Creative Thinking : ‘The world is a stage’

Elsa Franco Al Ghaslan

Published — Friday 8 February 2013

Last update 8 February 2013 8:39 pm

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Most of us heard Shakespeare's well-known words "The world is a stage" (from the play “As You Like It”, Act II, Scene VII). There are some who may believe they are Elvis Presley’s, though, as he used them in one of his famous songs, “Are You Lonesome Tonight”. What do they actually mean? I picture a big theatre, with a very large stage. Human beings are up there, each playing a “role”. Their expressions are like the mask-covered faces of ancient Greek actors — masks that gave them a specific countenance. Here was the “happy” guy, there was the “sad” one, and then the “cruel”, the “sneaky”, the “victim” type etc. All the characters were well defined, there was no doubt about understanding what kind of individuals they were trying to portray. It appears that also each man (or woman) living on Earth has chosen a “role” to play throughout his or her life and they tend to adhere to it as much as possible. They never realize that behind the “mask” there is something else, there is “someone” else who does not have the opportunity to manifest. What if this imaginary scene I see in my mind is actually true?
Such idea might sound far-fetched, but it is not — if you take the time to reflect upon it. Picture yourself in a situation you have recently found yourself in. An “unpleasant” situation. Let us say you were having an argument with your spouse, with a colleague or with a friend. It started as a normal conversation, a simple exchange of opinions. Then it began “shifting” in a different direction. The words became stronger, the body language more eloquent, the tone of voice louder…. It ended up degenerating into almost a fight. How did it happen? At this point you will immediately say that the other person began being aggressive, overbearing, tried to be in control, to have it his/her own way etc. OK. Let us admit that this is the “total” truth. It was his or her “fault”. So…? What did “you” do? How did you react? How did you “choose” to react?
Here comes into action the “role” that you have decided to play on the stage of your life. Here you manifest what kind of person you believe you are. If the conversation degenerated into a fight, it is not necessarily your opponent’s responsibility. He or she might have wanted to get into an argument all right, but it was YOU who accepted the challenge, who gave the cue that made the fight actually happen. As you believe that your “role” is to be always right, in control, to show your knowledge, not to allow anybody to take advantage, or… or… you keep adhering to your chosen character. This is how you create the play of your life.
In an old "Twilight Zone" episode, an actor has identified so much with his character that he refuses to accept "reality". In order to escape his unhappy family life, his mind switches to a new "frame" and he intends to stick to it at all costs. He doesn't want to believe that he is playing a role in a movie. He chooses the illusion of a fake existence because he doesn't want to face his actual situation. Do you do the same, but in the opposite direction? Do you live a "difficult" life because you don't want to accept the possibility that a better, more serene and fulfilling one is possible, simply by changing a "negative" belief? One of the greatest trait of human nature is “stubbornness”. The definition we usually give of “stubborn” is “extremely unyielding” or “obstinate”. But appearances are often deceiving. Even someone who apparently looks acquiescent can harbor in him/herself a streak of obduracy, an unbendable belief in the (usually unconsciously) chosen role they are playing on the stage of their own life.
The final view of the theatrical scene I am imagining is an audience made of shadows: they are the same characters on stage and they are watching themselves while playing. Someone said, “You are the playwright, the director, the actor and also the audience of the play of your existence”. If this is true, it can only mean that, once you become aware of such situation and want to make any change, you can do it. You are also “free” to do it.

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