I’ve gone back and forth on the importance of comparisons. A friend of mine was saying that any time someone announces that some actor/writer/dancer/singer is the next ****ta da!!!!**** (big name), that person is almost immediately unfucked right out of the limelight, even if it’s meant to be a compliment. My automatic reply was, ‘well, of course; that ‘compliment’ speaks over the artist’s identity. It’s like saying your work is an excellent mimicry of something that was truly original. It’s not a compliment. It’s a way of controlling the mass response. There’s nowhere to go after a verdict like that, so of course the targeted artist can only saunter off into the void until they are allowed to emerge with something that is reminiscent of no one.’
But, comparisons are a form of self-awareness. I can’t nix all of them. I’m also trying desperately not to hinge this entire post on ‘context’ because even though YES CONTEXT MATTERS OMFG YES I just can’t read anymore about it. I’m very cranky because reasons and also it’s about ten degrees hotter than the moist area behind my dog’s lower left molar and so no I cannot write about goddamn context today. I’ve had many comparative compliments and I’ve loved all of them. They usually juxtapose drastically with whatever my own perceptions are of my work, and even if they aren’t 100% complimentary, I have welcomed all of them. (Unless the person saying it is a pompous shart whose opinion matters just as much as seven yeast addled maggots crawling uselessly over a wound that has already healed, right? because contex-OMFG SHUT UP shhhh no.) I don’t usually feel restricted by any of them, but then again, I have an audience of, like, eleven. So. Possibly the ‘crowd’ that sees such a remark about me isn’t likely to succumb to such swaying, either.
It’s a slippery arena, these comparisons. When I go to an audition, refraining from perpetual comparison is an advanced skill in and of itself. The committee exists to compare. Maybe not you to your immediate group (ie, you’re not so much competing against James and his stark refusal to play Mozart like he isn’t currently being fondled by a bulldozer with no driver; you’re being measured against a set of criteria they are supposedly holding for every contestant rather than you being compared to a specific set of immediately adjacent people), but the form of measurement is comparison. The comparison is part of the function of that audition. And, truly, isn’t it a fundamental part of every experience? How else are we measuring things that don’t end in a batch of cupcakes or a lone statistic that is never juxtaposed with any other measurement in its documented history?
I’ve been most aided by thinking of comparisons only in regard to my previous self, even if the previous self in a certain scenario is the one from two seconds ago that miscounted the same rest AGAIN and is a useless twatwaffle who should probably stick to drinking scotch and screaming at ragweed for existing. Deciding to only focus on what I want to do better or more confidently than I did before is the only method that will allow me to walk out of an audition with my sanity still somewhat intact. I tell myself that the method is only for auditions and private practice time; that it is most functional in those settings. I get specific about goals and then sidle out of any speculation until enough time has passed that I can speculate without simultaneously watching my giddy ego twirl itself out the nearest window of assumption.
And now we are back to the delightful shit-woven cloak of self-awareness, aren’t we. When I sit in rehearsal or enter my school (where I teach), I am immediately infuriated by the brazen oblivion that shies away from repercussions by disregarding comparisons of any kind as a necessary learning tool. This cloak, that I have tediously nurtured and tended, often with my own shit, but very literally just as often with everyone else’s, exists because I refuse to live in a house with one window. I can’t praise the view if I know that my swatch of it misses the negligence and mediocrity behind the brick wall of my home’s southern side. I can’t embrace that same view if I know that the sunset on the eaves of my home’s roof will molt the gables and rend the sky’s edges nearest the ends of my stability. That window is only as good as its contex* (AUGH FMentireL). I won’t blink at the shallow uninformed comparisons, but I will likewise not release my death clench on the nuanced and passionate glances my world throws me.