The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

The inner and outer world--part #1

This is going to be fun, I think.  As some of you have noticed, I have a new product advertised on the blog.  Trust me--I'm not going to start holding back in these writings trying to get you to buy something.  In fact, what I really want is to create an entirely different promotional stream for the "Lifewriting Year Long" so that you folks, who have tolerated my rantings for the last years, actually get marketed to LESS.  The reasoning is this: quite often on this blog I talk about social issues.  Every time I do, the number of readrs jumps.  To me, it would be swinish to reference natural disasters, racism and the like just to try to attract people ot sell to.  Ugh. Feels wrong.  Yet I want to talk about these things, and I also like to run my business.  My solution--to build this community, here, with as personal a series of discussions as possible. Yes, I'm proud of the Five Minute Miracle.  I'm even prouder of the Year-Long course.  but this blog is where I vent, and I want to keep it as pure as possible.
The core of Lifewriting is the concept of connecting the inner and outer worlds of the artist.  So let's take a real down-to-earth practical look at how we can do that.  The First chakra is Muladhara, and represents core survival.  Take someone's head and stick it underwater, and the lack of oxygen will instantly trigger this response: powerful, irrational, every engine of the human psyche revved up and roaring in seconds.  Think you know someone who lacks motivation?  Nonsense.  What you know is someone who doesn't believe that their efforts will accomplish anything worth having.  In other words, they
1) have no clear, empowering goal or
2) Have no belief that they can reach their goal.
In fiction, since the very beginning, survival goals have moved characters out of their doldrums and into action.  I can't count the stories--real or fictional--where the discovery of a serious ailment has motivated a character to drop YEARS of family hostility and strive for re-connection.  This is what we really are, beings that crave connection.  The fear and anger that separates us from the people we love is usually based on triviality.  Near-death experience clears this stuff up beautifully.  So...what have you experienced in your own life that touches this space?  Ever had a...
1) near-fatal car accident?  How did you behave for the next week?
2) REALLY bad plane landing?  What did you think about during the descent?
3)  A "mystery" ailment that had doctors and nurses giving you "those" looks?  How did you spend your time waiting for the test results?
4) Close friend die unexpectedly?  How did you react?  What thoughts about yourself flashed or lingered in your mind?  What did you think about things unsaid?
5) Have either or both of your parents died?  I promise you, this is a powerful eye-opener.  When both of your parents die, it is as if an unknown room opens in your mind, and suddenly you GET IT, that you are going to die, too.  You can't deceive yourself about it, and that realization can come with shocking clarity.
6) Had a child become terribly sick?  What ran through your head as you sat at their bedside?  How did you deal with stresses at work?  What new perspectives were yours?
there are countless other examples of what happens to us when death's fickle finger brushes our spine.  We are terrified of death, but when we are forced into confrontation with us, we often find that that contact lends an eerie clarity to other aspects of our lives.  Hoe many movies and books have we seen where personal relationships, formerly complicated, get very simple under life-and-death stress? (Die Hard, The River Wild, Terms of Endearment, etc.)
Why not take one of the instances you've had of grief, or fear, or exhilaration, and give that gift---or curse--to a character in a story?  What would you say to someone mourning the death of a parent, or a child, or dealing with a terminal ailment?  Whatever that is, believe me, you can use that thought as a primary or secondary plot point quite easily.  A character who is too cocky, too sure, can be brought to earth swiftly by makign their son or daughter ill.  There is nothing quite so powerless as a parent with a sick child.
Again, over the course of your life you have been forced into contact with death again and again.  What happened?  What did you learn?  It was his initial contact with death and illness that set the Buddha on the road to enlightenment. What did it do for you? What movies and books have you experienced that touched this space with grace and power?  Who dealt with it in a trivial, superficial fashion?
I invite you to dig.  The ocean of life and death is limitless.  From this perspective, all human life is both triumph and tragedy, depending on  your perspective.  What IS your perspective?  Let's probe this a bit, and then move up to the next chakra!

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