Presence in the Pursuit (Or the Art of Letting Go): One Pre-Enlightened Actress’s Guide to Living The Dream

# 15: Ask Yourself Everyday: Am I Growing Towards the Light?

Grow Towards the LightBoston.  What to think?  My heart hangs heavy.  It seems that violence is becoming more and more the norm in our world.

And maybe it is.  I don’t know.  I never excelled at history enough to compare and contrast today with our past.  But something in my gut tells me that these are not more savage times, these times are just more in our face and hitting closer to home.  And we now have the technology to do harm more quickly in a more detached manner.

We speak of our country being formed with the ideals of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  But we don’t always talk too much about how that ‘liberty’ was won on the stolen backs of slaves on a land once inhabited by an indigenous people.

And we don’t talk too much about how our current liberty in the form of everyday comforts often comes at the expense of child and slave labor abroad.

Someone or a some group of somebodies TOOK something from our fellow American brothers and sisters in Boston yesterday.  They took lives and limbs and innocence and freedom and peace of mind.

And sadly, someone or some group of somebodies will take again until we reach a day when everyone, everyone has their share and has no need take.

We are all connected.  We are all part of the whole.  And until we all share in the whole, right or wrong, someone will take.

I was raised in just about every Christian church, save for snake handlers, you can imagine:  Predominately-White-Baptist-Women-in-Sexless-(in-My-Humble-Opinion)-Flowered-Dresses-Baptist, Predominately-Black-Baptist-Gospel-Belting-Baptist, Rock-Band-Hip-Three-Hour-Loose-Format- Non-Denominational, Slain-in-the-Spirit-Speaking-in-Tongues-Episcopalian, you name it, I’ve experienced it.

At a certain point my mother finally cozied into Catholicism.

All of these experiences, so quickly glossed over by me just now in hyphenated jokey labels, had something to offer.  And I recognize that it’s difficult and dangerous to even broach the very subject of religion, especially in the context of tragedy, because it’s such an incredibly personal subject for a million complicated reasons.

Nonetheless, I want to share my experience with you.  I do not wish to separate myself from you, or to say what is or isn’t the way.

Rather, I want to illuminate my experience.

That said, I am incredibly grateful for the exposure to the many different ways of expressing the Christian faith.  It provided me with many ways of looking at a shared belief.  And it helped to shape me into who I am today.

Believer or not, Christian, or not, Muslim, or not, Jewish, or not, Buddhist, or not, whatever it is you hold to be true, there are truths to be learned from the moral codes that religions dictate.

Love thy neighbor. Care for the needy.  Do not steal.  

I took the faith I was raised in as my own and believed its doctrine for most of my life.

But I had always questioned belief in ONE THING as ultimate truth.  I had always had a hard time with the I AM RIGHT and YOU ARE WRONG mentality.  It always felt false in my heart somehow.

About five years ago, I read a book called A New Earth that started the unraveling of my more structured belief system in Catholicism.  The structure slipped away.  I was left with only a great sense of wonder and spirit regarding a belief in the infinite and our shared connectedness in the world.

I started to think of God in me.  And God in you.  And that that collective goodness or love in all of us just might be God.  I started to think of possibility.

If I have a religion now, it is this:  Am I Growing Towards the Light?

Yesterday, as I stood at work watching the instant replay of the bombs go off in Boston, again and again and again on the news, I couldn’t help but feel powerless in a seemingly ever increasingly violent and turbulent world.

So many people I know work SO hard to get ahead and to make a difference in this world, and to think that you could do that and work for that so diligently, to think that you could spend months training for a marathon just to have your entire life disrupted, shot through the heart or limb by nails and BBs, by a senseless act of hatred in a single moment, well, it’s damn defeating stuff.

I can only imagine what that is really like, to live through that, and I can only pretend to know what to say to anyone who has lived through that.

But — I know that an eye for an eye makes the whole world go blind.

So, at some point, at some point, at the end of the day, this event, and so many like it, cannot be about victim or victor.  It cannot be about justice.  Or vengeance.  Or anyone saving anyone else from the bad guys.  The other.  It needs to start being about acceptance regarding our connection to that act of violence.  And how can we grow from here?  How am I connected to the whole?  What can I do to better myself within the context of the whole?  How can I grow towards the light?  How can we grow towards the light?

White Hot, the play I’m getting ready to start rehearsals for, is an essay on separation and addiction and consumption.  It explores people who have given up, people who have lost their connection to the whole.  It explores our bottomless need for more, and more, and more.

Digging into the role of Sis, I am faced with a woman who is, through lots of heavy drug abuse, and random meaningless sex, and acts of violence, becoming a bit of socio-path.  She is actively working to separate herself from the whole, to live only for what feels good right now, to selfishly live solely for herself and her own needs, devoid of hope, or regard for others.  She is not unlike that SOMEBODY or SOMEBODIES who performed that senseless act in Boston yesterday.  She is someone who has chosen not to grow, and certainly not towards the light.

I am going to embody her space.  I am going to put on this selfish ‘bit of a socio-path’ and try her on for size. She is in me. I am in her.  We are connected.  I must feel her selfishness to portray her with truth.  I must know where she is coming from.

We all make choices.  Based on some truth that we have.  The choices we make are all that separate us from monster or hero.

Be careful that you don’t dehumanize the SOMEBODY who did this senseless act in Boston.  EASY AS IT IS TO DO. Because it is so very horrifying.  And so very hard to understand.  But do not separate.  Do not make them the other.

Because they are human.  And people begin to lose their humanity when they stop, for some reason, feeling connected to the whole.  We all have a responsibility to connect to the whole.  And to help up those who have lost that connection.

For whatever reason, this somebody or somebodies is just very, very far down the road of choices that choose to separate and stagnate rather than connect and grow.  And grow we must if we are at all to survive in this white hot mess of a world.

As a SAG-AFTRA and Equity member, Michal has appeared in dozens of plays and over fifty principal / starring roles for radio, television, and film. She is the voice, likeness, & performance capture artist for Tracey De Santa, one of 7 main characters out of a cast of a 1000, in the billion dollar phenomena Grand Theft Auto V. Her starring role in the LA Premiere of ‘White Hot’ at Hollywood Fringe earned her a Best Actress Award & her Ovation nominated theatre company, The Vagrancy, a Best Ensemble Award with knock-out reviews in ‘LA Weekly’ & ‘The Examiner.’ Film highlights: roles in Spike Lee’s Inside Man & Quid Pro Quo with Vera Farmiga. Born That Way, which she co-wrote with Mary M. Parr and Rob Travalino, was a Sundance Screenwriting Lab second rounder and one of 5 Finalists for Big Vision Empty Wallet’s Screenwriting Career Lab. She is the official Host of The Women’s Independent Film Festival and heads The Field Trips Department of Film Fatales where she’s a member in NYC and Los Angeles.