The Serenity Of Not Knowing

Actor and Director Ben Hodge has been the acting teacher at Central York High School for the past 10 years where he has developed an innovative and fresh curriculum for young actors aged 13-24. This curriculum and workshop format is now available to the greater York area with hopes of training and leading new actors to the realisation that acting is a more than just a hobby or pastime: it is an honourable profession and a way of life. His connections with New York City, LA and local talent agencies are now being offered to anyone who joins the Studio classes and have opened the doors for many already joined. He currently runs classes and offers private acting coaching via Skype. Connect with Ben on Twitter or via email
The Serenity Of Not Knowing in Acting_550
Photo Credit: Scott Anderson via cc
The only real wisdom is knowing you know nothing
Knowledge implies a certain intimacy and experience with the time, matter and space in front of us…I know that chairs are meant for sitting because I have sat in many chairs. I know that movies are supposed to start after the previews because I have experienced that. I know that my car should start when I turn the key in the ignition, because I’ve known that to be true for me in the past. I know that when I put my foot ahead of my other foot, I will be able to walk.
With all of these examples of knowledge, we often find our peace in knowing and believing that things are as we think they should be. There are many things that we can say that we know with a sense of certainty. We rest in our routines. We relish in or schedules. We rave about all of the facts and details we know and can remember. We like to know where things are, where they go, what we are supposed to do.
We love knowing. Yet so many of us don’t know.
So many of us are finding our peace in the knowing, instead of realizing that the real peace lies in the not knowing.
So much of the certainty that we feel is misguided. I think we have all thought about this at some point in our lives, yet we seem to forget it so much. We really don’t know what will happen. We really don’t know if our cars will start. We don’t really know if our chair will actually hold us. We don’t know if we will always be able to walk. We simply don’t know. We think we know. We think we know a lot of other things too that often can mess with our choices, paths and decisions we make in our lives, art and work.
The reality is that thinking and knowing are thankfully NOT the same things. Yet we often believe them to be the same things.
  • We think that casting directors don’t like us, therefore we KNOW that casting directors don’t like us.
  • We think that hot guy or girl would ever agree to a date, therefore we KNOW that they would never agree to a date.
  • We think that we are not talented enough, therefore we KNOW that we are not talented enough.
We also fall into the trap of believing that our past experiences equate to knowledge and accurate predictions of what is to come. While the past is an adequate teacher, and is something that we must learn from, it does not mean that things will happen as they always do.
  • We don’t get that big part. We think we will never get the part.
  • We forget a meeting. We think we will always be forgetful.
  • We fail at a relationship. We think all of our relationships will end that way.
The list of what we think and think we know could go on and on. The list of what we think will happen based on our pasts could fill a book. What if I told you, like Socrates did, that the only knowledge that we can be certain of is that we don’t know? What if the past was a flexible guide, and not a static path that we must follow or wallow in? What if the true serenity lies in these truths?
The truth is this: We don’t know. Just because we’ve had bad (or good) experiences doesn’t mean that we can predict the future.
So many actors don’t jump at the opportunity to perform because they fear rejection. They are embarrassed to put themselves out there, to show true vulnerability because they’ve been burned by those things in the past. OR they THINK that those things are true.
They KNOW that performing like that will lead to judgement, ridicule and failure. I’m not sure they and we can make that claim. It comes back to the point that we can’t predict that. We can’t say that we will or will not get the part. So what do we have peace in?
We have to find peace in the fact that we don’t know.
If we truly act as if there was no tomorrow, we would take more risks.
We have to find peace in giving our best, trying our hardest, making the bold choices, being prepared and performing like tomorrow didn’t matter or like we have no tomorrow.
If we truly act as if there was no tomorrow, we would take more risks. We would try new things. We would settle past debts and wrongs. We would push aside the petty things that weigh us down and stress us out. We would live more joyous, carefree lives.
When we realize that we don’t know, it should lead us to some action. You won’t truly know something until it is attempted. When we think we know what will happen, it usually leads to inaction because we have already made up our minds. The peace in not knowing allows us to remain more open to the new moments right in front of us.
This should not be misinterpreted as a free pass to do whatever we want to. We still need to be cautious, respectful and somewhat protective. We just don’t have to go overboard with it.
Here are some things that I do know:
There is peace in not knowing. There is joy in focusing on the present. There is serenity in NOT knowing.

About Ben

Ben Hodge has been acting and directing for 20 years in a variety of formats. He has directed several productions in York, PA and had his play REACH performed in NYC at an Off-Broadway venue in 2009. Ben studied English and Acting at Messiah College and received his Masters in Education from Penn State University. After the success of REACH, the hit play about the hidden issues of 21st Century teens, Ben started acting classes in the York, PA area and created Ben Hodge Studios in October 2009. His main goal is to bring a high-level, professional acting workshop to York, PA that is modelled after professional workshops with influences by Uta Hagen, Sanford Meisner and David Mamet.
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