How to Be Great: On Production & Potentiality

a performative lecture by A.G.
Miami Beach
June 8, 2023

The multimedia lecture explores the alchemy of anticipation, nerves, and hope, and how it relates to the smaller performative actions that make up our everyday lives, proposing to infuse them with the same level of care and grandeur as our much larger spectacles.

How to Be Great — Booklet

How to Be Great: On Production & Potentiality
by A.G.

Every morning, after the dust of the mind settles, I confront an intense indebtedness to materialize something of greatness. Everyday as if a passing opportunity for a meaningful and profound contribution, of something truly radical. When I’m in this brainstorm, I often find that I’ve raised my arms, facing my palms together, my fingers curled as if I’m conjuring an orb of energy, and while I’ve come to realize that this is my body trying to show my mind what this insatiable feeling feels like, it’s almost as if I’m trying to materialize this something of greatness out of the pure desire to, as if my will alone could spark its manifestation.

Obviously, sheer want isn’t enough, and although will and desire can spark something, that something is not greatness, itself, but a long string of committed efforts, leading to what we hope is that thing of greatness that we seek.

My own desire remains unrequited, and as much as I try to conceive of some thing that could be that something of greatness, as wild as the options may sometimes seem, not a single idea resonates anywhere near the vibrancy of what my hands are trying to show my mind.

That glaring question continues to be: what next?
Pragmatically, I’m not really sure what the solution is, only that, perhaps, the solution can be found within my inability to find a solution, because I can’t help but assume that the anxiety I feel is a result of unresolved potentiality, of its pressure building up inside of me. Potentiality is a force in itself, and although it is essentially nothing, it is in fact, potentially, everything— and while the infinite cosmic banquet of possibilities is the cause of my daily frustration, it is cause for extreme optimism, as well.

So there may not be that which is next, but perhaps that which is eternal, and in the relative scale of our human experience, we’ll say: that which is continuous. What continues is our commitment to existence, and existence is, as well all know, a lot of work. Simply to be is a massive production. The sheer quantity of sensory qualities in the production of our unique realities is incomprehensible. The amount of time that I’ve spent trying to conceive of something of greatness, effort that could of instead been spent on this grand production of existence, is simply unsustainable, and while my desire and my will have remained consistently focused on the production of some thing great, there hasn’t been much left for some thing here and now, the daily process of actions that make up this individual existence.

Effort is the applied motion to each and every choice made, but the precipice of effort exists as a liminal state, in which all potential effort remains just that: potentially possible. This unrealized atmospheric quality exists in space and in time; in the silence before the snap of a movie’s clapboard; before the director calls “action;” before the rise of a velvet theater curtain; in the haze above an empty stage; in this emotional space between my hands. It contains the elements of anticipation; nerves; empathy; suspense; worry; joy; excitement— it is an air to be felt, psychologically and physiologically.

This palpable state is infinitely rich in information, and without the inevitable spark of desire and will to set effort into action, it remains an untapped resource. So, what if it was possible to harvest this invisible compound? What if we could extract it from within space and time, and synthesize its undeniably intoxicating properties, so that it could be infused into something else; to exploit it; to appropriate it; even to mutate it?

The difficulty in this experiment is that the palpably exciting effects of potentiality can actually only be collected from our own liminal experiences in the witnessing of performative acts, meaning that the compound is actually psychosomatic, when we ourselves are in the experience of potentiality, in that precipice of creative action. It is in this moment and place when the immaterial nature of potentiality becomes undeniably material. Hormonally, juices are flowing, and since it is in the experience of the performative where this environmental chemistry can be found, the experience, then, does not itself produce an off-gas of potentiality. Instead, it releases a mandatory invitation, a catalyst for the bodies of the audience to feel this experience of potentiality.

Since greatness is a quality which cannot be quantified, but instead experienced, is it possible that “greatness” is a choosable option— an outcome if properly engineered in? What if greatness is simply a conceptual gauge, indicative of committed and maintained performative effort, an existence strung together by artful choices, which presents the possibility for the sustained experience of potentiality?

In order to cultivate an environment conducive to committed artful effort, one must adopt a playful nature. Play is a very important way of being, as a direct approach to spontaneity, levity, and bliss, but also as a reminder that it’s in our intrinsic nature, as sentient beings, to be creative, or as Canadian philosopher Kenneth Schmitz describes the essence of play, “to suspend the ordinary.”

The potentiality of the performative rests in the unimagined, awaiting inspiration from a creative mind and a playful body, to be sparked by joy and sustained by wonder, to be performed sincerely and intentionally. We’ve established that existence is a continuous fiber of actions. The core of that material is made of desire and will, and while committed effort propels our fiber of consciousness forward, through the experience of our realities, the core reminds us why, and that “why” is what actors call a superobjective, the ultimate motivation for their character, and our unique cardinal desire and life-long pursuit. That “why,” articulated as a clear and certain superobjective, navigates the direction which effort will follow. In other words, once we are clear of our ultimate intention, every choice made can not only be executed artfully, but, can also be executed with the intention to direct us closer to that unique superobjective.

With a superobjective as a rubric, all minor choices made can be reconsidered as subunit objectives, and this sequence of micro-choices ultimately forms the structure our daily realities. What if we could imbue each of these subunits, the smaller acts of our existence, with that same palpably exciting compound, with the same potent qualities of anticipation, of nerves, of worry, of joy, of excitement, with the same approach as if something great is at stake? How could we infuse the experience of witnessing the micro-performative acts of our everyday with the same heightened quality of potentiality as something much greater? In other words, how can we elevate every choice that we make?

Maybe we simply have to care more, because each of these subunit objectives is an opportunity for an imaginative, artful, considered, and intentional creative production, whatever the scale may be.

I’ve accredited most of my existential anxieties on my inability to create some thing of greatness, but perhaps the solution is actually quite simple. Since the production to be is indeed a massive undertaking, maybe “greatness” is only truly attainable through a gradual process of accumulation, because a process of minor choice-making, as slow and gradual as it may feel, can still be perceived as a singular entity, a creation as a sum of all the chosen parts. That being said, the best course of action would be to pull focus from the isolated masterpieces, the individual magnum opuses that we once thought defined our greatness, and instead take great care and intentional consideration on the smaller units of the larger production; a daily practice of artful choice-making, craft, and commitment; of action and of effort. Then, perhaps, the performative production as a whole could be experienced as some thing of “greatness,” that thing being the personal enterprise of our own existence.

There is a tremendous amount of trust required in this ongoing methodology, because, as Dr. Stephen Aaron, a clinical psychologist and former professor of acting at the Juilliard School, has pointed out so simply, “the actor lacks the basic tools for self- evaluation because [they] cannot easily step away from [themself]. In fact, what [they have] created vanishes the moment [they] stop working.” “[They are] both the piano and the piano player.” In other words, when we are hard at work on our own craft of existence, it’s difficult to listen to the song we play as it’s being played.

In conclusion, perhaps it doesn’t have to be about the few grand spectacles, maybe true greatness is a layered quality, with each small act laid down with artful thoughtfulness, an attentive commitment to awareness, performativity, and intentionality in the direction of an ultimate desire. With a reverence for the production and potentiality of existence, maybe the greatness that I seek to materialize, every day, can be found in the continuity of everything.

© A.G.