The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Thursday, June 03, 2010

"When Canada is Dead And Gone...

There'll be no more Celine Dion!"

Well, not really. My trip wasn't a vacation, although we had nine kinds of fun along the way. Lots of fascinating moments. One of my favorites was discovering the hidden dining rooms reserved for VIPs. Poor Blair wouldn't have had a moment's peace if not for these, and the personal security guards that surrounded him in public. We went to an R&B concert on the ship with Frankiee Beverly and Maze, and the women trying to get photos with Blair were such a stream he couldn't really enjoy the concert, and had to be hustled out the side door. Ah, celebrity. On the other hand, he gets to do lots of really incredible stuff related to that very "disadvantage"--like meet Nelson Mandela. Darn him. That is probably the human being I would like most to meet.

If we get a Cape Town movie, that is absolutely the thing I would like to do most. Meet Mandela.
I knew I was getting exhausted on the last leg of my trip because my cuticles were splitting, and I would wake up with threads of silly song weaving through my mind, and meditation couldn't get rid of it completely. In this case, "Blame Canada" from the South Park movie. Steven Sondheim said it was the best musical film in decades, and I tend to agree...but wow. Not exactly the way I want to start my day.
"Hence is it that we make trifles of terrors, ensconcing ourselves into seeming knowledge, when we should submit ourselves to an unknown fear..."

The Bard, again, from a comedy no less. The Enneagram is a fascinating pattern, nine points arrayed around a circle, with geometric designs within linking them. Most people in America are only familiar with it in terms of "personality types" but that is a tiny fraction of what this "paper computer" is about. One of the most important things to note is the gap between points four and five. This is the point of no return, where if one does not gird up one's loins and move through the fire, forsaking hope and ignoring fear, the risk of falling backwards into old patterns is huge. We all do it in some areas of our lives. I've never met, or even heard of, anyone who did not.

The very best among us seem to focus our energies so that we make the most important leaps, and don't sweat the small stuff. For me, this is why I say to have 3-5 major goals and focus points, with one being physical, one being relational, and one being in the arena of business/finances. A human mind can handle about seven things at a time, max. When you ask someone what their most important goals are, and they list seven of them and not one touches one of these three arenas, it is quite easy to predict where their chain is going to break--and make no mistake, you are no stronger than your weakest link.

One of the most fascinating things about stress is how it seems to be a living thing, plotting and planning to worm its way deeply into your existence. It will dissuade you from performing the precise actions necessary to keep stress from becoming strain: you will do what is imperative (short term emergency) rather than what is important (long term benefit). And trust me, there is absolutely no end to the short-term urgent in life. This is one of the reasons that people can have a fantastic amount of difficulty meditating. Anything and everything seems more important, including cutting your neighbor's cat's toenails. Bizarre. And it is all fear. If you clear away all of the superfluous "stuff" what remains is the responsibility to be in alignment with BOTH your childhood dreams and the ultimate values you will embrace on your deathbed. When both the child you were and the ancient you will become agree upon your daily actions--well, you pretty much have life nailed.

What stops us, of course, is fear. Fear of how far we have wandered from those childhood ambitions and simple loving values. How terrifying it is to acknowledge the end of days. From that perspective, we have the obligation of living our lives with integrity, melding, say, Harlan's definition of success: "to bring into existence, in Adult fashion, our childhood dreams" and the Sufi definition of enlightenment, to "die before you die." This takes a level of both courage and honesty that I have seen in only a tiny, tiny fraction of humanity. Maybe around .1% even try. The sad thing is that almost every human complaint relates to a failure of one of these two challenges. Even sadder is the fact that we are so dishonest about wanting the basic values: love, health, security--that we allow our psyches to stuff our pain and grief into whichever arena becomes our "black bag" (repository of unprocessed emotion) and then surround ourselves with people who have matching wounds, so they will not challenge us.

This is lethal to our dreams, and hopes for clarity in life. The answer? Every human being must find her own, ultimately. But one that seems to have worked fairly globally is to aim at a balanced life in alignment with both ancient principles and modern thought. With both the newborn and the elder who takes her last breath. The more deeply I think on this, the more it seems that every mistake I've ever made arose from straying from this truth.

A warning: if you are committed to this, you will have health, love and success. But you will also lose friends and experience an existential loneliness that must be experienced to be believed. But the trick is that the loneliness was always there: you just kept yourself too numb and busy to notice. And the friends? Well...if they don't want the truth, and they don't embrace your quest to be the very best self you can you really want them? Crack heads have friends, too. And usually, they must leave them behind if they would heal. Of course, in healing, they leave the door open for those friends to follow, if only they can shake off their own despair and illusion, and embrace life.

1 comment:

Marty S said...

A big question to my mind is "What is success?" In some sense at age 65 and retired I am past seeking success and am more inclined to ponder the question of has my life been a success. I look at where I am now and how I got there. I often ask myself "If I had it to do over again which decisions I made would I do differently and which would I do the same again?" There are many I am happy with and others which I would clearly change. The interesting ones, which really tell me about the current trouble spots in my life are the ones where I can't decide whether I would change them or not.