If I were a better person, Michael Palin would be my higher power
January 20, 2011
Before I return to whatever the main thread of my blog is–it looks like it will be moving between the story of my revelation experience and an investigation of AR’s qualifications for HP status, with asides along the way–I have to address something that immediately struck me after Alan Rickman revealed himself to me as my higher power.
Why not Michael Palin?
I absolutely love Michael Palin. So much so that I (for all intents and purposes) married him. Yes, my husband is the American Michael Palin, right down to the winsome smile and fondness for cats who behave like parrots.
In case you have ever wondered what it would be like to be married to Michael Palin, I can tell you it’s not easy.
Imagine knowing that for the rest of your life, anyone who meets both you and your husband will prefer your husband to you. Even your friends. Even your mother. Even you.
My mother says that to know my husband is to love him. She is adamant that the same is not true of me. (Thank you for rubbing salt in the wound, mom.)
Surely, if any man, well-known or otherwise, has claim to higher power status on this planet, at this time, it is Michael Palin.
He’s nice. He’s cute as a button. He loves people. Genuinely loves them. He’s a devoted family man. He has a high tolerance for questionable food. He has an incredible inquisitiveness and zest for life. He’s stayed in shape.
He can sing about lumberjacks and make you want to sing along. He’s practically unflappable. He never teases small children. He is man enough to share his digestive problems with the world. And his digestive problems are not off-putting, but actually endearing!
He can win anyone, anywhere over without even trying in 30 seconds or less. He’s so genuine. He’s so earnest. I have almost forgiven the Catholic Church some of its horrible misdeeds due to the work of Michael Palin. And the fish dance always makes me laugh like hell.
Did I mention, he’s nice?
I think it’s because, unlike husbands, you get the higher power you deserve. And I don’t deserve Michael Palin.
I’m just not that nice. In fact, I have theoretical problems with “nice.” I’m happy enough to be married to it, but to exercise it?
Let’s just say that it’s not easy for Michael Palin to be married to me.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m a big believer in morality. But it irritates me that people so easily identify niceness with morality. I almost take it as my personal duty to demonstrate that this is mistaken.
Alan Rickman the person is not nice, no matter how you slice it. I don’t have to know him personally to know that. He may be decent, he may be loyal, he may be good, he may have moments of niceness. But if I can do all these things without being nice, surely he can.
My assertion is not based on the crude mistake of conflating Mr. Rickman’s roles with himself. This would not do, because his roles have not all been so univocal. Some (of the best) have not even been villains.
No, I’m staking my reputation for good judge of character on two things: his public face and his acting abilities.
As for acting, I think that it’s very easy to underestimate the difficulties of the actor’s craft. There’s the tendency to conceive of it as a sort-of glorified “Let’s Pretend.” It is not.
The most crucial difference between acting and pretending, for my discussion here (and perhaps The Crucial Difference), is that the best actors, those who don’t say lines but inhabit them, are showing us something of themselves.
Please note that I am not here acting as an advocate for Method Acting, nor does my point depend on any particular acting theory.
It is simply the case that the best pretending, like the best lying, happens when it is closest, in some fashion, to the truth.
That is, actors do not have to feel the feelings of their characters, but they must damn well pretty much know what it is to feel those feelings and how to show us that they do or the performance will be hollow.
So Mr. Rickman is not nice and Mr. Palin is. Because Mr. Palin could never, ever convince us of anything other than niceness. And Mr. Rickman is renowned for it.
What am I to conclude for myself, given the above? Well, my higher power is not simply co-extensive with Alan Rickman. I’ve already said that my higher power has a complex nature, beyond that of mortal man.
However, if I can be permitted in this instance to use the person Alan Rickman and the actor Alan Rickman as shorthand for the higher power Alan Rickman, then…it’s an interesting thing to discover that I have a higher power with a bit of nastiness in him.
Certainly, mine isn’t the only higher power in the annals of history to exhibit this trait. In fact, when one starts looking into the matter, there seems to be a great deal more nastiness than niceness.
Niceness, like Michael Palin, is of relatively recent origin and, even in our civilized times, is far from universal.
Perhaps it’s best for me that Michael Palin isn’t my higher power. We simply don’t suit each other that way. Besides, one should never worship one’s husband.
Thanks for your nastiness. Without it, I might not have a higher power.