That it’s important to “remember, you are just an extra in everyone else’s play.”

The words in the quotation above were spoken by FDR and they ring true for us all during this divisive time in political realms where people are so quick to take personal offense to the words and actions of others. The conscious mind is the most supremely interesting facet of mankind in that despite it being the window through which we all observe our surroundings, it is so greatly limited in its external control that (like an ant wandering onto a scale at a truck stop) it can appear completely negligible. For all the people we know, the places we see, the lessons we learn, and the emotions we feel, in reality each one of us controls very little of what we observe through our individual window. Because we inevitably become so interwoven within the lives of others, it is easy to forget just how small a role we actually play in the consciousness of those people. We each, every single one of us, direct our own play, and into perpetuity it continues with changes along the way. We change the backdrop when we move, and the lighting as our emotions dictate. We alter the stage props as our needs change, and we tweak the pit music to reflect our motives. Bust most prominent on our stage is the supporting cast of characters with whom we interact. 

What I noticed this week is that it by being the main character in our own singular existence, it is so easy (our default setting in fact) to expect that we play a similarly significant role in the plays being simultaneously directed by those around us. And when we appear to be miss-cast or left off the playbill completely, we feel slighted. We get angry when a phone call is not returned from a sibling, and we feel shunned when we are left off the agenda of a friend’s night out. Even more relevant in today’s political climate is the sinking feeling that if we dare express a dissenting opinion our character will be yanked off the stage by one of those giant hooks, never to be given another audition. We believe in treating others as we expect to be treated, and thus we expect those for whom we make an effort to make an equal effort in return. But it is within that word, “equal” where the problem lies. 

What FDR so poignantly states is that we need to first examine our own play and recognize how little significance we actually place on the roles of 99% of our supporting cast. Then only through that prism can we then accurately assess  just how unequal our supporting roles within the plays of others really are. Oscars are not awarded to “Best Supporting Extra” or “Best Original Cameo”…they are instead reserved for the very few actors who play a role that without which, the play could not go on. Try to remember the next time you feel your point of view has been neglected or ignored, that the underlying theme of significance for any director, just as it is with you, is that the play must go on.

 

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