Friday, May 25, 2012


When I was an actor in my younger years we had a saying we used frequently in rehearsals: “The prop never tells a lie.”

Acting is about truth. Now, there are good actors and bad actors. Good actors simply respond truthfully to the given circumstances (which are always inarguably truthful). When you are in the midst of a live performance one thing is always true: whatever happens, happens. You can’t do anything about the door that creaks that was “supposed to” stay quiet. You can’t undo the forgetfulness of a fellow actor: if they forget a line, they’ve forgotten it.

The only thing you can do is respond in accordance to what has actually happened, not according to what you think should have happened.

Truth-telling is an obsession with good actors. “Does my outer life accurately align with the interior life of this particular character?”

Because truth-telling does not come easily, actors speak of “borrowing truth from the prop.” A pencil will always be a pencil and a gun will always be a gun. If an actor handles a gun in an unrealistic fashion, it is not the fault of the gun, it is the fault of the actor. The gun can only be what it is.

So, there are certain acting exercises designed to help actors “borrow truth” from the prop.

I’m fascinated by this because it reflects a truth that makes life most interesting, indeed.

Birds and trees and oceans and cups and windows are incapable of deceit. Humans, on the other hand, traffic in it. We never have to think, “I wonder if that tree is telling the truth?” It is what it is. What you see is what you get. Simple.

Yes, you may be able to examine the tree more closely and discover that it looks healthy on the outside but is actually diseased in its core--but human deceit is an entirely different matter. It is not like discovering physical cancer in a person who looks healthy. There is no way to quantify the emotional and spiritual games we play when we knowingly or subconsciously mislead people.  Some people make deceit a way of life. They have grown so accustomed to stretching the truth that they honestly think they are telling the truth when, in fact, they are lying to themselves and others.

It is rare to find a person these days where full disclosure is the norm. But, let it be noted: the fully disclosed life is the free person’s life.  

Jesus said, “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.”  When you always tell all the truth, you never have to wonder, “Am I holding anything back?”  There is a freedom that can only be grasped when we live life fully-disclosed, warts and all.

It is true there is a time and place for everything and we need to be discerning about the spirit in which truth is shared or the venue in which disclosure takes place.

Sometimes the “truth” we wish to share is merely presented to serve our own ends or to hide some falsehood resident in our hearts. In such an instance what we have shared may be factually true but it is not truth.  This is called “stretching the truth” and it is more akin to falsehood.  When politicians present statistics, they often do this. It leaves the listener wondering, “Where is the truth in all this? These are just words. How can I trust these facts?”  

Establishing the truth then becomes much more than a matter of citing sources.  Yes, the source is “reliable” but is the spin reliable? Truth is about trust.

Spinning facts is perhaps the one motion in this world that is not susceptible to the laws of inertia. In fact, such spinning seems to create its own kind of momentum. Once you start, it is hard to stop.

I wish we humans could be more like a simple leaf: what you see is what you get and nothing else. Our outer life would align perfectly with our invisible life.  We would truly be “put together”, integrated, whole.  As it stands, fragment is more than a mirror.


altonwoods said...

A very interesting read! It's no lie that people are terrified of "the truth". Perhaps that's got something to do with some confusion between what are "facts" and "truth",and how each is most commonly employed.

Troy said...

Yes, I agree with you, Jeffrey. We do confuse "facts" and "truth". Thanks for your clarifying words.