Raymond Burr and the art of giving yourself away
Burr's life was like a manual for inner-peace.
What does it take to have the "good life"?
Is it living with harmony? Balance? Intake and outflow in equilibrium, perhaps?
Whichever ideology you subscribe to, you'll most likely find that letting go is the key to happiness. Religion and philosophy agree that distance from desire, suffering, and self is the path toward fulfillment and contentment.
Raymond Burr is one of our great examples of happiness through detachment. He made a life and a living out of giving himself away. Central to that idea was his concept of the "funnel approach" to life, as the actor explained in a 1964 interview with The Oakland Tribune.
"An actor," said Burr, "wants to make the right move or intonation at exactly the right time; to do that I believe he must leave his life open, like a funnel, not become so wholly involved with himself that he is unaware of the things and people around him.
"He should be able to identify with the deaf, the blind—to appreciate the beauty of a sunset, the feel of mud and rain, the sound of laughter, the cry or sigh of pain, the taste of tears."
So with a full life filled with living, the actor must then use what was soaked in to create within a scene.
"The trick is to draw all this experience into the big end of the funnel, letting it become a part of your total awareness, an enlarging of the reservoir that is you.
"When it's time for a particular performance, out of this experience will come the right move or the right intonation. But an actor can't give until first he receives. And what he gives is not his own."
Raymond Burr lived a full, beautiful life. His ideas, though, weren't just applicable to the craft he pursued.
"You can apply the funnel illustration to any person's way of living. It simply requires that you accept life as it is and do not become so involved with self that you fail to recognize other people and their needs."
Burr stressed the importance of kindness towards others and strived to be there for the people around him. But, his openness didn't start and end with people. He gave enough of himself away to make room as a conduit for spirituality.
"When I speak of leaving yourself open to communication, I'm referring not only to an awareness of others but to communication with God. While I seldom pray formally, there isn't an hour of the day or night that I am not in a state of communication or prayer.
"To me, acceptance is an important part of prayer. However, 'Thy Will Be Done' isn't a passive statement. It's an offer of cooperation in whatever God can do through us. Our part is the right hand of action, beginning with our home life and our work, because until these are in order we aren't ready to function beyond our own front yard."