I woke up today with this question: “what do I hope for?” And it is a serious question after years of living towards a goal. At dinner Monday night, I expressed with some embarrassment that acting is the only idea I’ve ever had for my life. I’ve dreamt too of having a family and of a chance to see the world, but individually and as long as I can remember, I have wanted and still want to act. Alongside survival jobs, adapting and some innovating, acting iswhat I’ve done. I ask myself often why I didn’t become a social worker or a teacher, run a non-profit or for political office. There is good I might have furthered and time I can’t get back, yet in my wrestling for dignity and meaning, I still think the possibility for a better world is strengthened, not weakened, by a solitary dream.
Maybe it comes with the territory of being a performer, my worry that this pursuit is selfish or self-serving. But selflessness has its problems too and those who disown their passions often become bitter, disenfranchised people. My friend Matthew sent me the YouTube link to Robert F. Kennedy’s Day of Affirmation speech, also known as the “Tiny Ripple of Hope” speech which I listened to while I got an oil change this morning. It is extraordinary and in it, Senator Kennedy prophetically describes the dangers of a government that protects some and not all. He clarifies that freedom of speech, religion and protest is defined by an individual’s power to be heard by herself and her country and he cautions against the dangers of comfort and “the temptation to follow the easy and familiar path of personal ambition”. And like a bell, his esteem for idealism rang out to me, harmonizing my questions around hope.
“If there was one thing that President Kennedy stood for, that touched the most profound feeling of young people around the world, it was the belief that idealism, high aspiration, and deep convictions are not incompatible with the most practical and efficient of programs, that there is no basic inconsistency between ideals and realistic possibility. No separation between the deepest desires of heart and of mind and the rational application of human effort to human problems.”
Pragmatism without idealism “ignores the realities of human faith, of passion and of belief – forces ultimately more powerful than all the calculations of our economists and generals.” I’d like to go to the next audition with his voice in my ears and some acceptance that my dream is an ante in to the vastness of human expression. I’m in the game, the arena, serving possibility which is the bond we all share. It catches my throat to think what Bobby Kennedy’s idealism cost him and what ideallyhis hope constitutes in us… “a temper of the will, a quality of imagination, a predominance of courage over timidity and of the appetite for adventure over the life of ease.”