Set Foot On The Stage

486. Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.

When John was in college he was rehearsing a play. It was late, perhaps midnight, and the director wanted to do more work. The student-actors complained. The director asked them to follow him. He led them across campus to the medical school and pointed to the med students visible through the windows, hard at work burning the midnight oil. He said, “Your work is also capable of saving lives. If you are not working this hard you have no business being on the stage.”

Once, when I was assisting a director, he told the student-actors, “Each night on the stage your work will have the capacity to impact the lives of others. That is a very serious obligation. If you take it lightly you will do harm and it is best if you never set foot on the stage.”

This is how I understand art in all its forms. It is meant to change lives. It is meant to hold the central narrative of a community (the identity); the arts are the container of both tradition and change. It is necessary and powerful because it is capable of holding paradoxes. It is potent because is serves the conservative impulse while facilitating the path into the unknown. A healthy society is built upon a living art. A healthy society negotiates its paradoxes through its arts.

Reduce the arts to entertainment, intellectual concepts or a luxury for the elite, remove it from the schools and from daily life, and there is no center. Social gravity weakens with the absence of a coherent narrative – people are like planets and without the pull of narrative gravity they spin off into space and wonder why they feel so alone. Without a common center we will continue to kill each other for bling because we have no concept of what matters and what does not.

Rather than walk away from our arts, telling our selves they are too expensive or merely electives, it might be time to attend to our business, look within (that is the point after all), and set foot on the stage with a gravity worthy of our obligation to others.

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