Harry Dean Stanton died at the age of 91 three days ago, and today I’m listening to a Marc Maron interview with him that was done in 2014. He was a very enigmatic character, and Marc prefaced the repost of this old interview lamenting that he clearly felt he had failed to achieve the level of human intimacy that he had hoped for. It’s funny, listening to it I don’t get that impression at all – in fact, I think it’s pretty thoughtful and enlightening.
In what I felt was the most illuminating exchange, Marc asks him about the differences between movies in the 1970s and films today. Harry Dean replies “There is no difference, it’s all one big movie…” Marc states “Everyone wants to be in a movie, right?” and H. D. responds – “They’re in a movie – it’s all a movie – including our present conversation.”
Think about that for a moment. Didn’t you ever stop and wonder “Wait a minute – aren’t we really acting all of the time?” Of course Shakespeare made this brilliant and woefully obvious observation first: “All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players; They have their exits and their entrances” (As You Like It, Act II, Scene VII).
Don’t we choose the part we want to play on the worlds stage? I mean, no one tells us how to dress, how to carry ourselves, or how to treat others. No one is making us behave in any specific way at all. Oh sure, there are societal restraints, accepted codes of behavior, unspoken but tacitly agreed upon ways in which we interact with each other. But still – we choose to what degree or indeed whether we will conform to these rules at all.
And by choosing how to act, aren’t we choosing who we are?