In yesterday’s recast of Terry Gross interviewing Mark Ruffalo she got to that inevitable question, “What does acting mean to you now?” I love his simple, truthful answer: “It’s…my way to be fully realized as a human being. It’s my relationship to the world…”
When artists succumb to whatever medium invites their relationship to the world—be it acting, painting, playing music, writing—they often slip into the place where they feel the human experience in a way they can’t otherwise. It’s instantaneously cohering and alienating, which adds to a sense of the delicious complexity that makes us feel alive.
Take this morning, for instance. I’ve got my son’s skis and ski poles in one arm, and a plastic bag in the other. I’m following the pug around in the sodden side yard as he looks for that all-important dumping ground. A very human situation—one to which most multi-tasking suburbanites can relate. But the particular clumsiness that followed—the capturing of the steamy logs in a glove-sized plastic bag while the skis and poles tip and tumble, the inevitable buzzing of the cell phone in the zippered pocket, the complete lack of grace as the shit squeezes back out the bag and onto a shoe and the ski pole spears the blind dog—redemption only comes from imagining a scene in which a character finds herself in such a predicament, only then can the artist transcend the defect of her own humanity and forgive herself her unique brand of compromise and clutziness.
The ways in which we find ourselves abjectly human are small ways indeed. Small, clumsy and full of, what Ruffalo referred to as, modern brokenness.