writings on math, logic, philosophy and art


At that moment I knew what the plebs were, much more clearly than when, years earlier, she had asked me. The plebs were us. The plebs were that fight for food and wine, that quarrel over who should be served first and better, that dirty floor on which the waiters clattered back and forth, those increasingly vulgar toasts. The plebs were my mother, who had drunk wine and now was leaning against my father’s shoulder, while he, serious, laughed, his mouth gaping, at the sexual allusions of the metal dealer. They were all laughing, even Lila, with the expression of one who has a role and will play it to the utmost. Elena Ferrante — My brilliant friend

I could have went with “The world is a stage…” as an opening quote, but this one by Elena Ferrante rises the question I want to ask here: What is so bad about playing your role in life?

Shakespeare was clearly on to something too: roles are a fiction. We just act out models that we have seen. A teenager acts in the way that they have seen other teenagers act, because they have no other way to act. An old person acts like an old person, just because that is the role that society assigns to them. Because a teenager that acts like an old person or an old person who acts like a teenager are just ridiculous, no matter how much they themselve believe in their role.

But then, how is playing your own role less ridiculous? It kinda isn’t, but at least you wouldn’t be confusing people over who you are. And what about refusing to play any role — now you are just playing the role of the person who refuses to play roles.

The most ridiculous thing is to take your role too serious. To think that the “you” people perceive is the real “you” and to cling to that “you”, even after it lost it’s purpose. Sometimes roles have purpose. When you are working with people at a common goal, it is good if each one knows his parts. That’s when roles work.

By playing your role right, with good timing and without extra pathos, you acknowledge that roles aren’t something serious.

So, be like Robert De Niro — choose your movies by the script, not by the character you have to play.

Written on December 2, 2023

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