“Those roles which, being neither those of hero nor Heroine, Confidante nor Villain, but which were none the less essential to bring about the Recognition or the denouement of the story were called the Fifth Business in drama and Opera companies organized according to the old style; the player who acted these parts was often referred to as Fifth Business.”
– Robertson Davies
I believe that in our minds and from our perspective, every human being who ever lived and who ever will live is each the protagonist in our own personal narrative. We are simply designed that way. We see outward from our center, and like the scientists and philosophers in the time of Galileo, from where we stand the universe seems to revolve around us – even if we may understand in some abstract way that we can believe but never truly accept that the real truth is bigger than that.
Whatever the universal truth may be, we are destined to view the world from the fixed point of ourselves. Why not accept it? And if we accept it, if we are each a protagonist in our own personal story, then we have to accept that every other person we meet is also the protagonist of their own story. If this is also true, it means that when when we interact with others in any meaningful way, then we play secondary parts in the narratives of others’ lives, and they play similar roles in ours: not Hero or Heroine (these are our roles), but Confidante, Villain, Partner, Friend, Teacher…the list goes on and on. Like Karl Jung’s archetypes, influential people in our lives fill important roles in our personal mythologies. Without these people filling these roles and influencing the course of our growth due to their contributions, we would not have become who we currently are.
In each of our circles, then, we are Fifth Business to many of the people we encounter regularly, and they are Fifth Business to us. In this series of blog articles headed by this phrase, I will talk about some of the people who are giants in the terrain of my own personal mythology and development as a musician, without whom (for better or worse – the reader can be the judge of this) I could not possibly have become the musician and person that I am. In a greater sense, I – like everyone, according to my beliefs – am not so much a single isolated person but instead a collection of experiences and influences that led me to this point. This series will focus on some of those important influences.
* For those who find this concept of the interrelatedness of human relationships interesting and who also like to read thought provoking novels, I highly recommend Davies’ Deptford Trilogy, which began with the novel Fifth Business, followed by The Manticore and World of Wonders.