Hello dear reader, welcome to this post! Please make yourself comfortable, click play, adjust the volume and keep reading:
May 2009, Pacaembu stadium, São Paulo, Brazil. The football team The Corinthians — The Almighty — is winning again.
One player from the other team gets too aggressive, and the referee comes to him. There is no yellow card, only an extremely wide movement of arms that makes the referee convert from a puritan noun, with his hands crossed in front of his pubis, to the Christ on Corcovado, his arms wide open, in two seconds. The movement means, “enough, don’t do it again or I’ll show you a card.” Everybody on the field knows what it means. People watching to the game, in the stadium or at home, know what it means.
The gesture is understood, not only by the player being warned, who is about three feet away, but by all those watching. It is a part of the big show of the all important football game. Obviously, it doesn’t have the same subtleties of a Kabuki piece because its spectators are rather expecting some misbehavior and some punishment that are as real as possible. It is a spectacle, a show, and everybody knows it. But whatever the final score was, it became reality. Some people even made some money from their bets. Half of the players on that field were happy after the show; the others were angry or sad. The game was worth a cup, which will be displayed in the Corinthians headquarters for a very long time. It was a show. Now it’s history.
December, 2001, somewhere in Afghanistan. After months of hunting in the middle of the desert, the almighty U.S. Army has Osama Bin Laden in the center of their sights. The whole world followed the saga in nearly realtime, and absolutely everybody expected that whenever such a situation came the evil leader would be wiped from existence. The war would be over. The Twin Towers would be avenged; everybody would go back to their peaceful lives. For some reason, nobody says “shoot” — the most-wanted man on earth walks alway.
December, 2012, Paris, France. Still fighting for some credibility, the recently elected socialist government proposes raising the taxes on the rich. It was promised during the campaign. The working middle class would finally see the really rich people taking part in the sacrifice of living in a country in crisis instead of watching from a safe and comfortable terrace in Monaco. But the French Constitutional Court refuses the law; it was badly written. Everybody in the government must have forgotten that the households, and not the individual people, are charged for taxes in France. For some mysterious reason, it has never been resubmitted.
September, 2013, Geneva, Switzerland. Despite the fact that the whole world watches the Syrian sand-and-blood campaign since 2011, after a lot of suspense, and a Nobel Peace Prize laureate announcing that war is the best way to go, the leaders of the most powerful armies get together, have a chat, and agree that the best thing to do is to wait.
What we call History seems to have been written in Hollywood. All the elements are there: strong images, high-impact phrases, suspense, surprises, violence, blood, high technology, moral dilemma, sex, and lies.
This is not a new thing. But unfortunately, nobody recorded Jesus being crucified with a mobile phone, nor after that, the apostles being persecuted. And still, how Paul got over Peter (v. 18) and helped making the church become Roman, could maybe provide an explanation on how the first Christian church evolved from a small communist group (v. 44) to a right wing organization that preaches intolerance. Some information is available, but there are certainly lots of missing scenes in that long saga. Maybe they are being kept secret until the right time comes. Timing is one of the most important things in a show, after all.
Some people don’t like watching real life, they switch to CSI instead. Some other people go even further – maybe they find CSI too real – and quit everything, they isolate themselves, forever, somewhere in Nepal or on a sunny beach, tired of feeling disappointed with the show. But there are still some things about the real life spectacle that make it attractive.
Scenes that are so brilliantly inserted in the script that your mind steps out and thinks “hang on a minute, who is directing this?”
Or else, perhaps those special scenes were not in the original script: the actors can improvise. They somehow manage to fit in the script a little bit of their reality, and you know actors, right? When they improvise, they want to tell you “I am doing this, it’s ME, a human being! You are watching a human being doing something!” And that’s what really makes a show. That’s what connects the audience to the stage, and for a moment everybody forgets the director.
You might not want to watch with a lot of attention, for some reason. But the most fantastic thing about this omnipresent show is that we are all acting, actively or passively, anonymously or not. And nobody has read the script, but we can still improvise, we can still add our personal touch and wait for some applause, some crying or some critics from this huge audience that is composed by ourselves.
(Spanish doctors refuse to stop treating illegal immigrants.)
Only good actors are able to improvise. Not because they were born with that ability, simply because they learned how to control their fear. There is a special feeling when you start to improvise: your eyes open in such a way that your soul starts to radiate. You feel uncertain about the outcomes of whatever you started doing out of the script, and you are afraid that everybody might find out what is going on inside you before yourself. But it’s too late to stop, you receive the feedback from the audience, and you keep doing it until you hear the applause — or “cut”. And after that you can’t wait for your next opportunity to get on stage and start improvising again.
How do you know that you are just following the script? When you do only what you believe the society expects you to do, of course. Everybody should try one or two improvisation evenings, at least once in a lifetime. The ones who tried have realized that real life is much more exciting than CSI.
Indeed, it is a wonderful show to watch and act in. It’s just that sometimes I’d prefer that it wasn’t my ass on the line…
Thanks to my friend Scott for the usual English revision and also for the great suggestions on the text.