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Camera Shy

The word “umble” itself has no dictionary definition yet there appears to be a root meaning that connects the following 10 words: Bumble. Crumble. Fumble. Grumble. Humble. Jumble. Mumble. Rumble. Stumble. Tumble.

Umbling in one form or another connotes a humbling experience—one you have to lift yourself up from—from thoughts that are a jumble, to words that are a mumble, to a faltering step that has you tumble.

I have little problem speaking in front of a class or in front of even a large audience. Put me in front of a camera to produce a video and I find myself stumbling over my words, fumbling a script, bumbling my lines. I am not an actor. The directions I receive are always the same: “Just be yourself” and “Pretend there is no camera.” Let me tell you—it took me close to three hours and many takes to “just be myself” and the camera was ever-present. A colleague commented: “It takes a lot of work to just be yourself.” Who would have thought that being yourself is so difficult!

The holiday of Purim—the holidays of masks—(celebrated this year on March 24th) is a time to consider the work that goes into “just being you.” I have a photo of me as a first grader performing in a Purim play—I still remember the blue and black checkered bathrobe, a turban and a fake beard I wore to portray one of the guards who was plotting to kill the Persian king—as it turned out the other student who was to play my co-conspirator was sick—so I was conscripted, being the only one who knew the dialogue—to play both parts. It was, I am sure, a funny scene, as the direction I received was to switch positions on the stage to give the pretense that “we” were speaking with each other.

In first grade I had my props—my bathrobe, head gear and a beard. But what props, what masks does one wear to “just be you”?

What the camera creates for me is to bring out my own inner observer—the camera inside my own awareness—it is not the unassuming actor I am all day long when not on camera; it is the one that is watching the self being the self. For me this brings self-consciousness in a way that heightens my awareness of the masks I wear and creates a humbling experience.  Indeed, it takes work to have that inside observer simply just be filming and not be critiquing. I am sure that is why acting is so intense a program of self-reflection with the potential for self-awareness. From my humbling experience I hope to emerge a little less camera shy and to just be myself.

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