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Posts Tagged ‘Buddhism’

To post something like this is normally so opposite of what I would ever do, but…but–not since the death of Heath Ledger (who’s artistic work effected me just as greatly, although it wasn’t as long of an affair as this) have I felt so gutted by the death of a celebrity.  My childhood household was a strict one, and I remember sneaking to watch MTV (when I was supposed to be doing homework) on the downstairs television, sound turned down as low as possible but where I could still enjoy it, in order to see the video for Hey Ladies just one more time.  Years later, at 19, my roommates, “Nice Guys” Tom and Joey, would blast Check Your Head and this would be when and how I learned that some albums were just so obviously made to be listened to with a little green.  That album basically proved it to be a SCIENTIFIC FACT.

 

Four years later, I’m in Denver, Colorado, in some hole-in-the-wall dive bar that the nice clerk at the downtown 24-hour Kinkos recommended.  My friend, Carri, and I are half-way through our drive across country to move to Seattle (me from Virginia, her from Indiana) and enjoying a couple of beers at  this bar near our overnight motel stop.   Some old drunk lady had apparently done or said the wrong thing and was being heaved out the backdoor by a body guard three times her size.  Suddenly and simultaneously the jukebox begins to blare, “NO SLEEP TIL…” followed by that infamous guitar riff.  And then Carri and I are “singing” along (in the loosest definition of “singing” as possible), substituting our next major destination, “Boise” for “Brooklyn” in the lyrics.  (Little did I know it was much more prophetic than I ever could have imagined, as I would end up very unexpectedly moving to Brooklyn 12 years later.)  No relation to the song, but to complete the story of the night,  a couple of hours later I would be hit in the back of the head by the side-view mirror of a city metro bus, the driver of which would give no effs and keep going.  (As you can probably guess, I survived.)

 

In Seattle, I would end up working at The Hurricane (formerly known as The Dog House), a greasy (and I do mean greasy) spoon 24 hour cafe, where the busiest part of the night would be right at bar rush, while Intergalactic played on the jukebox at least five times (extremely conservative estimate) a night.

 

The Beastie Boys last album, Hot Sauce Committee part 2, was released right around this time last year. When the upcoming release was officially announced, I was like a kid at Christmas;  it had been a LONG time since I had been that excited about a new CD coming out.  As soon as it was available I immediately downloaded the entire album (the only full album on my ipod to this day) and proceeded to wear that nonsense out every single dang day (in reality, like all of their music, in never wore out but rather got better and better with each listen).

 

The news of Adam Yauch’s death today literally felt like a punch to the stomach.  So much of my life and experiences and memories are intertwined with their music.  Every time I tried to buy concert tickets, they were sold out in MINUTES (I’m talking like three minutes most of the time).  Now I’ll never get that chance; first world problems, right?  When I was in the 7th grade, a rumor spread like wildfire (which I caught wind of in my math class) that all of the Beastie Boys had died from drinking Draino (or some other similar household cleaning product).  I always associate that memory with Barbara Simms, who was also in that math class (maybe she was the one who told me? I can’t recall now…), who had an untimely death from a freak car accident after a football game during our senior year 5 years later.  Every single one of the Beastie Boys’ songs I can relate to a memory, person, emotion, environment, what I was wearing etc.  Adam “MCA” Yauch‘s way-too-early death marks a sad, sad for many.  Thank you MCA for a lifetime of incredible music, film and art, good old nostalgic memories, and the never ending generosity of your spirit. What a gift your life was.

 

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(Props to Wikipedia:)

Honne (本音?) refers to a person’s true feelings and desires. These may be contrary to what is expected by society or what is required according to one’s position and circumstances, and they are often kept hidden, except with one’s closest friends.

Tatemae (建前?), literally “façade,” is the behavior and opinions one displays in public. Tatemae is what is expected by society and required according to one’s position and circumstances, and these may or may not match one’s honne.”

 

I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, an expert on these concepts and how they apply to the Japanese culture and life.  That there are actually Japanese words for these concepts and that there is an active awareness (and dare I even say, art) in the carrying out of these principles in their society through the practice of Shintoism, I find absolutely fascinating.

 

I’ve immersed myself in a bit of research on these ideas during the past few days, and could pursue a million different tangents.  The struggle of honne and tatemae exists within every culture and, I think it is safe to assume, every human being.  The more I contemplate this, the more I think it’s actually one of the major principles that makes us human.  We all have different faces/costumes/masks that we wear given the different company, environment and/or circumstances and, at least in Western culture, we intentionally work very hard (at least at an unconscious level) and for a myriad of different reasons (usually all well intended or for some higher purpose, at least from our own personal perspectives) to keep the fact that we are wearing said masks well hidden.  We are usually successful, although sometimes not, and it is usually something like a deepened friendship or a little alcohol that allows the honne to finally make its  escape.  To me what is so fascinating about these concepts and Japanese culture is that this all occurs out in the open.  A fantastic example is a story from this blog:

(kirai a geek in japan) http://www.kirainet.com/english/honne-and-tatemae/

“Another example would be when buying a ticket for some show and they are sold out. The sales clerk won’t answer directly saying “Tickets are sold out”, it is very probable that you will have to wait while he is looking at something in the computer, he will start putting weird faces and say “chotto” (a word that you will hear a lot if you come to Japan), he would even go to talk with his boss, etc. The final result, after making you lose your time there waiting, will be that he will say to you something like “It is very difficult to find available seats… chotto…”; that is the damn Tatemae in action.”

Honne and tatemae, at least from my understanding, are of primary importance in Japanese culture because in Shintoism it is of utmost virtue to keep harmony.  Shintoism, btw, (which literally means “Way of the Spirits”) I would not define so much as a religion as I would a spiritually philosophical way of life.  It is deeply imbedded in the day-to-day Japanese culture and is often simultaneously practiced with Buddhism. A great resource for more information on Shintoism can be found here:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/shinto/

 

What I find curious is if this (often/usually) compassionate deception is out in the open and everybody knows it, is it really creating the desired harmony and/or saving face?  Difficult for me to know or truly understand the depths of these principles in practice since the Japanese culture is not my own world view and I’m not living it out, but it does make me think a lot about these ideas, how they are carried out in our culture and all of humanity, and the resulting differences (“benefits and detriments”) that take place from this practice being hidden versus out in the open. Interesting stuff!

 

Which brings me to what inspired this post to begin with (see, I went off on tangents anyway):  the concepts of honne and tatemae and how they intertwine and how they relate to acting (and Art) in my mind. (I am fully aware that I am approaching these concepts on a whole different level and direction than is on the surface definition, but it’s where my mind went, so there you have it).  All/most human beings experience the struggle between honne and tatemae (whether hidden or openly).  Not surprisingly, many of the Japanese dramas are centered around this dynamic.  As an actor, the goal and job is to Truthfully live out these struggles of the character under imaginary circumstances.  In order to do so fully and Truthfully, one (the actor, not the character) must be fully aligned with and allowing of their own honne and listening and responding from that place–MEANING, not fighting the tatemae of the character but rather letting one’s own (the actor’s) honne be completely free to react truthfully as the character in the moment, all the while having the honne and tatemae of the character fully in one’s being.  If the actor is at all letting his/her own personal tatemae emerge, it shows as self consciousness, manifesting as indicating, pushing, blocking, not being present, etc.  In other words, it’s fake and we aren’t buying it. But if the actor gets out of their own way and allows honne to express, then kami***/It moves:

“The archer ceases to be conscious of himself as the one who is engaged in hitting the bull’s-eye which confronts him.  This state of unconsciousness is realized only when, completely empty and rid of the self (jenn’s note: the cause of TATEMAE!!!), he becomes one with the perfecting of his technical skill though there is in it something of a quite different order which cannot be attained by any progressive study of the art.”  (Zen in the Art of Archery — Eugen Herrigel)

This is exactly, at least for me, why acting is so thrilling and freeing.  Not only do actors (and all artists) *get* to allow their honne to freely and fully express, but it’s actually their JOB.  THE GOAL.  The opportunities to act are the opportunities for moments of that absolute joy and freedom.  The price for this is the perfecting of the technical skill (the actor’s homework) so that honne, which is kami in action, can occur.  AKA:  Serious Play.

 

(***kami:  That Which Is Hidden)

 

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