Compromising Your Life

I am not a fan of compromise. Especially when it comes to art. It’s strange, for someone with so many liberal and social justice-oriented leanings as I have, that when it comes to art I am something of a fascist. I have been part of “group works” where the goal is a sinergistic melding of the minds…but the reality, I always find, is that the process ends up with a watered-down piece of work that inspires no one. Even great creative duos – Bill T. Jones and Arnie Zane, Goldhuber and Latsky, Astaire and Rogers – all brought something different to the creative table. It was their ability to let their partner play to their strengths that made them create such unforgettable works.

(Incidentally, this is why I’ve always hated that saying about how Ms. Rogers did everything Mr. Astaire did but “backwards and in high heels”. That is not how partnering works in ballroom dance, and it does an extreme disservice to her actual skill as a dance partner. I mean, just watch: )

I’m not saying you can’t have communal groups; I just believe that the best work is made when one person has a vision and then inspires the rest of the group to help them achieve it. Yes, it is better than the director could have done by themselves, usually – but a good director also inspires the creative team into brighter and stronger works than they would have been capable of without the director’s vision. In the best situations, you have people take turns being the director, and whoever is in the driver’s seat has the complete support of the whole cast.

“They don’t follow me. They allow me to lead them. There’s a difference.” – Mary Gentle, Ash


This applies to life, too. Because there are always many directors trying to take charge of the way your life is created. There’s the social director, telling you to devote your life to good works. There’s the business director, reminding you that lunch is not free and you might as well get rich first. There’s the director of love who just wants to follow your bliss, things will take care of themselves! And of course the tragedian who reminds you of what happened the last time you followed your bliss/business/charity, and the comedic director who tries to make you laugh through the pain.

If you try to satisfy them all, you end up with a blurry mess. Thankfully, if you were a movie theater they’d have to call you “Legion” because you contain multiplexes. So you can have a comedy playing in one theater, an action thriller in another, and a romantic comedy in another. You can leave the other one dark until you get that perky small-business triumphant tear-jerker ready to screen.

Thing is, if you want to really get the most out of whatever’s showing, you need to be there. You don’t want to try and switch in the middle, because you’re likely to miss out of sections and possibly lose track of the entire plot.

Yeah, that’s right, it’s a roundabout way of saying be present in your life. But it’s not because one director is better than another; it’s because you have, in your life, room for every director to have their turn. Just because you are goofily in love doesn’t mean you’re an unrealistic fool about to run your business into the ground; just because you feel like a monster after the fight with your spouse doesn’t mean you’re not still also in a Regency comedy of manners.

There’s room in your life for all of it; rather than following blindly, though, allow yourself to be led through the dramas and appreciate them for what they are. “The only way out is through.” Your life is no exception.

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