Monday, 27 February 2012
The inexplicable silences between
Especially at the times of most intense work and preparation I, like probably many others, hit periods of what is almost a solid form of silence, a kind of buffer zone between thought and paralysis. Thinking about things is far worse than doing them. In thoughts everything is potential failure, a failure, what is more, of disastrous proportions.
I was listening to the radio early this morning, hearing the news of the Oscars, listening to snippets of the gratingly 'whoopee I love you all' acceptance speeches, but catching, in Meryl Streep's speech, two interesting notes, the first potentially self-embarrassing: When they called my name, I had this feeling I could hear half of America going 'Oh no... Her again!' But, whatever. The second was: Thank you all you - departed and here - for this inexplicable wonderful career.
She's right at the heart of the solid silence there, which in her case is compounded of the fear that her presence has, or is about to, become a bore, and that whatever success she has enjoyed so far is 'inexplicable'.
Because, of course, if it is inexplicable there is no reason at all that it should have happened, and once one has begun to bore people, they too might discover that one's success is inexplicable, and cry: Whatever did we see in her!?
And that is why no success is ever big enough or long enough, and why artists, especially, are prone to demanding shows of affection, admiration and respect. It is because it has been inexplicable all along. Because they know that others just as talented have dropped out at some stage. Because they know that the moment they think their success is explicable a vital tension will have vanished from their lives.
This goes at any level, whether you are a megastar like Streep, or have just been promoted from, say, Private to Lance-Corporal. Martin, who was a Major in the army, was saying last night that anyone who stuck around in the army long enough was bound to become a Major, but I wonder. And even a teacher in a school in his or her first year will sometimes think: How have I got here? What am I doing? This - even this - is inexplicable. For a while at any rate.
The thought vanishes into routine but even so, particularly at moments of success or failure, at those odd moments, it returns ever more keenly and intensely, like a stopping of the heart or the moments between the ticking of the clock. It is then you hear the solid silence. That is if everything has not become wholly explicable by then.