The essential genius

I wasn’t pleasantly surprised by Kierkegaard’s short piece entitled The Crisis and a Crisis in the Life of an Actress.  This piece explores what it means for a public performer to move the masses (my phrasing).  Kierkegaard wants to get beyond any external advantages an actor or actress might have (ie, youth, vigor, good looks, etc.).  What is it that would sustain the presence of someone.  Kierkegaard speaks of a metamorphasis of something internal that is externalized.  Here are some of the qualities of someone in possession of this ability.  First there is a copious restlessness.

Restlessness, in the sense of the hubbub of finitude, soon palls; but restlessness in the pregnant sense, the restlessness of infinity, the joyous, robust originality that, rejuvenating, invigorating, healing, stirs the water is a great rarity, and it is in this sense that she is restlessness (309).

This is the first ‘fieriness of an essential genius’.  Kierkegaard then goes on to speak of the comedy.  The initial task of the comedian is not to incite or stir the crowd but rather to calm them.

While we laugh and laugh and privately revel in the exuberance of the caprice, we continually feel calmed, indescribably persuaded, and lulled, as it were, by the complete safeguard, because his caprice gives the impression that this can go on for any length of time.  On the other hand, if a spontaneous comedian does not calm first and foremost, if there remains just a little bit of anxiety in the spectator as to how far his caprice will extend, the enjoyment is virtually lost.  Ordinarily it is said that a comedian must be able to make spectators laugh; perhaps it would be more correct to say he must first and foremost be able to calm completely, and then the laughter will come by itself, because genuine laughter, this laughter right from the bottom of the heart, does not break forth because of a stimulation but because of a calming. (311)

I like this contrast but I wonder how it plays out in the contemporary need for awkwardness in so many comedies.  It is more simple in the Tom Green and Kickass style shows which will eventually run on empty because the whole point is to push farther.  Thoughts?


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