Wednesday, May 30, 2012

All Life is a Stage Until You Stop Acting

This is the State Theater, in downtown Minneapolis, on Hennepin Avenue.  I can't tell you how many hours I spent in this building, but it was a well explored building where I became of age.  The lessons I learned, countless.  The sting of beliefs being shattered, how to rebel, and most importantly how to stop acting and start being.  For some, this was a place of bitter disappointment. For others, a place of painful secrets.  And for some, a place of disgrace and shame.  There was more theater than theater once you went through those doors.  For me, at one time, this place represented freedom, confidence, an apprenticeship and the beginning of questing.  Some stories aren't mine to tell.  However, I do remember the end of it all and when the doors slammed shut.  
The last time I wandered through these doors was in 1986, at the tender age of 19.  It's odd, because when you're young and listening to someone reflect back about a time before you were born, you admit you cannot relate to the experience because you can't comprehend a time before your own existence.  Time doesn't start for you until you are born.  Now, at my tender age of 45, because I am neither young nor old, right in the middle of generations, I can only slightly relate to those more senior to me, because I finally have that experience of seeing a city change after being away from it for so long.  This was my playground for 5 years.  This is where I learned how to walk out on stage to perform, to speak my heart and to be involved with the community.  Only at that time, this wasn't called a theater, but a church.  However, at that time, I didn't realize that I was an actor in a fantasy world.
These shots from a few months ago lingered in my mind, as I contemplated the restoration of the State Theater.  I was glad to see the wonderful transformation.  There is nothing like the live audience giving you their feedback as they anxiously await the story that is about to unfold.  What surprised me the most was I was not really thinking about the past, but marveling at its present state.  I noticed the paint, the gold leaf, the water fall, the endless use of light and reflection and the high gloss of the marble.  The later was indeed greater than the former.  She has aged extremely well.
I just sat and smiled because theaters are houses of illusion.  Your emotions can be toyed with if you get lost in the story.  Not that very different from the church this used to be. 
If you were looking for a moral, a punchline, I don't really think there needs to be one.  Eventually all things are just as they are, items to be used.  It just depends on how we use them.  In many places that I had been to from my past, a lot of them are gone.  Some of them were destroyed, closed or in this case, repurposed.  Only my memory exists and the stories that remain.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Knowing You Google Style

Those of you who blog on Blogger, quite possibly were surprised to see these new tools that track views and locales of your audience.  What I was surprised to find was that Google had been tracking them since its inception.  Often a writer fears there is no one looking at them, perhaps you are talking to a wall, let alone worry about any other insecurities that may come.  Even though I have been relatively inactive, people were still coming, still reading and finding me through search engines.  Instead of being jaded about technology, I just kind of realized that this is more lasting than I had even began to realize. 

My goal was simple, just share the journey, perspective, emotions, and finds along the way.  Ask absurd questions, learn, grow and love people.  More importantly, share everything in a transparent way.  Too many people give up on their blogs, perhaps because they are wanting to live off of kudos, comments, or are perhaps too market driven.  Whatever the reason, sometimes it's good to have the same goal that Henry Miller set out with when he left for Paris..."just touch one person".  In the not too distant past, we could only touch others through being published.  Today, we can touch anyone in the world, no matter what belief system, race, political affiliation, language, age, education level or eye color. 

So, whomever you are, wherever you are--thank you for your visit.  I hope you enjoy what you read, find what you are looking for and please come and visit again.

I will try to be in good voice.  The topic is life.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Feeling Roots in The Soil

It's been a quiet year of reflection.  As I have come back home, I have travelled a bit and just wondered at times where my journey was going, what I was going to share, what I needed to learn...and all of those damn "I's" in the sentence put me on ice.  There was a homeless man who I met in DC, who went by the name of "Fingers", mainly because he had arthritis so bad that it looked like they fused together.  His joints were large and swollen, but he still managed to hold a drink.    We talked about life and my travels, and out of all of it, I shared some of the lessons, I felt I learned.  His dark brown eyes, looked dead into mine and I could see sobriety in them as he said one word, "Self."  He sat upright.  "You learn nothing, but self."  Now, there are a couple of ways to take this wise man's words, because I never push away words from the elders.  I turned those few words over and over again in my mind.  That raspy voice executing a quiet authority that commanded respect because of the truthful nature that walked with those words.  Everyone learns from doing, their experiences, but was I only looking from a perspective of personal application?  How was I helping anyone or helping myself?  And even in this action of helping, what was the real drive behind it.

We often reflect on those turning points in our lives by looking either backward or forward to another time, another dream, another moment--that is any other time but the present.  We compare, contrast, and think, perhaps I should have spent our time in other ways, or had the foresight to avert or avoid our little disasters in life.  The "had I known" quotient.  How much of our life is wasted by not being in the moment?  And as we look back, how much of that time was spent looking backwards or forwards instead of just being on the journey?  

Neither good or bad questions, since this ground actually seems to repeatedly come up through varying sources that tell us to be ever PRESENT.  Can you be ever present without self-obsessing?  So I stopped.  I stopped writing.  I corresponded with others instead.  My "aha moments" stopped.  I replaced them with "ahhhh" moments.  I stopped knowing everything and shut up.  I went back to being the student of life, which is a proper perspective, in order to start doing things I had forgotten how to do, never had done before, or had thought I already knew.  "I know nothing."  Everyone knew I had stories to tell, but forget them for now.  I was no longer the confidant on the road abroad, I was now the expatriate at home.  Home?

A year was spent chasing my tail trying to just figure out my life.  What was "I" going to do?  When I thought about a regular job working for some sort of corporation, acid and bile filled my digestion.  Listen to your stomach, it tells you the truth when no one else will.  Friends and family were getting anxious for me.  However, I did something completely strange...I embraced being clueless.  I embraced being lost.  I walked around in a void because everything I was touching and seeing wasn't "it".  I searched through non-profits, government, corporations and even had a stint as a precious metals trader because of my zero belief in paper currencies, but still that hollow sound that echos.

So what do you do when you know you are not at that place where you need to be?  In a word of doing, I was not doing.  I was lost in deep thought, silence and trying the acquisition of patience.  It took a lot to shut up my mind and to start digging into my character.  What did I really need to think about?  What was the real desired impact?  Then, it began to happen inside of me.  I began to start seeing what I wanted to see once I let go and knew nothing.  This whole year, was about knowing nothing and being teachable again.  It was more than physical possessions I had needed to let go of, I needed to let go of the known, the boundaries, the definitions, etc.  in order to create that fertile ground to start learning.

"I have never." are three words that keep people from doing.  The secret is, make the attempt even if you fail.  You have no experience as a child, but that doesn't stop you from trying.  A child is instructed, the task modeled and the child repeats and repeats until the task is satisfactorily replicated for a foundation where they begin to recreate and hopefully evolve to create something that shows their imagination.  A light goes on.  That is how you create a Tesla, an Einstein, or even better, a YOU to bring your gifts to the table.  In China, I was honored to be called Lao Shi, which means teacher, because to me, that meant I touched their lives.  In this journey, in various points, I have been surrounded by diverse peoples, population

 sizes, and now, in this quiet small community where the population is numbered at 4,210.  I am immersed with nature and the sounds of woodpeckers, tree frogs, and roosters.  I smell the earth, see clear skies, and can see the sun rise almost 30 minutes prior to those who live in the city, with an unobstructed view of the horizon.  The people speak slowly as though their thoughts continually simmer.  Their words chosen with care, as to not offend.  The earth is turned, the seeds are planted and the weeds are pulled.  Character, not wealth is valued.  Oaths are made with handshakes.  Impressions are made by the quality of craftsmanship, not the contents of empty promises.  There is poetry in the till, grace in the floating honey bees, and the paint and varnish of heels and make up is put away.  To retain your soul, your essence, no matter where you travel in the world is one thing.  To give of yourself, along the way, without expectation is quite another.  The mastery of a child is "not knowing".

There was a Chinese parable of a student who came to a master to be taught the art of Zen meditation.  The master refused the student because he refused to not know all he had learned in life.  "You must first unlearn all you know and then I can teach you."  Another way to look at it is how can new furniture be delivered to a full house.  Maybe it took me a year just to know nothing and it will take me a lifetime to master the art of not knowing.