Behind the Curtain
Behind the Curtain, the theme of the first edition of seesearch, is inspired by the classic scene in the Wizard of Oz, where in the midst of the Wizard’s imposing, booming voice, Toto sneaks away from the group, pulls back the curtain, and reveals a small man with big tricks.
The performance is often larger than the actor and what’s on the outside doesn’t always match the inside, nor must it.
Dorothy and her gang are monumentally crushed, having just completed a harrowing journey down a very long and very yellow road, only to find that the wondrous city of Oz is really all just smoke and mirrors, bad hairdos, and disappointment. I’m sure we’ve all felt this way at some point. Good thing the film doesn’t end here, because sometimes even if what’s behind the curtain isn’t what we expect, surprise is part of the journey and understanding the performance is part of the fun. So click your heels, dig a little deeper, and you might just get what you wish for after all.
Performance is public. Polished, practiced, perfected or even spontaneous and improvised, but always meant to entertain. It’s a show. Whatever the performance is: stage, screen, or party trick, the purpose of the act – what makes it a performance – is for the viewer to be wholly fixed on what is visible, on what is happening in front of them. We love the escape, the glossy illusion, and are happy to believe. Most of life, however, is much more than performance. The past, process, and perception behind what is public is often the most interesting.
We live in the past because now is very hard to catch up to. And even though now is already then by the time we live it, we try to understand our moments by learning the important moments that came before them, the lineage of time and what lined the way along the way. Whether it is what happened to make that couple walking down the street argue so loudly, or why the family-owned deli on the corner was started 25 years ago, or the story of your neighborhood developing from a few dusty streets, the past is a preoccupation. The present owes much to the past and perhaps that is why we spend so much time saying thank you. Museums, monuments precedents, tradition, customs, vintage, antiques: sometimes knowing where we used to be helps us to feel grounded in an ever-shifting now.
Our curiosity doesn’t stop at history, but goes further with thinking about how. How do you do it? How do you make it? How does it work? When we think deeply about process, we are not only craving to know the mechanics, the step-by-step tangible actions, or the manipulation of materials. For us, how also encompasses the intangible. How is that possible? How can you think like that? How did you make the choice to do this and not something completely different? Sometimes life is a smooth downhill coast on a cruiser, but other times it’s a thankless slog, in the rain, with paper bags of groceries. Hearing a story about how someone created an amazing business or finds the inspiration for their art, gives us renewed energy and inspiration. Appreciating the process helps us appreciate both what’s around us and the power of a person.
Despite the value of past and process the world isn’t simply based on how things are made and constructed, evolve and change, or what happened before to get us to this day. The world isn’t based on fact, but rather how we perceive these facts. Understanding what is truly behind the curtain is much more than the equivalent of opening up the hood of your car and staring at the component parts, much more even than knowing how that car works and why. Instead, perception is a truth that is often tricky to reveal.
Back in Oz, when that green curtain was pulled back, the man behind was certainly not a wizard. They had asked this simple man for a heart, a brain, courage, and to go home. When they learned that he had no great powers, they gave up hope. However, though he only gave them only a clock, a diploma, a metal, and hope, what he really gave them was the ability to perceive their situation differently than how it appeared on the surface.
Looking at what’s really going on is not always a big reveal.
Sometimes there is no wizard, just a simple man. Sometimes they are the same. It’s all in your perception of what lies behind the curtain.