Act Your Age!
This often-used phrase has a surprising and deep truth embedded in it – that acting is real. It isn’t pretend. It implies that we are in constant choice about how to behave. Hmmmm. It reminds me of a Shakespeare quote – what is it? “All the world’s a ….”
So I guess this observation isn’t new. But I think we all fall into the habit of thinking that what we do with our bodies and our words is (or should be) somehow inherently unfiltered. That to decide to act in accordance with a situation is, perhaps, being inauthentic. ”Who do you think you are, acting like you belong in that group?” “Sure, you are being all understanding and generous to her today, but just yesterday you were complaining about her! Which is it?!”
We choose how to act based on context and intentions. And that is a very good thing.
Societies learned long ago that civility is critical to keeping a group healthy. If we want the advantages of having some people write stories for us to enjoy, or for some to manufacture plumbing for us, or to grow food and put it within our reach – then we have to agree to some basic rules of membership. A social contract. Cultures try to make it easy for us to oblige by showing how to handle a variety of common situations in the most respectful way. How to meet or greet. How to console. How to thank. How to promise. How to apologize. Although they may differ across cultures, everywhere you go you will find a litany of scripts designed to smooth out our social interactions.
This means that, by teaching these scripts, we can help our children avoid bumps and misunderstandings that could inevitably slow them down. They need to learn that, not only should they adjust how they act in specific public situations, but also to appreciate that everyone else is doing the same. Over time they will learn to discern – to notice when someone’s public and private actions align or differ.
A goal of Art in Real LIfe is to help us engage with one another to explore the deep cultural drivers in our lives. This is important for our children as well. Explore the suggestions in Talking with our Children about Theater and Rituals. And if you try one or two, let me know how it went.