There was no way I could leave San Francisco without having some kind of a supervegan meal and so we found a religious commune of sorts full of beaming people serving dahl with zing and chick peas with zang. Dicky got into a healthy rant about the fact that we are all Monkeys and I gleefully fed it with my own philosophies on the subject. Yes, we are all monkeys chewing on bananas, but once we have food we discover that throwing feces at one another, making scads of money and talking about nuances of artistic expression are all equally valuable pursuits.
Maslow’s Hierarchy keeps coming up lately, perhaps because whenever I talk about my recent trip to India where I was surrounded by people with real needs, the Americans around me uncomfortably check their fussing about music or complaint about modern art. I keep trying to point out that just because some people don’t have the luxury of spare time and energy to devote to philosophy doesn’t make its pursuit any less legitimate. It’s what we do. We’re monkeys.
Something that always astounds me about air travel is that, well, we call it “air travel”. We forget something amazing… it’s flight! I look out the window and suddenly we’re rushing along the ground at incredible speed, and then there is a jerk and we are pulled up into the air! We’re flying! Beside me a guy in a business suit is trying to get coffee and a hipster is futsing with an iPod. Can’t they see that we’re experiencing something incredible?! This is a moment humans have dreamed of for thousands of years! They jealously watched birds overhead and dreamed, planned, and fell off of countless cliffs in desperate attempts to join them. Now we complain about peanut allergies and turbulence.
Of course, once I got over the fact that I was in a two ton tin can floating over the earth, I had time to study Go and the chance to meet a cool actress in the seat next to me. I really appreciated her deliberate approach to her craft and we talked about the similarities between the mental states required for writing and acting. When I write fiction, I often have the experience best described by Ray Bradbury. He would go to sleep thinking about his characters, and when he woke up they would all be talking in his head and he would write down what they said.
While I don’t always have this immediate an experience, stories and characters always take on a life of their own. The better I get to know them and their stories and voices, the more they take over and tell me what they will and will not do. The story wanders off in new directions and I have to be open to where it wants to go, and to craft it into a coherent tale once I’ve felt it out. In many ways this process involves becoming (in the method acting sense) these characters for a while. It also requires the very immediate, open, empty mind of the improv actor who responds immediately to each new idea or change as it occurs. Because each new fact that is revealed changes the context of the story, it can’t be written out in any one actor’s head beyond the current moment. (This stems from the “yes and” rule of improv.)
And so I’ve returned to Austin, another flying, philosophizing monkey typing furiously in the dark in hope that other monkeys will nod or spit out some kind of emotional response to my analysis of my experience. There are certainly worse things I could be doing with my time.