the cold air started to turn my nose red…
I scribbled down something personal the other night that means a lot considering the context. ‘If life is a performance, how do we know when to rehearse?’ Something to live our lives by? Or just another nonsensical riddle? That’s up to the individual to decide.