Saturday, December 18, 2010

ON ACTING: Fatherhood

The student told me he was having trouble playing a father. He said he has never been a father, doubts he ever will become one...and in general finds emotionally identifying with fathers difficult.

But he was now of the age when he was going to be offered father-parts to play. What to do?

So I said we should try to find a common denominator: Is there a universal emotional element in fatherhood that fathers and non-fathers (like him and maybe half the audience) can warm to? What does being a father mean? Is there a synonym for "fatherhood," I asked?

After an unresponsive, silent pause: "Responsibility," I offered. "Once that child's life enters the world, you are responsible...for it's food, it's emotional contentment and and spiritual nourishment." I asked the student if he ever felt responsible for something? "Of course," he said.

Well, I said, with a new-born child that responsibility never ends. "Jesus, Dad, enough already. Stop with the advice!"

"Never. At any age. Not until you are totally happy. Is your life perfect? Well, as long as the answer is no, I'm going to be in your life. As a father, I am responsible."

Irrational? Yes. Maddening? Yes. Inevitable? I hope so.

Love...paternal, maternal, spousal, or responsibility towards an other's existence. You are charged with being tethered to the other's life, to their needs, wants, desires and yearnings. Your life is no longer defined by just your life, but by theirs as well. (That's why you have every right to tell them what to do!) Your happiness is their happiness; and visa-versa. You will die, for them, with them, because of them...or you would kill for them. You no longer have an independent existence. You are they; they are you.

Responsibility. Love. Fatherhood. Endless. Eternal. Maybe that's what rigor mortis is: the dead body still trying to fulfill it's responsibility toward its children. Nothing more ecstatic. And exhausting. Fatherhood, along with motherhood: it makes the world, and the species, go round and round.


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