FOURTH WALL DOWN

MUSINGS

 we've got some thoughts 

Let’s Overanalyze, Shall We?
(by Nick Henderson, circa 2017)

There’s no Problem like the Theatre. It is a living, breathing contradiction. That is to say, it is (to my mind) the most fully-encompassing of art forms, in its delicate dance of dichotomy, deftly showcasing our own struggle to justify our existence. Sometimes it is found, like the figure in marble. Other times it is built, like the molding of clay. Live theatre is as real as the air: consumed and spent in the selfsame instant; but also, a colossal and highly calculated undertaking; all culminating in ‘no more but a dream’. It is complex: the intricate mechanics of the stage, hours of rehearsal, comingled disciplines clamoring in cacophony, and a crowd quietly (or boisterously) consenting to watch from just outside the firelight’s edge… all piece themselves together to form a fairytale’s momentary monument, defiantly holding up ‘the middle finger’ to the cold and lifeless cosmic law of Entropy… before conceding, and dissolving into mere memory.

Entropy (n): the universal tendency in all systems toward disorder, or simplistic, inert homogeny, and ‘unusable’ energy
Usage Examples: “All complex structures break down eventually, due to entropy. Your tea got cold because of entropy.” -Elmo (Jim Henson), Sesame Street
                        “Without us here to witness ourselves and call ourselves ‘living’, Entropy would lose all sense of time, and snuff the universe out in a blink.” -King Jimmy Bible, Book of Frank, 4:20

 

The Second Law of Thermodynamics:
In an isolated system, entropy can only increase.
(The universe is expanding, smoothing out its clumps, and slowly becoming more boring.)

Call it Ego, but self-aware Life deems itself ‘complex’. We’re *pretty sure we’re* ‘The Shit’. “In apprehension, how like a god!” So how can we exist, in this universe that’s dead-set on being ‘dead’? Our stories, our art, our very existence as free-willed agents hurtling through space on this speck of dust… Life, comes together not unlike the single flower blooming from cracked asphalt. If Life (with a capital L) has a ‘purpose’, it is to act as counterbalance to Entropy. We are something spectacularly beautiful in our unlikelihood. Art is a celebration of that. How unlikely, even in the vastness of our universe, would it be for the winds on some lifeless rock to whistle just one measure of an orchestra’s roar; or in the dead vacuum of space to see gravity piece together, from its constituent elements, a wood frame stretched with canvas and emblazoned with just one bold brushstroke? How unlikely then is a play, with all its well-calibrated moving parts: such a complex machine… then gone, like so much stardust. It is tangible and real… until it’s not. The moment passes, and yet still lives on. It walks away from final bows inside the beautifully complex ‘grey matter’ of the audience.

Setting cosmic existentialism and stagecraft aside, Theatre is really quite simple and pure: it’s telling stories. How complicated could it be? Cavemen did it. WE have always been storytellers. To impart a piece of our inner selves to another is the instinct that sets us apart as a species. Knowledge is shared, and becomes History. While History shares the story of where we’ve been, Art shares the story of who we are. Theatre is earnest and honest in its effort to hold a mirror up to nature. Traditional or avant garde, it explores and expresses ‘the human condition’. It is through that exploration and expression that we can appreciate, in self-examination, our own simple complexity.

 

The First Law of Thermodynamics:
Matter/energy cannot be created or destroyed, only change forms and transfer.
(I would like to believe this rule holds true for knowledge/emotion/inspiration as well. The energy of a play, each momentary explosion of purpose, radiates out, finding new purchase in its viewer.)


The Theatre is contagious magic. A storyteller’s medium is Thought: their artistry is to cast a spell of enchantment, and to instill that enchantment in their patrons, extending moments to their limit. A simple gasp can last ages, given the right conditions… The empathic audience absorbs and assimilates itself into the story, communally living within each deeper beat between beats, until they’re finally given license to exhale. Each storyteller’s breath and utterance is filled to bursting with purpose, overflowing into the crowd, until they’re soaked in it. They exit to the lobby, drenched in barrowed thoughts, instincts, and passions. If we do the Theatre justice, they’ll still be steeping, long after the parking lot.

The Third Law of Thermodynamics:
At absolute zero {heat death}, a perfectly balanced system has zero entropy.
(Like an all-consuming fire, Entropy grows by feeding on each unique complexity of the universe, and dies in its own ashes.)

Placed into the context of our working theory: Art/Expression as Matter/Energy (Thought, remember, is our medium); we simultaneously break and uphold our connection to the natural law of Entropy. Again, Ego tells us to believe we are adding to the complexity of the world around us by forming bonds and connections to our audience (even as we expEnd our ‘usable’ energy to construct what we perceive to be our “unlikely art”)... but as we share the energy and matter of Thought, as we share the Truth and universality of the human condition, are we not then serving Entropy: disseminating knowledge, passions, and imagination, like the radiation of waves? Of course, a thought does not leave the artist when it is shared; so Art is a kind of unnatural alchemy, spontaneously generating more Thought than it had at its start. Impossible, right? Only if it is indeed a closed, isolated system. But what variable is left? What outside force fuels our creative machine?

 

Time.

 

Quantum mechanics tells us that Time is not some constant, unchanging, intangible and inexhaustible thing. To the contrary, you don’t need a physics degree to be reminded every day that Time is a finite resource. In our limited, linear understanding of it, Time lends perspective to our purpose only when it is spent. At its most efficient, the Human Condition (our ‘divine mechanism’), explores moments for meaning and fuel, exhausting them unto their last ember. We use an imperfectly understood, but universally known concept to express the efficiency of this exploration and expenditure…

 

Love.

A lover’s embrace, the euphoria of "Eureka", or the crystallization of a perfect moment, all seem to slow-down Time so we can use up every last drop. Love itself has always been a contradiction, and an acceptance of dichotomies. "Love another as you love yourself." "Seek within, as without." Most religions might define themselves as 'seeking to better understand Love' (capital L), and define Love as ‘the Truth of not knowing’. Dante believed in the Empyrean (the ubiquity of God as an eternally perfect structure impervious to degradation, not dissimilar to The Third Law of Thermodynamics), but also that God lived in each tiny piece of our woefully imperfect world. Yin is the antithesis of Yang, balancing together, not unlike The First Law of Thermodynamics, which  parallels major tenants of Buddhism and Hinduism. Creationism, the Qur’an, Genesis/Revelations, and The Big Bang Theory all believe the Universe had a spectacular beginning, and now progresses through a life cycle, mirroring The Second Law. Unburdened by dogma, Religion (the search for Love) becomes Philosophy, a science we borrow from the Greek "Philosophia", or ‘Love of Wisdom’… or, the Science of Love. Einstein made a religion of Math, in his efforts to form a Grand Unified Theory. Lucerne tries to understand The God Particle. The Artist’s Philosophy, his Religion, her Physic and Search for Love, their quest to find an efficient use of Time in this finite Life of Entropy… is Art. An old seminary joke comes to mind: “Cyclical logic works, because cyclical logic works, because cyclical logic works…”.

The Opposite Must Also Be True/Balance

 

How can particles be both matter and waves? How can they flash in and out of existence? Is a thought real? Is Love a noun or a verb? How can we be both Apollonian and Dionysian? What do we do with Divine Dichotomy? Do we valiantly defend ourselves from the slings and arrows of outrageous Entropy? Do Life and Art merely give ballast and counterpoint to the indifferent wash of the universe? Like that lone falling tree in the proverbial forest, without Life, would Entropy have purpose? Would Time? Or do we serve at Entropy’s pleasure, in accordance with Nature, unaware of our role as disseminators of Sentience? Is Sentience a pathogen dropped from the Tree of Knowledge, or a coming-of-age as we leave childish paradises to create our own path? Who are we? Why are we?

Don’t Panic. Just Breath.

 

Our purpose is not to answer these ‘Problems of Life’, or to solve the ‘Paradoxes of Existence’; but to revel in them, to examine them, and to love(verb) each confusing, heartbreaking, beautifully surprising, familiar and unknowable moment. We are born longing for absolute Truth, but knowing how impossible it is to reach, imperfect as we are; but that tension, that longing, powers our Spark of Creation. We are here to squeeze the juice; to suck out the marrow; to drink till the dregs; to breath in until our lungs are full, and then to do SOMETHING with that gift of Life.

Me?
I’m going to produce a play. It’s the most complicated thing I know how to do well.
You?
Do whatever you like; but for Love’s sake, do something worthwhile.

...
Maybe someday I’ll tell your story.