Playing the Possum – Revisited

It was disgust over mediocrity and hatred for stereotyping egotists that made me write “Playing the Possum” before, about a year ago, as an essay lost forever in the world of ideas when my computer crashed. It is becoming vital for me to revisit it now, knowing its room for development. Playing the possum meant playing dead, a sudden deadness when confronted with a crisis, enjoying the privileged prejudice of non-savage instincts that would not dare kill a second time a creature in a poor position in life. Even the raging lion would feel sorry in seeming a dead animal in front of it, perhaps tamed in pity and nausea over the destituteness it encounters. But while it excuses the perfect actors, those who really appear dead in smell and kind, those who exist almost invisibly to others for them not to notice its hidden skills, this pitiable state does not perfectly pardon itself for the vicious who would show no mercy in their own megalomaniac selves.

Perhaps that was a certain point to notice: to play harmless and secured in the invisible line does not automatically mean to be excused from being scrutinized – sometimes it even becomes the point for more inaccurate and self-serving judgments.

That remains the double-edge of mediocrity and the romanticism of a simple life. It does not want to be mediocre and simple.

One even has to go through the hard line just to fight for this apathetic utopia. It is going to be a hard-won battle and no one is going to let oneself get the free pass without having to endure a lot of tribulations, with exemption of course to those who naturally shine. For in the battle of the spotlight, the actors would really have to choose to speak out and stand out to be noticed. Nothing is going to be more savage than the exertion one has to shove oneself just to establish that kind of confidence and fighting spirit. It is a brutal scenario and one views this capitalistic drive of ensuring oneself of a goal dreamed obsessively even as a scene for voyeurism. One has to put in the line the animalistic vulgarity of this independent choice of pushing oneself in the frontiers just to disappear and die happily. In short, to appear, in reverse, the aggressive lion ready to play dead – and be dead!

But one can still ask the aristocratic individualistic question: why care? I say this is the true threat for possums, and especially for those who play the part, because here, their exposition precisely warrants them their death-by-lion end. In this careless act of assuming the false identity of appearing strong and over-confident, the revelation would show realizably the savage truth of the world and its operations. The temptation for notification is crucial and the arena is not only filled with possums playing themselves naturally and artificially but also lions and quasi-lions fighting for what they deserve out of the merciless play of survival.

So how does one play the possum part in a non-mediocre way? The way is to get out of the jungle-cruelty simulacrum. It has always been a call to achieve a better self and come clean with it despite the insincerities roaming around. But to do this in the most humbling manner one can honestly live is a kind of faithfulness apt for the pure of heart. And from there, the act would always be slow, but it gets better, surely.

In playing the possum, I can recount that the conclusion before was to hide a certain shocking ability that would render the lion lose the thunder of its roar and find out how even the possum has the far scarier capability: a hidden talent, a secret weapon, an ace that would completely turn the tables upside down. This is good play, the point of improving oneself without showboating and revealing it only when necessity calls. But this is merely the first cause why good persons as in Plato’s Republic stand out – out of necessity. What it provides at best is a diminishing impression good only for the duration of one’s skill soon-to-be corrupted in the course of one’s mortality – of life or physicality or ideas.

The other conclusion deserves a developing point. Playing the possum can also mean a refined second cause of Plato’s penalty: not anymore to stand out against having to bear the penalty of being ruled by selfish men, but in a refined sense, to express this sorry state honestly only as the most viable disposition that would imprint a mark of what is truly happening in the world and that would inspire its development. It further means to be able to tame lions not anymore out of pity and disgust but out of realization that the arena that they are in needs saving. Playing the possum, in an active sense, means therefore that the reversing psychological effect of deadness has to inspire a healthy paradoxical consequence: it should rather expose not itself but its aggressor and aggression itself and find out the real meaning of what living should be. The hard lesson is yet to be pondered.

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