1.19.2004

You say it's just a passing phase, you've got to help me get through my cynical days...

Switching gears, I was listening to the NPR interview between Terry Gross and distinguished Broadway actress Uta Hagen (A Streetcar Named Desire, Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolf) and right at the beginning, Terry dug in, like any good interviewer worth her salt would, asking Ms. Hagen about her acting technique. Ms. Hagen, obviously sore about being asked an old standard, grew defensive and launched into a tirade about how laypersons shouldn't ask about specifics, because they don't understand, and why should they? Why, as Ms. Hagen put it, would the average person care one whit about the paper-washing techniques that precede a certain kind of painter's creative work? What could the average art-consumer know or care about the positioning of the violin player's arm? The tilt of the neck? The spidering of the fingers on the fret board and the relative states of tension/relaxation that the expert player eventually masters in order to achieve maximum dynamic control with minimum effort? The layperson, said Ms. Hagen (at first), instinctively responds to the experience, perhaps instinctively grasps the concept, or an element of the concept, but can't explain how or why.

Terry Gross handled herself not like the dilettante she admits she is, but simply as one human being honestly reaching out to another, trying to understand, trying to get across that ego-gap, that abraded ganglia where patience and introspection embrace or war.

Terry reached out, and said yes, Ms. Hagen, I'm not an actor. Yes, I'm a dilettante. But I want to understand. And I believe that by hearing about the technique of the violinist, the body-language of the actor, the quality of paper or pencil, brush or oils of the painter, that it changes my appreciation, for good or ill, of the performance, of the art itself.

Ms. Hagen paused, then told Terry she'd made a very good point, and that perhaps she'd grown too cynical, so used to the layperson misunderstanding.

Cynicism, the root of much evil, born of distrust and repetition, of skepticism gone to sourness.

I think part of an answer to Gabe's question is going to have to be how we restore our sense of wonder in each other.

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