Dynamic Quality — with its sudden, unexpected reversals and abrupt discontinuities of events that create radically new landscapes in human affairs — works mostly through ‘drama.’ This dramatic energisation of Dynamic Quality is needed, or Static Pattern prevails over and excludes Dynamic Change.
Thus, further help in drawing nearer the Daemonic can be obtained by an account of drama. What, then, is drama? What makes a human situation dramatic?
The Greek words for ‘action’ are instructive..
The more common word for action is ‘praxis’, which is used to talk about everyday practical activity; ‘practice makes perfect’, ‘the doctor asked me to call in at his practice’, ‘that is an odd practice they have in that country’, are all examples of this. Aristotle distinguished such concrete, pragmatic action — generated by ‘phronesis’ [practical wisdom] and ‘poesis’ [artful doing] — from ‘theoria’, or abstract, theoretical thinking; he also distinguished praxis from the more formulaic and predictable ‘techne’ where we use a mechanical process to reliably produce a product.
By contrast, the Greek word ‘drama’ is not used in the everyday for action; it refers to action under special and limited circumstances: a deed, an office or duty one fulfils; an action represented on the stage [a performance], a drama, especially a tragic drama. The root ‘dra’ in the Greek ‘dranos’ has the sense of ‘a doing, a deed.’
Thus, putting all this together, it can be concluded that in Greek there is a kind of action which signifies a ‘deed’ that is ‘dramatic’– a deed that is arresting, a deed with significant consequences for all involved, a deed that shifts the world, a deed in the public eye that will move those who witness it. This kind of action is realised directly in, and has powerful consequences for, the world.
Neither the flexible and improvisational praxis, nor the fixed and mapped out techne, are dramatic in the way dra, or dranos, is. Both might occasionally have ‘dramatic’ ascribed to them as an adjective, as when a healing praxis makes a new and surprising breakthrough in helping people, or a novel engineering technique allows a bridge to be built over a larger expanse of water, but drama is not an adjective qualifying something, it is a noun, a different something in its own right. It is actually a verb. A drama is a ‘doing’ that does something to the world that nothing else can do.
Why are lengthy analyses of ‘drama’ so undramatic, and sometimes downright boring?
It is because they are too structured. They try to present drama, initially and descriptively, as if it were a structured reality, when the whole point about the feeling and visceral effect of drama upon us is that we are suddenly forced to confront something from the non-structured part of reality. Analyses of drama as a lawful entity obeying [meta] rules depict the ‘dramatic’ as if it were part of Static Quality with its Stable Pattern. But drama is precisely not part of that realm at all.
Drama is part of Dynamic Quality with its Unstable and Patternless Change. This must be conveyed in any opening summation, any initial overview, of drama as a phenomenon.
What makes a human situation, or a story about a human situation, ‘dramatic’ is that the Static Pattern in which most people live, day in and day out, is suddenly upset, interfered with, undermined by, the unexpected intrusion of Dynamic Quality.
The Stable Patterns of Static Quality can move, but they move in a circular dance. The Spiral is a perfect shape expressing Static Quality at its most profound. It repeats, but there is movement, because each circle sweeps further out from the centre, yet each sweep refers back to and is kept in balance by that centre. Such is organic, or natural, growth. Or look at the intricacy of a spider’s web. Stable Patterning has both a higher holistic form, and a lower mechanical form; but it always uses structure to create coherence in orderliness, and movements that are more or less predictable. A whole aspect of Nature is like this.
But another aspect of Nature is not.
Stable Patterning produces mechanical and holistic structures, the former simplistic, the latter complex, but structure is always inherently ‘static.’ The other side of Nature is not static, but is inherently ‘dynamic.’ Hurricanes, volcanoes, earthquakes, are all ‘dramatic’ because they overturn the regularity, and dependability, of the Static, and introduce, often suddenly with little warning, the violence and power to shift things, of the Dynamic.
The ‘dramatic’ is like a fist in your face, wham! It is not a structure dancing into view, because that is static, but is a sudden event that is forceful and discordant, and this sets in train a succession of further events.. Drama puts the Dynamic into powerful motion in our lives, like a surging river whose forward rush is irresistible. It happens, like it or not, ready or not, and the way it pushes things into further motion happens, like it or not, ready or not.
Drama can be summarised by comparing it to a thunderstorm.
Drama is an Event, and this event is Dynamic. It starts to build terrible tension, then complicates and increases that tension, until finally the tension is released, for good or ill. This is how a thunderstorm happens.
Tension fills the air as it gets darker, winds start to blow, distant thunder rolls in and comes closer.
Then there are fearful rumblings very near, and dark clouds spit lightning forks that split the dark like sword strikes and hit the ground sparking fire. The winds are now roaring, and the rains start to pound down.
A climax of ferocity is finally reached, and then it is over.
It can end as suddenly as it came, but afterward, things are dripping in the purifying and renewing rain, or the landscape is ravaged by hailstones, bush fires, floods, or trees pushed over by the fierce winds.
To put this poetic analogy in its bare bones:
–Different, and conflicting, forces start to gather together, creating a conflict, bang!
–These opposing forces start actually clashing, bang!
–There is a climax to the clashing, a resolution, a result, bang!
The climax is an after effect, and this changes everything, for better or for worse, but nothing is unaffected by the raging storm. It can end in healing rain, or it can flood, burn, utterly destroy. One way or another, nothing will ever be the same again.
This is a threefold movement, as in Aristotle’s analysis of Act 1, Act 2, and Act 3, but that threefoldness should not be interpreted statically as a structure of three parts. This is to misunderstand drama fundamentally. There are three ‘phases’, three dynamic moments in the happening, but this is simply because of the way in which the dynamically powerful forces that are opposing, and combining, play out their dramatic encounter. Pressure builds as they get involved, and a sense of their coming clash affects the whole scene. Then pressure is upped as the clashes start occurring, and drive inevitably toward a climax. Finally, the climax is reached, there is a ‘big bang’ like a cosmic explosion, and then this produces change which affects everything. This whole sequence is a progressive and escalating development in time leading to a cataclysm, not a harmonious gestalt laid out in space.
No summary in mere words can do justice to the ‘drama’ in this way of affecting things deeply enough to shift them fundamentally, but a brief way of putting it might be to say, ‘the dramatic event of conflict changes things forever’; but the forces needed for this, then, go through three phases in their fraught and battling encounter.
Aristotle called these 3 phases, ‘Decision, Action, Consequences.’ In many ways this is an astute qualitative description of the 3 phases of the storm– how it enters the world [Act 1], what it does to those caught up in and enacting its forces: protagonist against antagonist [Act 2], and the climax of the struggle, and its outcome for all, ‘a change of fortune from good to bad or bad to good’ [Act 3]. But this is all too beguiling for those who love structure and only dance to its gentler movement; for those who dwell in the Static will use Aristotle’s observation of a three-phase severely intense process to ‘construct’ a secure scaffolding of different elements linked together lawfully and rationally. In short, drama ceases to be part of Dynamic Quality, and becomes re-absorbed back into Static Quality.
But that is why theoretical constructions of drama miss the ‘dramatic’ shock, surprise, wallop. They are both over complicating drama, in its simple fist in the face, and missing the peculiar and distinctive qualitative power of that fist. This qualitative power, though not a static structure, not a coherent and predictable pattern moving in its circle dance, is full of meaning. Drama reveals meanings otherwise lost, hidden, resisted, in everyday ‘normal’ life, and also not touched on at any level of Static Quality. Apart from direct personal meeting with the Daemonic God, the only way these ‘dynamic meanings’, or ‘meanings pertaining to conflict and change in human affairs’, get conveyed is through drama. Most of the stories of the Old Testament are dramatic because Yahweh so often intervenes in human conflicts on the stage of history that force changes of fortune on everyone involved. There are many deep spiritual meanings latent in drama, as we unpeel its layers, and wrestle with its forces. But this must be done existentially, not archetypically.
If you start with drama as complex structure, you lose its disturbing and revelatory power as simple event; if you think through drama in a way that is static, you miss the dynamic punch, the forcefulness, of that reality which stirs up conflict in the world in order to change the world.
Drama is about action, not words; it accords with the old adage, ‘ignore what people say, notice what they do.’ Only action exposes where we stand, or if we stand, and so only action relates us deeply to the world as a ‘work in progress’ whose direction we can influence. When we relate deeply to the world, we are thrown into conflict, because the world process is conflictual, advancing by clashes, but it is also ‘contested’ by different ‘stands’ with different ‘interests’, and so the real truth is we are thrown into an arena where the world’s destiny is already being fought over. We are asked ‘personally’ where we stand in that conflict. By taking a stand for the common good, we come into collision with all those forces operating either selfishly or wickedly, and therefore a fight is on, and it is for real. The way the fight turns out will change us, and our adversaries, forever, for good or ill, but even more significant, it has consequences for whether the world is changing in a redemptive direction, where its possibility comes through, or going to hell.
Heraclitus= “Everything changes: war is the father of all things.”
Drama is about the action needed to enter the ongoing conflict for the world, and by engaging it fully, change the world’s destiny.
Heraclitus= “All things come into existence and pass away through strife.”
Static Quality, despite its circle movement, is ultimately more given to Contemplating than active engagement through doing. Action is the heart of Dynamic Quality, in the way it ‘moves’ things. Contemplation will always seek the ‘rationale’ of whatever level of Cosmic Order it looks at, or looks into. Action will always take chances with, and make leaps into, the unknown, the messy, the imbalanced, and as such, has to accept the irrational, and act on faith.
Drama is the story of the deed most resisted and most needed by the world, and this action is always a matter of faith– not reason, not imagination, not vision, not enlightenment. In drama, you don’t know what you are getting into, and you don’t know how it will turn out, but for some irrational reason only the heart knows, you answer the call to get involved, and give it your all. Somehow you know that your willingness to ‘have a go’, and indeed ‘give everything you have’ to make it ‘your best shot’, matters to the entire world process from start to end.
Aristotle pointed out that drama can end tragically, or hopefully with some sort of victory, but either way, there is a ‘catharsis’; we are uplifted to witness a drama. He was also hitting the nail on the head about this, yet why?
Drama tests and proves something ‘for real’ in the hard school of existential knocks that constitutes the reality of this world. Thus catharsis shows us what is real, shows people engaging with it even at cost to themselves, and whether they fail, like Hamlet, or win out and then fail, like King Arthur, drama tells the heart the struggle for the world is not lost. It may be the eleventh hour, something can still be ‘done’– if you are willing to pay the price.
There’s the rub. Those who only watch, but never commit to the living through of, drama let others pay the price of entering, and going all the way with, the conflict that is necessary to change. They won’t pay.
Drama is the story of the existential action that has to pay much to enter the conflict where change for good or ill is decided.
That is why there is a punch to your face, boom! So much is at stake, you can do something about it or funk it, and either way change will happen, for good or ill.
We love drama, despite fearing its real cutting edge, because without its highly ‘charged’ event, something is missing.. Though there are very decent people, even saintly people, who live their whole lives in Static Pattern, the world’s journey and battle from Beginning through Middle to End is poised on a knife edge, and needs heroes to tip the balance of forces one way, not let it slide into the other way by default because no one will ‘step up.’ Someone has to step up. Someone has to be the hero.
This is a matter of Dynamic Quality, a Daemonic truth hard to bear yet creative in its doing, wherever that takes the hero.. The hero can never know if they made a difference.
The world, deeper down, knows. The world knows it needs drama, because quite simply, it is in a drama.