Humans are social animals. Interactions with others are a major part of our waking lives from infancy on, and draw out our most powerful feelings. Babies left untended for hours on end in understaffed orphanages rarely develop vibrant lives. Solitary con nement, recent studies show, often leads to severe mental deterioration. “Can it be coincidental that almost all of our emotions make sense only in relation to other people?” asks famed neuroscientist V.S. Ramachandran, who goes on to say, “Pride, arrogance, vanity, ambition, love, fear, mercy, jealousy, anger, hubris, humility, pity, even self-pity – none of these would have any meaning in a social vacuum.” 1
Exercise: The fi sherman
This is a one-minute exercise I sometimes use just to make a point. I ask actors to act the role of a sherman. Virtually everybody who knows anything about shing will know how to put an imaginary hook on an imaginary line, and, with a pole, cast the line into an imaginary river. But there they stop. The exercise is over, they think. But I say nothing. They look at me in discomfort. “Fish!” I say, a bit sternly. They look around at the others and get even more discomforted. “Catch the damn sh!” I say, this time quite sharply. Then they get it. They start to move their imaginary pole around a bit, try to sense the possibility of sh in the stream, and where they might be. They soon make imaginary tugs on their imaginary lines, when they feel imaginary nibbles. They now want to catch sh. Because that’s what a sherman does – he doesn’t just want to throw bait into the water. The exercise immediately differentiates between playing the goal of catching sh rather than just demonstrating that the actor is supposedly a sherman. The situation is lived, not merely shown. And the actor will be interacting with sh, albeit imaginary ones.