The necessity of emptiness

Was watching a William Shatner interview on the W5 program on CTV in Canada a while back. Interesting man. He was talking about his career, which has spanned 7 decades as well as what keeps him going at 81.

He also talked about his art and why acting is so necessary to him.

One piece of the interaction between the interviewer and the actor really captured my attention. Here’s a transcript of it:

Shatner: The feeling of vulnerability is part of being an actor….I mean vulnerable to the emotions that lurk inside of all of us. Most of us suppress it long enough so we no longer feel them.

Interviewer: A lot of people try to bury those emotions though. How demanding is it of you is it to tap into that all the time?

Shatner: That’s what an actor does. If an actor doesn’t do that it becomes a surface performance.

Interviewer: But isn’t that draining?

Shatner: Of course. That’s what the work is.

Interviewer: That’s my point though. Some people would say I’d like to retire.

Shatner: Draining of course. To what? To not drain? Plug yourself up. Don’t drain. You plug yourself up and you don’t drain and then you don’t live. Draining is living. You’ve got to get rid of the excess water from the sink otherwise it’s going to overflow. So you drain.

The usefulness of “draining”. Emotionally constipated. Artists. The Buddhist story of the cup being full with no room for learning comes to mind. The constant process of life.

A Cup of Tea

Nan-in, a Japanese master during the Meiji era (1868-1912), received a university professor who came to inquire about Zen.

Nan-in served tea. He poured his visitor’s cup full, and then kept on pouring.

The professor watched the overflow until he no longer could restrain himself. "It is overfull. No more will go in!"

"Like this cup," Nan-in said, "you are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?"

3 comments on “The necessity of emptiness

  1. I love that last quote of Shatner’s and the way you connected some dots as if thinking out loud, then on to the famous Cup of Tea – thanks!

  2. Pingback: Draining the week | Harold Jarche

  3. I can relate to this. When I was a mask performer, I used to consciously clear my mind as I put the mask on. Only when your ego has disappeared can another character truly be expressed. If you are too scared to let go, your acting will suffer.

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