One year ago today, a highly acclaimed traditional theatre arts performer in my homeland passed away. It was quite shocking, as we had just lost another a couple of years before and we looked to him to carry on with the tradition for both of them. Still in their fifties, we knew right away that we had lost two of the most important figures who could pass their art onto the next generation in better-than-ever shape.
He was not known to be the gifted or the creative of the two. But he somehow made himself irresistibly attractive by staying true to the basics and had an established reputation for the simple beauty in his performance. They complemented each other perfectly when it came to letting the art stand the test of time.
As one captivated the new audience with his natural talent, the other fascinated future performers with his deep understanding of what makes the traditional art. As one pushed the boundaries and explored new possibilities, the other protected their turf and made sure there was a home to come back to. They worked together so well, in action and in thought, for a common goal.
As I watched them literally give their lives to the survival of their art, I felt there were quite a few takeaways from their way of life.
For one, maybe that both the essentials and experimentation are indispensable in the existence of tradition, culture, and identity. Neglect the fundamentals and you lose your past. Scorn innovation and you have no future.
For another, maybe partnership and teamwork are effective means of maintaining tradition, culture, and identity. It takes a load off your mind knowing that you do not have to be everything, and you can feel more proud to play a part by doing what you are best at.
And a third, maybe life of a man is very short, but if lived to its fullest, he lives on in tradition, culture, and identity. When you are young, fill yourself up as much as you can with what your predecessors have left you. As you grow older, fulfill yourself to the best you can by filling your successors with what you want to leave them.
Maybe this is how we find the roles we are to fill in life.
Mr. M.B. the Tenth, your life was too short but very full. We are sad that you’re gone, but happy to see you live on in your son’s performance.