Whose idea is this, anyway?

My favorite TV ad features a big eyed, sad faced, muppet-like creature that nobody wants around. Ignored by all, left to sleep next to the trash bin in a dirty back alley, it wanders from place to place, dragging its scraggly tail behind it ,until one kind soul finally opens a door and invites it inside. As it walks out of the darkness and into the light its raggedness gradually transforms, until, behold! It is magically reborn, sporting luminous rainbow colored plumage, while an audience of admirers generously cheers it on.

This heart rending spot is about ideas 

How we fear, resist and ignore them, leaving them to find their way up through the cracks of our lives far too often., I’m surprised at how good we are at doing this. And how ignorant we are of what we’re doing, most, if not all of the time.

 I’m equally surprised at how easilly we get caught in this trap ,ignoring even a brilliant  idea whose time came, so many years ago, when we first opened our doors to people, from around the world, desperate  to escape horrendous conditions, seeking comfort upon our safe, un-war torn  shores.
In a comment in the November 9th edition of The New Yorker on line
George Packer reminds us that “In the Second World War, Congress passed legislation that made resettlement in the U.S. harder for Jewish victims of Nazism than for Germans uprooted by the war Hitler started. The chairman of the Senate’s immigration sub-committee presented the problem with a loathsome flourish,  stating, ‘Many of those who seek entrance into this country have little concept of our form of government. Many of them come from lands where Communism had its first growth and dominates the political thought and philosophy of the people.’  Does this sound familiar?  Why doesn’t he just say what he means. (Too many of them are Jews. We thought that problem was disposed of)
Only the angry persistence of President Harry S. Truman got Congress to expand the numbers and remove the discriminatory provisions. so they too could live and flourish.”
New and foreign people (like new and foreign ideas) scare us.
Who knows what beliefs they harbor. What harm they might do? Do they hate us or love us? Will they adapt, or will they flounder in the thick soup of “American exceptionalism?”
At first, I was torn. But after slogging through my future- based fears the choice became clear: its time for our compassion challenged* country, which gives such easy lip service to “freedom and liberty for all,”  to do what it was created to do, by honoring the highest of its ideas and ideals.
 I hope that’s not too much to ask. Or is it?
Here’s an image to move this idea along:
Coming Home
See before you the Statue of Liberty.
See her raising her lamp higher, and beckoning the lost and homeless to Freedom’s Shore.
Become as one with her, as you sense, feel and live how it is to walk the talk of liberty and, freedom for all.
Then breathe out and open your eyes, knowing all is well.
*The “Idea” ad is from GE.
* Compassion challenged is a term used by Washington Post columnist Petula Dvorak, in her November 3rd column on the plight of the homeless, as exacerbated by the law.

 

 

 

They voted Right: Or Is It Left?

Did you hear it? Was it loud enough? Do they get it yet? A resounding YES just echoed throughout the land. The Supreme Court voted 6 to 3 to keep the Affordable Care Act in tact. Millions, including one of my very dear friends, have been saved from being thrown back into the pit of disregard and hardship advocated by those those who would have given almost anything (except their own privilege) to see this grand accomplishment go down. Foiled! The brilliant and beautiful Black Man in the White House has pulled it off again. Sorry. Too bad. La di da. La di da. La di da.

I dare say this has been a good week. Out with the confederate flag. In with Obamacare. What’s next. I bet, hope, and pray, we go three for three. The odds are good. The wind is at our backs. Any takers?

We never know what things may come.  All we do know is our intention and our willingness to follow through. Here’s an image for momentum and resilience. Use it and see what happens.

 Beating the Drum

Close your eyes, exhale through your mouth, and imagine you’re standing within a circle of light. See, feel and sense how you are beating a drum that sends out a clear and powerful message. See all those who hear this message responding to its rhythm and coming to join you. See them entering your circle and see this circle growing larger. Hear the drumbeats flowing out into the universe, becoming stronger and clearer. Feel them resonating in your heart and in the hearts of others. See and sense what happens. Then breathe out and open your eyes.

 

Forever Young: Elder Awe

On June 5th, The New York Times ran a piece called “A Group Portrait of New York’s Oldest, Old,”  Instantly, Jonas Mekas, the last person profiled in this piece on elder-hood, became my hero.

At 92, Mr. Mekas lives entirely in the present, taking each day as it comes..He says he  doesn’t know what he’ll be dong when he gets up in the morning. He doesnt worry. He doesn’t believe in it. Yet, he’s no slouch. Indeed, he’s a producer and writer of films, who makes time each day to thoroughly enjoy his life.

He sees this as “Normal.” He claims that anything else is not. His doctor says he’ll live to be a hundred! I’m counting on it. For like Woody Allen in Annie Hall,”.I’m in “lerve”

As for “happiness,” Mekas believes it’s a sense of inner peace and balance where he isn’t anxious about what’s coming, but involved in what’s going on right here, right now. The title of his most recent film Out-Takes From the Life of A Happy Man. bears testament to the success of his philosophy.

For what could be more healing, more empowering, more youth-ifying than elder-hood as a proving ground for the salutory effect of being here now? In truth, Where Else Is There For Us To Be? 

Here’s an image you can use to experience life without grasping. To live with no agenda. To be part of the wonder of Now..

 The Bridge of Now**

Close your eyes, breathe out, and see yourself on a rope-bridge, made of separate pieces of wood tied together, stretching out ahead of you and behind you.

Know and live, that behind you lies the past.

Before you lies the future.

As you stand here, look toward the direction of past and see the pieces of wood falling away until there is nothing there.

Now  look toward the direction of the future and see the same thing happening.

See yourself standing here, knowing there is no past. There is no future. There is only this moment.

Stand in this moment and give thanks.  Then open your eyes.

 * Imagery from Dr. Fritz Jean-Noel 

*Credit to Dr. Melissa Abrams for tweaking me back into action

Seymour: Three Daughters and a Pianist

At 88 years old, Seymour Bernstein looks more than a decade younger. He lives on the upper West Side of Manhattan in a prewar studio that he shares with his grand piano and momentos of his life in music. He is nothing less than extraordinary As a pianist. A musician. A composer. A teacher. And as a man.

The film “Seymour,” created by Ethan Hawke, is a work of wonder. Far more than a film about music, or the biography of a brilliant pianist, it’s a film about life. How to live it. How to look at it. How to survive it. And how to feel it in your bones.

It begins as Seymour speaks with Michael Kimmelman, award winning author, chief art critic of the New York Times, and a concert pianist himself, who has been Seymour’s student since the age of five. He questions Seymour about his life, and delicately, yet powerfully, this life unfolds before us like a worn, yet gorgeous, silken quilt.

His childhood: “There was no music in my house.” 

His father: “I have three daughters and a pianist.”

His time in Korea: “I hiked 20 miles in zero degree weather. Others didn’t make it.  I kept going. It was the musical mindset that did it.”

When I think of Seymour, and I’ve been thinking of him a lot, since I saw the film last week, he’s a place as well as a person. He’s the Seymour place, where the irritations and difficulties fall away. A place of solitude, grace, and beauty, where life’s detritus is forbidden to make the slightest appearance.

Along with hearing him speak, we see Seymour teach. We see the meticulous practice of a phrase played again and again, until the notes flow, until the slightest failed nuance is addressed.

Despite his success and stunning reviews, Seymour stopped playing in public when he was fifty. He was at the height of his celebrity, but had terrible stage fright — an experience he shares with Ethan Hawke.  It took too much from him. It got in his way when he wanted to give the world and himself something else. Something not so self-obsessed. Something beyond the conceit of a brilliant performance.

Toward the end of the film, there’s a small private concert where we hear him play. He admits that he’s nervous. Yet, once he begins he’s calm. Transparent. He plays like an angel. No drama. No ego. Pure art. Even I could hear it, and I’m no musician.

Life is many things. Love, beauty, connection, happiness, joy, pain, failure and triumph. At this juncture, I can add Seymour. Yes. Life, if you’re lucky, is Seymour. You might enjoy seeing this film. And you might choose to invite Seymour into your own life as well. You could hardly do better.

Note: A friend pointed out that Ethan Hawke was “the shy boy,”  in Dead Poets Society.” In a way, he remains that boy. Wondering what it’s all about; how to relate to life in a more genuine way. Here, he looks to Seymour, as his character did with Robin Williams in that long ago film. But Seymour is a better bet. He’s real. And he chooses life at every turn

Smoke Screen

Last week, a train stopped dead, 800 feet outside the L’enfant Plaza Metro station in DC. As passengers dealt with the darkness and the conductor’s conflicting narratives, smoke began filling the cars. They were told to get down low. To stay where they were. Not to open the doors, or to get out of the train. Some panicked. Some lost consciousness. Some prayed and tried to comfort each other. Some closed their eyes and remained calm. Eighty-four wound up at area hospitals. One woman died. And two people chose not to obey orders.

Just Following Orders

I’ve always been, unnerved by machines that stop, get stuck, go dark. Whether they be elevators, cars, trains, whatever. I’ve been tested and have failed miserably several times. I don’t quite panic, but I don’t stay calm. Yet there’s one thing I know for certain: my fear of being locked in and my terror of not being able to breathe, trump my fear of the dark and the unknown. As for following orders, I stopped doing that by the time was six.

Had I been unfortunate enough to be on this train,  I would have stuck with the former navy guy who labeled it “a situation,” then opened the doors, and offered to lead people out. Yes, there was the third rail to worry about, but if you’ve ever found yourself unable to breathe you get the picture. There were several who followed this man, as he walked away from the smoke toward the light. But by the time he got to the grating that led to the street there was only one person behind him. The others had all turned back.  

Become Your Own Authority

The voices of authority are easily enamored of themselves. They love to give orders. They tell you what to do and how to do it. As Rudy Giuliani walked the streets of New York after 9/11, taking up his role as “Leader” of the city’s millions of terrified pehple, he neglected to disclose that he’d approved the decision to put the emergency command center on the 23rd floor of the World Trade Center. It must have slipped his mind.

Dan Baumbach, a software engineer from Merrick, was stunned to find that building officials in One World Trade Center were telling workers not to evacuate, even after the first jet struck. “You can try it, but it’s at your own risk,” he quoted one official as warning a hundred people on the 75th floor. Many went with his advice; Baumbach continued his descent and survived.

“The reason we got out,” Brumbach said,  ”was because we didn’t listen.

Imagine yourself on a smoke filled train, or in a high rise that has just been hit by a jet. Imagine how you’d feel. Imagine what you would do. How about choosing to Become your own authority.To listen to your first voice. For me, that’s the voice that says: What are you waiting for? Take your chances. Do it! Go. Get out! 

Yes. It’s that simple. There are no guarantees. No one knows any better than you do what may happen.So don’t analyze your choices. Just make them and move on.

Here’s an image to empower you to do this:  

Choose You Can’t Lose

 This is best done by having someone read it to you. Make your choices quickly. And go from the gut.

Close your eyes, breathe out and Choose:

 

Left or Right.

Day or Night.

Dark or Light.

Fast or Slow.

High or Low.

Yes or No.

Stay or Go.