Sunday, 13 May 2012

Money, Shows and Happiness

When watching the following TED talk about how, contrary to popular belief, money actually can buy happiness, I thought it seemed relevant to an important aspect in the Showman's Craft.
To understand how, we need to think of spending money on others as akin to the sharing experience of giving a performance. We also have to look at money from a slightly different perspective.

Michael Norton tells us that if the money is spent on others we not only feel better but perform better. He describes, flippantly, an experiment where a dodge ball team were given envelopes of money with instructions to spend it on each other. They reported that they felt happier when being generous with their team mates but also began dominating their league. They felt closer and happier and thus achieved better results as a team.
These findings replicates what is taught in the Shoman's Craft; by seeing a Show as an act of giving the Showman will not only feel better but perform better.

This is the phenomenon of sociability at work. Nature guides us to better performance and more enjoyment by rewarding us with good feelings when we do things that benefit us such as socializing and sharing with others. This is one of the underlying phenomena which makes us humans enjoy shows.

Fundamentally the Showman's Craft is to mold time and focus given to them by a Crowd. If the Crowd believes they got more back than they put in, the Show has been a success. They must feel like they got their money's worth and that it was a good investment, ie. it made them feel good, forget time, made them think, or whatever else a Spectator might find enjoyable. In this exchange of time and focus everyone gains. This beneficial process is part of what makes us human.


When a professional Showman performs he gets paid and by what Michael Norton says; those who pay the Showman feel happier for it. As a Showman myself I like to hear that. I had never considered my invoices to cause happiness, although I can easily imagine that the smiles on peoples faces after a street show as demonstrating their genuine enjoyment in the paying process.

To understand what money is on a deeper level, we can see the process of paying for a show as an exchange of energy.
A street show, where a performer gathers a Crowd, does a Show and then gets paid by his onlookers, can be seen as the prototype of show business. This has been a core structure of early performances on streets and market squares throughout time.
In such a show the Showman gives his energy to the Crowd and after the show they pay him money. Their money is what they got from their employers as a symbol of the energy they expended doing work for him. It could perhaps also be seen as a battery. Printed paper and metal discs that somehow retains the energy they gave their employer through their work. By offering their money to the performer after the show the Crowd gives the street performer tokens of their energy.

So if we look at the exchange of money as an energy exchange this Ted talk gives scientific evidence for what Showmen have known for aeons, giving is good for us. Altruism, social interaction, and sharing makes us feel good and makes life meaningful. It is a process where every part benefits, a good times machine. It is our Craft.

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