The dictionary defines words. The sounds we make have meaning and the dictionary helps to codify that meaning, at least for words.

But what about concepts? In the course of moving through Act I, I learned the definitions of some concepts that are Act I-appropriate. Thanks to the onslaught of marketing nonsense aimed towards young people, I learned the definitions of concepts such as beauty, success, and appropriate roles for girls and women. A lot of them involved hair-care products. This post is not meant to rail against the distortions of reality we are being sold everyday, nonstop–I could create a whole blog about that–but rather the incorrect assumptions made by many of us that these definitions of these concepts are immutable.

Act I of any performance has goals and purposes set into it–introduce the players, set the scene, dive into the interpersonal conflict that makes the audience keep watching. The hallmarks of a successful Act I, however…do not serve the players in Act II very well.

Act II redefines purpose, and success, and yes, beauty, too. Because a beautiful Act I character does not serve Act II’s purpose and does not contribute to its successes, either. Act I characters–people who are wonderful, purpose-driven, and successful on Act I’s terms very rarely continue on that same path in Act II. Should they attempt to do so, they become something else–antagonists, shadow characters, supporting cast. The goals of an Act II are very much different from Act I – Act II is where the performance delves deep into the theme, into the universal truths expressed by the performers and written by the playwright. Act II principals are not on the stage to make you love them–they tread the boards to turn a mirror to the human truths, to the themes and concepts we all seek from a good performance. And their successes are not measured by the same stick as an Act I success is.

It’s taken me some time to shed my Act I definitions of beauty. On the way, I’ve had to confront my outmoded definitions of success and purpose, as well.  I’m still working on a new definition of success, and the quest for purpose is an ongoing play in itself. How have your definitions of beauty changed? Of success? Have you changed the way you seek out purpose in your life?

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