Updated: Jun 3, 2019
“I’m 47. 47 years old. How did I get to stay alive this long, all these years? Fear. The spectacle of fearsome acts”
BUTCHER BILL - GANGS OF NEW YORK
If you have ever seen 'Gangs of New York', you will no doubt be familiar with the quote. It’s a tense, but tender scene, where Butcher Bill, (played brilliantly by Daniel Day Lewis) talks openly about parts of his life to Amsterdam, (played by Leonardo Di Caprio) after Amsterdam had saved Bill’s life the previous day.
As a professional actor, I appreciate strong performances such as this. In my experience, anything that seeks to explore the frailties of life and the insecurities of humanity, whether on stage, through music, through writing, radio or on screen is worth giving our time to. It is from these shared experiences that knowledge is developed, awareness is raised and we gain a growing realisation that despite all being unique and individual, there are common experiences and emotions that ultimately bond us all.
As we have come to expect with Daniel Day Lewis, the performance was gripping, engaging and technically faultless, however, what drew me in to this particular performance was the use of the word FEAR.
I have had an interesting relationship with FEAR for as long as I care to remember. It is FEAR that has got me through life to where I am today, and it is FEAR that will continue to drive me forward to whatever future lies ahead. I suspect that will always be the case because I truly believe that the moment we stop scaring ourselves, the moment we give in to FEAR is the very moment we stop developing.
So much these days we crave comfort, stability, security, familiarity, routine. The perplexing reality though, is that the world we live in offers none of these. Nothing stays the same for ever, jobs change, relationships change, borders move, mountains move, the universe is in constant motion and yet, we crave sameness. Here’s the even stranger thing though. We still crave these things, even if we know deep down, that they are holding us back and even that in some cases, they are detrimental to our health and wellbeing.
Ask yourself, when was the last time you drove a different route to work? When was the last time you sat in a different chair? When was the last time you broke a habit? Then ask yourself why, and you will see that it comes from FEAR. We are fearful of change, we are fearful of being different, we are fearful of failure, and here’s the strangest phenomenon of all, we are even fearful of success.
But ask yourself this question….
What in life do you remember the most? Is it those moments of sameness and routine, where everything happens the way it always has happened, or do we remember those moments of fear, of excitement, of trepidation and of achievement of having achieved something new. Which do you find the most compelling?
We simply don’t remember mediocrity. Why should we? However, we do remember those moments that challenge us, those experiences that take us to new places, that stretch us, that move us, that shift our perspectives, even if just a little bit.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve embraced my fears. I’ve learnt to respect them, love them and to use them as opposed to let them get the better of me, to restrict me, and to run away from them. Put this another way, when we are running away from something, we keep looking back, but when we run towards something we look ahead. There is a huge difference.
A few weeks ago, when I walked into a room of 30 men, none of whom I had met before, to share stories about our lives and our experiences with a view to creating a live performance focused on Masculinity and Mental Health, I had no idea what to expect. Did I feel an element of FEAR. Of course I did. Did the other guys experience the same. Of course they did. Did we let it get the better of us? Absolutely not.
What happened that day, will live long in my memory, and I am sure in the memories of everyone else who overcame their FEAR, because we all, individually and collectively took a huge leap out of our comfort zones, and into the unknown. That unknown however is now the known. It is no longer scary, and as a result, we have jointly created one of the most supportive, honest groups of people I have ever had the pleasure to work with.
Here’s to a great performance.