Truly Powerful People (471)

471.
Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.

Quinn once told me that the downfall of western civilization began with 1) the salad bar and 2) attaching the garage to the house (he called it “inviting the car into the home”). To Quinn’s list I would like to add leaf blowers as evidence of the downfall of civilization. Other than to create the illusion of tidy – and I apologize profusely to the word “create” for using it in association with something that does nothing – what do leaf blowers actually do? If I did the same work with a broom, if I swept all the little bits of leaf and grass into the neighbors yard and left it there, wouldn’t you find me offensive? Why is it that blowing stuff into the neighbors yard and leaving it for someone else is considered appropriate?

If I planted a tiny microphone in your ear and recorded a mosquito buzzing in and out and then amplified the sound a thousand times, it would be the sound made by a leaf blower. If I ever have state secrets and you want them from me, no need to water board me or pull out my finger nails, simply turn on a leaf blower and rev the engine a few times – or better yet – blow stuff from here to there and back again and I will tell all. I will spill the secrets, reveal the mystery, give you the code and betray the nation. Just turn the damn thing off.

I am not good at digging holes and filling them in again –literally or metaphorically. It is the chief reason why I was worthless working in an office setting; or working anywhere, for that matter. Leaf blowers achieve nothing. They move stuff around. They shift the pile from here to there and then it is someone else’s responsibility to blow the stuff down the line. They are very loud abdications of responsibility.

I’ve decided leaf blowers are metaphoric of Wall Street. Blow the crap down the line, make a lot of noise doing it, and the user gets to walk away feeling like they’ve done good work because they’ve cleaned their space by sullying their neighbors.

And now, it occurs to me that in this rant I, too, am a leaf blower. Now that I have blown my leaves onto your lawn I think I will retire to the couch and have a congratulatory snooze. I feel so much better having vented. I hear my dear Albert’s voice in my head saying, “That guy looked in the mirror today and thought, ‘I look good!’”

Truly Powerful People (470)

470.
Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.

It’s late. It is now past midnight. This used to be my golden hour, the time that I was most productive, most energized and felt most creative. When I was a kid I’d lie in bed and wait for everyone in my family to fall asleep. And then I would rise and draw and paint. I would create worlds in the quiet of the night. In the summer I’d open the window (my room was in the basement) and listen to the crickets and feel the cool air.

I knew even then that art meant something different to me – it was not about capturing images or lifelike portraits. I could do that. It was about something else, something that I had no words for and would never attempt to describe. My dad had an old textbook on comparative religions and I would read it when I was looking to put words on what I felt. Sometimes a passage would describe the holy and I’d think, “That’s close. Art is when people come to know themselves as something bigger. Connected.” Close.

Later, much later, I read the poems of Rumi and thought, “Rumi knows. Rumi knows what art is. And he is looking for the words, too.” My friend Sam taught me that poetry is language attempting to describe what cannot be described with language. Isn’t that remarkable; not that we use language to reach beyond language but that we want to reach, we cannot help but reach. We are compelled to reach beyond what we know. Always. We are glorious in our attempt to describe the indescribable, to full-fill (or full-feel).

This is what you discover if you know the night: every person you pass on the street is reaching. They also want to full-feel. They are just like you and like me. They are looking for the art, too, and wish they had the words to describe it. We are not so different as we pretend; we are not so separate as we believe.

Truly Powerful People (469)

469.
Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.

As I dust off and relearn the story of Parcival I have decided that it will be the spine of the work I do next week with teachers; we will follow the metaphors; we will open the story so the stories of our lives might open. As I work I am discovering that everything you need to know to be a great teacher is in this story! Parcival is a knight of the Round Table and, depending upon the version you read, he is the knight that finds the grail. Metaphor alert: the grail is not a thing to be possessed. It is what Maslow called self-actualization. It is a metaphor for finding your truth and fulfilling your purpose. What is the purpose of learning if not to seek and find your truth (do not be fooled, passing a test is far from the point of learning and will ultimately leave you empty and the test full)?

I love many aspects of this story and the section I reworked today made me smile. I giggled in the coffee house where I was rehearsing. The other patrons, afraid of the man in the corner talking and cackling to himself, gave me plenty of room to work (have I mentioned that I can’t talk without flailing my hands all over the place. If you ever want me to be quiet, simply bind my hands. I’ll make noises but words will be impossible). The story describes Parcival’s first entry into court. He grew up isolated, deep in the forest (not unlike Arthur, though Parcival did not have Merlin to school him) so he knew nothing of people or manners or custom. He thought dressing like a knight meant he was a knight. He approximated some armor, weaving a breastplate from reeds, a helmet from fronds, and he wielded a stick as a sword. He “borrowed” a mule and rode into Camelot. Arthur and his knights, thinking Parcival was a clown, laughed at him.

Growing up without instruction meant that he had the ideal upbringing for a trickster. He followed his nature without inhibition. Parcival had no inner-editor so the civilized world viewed him as a fool. He acted purely so he threatened custom. He spoke what others could not; he carried no conventions so he had no limits. He had no rules of conduct. Parcival would be the boy in the crowd to say, “This emperor has no clothes!” It would not occur to him to lie. When you are not doubting or protecting your purity you have no reason to deflect or manipulate or withhold. Lies are a byproduct of rules. He was powerful yet his power was raw, unrecognizable, so the world he wanted to enter could only laugh. And their laughter was his fuel. Their laughter propelled him into the world to learn. Arthur was capable of seeing his purity. And Arthur gave him hope. Arthur sent him into the world to prove himself, to learn the rules of society, and invited him to return to court once he’d learned the code and conduct of a knight.

The story is a story of desire; it is a story of following an inner imperative. It is a quest for fulfillment. It has laughter and despair, triumph and shame, obstacles that seem insurmountable; it is a story of perseverance and letting go. It is a story of 2 teachers: one provides the rules for conduct; the other helps Parcival shed the rules of conduct. Both are necessary if you want a shot at entering the grail castle.

If it were a poem it would read like this: Revel in your nature. Betray your nature. Rediscover you nature: grail.

Truly Powerful People (468)

468.
Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.

Sometimes I have the ultimate theatre mentality. Once, in college, I was running a spotlight for a musical; the tube from the fan to the bulb housing fell apart in the middle of the show and between cues, to keep the light working, I was able to build a replacement tube with a paper cup and duct tape. Use what you have. It need not be permanent. It only has to work for a while. The show must go on but no one need know how poorly it is constructed. Sometimes that’s the magic.

This used to drive John crazy. He is a real builder, a master woodworker. John built some stage sets for me that will be here long after they drop the bomb; the only thing left on earth will be the sets that John built. I’d say, “John, it only has to look real, no one will know.” He’d say, ‘I’ll know.” Now, that is a true artist! Once I was hired to provide a set for a commercial featuring the Mutant Ninja Turtles. There was a desert scene: I hauled in sand and dumped it on the floor. I pulled some scrub from the canyon by my house and stuck it in the sand. The producer was thrilled. The real non-construction was for a scene in a cave. Since it was a film my cave only needed to hold together for a single day. Old flats, cardboard, the sand from the desert set mixed with some good goop and lots of runny paint. I stuck it all together with a staple gun and duct tape, stood it up and prayed the turtles didn’t hit the walls. I told John about my cave and he said, “I don’t know how you live with yourself.”

It’s been a long time since I’ve designed or built a set. But, my “use what you find” mentality still comes in handy. Today I needed to ship a painting and it was too large to get into my car and too awkward to carry. The shipping place was only five blocks away so I scoured the building for a hand truck. No luck. I hit pay dirt in the basement when I spied an old wheelchair parked next to the garbage. I tied the painting on to the wheelchair with an old rope and like Nurse Ratchet gone rogue I wheeled my patient through the city to the shipping place. I think I added local color to the neighborhood. Some nice Dutch folks took my picture. Some people along the way gasped and parted as if I was the Loathly Damsel. Their horror might have been commentary on my packing job. The woman at the shipping place called my packing “Frankenboxing” though she gleefully applauded my method of transportation. Both were high compliments. Being from the theatre, I knew that, in such a moment of appreciation from a stranger, it was appropriate to take a bow.

Truly Powerful People (467)

467.
Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.

Saul-the-Chi-Lantern turned his back to us. He settled, ready to start the form. We readied ourselves to follow. Just as he was about to take the first step he stopped, turned and said, “A lot of marriages would be saved if only the man knew what color of toilet paper to buy.” It was either a Zen koan or a fragment of his internal monologue and either way we fell on the floor laughing.

“No really,” he continued, as if we weren’t howling. “There’s a right kind of tissue, a right color of Kleenex box and men seem completely oblivious to this fact. It causes a lot of strife!” And then he turned back to the beginning position as if he’d said nothing. We wiped the tears of laughter from our eyes. Wondering what just happened, we followed him into the form. Our hearts were light, our concentration was easy and I suspect we learned to stop being so serious in our approach to our Tai Chi. We certainly found a flow and rode a current when we started from laughter instead of knitting our brows and thinking our way through.

One of my great lessons from Bali was that the sacred is filled with laughter. The holy is ripe with giggling and joy. In addition to reverence, prayer, sermon, hymn, (such heavy words) humor, play, fun, and frolic are forms of worship. The gods might have a better sense of humor if we did. There’d be less road rage. Men would not wear ties and take themselves so seriously. We might not need a 24-hour entertainment-cycle-disguised-as-news to keep us occupied. Of this I am certain: we’d have a better flow of chi.

Truly Powerful People (466)

466.
Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.

Megan’s daughter turned two. Angie is getting married. Jamie is expecting her third child. Teresa is ready to fly. Dado brought the mail as he does each weekday; you can set your clock to Dado yet he always seems to have plenty of time to talk. I lost Bruce somewhere. Two paintings and two photographs were late for the party but allowed entrance anyway. Arnie is preparing for travels. Soon he will have set foot on all the continents of the earth. Elana resurfaced and is in LA. Anne painted her first abstracts. The crows chased the eagle. The osprey dived, both of them, but came up empty. Columbus cleaned windows in anticipation of his kids coming home. Jeanne won at pickle ball and the loser was sore. JT lost his momma. David missed a phone call and opened a play. Horatio prepares his boat for Alaska and his script for filming – all in the same week! Lisa drank at lunch and made me laugh (we’ll not talk about the pesto I could see but not permitted to eat). Harry’s package finally made it to the mail. Grandpa’s arms are not strong enough and why should they be; he’s 103 years old. Bob bought a new car. Secret messages were passed successfully. Lips were bit in anticipation. Judy is preparing room for Grace. Ben and Patricia opened their studio. Simon the dog used his inside voice and got a cookie. Lora made a new submission. PaTan made a zebra collage from crayons. Tamara touched base because she knows when it is important. Angela sent Rilke. The IRS did not send their love much to my surprise. Patricia’s installments let me know she is on a big life adventure.

This list barely touches the marvels of this week. Reread the list and see the dreams and desires and yearning. Look for the life passages, the offers of love, the reaching and touching and trying. Sometimes the monumental is lost within the ordinary because the ordinary is monumental. There were lessons learned, love nearly lost but found, gratitude for simple things, pink umbrella’s, broken hearts, the smallest of messages arriving in the perfect moment: I love you. How many times do we almost miss it?

Today I know that life is short. Today I know I can focus on the troubles, the temporary gremlins or I can place my thought in the enduring. I know there is a choice but I wonder why I would ever throw away another day on the gremlin and miss holding the hand of the people I love.

Truly Powerful People (465)

465.
Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.

“Can I tell you a story,” Teresa asked. She is brilliant and helping me re-think and market my business. We’ve been working together for a few months. She is one of a choir of voices telling me that I am my business – it is not something I do. She is brilliant and gentle and clear and helping me work, as she says, from the inside out. I’m having some world-class revelations – and I am impatient. I want to force things into being.

“Two robins built a nest in the utility box just outside my window. My daughters and I watched them quickly assemble an amazing nest and soon there were four eggs. My nine year old was especially taken with the nest so each day we would watch for progress. An egg broke and my daughter’s heart broke with it. Later, another egg cracked and we had another heartbreak. Finally, the two remaining eggs hatched. We saw two little beaks poking up from the nest. My daughter named them Rascal and Lazy.

As we watched we saw the two hatchlings slowly open their eyes. Then we watched as they grew their feathers. They grew stronger and one weekend, the weekend that I knew they were going to fly, my daughter was going to be away from home with her father. Sure enough, the momma bird chirped from the fence, calling them out of the nest. The babies were terrified but the momma knew they could fly. And, finally, one of the babies jumped and flew. Soon the other followed. They didn’t know until they did it. How could they?

My daughter called and was sad to miss it and this is what I told her: If you only knew your nest, if your whole life was in the nest and one day you jumped and suddenly your life opened and you knew the whole backyard – and then one day you flew and came to know the whole sky, wouldn’t that be the best day of your life? Today was the best day in those little bird’s lives.”

Teresa told me her daughter got it. She was thrilled that the birds came to know the whole sky. And, I got her message loud and clear. Hatching comes before feathers. Feathers come before flying. No amount of pushing or forcing will expedite the process. In fact, if I try to skip steps, I will be as an un-feathered bird leaping from a nest. Cat food. Hearing my sigh Teresa added, “One day you will know the whole sky and that day will be the best day of your life.”