No Walls: No courage = No Victory

RE:  Richard  Armitage, British Actor @RCArmitage

Dear Richard,

It is of course your absolute right to choose what to write and what to delete on your timeline and I would always respect your choices and freedom of speech or lack of it, just as I hope others respect mine. I feel compelled however to express my deepest sadness to learn this morning that you have also deleted the very first tweet you sent to Mr Trump with the images of the Berlin wall and the #nowalls tag.

When I ponder on the Annals of History, I always end up with the same reflection: How many awful trends, atrocities and human suffering could have been avoided if only more people had been courageous enough to make their voices heard in the face of evil, greed and pride? I often imagine myself living in those episodes of history and try to honestly gage what I would have done in those situations; what I would do now, if a similar situation arose. This is a mental exercise I do often to pluck up the courage to speak up when I know it matters; when I know it counts. It is scary and it comes at a price, but I am not here to win a popularity contest. Life is too precious, too exquisite to simply settle for that. I guess, I do what I’d call a “John Proctor” drill. God knows this world is becoming an increasingly hostile place and the time may well come again for all of us to make such impossible choices.

I feel we are very much on the onset of such a situation, but as in previous chapters of history, for so many of us our attention is focused on all the wrong things, the trivial things, things of no real consequence to the wellness of humanity and this world in general. So many of us have become complacent and voyeurs in others’ lives whose reality is so much worse than our own and yet, we often dismiss it as not our problem. It is their life it affects after all, not ours.

The whole world is watching, because the whole world is looking for answers, the right answers. In a world where social media has such predominance and worldwide reception, it seems to me it is the optimum platform to make some waves which in turn create bigger waves that ultimately can pulverise some of these issues threatening the very delicate balance upon which our world stands today.

I was so elated when I saw you tweeted that hashtag to Mr Trump. It gave me hope that things can change; that there are those like yourself who act on their sense of responsibility to the wellness of those beyond ourselves, responsibility to stand up and be counted as another voice who is prepared to risk everything for a reality so much bigger than our own, and yet so intrinsic to our own. It blew me away to learn that someone of your popularity and following would have the courage and character to stand up to Mr Trump and speak up. After all, when I do so, I am not really risking all that much, or at least not yet, but for someone like you, there is much more at stake. The ripple that your wave will create is multiplied by the thousands, whilst mine may initially have some impact but soon dies away.

There are so many youngsters and adults even who wait by your side every single day, virtually anyway, to hear what you have to say or not say. So many completely at a loss as to what to make of what they see in the news and in their towns, on their doorstep. So many seeking direction from voices like yours, voices which belong to individuals that are already placed in a strategic spot to be able to change the course of events, to influence through their gifting, their work, their mere presence, the very fabric of history.

Perhaps I am mistaken and the ripples that your tweet to Mr Trump created are not as powerful as I believe them to have been, but I am certain that the effect of you taking that tweet down will be monumental. I fear that it will take the wind out of the sails of those who are inspired by and aspire to emulate the behaviour of the people they see as role models, exemplary, trust-worthy. Not to mention that Mr Trump’s following and anyone who is watching will regard it as a retreat. Another battle won. Let’s go on our merry way to win the whole war.

I do not sit here in judgement. How could I? I know nothing about your circumstances besides what we read in the media and what you put on twitter. You obviously have your reasons for your change of heart. I am no one to judge you one way or the other. As I said at the beginning, it is your absolute right to do as you will. I simply wanted to share my sadness this morning as one of the thousands of people who are inspired by your character, integrity and moral and social conscience, that you have retraced your steps on what I felt in my heart to be a gigantic leap of courage and extraordinary behaviour in this current climate of self-exultation, self-absorption and self-glorification, qualities which Mr Trump is the true champion of.

With my love always,

Mercedes Underwood

 

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WHERE DID MY TRUE SELF GO?

The end of a year is always a good place to reflect upon where one’s life is at and where it is heading. My problem is that being a thinker is an intrinsic and essential part of who I am . I think too much, too deep, too often. Can’t be helped! When you meditate on things as often and as deeply as I do, you come to realise that when certain thoughts and ideas keep creeping up is because they need to be considered and acted upon, or else they will haunt you and be forever present as painful reminders of your lack of courage and the hope deferred of what could have potentially been a much more fulfilling, purposeful life. There is something in our consciousness, in our spirit that acts like the rudder of our life. We are the ones turning the rudder but ultimately it is most definitely not us at the helm, or at least that is my own personal experience. I am under no false illusion that I direct my steps, but at the end I would like to think that I was able to at least recognise and act wisely, intuitively on those moments in life when I encountered a junction on the road or when a seemingly accidental curve ball was thrown my way to force me into jumping one way or another, to make a choice, to push forward without fear or coercion.

Perhaps what I have been experiencing in these last few months is nothing more than a mid-life crisis; a point in one’s life when you take stock and ponder on all the what-ifs, all the alternative paths one could have taken or may yet still need to take. It is a cliché to state that in the midst of investing one’s life in raising a family and cultivating a marriage with solid roots; in living sacrificially by putting everyone else’s happiness before your own, one can easily loose their identity and simply be identified as the link that keeps different chains together, be it family, work or relationships. Cliché or not, I have most definitely found this is true in my own life.

The recurrent thought or voice echoing on my head as of late has been saying: “Stop hiding behind what you are good at, what is familiar, and go on the journey to discover what it is you are destined to be, what it is you are meant to excel at. Go on a journey of self-discovery. Put for once in your life yourself first and discover what it is that you were made for, what makes your heart sing. I have spent so many years putting everyone else’s needs before my own that I am beginning to feel that my voice, the essence of who I am has got lost in the midst of life’s demands; my voice has been drowned out by those whose voices matter most or so I thought.

I know this will sound heartless and self-absorbed, but I am all about being honest to others and primarily to myself, and so I call it as I see it. Yes, I must say it: I would like to wake up tomorrow and not feel the ongoing, relentless, unforgiving burden of being a mum, a wife, a sister, a daughter or a friend. I want to know what it feels like to be truly free, free from a heavy sense of responsibility, free from the yoke of religion, education, history, expectations and promises, free from the oppressive sense that our life is all panned out for us; from the predictability of what is to come; the barrenness of what will never be. I long for my chains to be broken so that I can walk forward with only one thought in mind: How can I best use my personality, my knowledge and my gifting to be able to claim when it is all said and done that I have lived my life fully, without reservations, fear or regrets; that I have always been true to myself, pursued my truth and no one else’s?

Every fibre of my being assures me that I was meant for more than what I am today, than what I have achieved so far, and I am not talking about a reputation, fame or material success. I am referring solely to a place where my life will finally reach its purpose and full meaning; a point where I can assuredly say: “I have arrived”; a point where there will be no more internal turmoil, wrestling or strife. Perhaps such a place doesn’t exist, but why then be tormented by a void within that no one and nothing can fill? I know I am not alone in feeling this. When you move in Christian circles, you are told that only God can fill that void, but God’s presence is ever beating in my life and yet that void, that call to something more meaningful not only remains but rings louder and clearer each time.

I do not regret the path I have chosen, far from it, but I do not want to resent it because it stopped me from finding out who I am besides Mercedes the mother, the daughter, the sister, the wife. There is so, so much potential in all of us to do extraordinary things. I do not want to short-change myself by hiding behind what it is I am expected to be doing instead of braving it and embarking on the quest of finding what I was truly made to be. I know that longing I feel burning inside of me is a seed that has been planted in my soul. I did not put it there. To ignore that latent undeniable inner call that incites us to discover what is yet to be achieved, what is yet to be fulfilled is to clip the wings of a bald eagle and expect it to still dazzle us with its majestic presence and skill.

There must be more than this. I know there is!

Seeds planted deep into our DNA were meant to grow into fruitful mighty trees

Screenshot (757)Screenshot (758)Dear Richard,

Your Christmas message on twitter moved me so deeply and struck a vulnerable chord in the fabric of my being. I am a foreigner living in the UK. In the current climate, not a day goes by when I don’t give thanks for the opportunity to live in a country which is not my own, to have been welcomed with open arms and to be able to immerse myself in another culture, learn and hopefully give something back too. My folks are all in Spain and though I do not see them as often as I wish to, this is due to the life I chose and not a set of depleting circumstances forced upon me, beyond my control. To think that things could so easily change and I could be forced out from my own home, family, friends and livelihood here in the UK shakes me up to the core.

I miss my large family back in Spain terribly at times but I am blessed and lucky enough to be able to get on a plane at the drop of a hat and go and see them, just like you do. I cannot even begin to fathom what it must be like to feel such terror and threat of staying in your own home that you feel you have no other choice but to drop everything and everyone and flee for your life into the unknown and sadly sometimes into a worse fate than the alternative.

I was out at a Christmas party on Friday night and there I chatted to a Belgian guy who visited Syria many years ago. He told me about this stunningly beautiful country where people used to enjoy the affluence you speak off. Many lived in villas with swimming pools and enjoyed the luxuries and comfort that so many of us take for granted and feel a sense of entitlement to in the West today. And then he told me about the Evil that hit and tore this country apart, the rapes, the violence, the cruelty, the utter annihilation that has engulfed this nation. These people and anyone fleeing their own countries are no more deserving of this hell on earth than you and I, but they sure deserve our compassion and empathy, our love and support. It could just as easily be us having to face, for whatever reason, displacement from our homes and a total alienation from or being robbed off the life that we have always known and enjoyed. Suggesting closing our doors, borders and hearts to those in need is not progress but regressing into a mentality of the survival of the strongest, where the humane part of us is gobbled up by our animal instincts. It is regressing into a primitive state of ignorance and savagery, of dominance and control, a state of staleness and blind spots where cultures and races can no longer learn from each other and enrich each other’s points of view and gifting, be it intellectual, artistic, or even humanitarian. Closing our borders, hearts and minds is regressing back into chapters in history of oppression, annihilation, fear, dominance, holocaust, suspicion and stagnation, creating the perfect environment for yet more radical and extreme individuals to thrive in and take away the core values so many fought so valiantly and sacrificed so much to give us today.

Richard, you are absolutely right. Who are we to judge who can and cannot have what we enjoy every single day? What sets us apart from others to feel with such pride that we’ve earned a life of freedom, civil rights, choice and affluence? Absolutely nought. What makes us so darn special and sets us apart from those who live in the Kibera Slums of Nairobi or the Favelas of Brazil, those who are persecuted for their faith or discriminated against because of their race or religion? Absolutely nought! It is mere chance that has placed each and every one of us in the place we live in, to be born within a particular race or colour and to be brought up to be guided by a certain creed. To think otherwise is to lead humanity into a dangerous downward spiral of selfishness, self-centeredness, narrow-mindednes, greed and success at the expense of innocent people’s suffering and destruction; the most despicable legacy or lack of anyone could leave behind.

There is, however, a point in which I wholeheartedly disagree with you. Your profession as an actor not only does not automatically discount you from voicing your opinion in these matters, but rather places a heavy responsibility on you to do so. Whether you recognise it or not your celebrity status, your reputation and outstanding work as an artist precedes you and makes you into an exemplary role model to thousands of people out there. You have an exclusive and unique platform to not only vent your opinions but to stand up and be counted as a person who will use their influence and global presence to make a vital difference in the course of events in this turbulent world we live in. God forbid we leave the fate of this planet solely to politicians. It is specially people like you who through artistry but also through the multitudinous following you enjoy in today’s most powerful tool, social media, can actively fight the threat posed by the far right views you refer to and challenge the views and opinions of those who blinded by their own egos and agendas are willing to sell their soul to the highest bidder, even when that means putting at risk the lives of millions of innocent individuals.

My wish for this Christmas and indeed for the year ahead is a wish for more courageous men and women like you in advantageous and strategic places in society to follow their true calling or the fire in their belly, the flame that burns within at the core of their being to come forth and challenge relentlessly radical and extremists views at the hands of those who can do the most damage to democratic multi-culturally, intellectually and artistically rich and vibrant societies. I am a great believer in investing my life in exploring and pursuing without fear those little nudges we all get, the quiet small voice in our head that is telling us to push forward in certain areas, to go beyond what we are good at and into what ignites us, what we are most passionate and uncompromising about. Everything about you, starting with the name you have been given, shouts out leadership, righteousness, courage, sincerity and above all an incandescent and latent social and moral consciousness, an unwavering determination to fight for what is right. Yes, you are an actor, but I see another side of you coming through, striving to make itself heard, burning up in everything you do and say. I see a man with remarkable, exceptional qualities, qualities which are not only required but which are essential to fight the good fight, to fight to the end for the things that truly matter in this precarious world we live in.

 May the force be with you! God knows I am.

With love,

Mercedes

SIGNS AND WONDERS ARE ALL AROUND US – PART 3

Our holiday certainly got off to a very interesting start. Approximately 10 hours after our wonderful but altogether spooky encounter with Martin Freeman at Heathrow airport, we touched down on North American soil, and what a soil that is. It saddens me greatly that having witnessed such glorious landscapes and communities with such diverse and heroic provenance, America’s presence in today’s world news is dominated by gun crime occurrences and senseless killings.

The flight from London to Denver was rather uneventful which is always a welcome state of affairs, bearing in mind hundreds of people are completely at the mercy of technology and the skill, competence and work ethic of the two men or women at the helm. Nevertheless, it is worth mentioning that as another little bit of encouragement sent my way was the presence of a third pilot who was sitting with his family right next to us on the plane. In the mind of a person who is a nervous flyer, two pilots are better than one but having three pilots on board is even better than two.

I cannot go into detail about every single place we stopped at during our road trip. We covered over 3,000km by car and so I will only mention my highlights, those moments during which the signs and wonders that stand before you help you regain that much-needed sense of perspective which we often neglect as we bear the burden of everyday life’s concerns and responsibilities.

I have always been very intrigued by the journey of the pioneers across North America; I have always been stunned by their courage and boldness to abandon everything they knew to go chasing the unknown, chasing their dreams of a better life. This fascination of mine became even more poignant when I discovered a few years back that my own great-grandfather left the Basque Country in the North of Spain and travelled to San Francisco, California, in 1907, for these very same reasons and with this very same adventurous spirit which perhaps as for so many, was born out of an asphyxiating sense of desperation. It seems my great grandfather’s gamble paid off and he spent 40 years of his life in the States, returning to Spain at the end of his life with a small fortune and plenty of stories to be passed down the generations.

I knew that though he arrived in California, he spent most of the 40 years in Idaho and so my family and I agreed beforehand that Idaho was a definite point of interest during our road trip. Having had a good night sleep, we woke up the next morning full of anticipation at the prospect of finally setting foot on some of the many spots in the States recognised as places of natural outstanding beauty. And so our adventure set off from Colorado Springs. Amongst various fascinating places where you could almost smell the dust and hardship of the old settlements, we came across a gem named “The Garden of the Gods”, a natural park filled with the most awe-inspiring and striking rock formations. It seems many of the native American tribes had a great spiritual connection to this place and it is easy to understand why. It is an incredibly dramatic landscape as it is unique. The beautifully red sculpturesque and monumental rock formations were not the only signs we encountered in the park, however. No sooner we got out of our car, this uncanny sign welcomed us:

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The image of a snake is full with symbolism and meaning for a Christian at any time, but context is everything and seeing that sign at that moment in time automatically brought it to life for me. I always look for meaning in things beyond the obvious and what easily appears to the naked eye, and so this translated for me as a gentle and ironic reminder that in life we tend to be safe, if we stay on the beaten track, but step out of it, and you will have to deal with those whose turf you are invading or threatening to bring change to. A lesson we all do well to learn in everyday living. I have to look no further than my own social media experience just prior to this trip. Everybody talks about the value of free speech and how wonderful democracy is, but dare to challenge the status quo, to go against what a fierce majority are saying about any particular subject and you might aswell have begged for World War 3 to start, because retaliation will come your way regardless of whether you deserve it or not.

I leave you for now with some images from the Garden of the Gods.

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WOULD YOU PLEASE SUPPORT ME IN RAISING MONEY FOR CANCER RESEARCH? UPDATE

Just wanted to leave an update here on how I am getting on with my Dryathlon to raise funds for Cancer Research. This is my first ever fundraiser. Please don’t think I am in the habit of asking people for donations. It is not in my nature to ask people for anything, so I embark on this plea with much apprehension and fully aware of how irritating it can be to be made to feel like you are not worth your salt unless you part with your cash to support the millions of amazing charitable causes happening today all around the planet.

I am not the adventurous type or maybe I am, but perhaps not in the thrill-seeking sense that motivates so many to challenge themselves with mammoth tasks such as triathlons, marathons, mountain climbing, parachuting and the like. My courage and adventurous spirit are definitely there but shape up in a much more “behind the scenes”, “mingling in the background”, demure way. I am an introvert and don’t fare well at all when I mingle with lots of people all at once or when the limelight is on me, so seen but not heard is how I like to do things, at least when it comes to my achievements. If you have been reading this blog for a while you will know that with regards to my convictions and the principles I stand by, I make a point of being heard or at least of trying to. Some things are just too important, too essential to who I am to succumb to holding back for the sake of peace keeping and compromise.

I am really pleased to say that so far I have raised, including gift aid, a total of £400. Not bad for a month of giving up alcohol, but I know I can do better, and so I have now upped the ante and committed to giving up alcohol for three months if I reach £500 and for 6 months if I raise £1000, which means I may have an alcohol-free Christmas and that is going to be the toughest challenge of all.

I realise when you compare my challenge with the mighty physical and mental battles others take on for charity, what I am doing is nothing to shout about, but I am a great believer in small beginnings and humble efforts. I am convinced that if every single person who is able, used what they have to improve another person’s life, be it directly or indirectly, this world would be a much more balanced and healthy place.

Besides, it is not just cancer which affects so many of us but alcoholism too. You must be wondering at this point whether I am an alcoholic myself. No, I am not, but I do like my wine and if it wasn’t for the grace of God, I could easily be one. I am doing this as a change in my personal lifestyle, but much more so in honour and remembrance of those whose life has been lost to either of these two awful illnesses or to those whose life has been affected in some detrimental way by them.

I hope that if you fall into either category and can spare some change, you can make a donation no matter how small. Who knows? If I was to reach £1000, I may have to consider remaining apart from my dear old friends Chardonnay and Pinot Noir for even a year. Now, that would be a Marathon worth shouting about, wouldn’t it?

Cancer and alcoholism have been in the scene for far too long. I’d say they have definitely overstayed their welcome. Will you stand with me to bid them farewell? If you are a bit cynical and are thinking right now: That will never happen just as “The poor will always be with us..”, I put it to you:

“Where there is no vision, the people perish…”

http://www.justgiving.com/Mercedes-Underwood-dryathlete2015

SIGNS AND WONDERS ARE ALL AROUND US – PART 2

When you are a nervous flyer, you need all the help you can get: moral support, emotional reassurance, the odd reminder of how to breathe properly and even the more effective reminder that whether we fret or not, it is all in God’s hands anyway, so why waste energy worrying about what may or may not happen, right? Easier said than done, though. Phobias can be and often are totally irrational, but for those of us who suffer them, they are as real as the air that we breathe and often cause you to suffer in silence uncontrollably; they are as tangible as feeling your every heartbeat resonate so loud, strong and fast within your chest that your heart no longer feels like a heart, but instead a time-bomb which could explode at any moment; they are as evident as copious amounts of sweat running down the palms of your hands soaking whatever you touch. It certainly doesn’t improve things when you are surrounded by people who lack any kind of empathy or compassion and who put your phobias down as cowardice or a lack of courage, enhancing your already disproportionate sense of doom and gloom.

I always pray hard and often before boarding a plane, not just as I am sitting down in readiness for take off but on the days leading up to my departure. I pray that there is not much turbulence and that we have a safe and enjoyable flight. It is often said that when we pray, God does not answer our prayers so that we get what we asked for, but so that we get what we need to build up our character in order to fulfil our purpose during our journey on this earth. I have found this to be true, time and time again. There are however times when I strongly sense God sending me a life-line or some sort of encouragement to ease the fear of what I am about to embark on, literally.

On this occasion, that lifeline came in the form of Martin Freeman. Only God really knows the life-altering, redemptive and healing effect that The Crucible and Richard Armitage’s rendition of John Proctor had on me; only God really knows the deep and complex reasons why I feel my spirit is so akin to Richard’s; only God really knows the turmoil and heart-break I have gone through in these last few months as I have experienced first hand what it is to be hounded like an animal on social media for simply exercising my right to free speech and to expressing up-front my personal opinions with respect and honesty. Therefore, only God could have known how much was truly riding on this “holiday” and what would be the one and only occurrence which would put my fear of flying at bay; only God could have known how to take away my apprehension and replace it with ironic humour; how to put in front of me a sign that anyone else but me could have missed (indeed no one else but us queuing up to go through security, seemed to recognise Martin Freeman); only He could have been so attuned to me to give me the very timely and opportune reminder that though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for He is with me; his rod and his staff shall comfort me; He will never leave me, nor forsake me.

Think of all the actors in the world I could have bumped into at the airport; the very many days when I could have been at that specific terminal (compared to most I travel often and not just for pleasure but to visit relatives); the many hours in the day when flights take off; the many moments in a minute, minutes in an hour when I could have found myself in that exact queue right next to someone who is so emblematic of the very reasons why I was so desperate and in need of getting away at this point in my life. A miracle would have been to have Richard Armitage himself queuing up right behind me, but bearing in mind I was aware that he was in Vancouver or LA at the time, that turn of events would have been too obvious a choice of a miracle and not have required much faith on my part, would it?

To be continued in Part 3

FEEDING ON THE VERY EVILS WE CLAIM TO HATE IS LIKE TRYING TO CURE A CANCER WHILST WE GO ON SMOKING – Part 2

PART 2

Just as I am finding it extremely hard to make any sense out of what I am about to share here, I am also struggling to put it into words, to get my thoughts together so that I can put my points across in the fairest, most respectful and sensitive manner. It is a real challenge though to pass on information to someone else when one’s head cannot get around the inherent contradiction, the bi-polarity, the paradox and even the impossibility of the truths contained in that information, so please bear with me.

As I wrote to Richard on a recent tweet (though I think it is safe to say that with 106K+ followers, he probably receives an average of say, 1K messages on his inbox per day and that’s just from Twitter, so the chances of him ever reading my ramblings are pretty much non-existent. Having said that though, if I want to say something which I deeply care about to a person I also deeply care about, I like to say it to the person and not to someone else about that person. So with that in mind, I recently told Richard on a tweet that I admire and respect him hugely and that my rants do not seek confrontation or antagonism for the sake of it, but simply reflection In an ideal world, it would be wonderful to have the chance to hear his feedback, not personally to me but to those fans and supporters out there who may be as puzzled and wondering the same things as I am right now.

Here it goes. Picture this: the same super talented actor who gave us a heart-wrenching, soul-searching, spell-binding rendition of John Proctor in The Crucible; the same inspiring, purposeful and inspired human being who being interviewed about what he hoped people would take away with them on having seen his performance and the play, said: “I hope our audience leave with a sense of purpose, duty and responsibility”, and who in answer to “What is the most important thing that playing Proctor has taught you?”, said “That truth may be hidden, buried, warped and discarded, but man becomes closer to “His God” when he fights for that truth, even at the cost of his own life. The courage to die for the truth”; the same man who in answer to “What aspects of society/culture do you think The Crucible best speaks to today?” said: “It speaks of prejudice and persecution and any society which has permitted its government to legislate in favour of such denial of human rights, be it race, gender, religion, sexual preference and political orientation”, and still the same man who when asked “What do you hope the audience will be left contemplating after the performance?” answered with these wonderfully inspiring words: “I hope our audience leave with a sense of purpose, duty and responsibility… That they are at one with their mortality and that they believe in love.” Wow, I have goose-bumps all over even now. To hear an individual of his current popularity with the platform and the following he enjoys, speak in those terms, with such clarity, courage and determination, is for me almost as powerful and ground-breaking as watching Martin Luther King deliver his “I have a dream..” speech. It’s a breath of much needed fresh air in a world ruled by Mammon, greed, the obsession and glorification of evil, violence and a sense of entitlement to immediate gratification for everything, in every circumstance, even when we don’t deserve any.

When I read those words for the first time I was set alight; my own ongoing search for truth, not just spiritual but for all aspects of our existence, was rekindled instantly with an incredible might. I thought at the time: “that’s exactly the clarity of thought and purpose I want to have in my own life, in my own journey. This guy is on a quest, a worthy quest; he is onto something. He has great leadership qualities which are clearly manifested in the roles he likes to play and in the fact that he is often drawn to those roles. There is a heroic quality about him, a courage, a boldness. He knows where he is going and how to best get there. I’m in for the long haul, I thought.

Many people go about life totally clueless, surviving from one day to the next, purposeless, enjoying life’s pleasures and the good turns life throws at them, but not really preparing for the bad ones or even having an ounce of consciousness about the fact that whether we like it or not, we all carry a responsibility in how we live and of what we do with our time, our gifts and our resources. If not for anyone else, we owe it to ourselves to honour the life we’ve been given and to try to develop our potential to its maximum, try to do something meaningful with how little or how much we may have. I want my life to mean something, to leave something beautiful and good behind. I want the immediate world that I engaged with whilst alive to be a better place when I’m gone, because I was there and did something to better it. I don’t see much point in living otherwise, quite frankly.

Here is an actor whose journey does not appear to be dictated or ruled by what sells, what provides fame and fortune, what brings popularity and the magic formula to limitless open doors that lead to where one wants to go, whatever that may be. We all have to make a living, but in my opinion it has always transpired that for Richard Armitage his freedom when it comes to choosing a role is not coerced by the potential to become wealthy or by sacrificing, supressing what is in his heart, in his dreams in order to comply with the accepted trends and unending pressures within the Entertainment Industry.

During The Crucible he often spoke of being drawn powerfully to the role of John Proctor because it offered a first-hand experience of an “Ascend of the Soul”, of living, if only for an instant, what it’s like to have the courage and honesty to rise to the best one can be when everything and everyone is against us and puts us in a corner, where we either succumb to their wishes or we die battling for the truth.

Richard has said in the past that choosing a particular role stemmed from his passion for the written word, not any written word but a particular piece of literature, a beautiful piece of literature, one that when you are exposed to its power, it helps you fly to heights which you never knew existed; it allows you to feel lofty, honourable, wonderful emotions you never thought worthy or capable of feeling, it takes you to a dimension we rarely break into in our daily grind, whatever that may be for different people, but that beautifully written word, just as the two sides of a coin, also has the potential to take you to depths and crevasses you suspect exist but will always go out of your way to avoid, even if in your gut, you know life has a habit of throwing us one or two curve balls along the way, so you’d better face them at least in your mind, if nowhere else, so that you are somehow prepared for what may hit you as you journey on.

So summing up, here we have an actor who shows great resolve, composure and intelligence when choosing his roles and also shows that it is he who is in control of his career’s trajectory and not the industry which dictates where to next get the big bucks from or what to do in order to get that elusive role which is coveted by all the best known actors and for which many will do almost anything. Here we have a man who clearly sees acting as not only the ability to entertain others, but also as artistry and as such he always seems to carefully search for that next role which will challenge him that extra notch to what he previously did; an actor who does not shy away from new mammoth challenging roles where he has to abandon the land of the living, if only for a while, in order to get into character and truly get into its “skin”, to the point where it is no longer the actor we see in the character, but the character becomes an entity in its own right, it acquires life of its own, and the capacity to live in our minds and hearts indefinitely.

How far in that quest for challenging oneself however, how deep into those unknown crevasses of the human soul is anyone prepared to go to prove their worth and capabilities as an actor, before the line between what is fiction and what is reality becomes blurry or even non-existent? And more worryingly, what if some of those watching do not have the maturity, experience, support network, discernment and mental balance and strength to not let certain topics, visual images and scenes get so deep into their psyche that what was meant as entertainment slowly but surely develops into a time bomb of potential crime and violence? How far does one need to go to prove his worth to himself first and foremost and then the world before the “ascend or descend of the soul” is no longer the primary focus, purpose or message in that portrayal; where it is no longer the “what” that matters in a film or TV program but the “how”, where it becomes primarily about the entertainment and shock value and very little about the exploration, interpretation and study of a literary character or the human psyche, heart, soul and spirit, about the lessons we can draw and learn from from a particular film or play? After all, isn’t what we see on a stage and on the screen designed to take us to familiar but also unknown places, to makes us feel exhilarating and powerful emotions, to transport us from our reality into the world of our “what ifs”? Where do we draw the line between entertainment and feeding our extremely real and potentially very dangerous obsession with Evil and how Evil can take over a person’s heart, soul and spirit and turn them into monsters? Why explore with such audacity, perseverance and intensity a genre that homes in on EVIL, when all one has to do is turn on the News to get more than a handful of horror, barbarism and savagery?

To be concluded in Part 3