Learn The Lesson [on Merely A Thought Monday]

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The exercise is simple: be an angel to someone for at least 3 hours.

There is only one rule: you can’t tell them what you are doing or why you are doing it.

When assigning the exercise, there is always one panic-question masked as two questions: What does it mean to be an angel/How do I do it? [pull the mask and the real question is: what will they think of me?]

There is only one answer to the question: What does it mean to you to be an angel? Do that.

After the exercise, there is always one post-angel observation: “It was scary at first and then it was really fun!”

After the exercise, there is always one post-angel revelation: “I received waaaay more than I gave.”

Receiving abundantly as the consequence of giving abundantly is the point of the exercise [in this case, define ‘exercise’ any way you want to].

This message is everywhere. It’s a Hermetic Principle. It’s cause and effect. It’s what we learned in kindergarten. It’s the message from grandmothers on every continent. It’s blow-back. It’s a Beatles lyric: the love you take is equal to the love you make. It’s an advertisement to sell Canadian Whiskey.

Because it’s ubiquitous, you’d think we’d have learned it by now. Perhaps we know it already but get hung up on the courage it takes to be an angel. Mean is easy. Division is as easy as falling off a log. Kindness takes a bit of pluck.

After the exercise, there is always one post-angel lesson: there are no sissy angels.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about LIVING GENEROUSLY

 

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Chase Your Tail [on Merely A Thought Monday]

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Sometimes I think I am living in an Antonin Artaud play. Surreal. Surreal. Surreal. And very funny.

I came into the bedroom last night and Kerri said, “Dog drove doughnuts in a car for half an hour.” I fell on the floor laughing. She was reading a news headline but that did not make it less absurd.

Speaking of headlines, if this was kindergarten, the entire Republican Party would be sent to the principal’s office for advanced liar-liar-pants-on-fire. An entire cadre of seeming adults claiming that the dog ate their homework. I’ll bet that dog conspired to eat their homework, too!

Suddenly, this surrealist post has a dog theme.

“God struggles.” P-Tom said in all seriousness. I looked at Kerri and said, “I have a real problem with the idea that a god, any god, struggles.” She rolled her eyes.

An eye roll inspires an explanation. “Gods are not supposed to be separate,” I said, leaning in. “Things that struggle are separate.” She scooched away from me, a signal to stop my pontificating. “I struggle with the notion that god struggles,” I said proudly in an attempt at thought-condensation. Kerri narrowed her eyes, saying, “You ARE a struggle.”

Theme’s must be honored, especially dog themes so please note that ‘god’ spelled backward is ‘dog.’ In my philosophy, dogs struggle. Gods do not. As Anton Chekhov wrote in his play, The Cherry Orchard, “My dog eats nuts, too.” Try and write that about a god!

Jen and her “little” made pretzel-monster-cookies for Halloween [Jen is one of my heroes. She and Brad are ‘bigs’ in the organization Big Brothers, Big Sisters]. Kerri chose a cookie to eat but couldn’t do it because it was too adorable. She thrust it at me, saying, “You do it.” Suddenly, I was cast in the role of cookie executioner. I made cookie screaming noises. The cookie pleaded for a pardon but I was heartless. It was over quickly. It was a very, very good cookie.

If I were a dog watching me eat the cookie [my apologies to Chester and Henry], I’d go to the garage, jump in the car, start it up, and chase my tail, doing doughnuts until either the car ran out of gas or the police showed up to take me to the principal’s office. Either way, making sense of people must be hell for a dog. It’s hard for us, too.

 

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read Kerri’s blog post about PHOOEY

 

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note: did I mention that BabyCat snores like a champion – especially when I am writing. This post was dangerously close to being cat-themed. ‘Cat’ spelled backwards is “Tac.’ Go figure!

 

 

 

Be Like Your Dog [on Merely A Thought Monday]

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Some people look like their dogs. Some people are like their dogs. I am one of the latter.

DogDog resists all recognizable constraints. He cannot tolerate tight spaces. It’s the reason he won’t climb stairs. It’s not the stairs, it’s the tight passage way. How’s that for a metaphor! I would be more successful in this life if I had better tolerance of constraints.

He is hypersensitive to other people’s feelings. He is, to use a phrase from the Dog Whisperer, an energy-reading machine. He knows when I am sad or angry or frustrated BEFORE I know that I am sad or angry or frustrated. I have, like DogDog, always been able to walk into a room and “feel” where the energy-eddies were swirling. Sometimes I can’t tell if it is my sadness or the person I am sitting with. That takes some time to sort out. I wonder if DogDog has the same challenge in sorting which feeling belongs to which animal.

DogDog is fearful of non-threatening, seemingly ridiculous things. For instance, his food bowl is metal and it sits at the base of the oven. When the bowl makes contact with the oven, metal on metal, he flees to save his life. He hides in the other room until we convince him that the sound-monster is gone. My monsters are just like his. Seemingly ridiculous to outside eyes. Always constituted of the things I do not understand. The sounds that make no sense (what people say, what people do to each other). The future. The past. Metaphoric metal on metal.

What I would like to learn from DogDog? My monsters keep me awake at night. His fears don’t stick – or, rather, he doesn’t carry them forward. Not only is he a profoundly sound sleeper but, the next time there’s kibble, he’s back at his bowl giving it another go.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about A VERY INDEPENDENT DOG

 

 

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Ask The Question [on Merely A Thought Monday]

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It is a happy accident that we chose this quote for this Merely A Thought Monday. Today, in the United States, we celebrate our veterans. Thucydides was a warrior, a general. He wrote a book on war – and human nature – that is studied to this day.

I confess this quote has left me with thought-fragments, pieces of a mosaic too large to easily construct. So, my fragments:

Happiness. Freedom. Courage. For Thucydides, there is a secret to experiencing  happiness. An effect (happiness) of a cause (courage).

There is this word, ‘freedom,’ a power or a right to act or think without hindrance or constraint.

Then there is this word ‘courage’. The ability to do something that frightens you. Strength in the face of pain.

On the personal level, then, happiness comes from doing the things that frighten you. Stepping toward your unknowns removes hindrances, transcends constraints. Feeling free ensues.

But, then there is this bit of my fragment, something from the bigger picture: Thucydides wrote that fear and self-interest were the central drivers of political endeavor. Political endeavor is the driver of war.

Fear. Self interest. Political endeavor. War.

Thucydides is studied to this day because what he wrote is relevant to this moment in time:

[from Leo Strauss via Wikipedia]: Scholars traditionally view Thucydides as recognizing and teaching the lesson that democracies need leadership, but that leadership can be dangerous to democracy…Thucydides had a deeply ambivalent view: on one hand, Thucydides’s own “wisdom was made possible” by the Periclean democracy, which had the effect of liberating individual daring, enterprise, and questioning spirit; but this same liberation, by permitting the growth of limitless political ambition, led to imperialism and, eventually, civic strife.

On this day that we honor the courage of veterans, amidst a leadership that is dangerous to democracy, we have to ask ourselves in all seriousness, to revisit what we believe is worth fighting for.

 

read Kerri’s blog post on this Merely A Thought Monday

 

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Know That You Are Funny [on Merely A Thought Monday]

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Before the world of text messaging, it used to be a game for me. Sit in a coffeehouse and catch snippets of conversation. There were little word hysterics everywhere. If you care to listen, so much of life sounds like the first line in a children’s book. I’m not sure why any of us should take ourselves seriously. We are a very funny species when taken in dribs and drabs.

Now that the world conversation has been reduced to tweets and texts, word hysteria is so pervasive, there is no longer a need to venture into a coffeehouse to capture them. I don’t even have to scribble madly to capture them. They come pre-written.¬† They are flinging through our news. The word hysterics are channels for policy. So few words given so much weight. We are being ruled by children’s book. I can only hope that historians will have a better sense of humor than we currently do. Taken out of context, the hysteria is hysterical.

It is refreshing, then, when someone sends a text and they KNOW that they are being funny. The dachshunds ate by candlelight. John Oz sent me to the floor with gales of laughter. The power was out. The dogs had to eat. What a terrific first line of a children’s book! It opens worlds of possibility (and, what great illustrations!)

Knowing that you are funny. Not taking yourself so seriously. Precision in humor rather than reduction of communication. Pretend connectivity. I breathe a sigh of relief when a bit of intentional consciousness comes through a text. It helps balance the pervasive other kind, the kind we take so seriously, the word hysterics that are meant to close thought. To reduce our thinking. It is funny how easy it is to blunt minds.¬† So few words; no poetry. Black and white. Children’s book thinking. It’s almost funny.

 

read Kerri’s blog post on DACHSHUNDS

 

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Approach It [on Merely A Thought Monday]

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“Because we have lost reverence of approach, we should not be too surprised at the lack of quality and beauty in our experience.” ~ John O’Donohue, Beauty

There was a common thread that ran through the lessons my mentors taught me: how I treat my space is a direct reflection of how I approach my artistry, my work.

Whether they said it directly or not, they understood artistry as sacred, artistic spaces as sacred spaces. Places of communion.

Paul Barnes used to tell his acting students, “Never underestimate your power to influence another person’s life.” There is a responsibility when getting on the stage. There is a responsibility when designing for the stage. There is a responsibility for how tickets are sold. There is a responsibility for how the theatre is cleaned and maintained, the studio, the shop… Tom’s students were famous for sweeping the parking lot of the theatre because they believed the audience experience began with the approach to the building. The sweepers understood themselves as artists.

During our last days on island, Kerri and I began cleaning out the theatre. We began the process of introducing a new approach. We started our job mid-season and were asked to come to the island and watch and learn. All summer, as a watcher, I repeated this phrase: everyone wants to use the theatre but no one wants to be responsible for it. Responsible to it. Groups entered and dumped their stuff. When they left, they left their mess for Pete to clean and why not? (Pete gets it, he is meticulous, and loves the space. But he is a lone sweeper fighting the tide of a dedicated mindless approach.)

TPAC is understood as a place to be used. It is a space the community fights over. A territory to be claimed. It is not yet approached as a space where beauty is touched, where actions matter because they are capable of unifying, where artistry is understood, not as a personal domain, but the grace of collective creation.

Sitting on the empty stage, the season closed, Kerri and I sat and listened. “It’s time to make the space ours, ” she said. “I think I’ll clean out the fridge.”

 

read Kerri’s blog post about THE END OF SEASON

 

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Eat The Marshmallows [on Merely A Thought Monday]

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I know it’s confusing. In my life there is H, also called Horatio. And then there is H, not Horatio at all, but a 93 year old man who is one of the few elders in my life that did not grow angry with age. H grew sweeter with time, and, therefore, wiser. He is my master teacher in how to age with joy.

I sit next to H in choir. He loves to sing. He has been singing his entire life and, so, he is easy in his voice. Ease of voice. I suspect that’s one of the main reasons he has such ready access to his humor. He isn’t trying to keep his voice down. He’s not editing himself or otherwise tying off his expression. He’s paid attention to keeping his creative channels open and free flowing. He wheels in with his walker, drops his coat, and teeters to-and-fro before dropping into his chair with a giggle. Even sitting down has become an oddity and rather than grouse about it, he smiles. “Made it!” he announces after hitting the chair with a thud.

‘Yes,’ I think to myself, ‘You made it.’ We should all make it like H.

I know H has had tragedy in his life. I know he had and continues to have a hard road. He sings in a church choir but I accuse him of being a secret Buddhist, so joyfully is he participating in the sorrows of the world.

Picasso famously said, “It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child.” H has made of his life a great painting that even Picasso would enjoy. He has circled back to the child, the innocent appreciation of the great gift of living.

There are no lines of import in H’s coloring book and he inspires me to take out my great big Jethro Bodine bowl and fill it full with Lucky Charms. Pour the milk! Why wait.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about H

 

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