I'm an actor. It's sort of my religion. That is, if I don't practice it for several months I get cranky and irritable.
Okay, maybe it's sort of my long-term antidepressant.
But when I am onstage, or backstage, and making connections with my ensemble and audience, I feel enlightened for that period of time, and I know that for this moment, I have reached a higher consciousness, and hopefully the people I am connected to also feel that their lives and experiences are heightened.
I asked the clown Avner Eisenburg once how a performer could be something more than just funny. Avner the Eccentric responded, "Isn't that enough?" Which after being translated into Russian, elicited a roomful of applause. Once my initial mortification passed, I realized, hmm. No. I mean sure, anyone can stand up and say that they once made a challah* so big, lots of little challahs were orbiting around it. That's funny. It may elicit a chuckle. And at times, it may be enough. But when you get deeper than that, going into the "human comedy" (as the illustrious Piccolo Theatre in Evanston so aptly puts it) you can change your audience's physical chemistry. I don't mean to sound megalomaniacal here, but you can change the level of people's serotonin! You can stimulate a fight or flight response. You can make people feel.
And more importantly, you can make them think.
* If you don't know what a challah is, I'm sorry. For you, I mean.