Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Life is Performance

A friend of mine (quoted here with permission), posted something interesting and thought-provoking on Facebook about criticism from fellow Alaska Natives of his cultural and artistic work in the Native community:
I am not Alaska Native, so I can't speak to the cultural implications or validity of this criticism.

For me, my friend's post provoked a more general observation, which is that each of us, to some degree, is "performing" our lives. Life is performance. 

Humans are social, interactive creatures. Most of us are in a state of intermittent performance from the moment we wake up in the morning to the moment we go to bed at night.

Using myself as an example, on a typical workday, I put on my nice clothes and makeup to perform as a woman lawyer. Every professional interaction I have throughout the day is an expression of that performance, of being in that "role." When I come home to my kids, I perform for them as a mother. If a friend calls me with a problem, I perform as a friend.

To use the word "performance" suggests inauthenticity, as if there is something else we "truly" are when we drop the act. 
But the line between who we "are" and who we are when we're "performing" is a blurry one. Even our most intimate relationships and physical encounters contain an element of performance. There is hardly any time at all when we are interacting with the world that we are not to some extent "performing."

Does that mean we are all therefore inauthentic and disingenuous? Of course not. There is a big difference between pulling off a con or an act, and expressing different parts of ourselves in ways we want the world to see and take in. Even this blog, which is nothing if not real, is an act of performance.

Everyday life contains a huge element of performance and that doesn't make us fake posers. It makes us social, artistic, and interconnected. It makes us human.

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