Monday, October 23, 2017
Character and myth
Just for a moment, it came clear. Can I hold it long enough to express it? We are real as characters, but not as what we think we are. We are, as was said yesterday, a half-step less real than the next level of reality. And I suspect that that half-step away from reality is another of those “as above, so below” progressions.
I have been reading a life of Ernie Pyle, and specifically have been reading about Hollywood trying to get a handle on him, in making “The Story of G.I. Joe” in 1944. They took the facts and tried to turn it into myth, which is, after all, what story-telling does. And as always I have been reading a steady diet of light fiction, only with new eyes now. And suddenly, just as I was getting back to bed, for a second everything crystallized, and I saw, only sort of understanding. And the process of putting something seen, or felt, or intuited, into words – well, it’s easy to lose the nub of it, or in fact to never quite grasp it.
We – our essence – are one thing. We – the characters we create and play in this improv performance – are not the same thing, not quite as real, not quite us, just as we appear while we are doing the improv.
It may sound like playing with words. It isn’t. But it’s slippery to hold on to.
That’s the sense of it. It is one way to see who and what you are. It is not analogy or metaphor or fairy tale or “Let’s think of it this way.” It is accurate, factual, plain. Only, it isn’t the only way to see yourselves.
But as a corrective to other views –
Yes, excellent corrective. It’s hard to put this clearly enough to be sure you have both halves: It isn’t the only way to see yourselves; it is one, valid, illuminating way.
[To myself in my journal:]
There is something I am trying to remember though – and, in trying to remember it, I see even farther, before finally finishing the sentence!
I knew it had to do with fictional characters and situations. I see now it leads to further thoughts on our essential nature as creators. Hornblower, say, or Sam Spade, aren’t real in the sense of having an independent existence. They can’t go where they aren’t imagined to go, they don’t extend to real-life dimensions, the everyday things we never think about. They don’t really breathe or grow up.
No, that doesn’t get it. They can be imagined, and if their character has been conceived with enough life, they can be imagined in various situations, and the imaginer will know how they might be imagined to react. So, they have a sort of life, and it can be extended. But there is no possibility of Sam Spade or Horatio Hornblower, or Harry Morgan, say, ever seeing themselves as really only an invented character. This is a dimension of reality closed to them, because it is the dimension they were created from.
We, at this level, can envision ourselves as creatures of another level of reality. It leads to sci-fi dystopian nightmares like “The Thirteenth Floor,” but it is the beginning of awakening.
Conversely, movies like “The Matrix” assume that we are real and our environment is not. That takes a vague sense of things and expresses it in totally distorted fashion, but it is the sense that things are not as they appear that attracts people. They blend it with paranoia, they miss the question of whether the personality they identify with is real, but they know that something in everyday understanding of life is amiss.
We know we are creators, created by creators. We can see that we, creators, created Hornblower and millions of other characters at a lower level of reality who are still somehow somewhat real. But it does not occur to us that we, 3D creators, are the creations of the creators at the next higher level of reality, and they are who we really are. The 3D characters we experience being are real, obviously. We live, we breathe, we suffer and enjoy. And yet at a higher level of reality, what seems like everyday life to us is only a sort of stepped-down life.
The thought is clear to me. As a way to put it into words, not so clear. I wish I could paint it, but even if I had the skill, I doubt I could. Some things don’t translate easily into visuals.
The elements of the characters we create are the same elements we possess, the same elements our creators possessed, because one creates only out of one’s own substance. (I doubt that is a totally accurate statement, but it isn’t wrong, either.)
Just as all matter is energy, and all energy is consciousness, and so consciousness pervades “animate” and “inanimate” matter alike, creations, structures, assemblages, are all made up of non-material consciousness, which also permeates all layers. That’s the best I can do at the moment.
But I don’t know how far to push it. Hornblower can’t actually feel emotion, but he can be observed as if feeling it. We actors do feel emotion; what is the comparable “but” seen from our next-realer level? I suppose at that level we see our actor selves as letting the forces flow through our already established channels and not realizing that our consciousness is partial and the events somewhat symbolic, because to us as actors they can only feel real, sometimes painfully real. But, as I say, I don’t know how far to push it.