Thursday, July 20, 2017

From A for Applause to Z for Zoubi

Authenticity needs no specific forum. Songbirds can sing wherever they're caged. Or do they? It takes a rare talent to be able to be just who you are, wherever you are. And any artifice one may add to another's stirring performance would perhaps be just that, a conscious accretion of stylistic values held by others to make a performance more palatable, more professional, more sophisticated. But there'd be no falsehood, not if the raw deal, the profound talent, the ‘real’ authenticity of the songster, the poet, the artist already is abundantly grounded. Such is the voice and artistry of Zoubi Arros. Such is the privilege of spending time with this invaluable songbird whose reach is beyond her grasp, whose great potential is as yet unrealized, whose affect upon others is yet sufficiently to be broadcast so that her voice may become a household heart-held 'tumble' of lyrics given a familiar sound. Then those stylistic artifices of presentation semiotics, emotional chiaroscuro, polychromic and personal tastes may indeed give alternative perspectives. (We each are given to preferential tastes.) But there is no denying another’s secure voice of authenticity, however stylistically someone else (like me) might appear to tinker with the experience of performance.

We are each affected by art in its many renditions. And the five principles of enduring art (see: ) are subtly there if art is eventually to become all-reaching, self-consciously or not. So too for the addition of the Classical Mountain Diagram to any rendition, exponential song for aching song, as well as the effective drama that over-arches the entire performance. Then too, the unique Alphabet of Performance Principles might be applied, patina for patina, layered over the performance until habitual, natural, and absorbed into those comfortable conventions of being in front of others, performing, singing, and ‘acting’. (Acting, it is such a 'dirty' word.) Yet when in front of others, on any stage, we are 'actors'. And whether a speech, a song, a monologue, or a metaphorical ballet of suppositions for any art, we are at once in the spotlight of others' eyes. We are seen!

We see. We bring ourselves. As onlookers we identify primarily with that which is inside us. To not have been homeless, or abandoned, or drunk, or hit and hurt and abused, is to bring oneself, one's identity, merely as a relational entity to the art. But although we may not know the precise recipe by which the painter achieved his effect, or the real specifics of the weaving story behind the songster's rendition, or the iambic craft by which the poet achieved words affecting a relational significance, we can be reached. Our souls are touched. Our emotions are plucked. It is in identification that we most relate with another, with a place, with a sense of connection, and with The Art, piece by piece, or as a whole. Just show me "your integrity" is a phrase that resonated with Zoubi's stellar performance.

"Your problem, Richard," an actor once leveled at me, "is that you do not know how properly to receive a compliment. Praise is a gift. Your dismissal of the compliment, of the applause, is like saying that what is given to you is worthless. Instead, look a person in the eye, thank them for their gift, and honour the fact that they bothered to give it to you in the first place."

We can share lessons. We can learn from others. We can absorb and change and adapt and accrete and mature and more effectively resonate with life. Such is the value of adding to that which we already know. Pablo Casals, at 90, said when asked why he continues to practice the violin, "because I'm hoping to improve." It is that very entelechy, that quality of inner drive and ambition and instinct that has one always reaching beyond one's grasp ("or what's a heaven for?" wrote the poet, Robert Browning.) Yet in our reaching for yet more, even in all our authenticity, we may fear losing our integrity, our old paradigms of practice. But not Zoubi!

"I just want to know God's thoughts; the rest are details," Einstein said. Yet we are still best to learn, and to keep on learning. One can sing atop Mount Tolmie, or perform in one's basement. If you're like Zoubi Arros, your authenticity will always shine through. And even in our learning, yes, integrity can remain.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Attenuated Acceptance(s)

They lied! The deception rankles. Yet we perpetuate it ourselves, ad infinitum, it seems. We teach about Tooth Fairies and Santa and Father Christmas. We teach about the Easter Bunny. It's kiss the Blarney Stone, and love little leprechauns. And it's watch out for black cats and cracks and the Tokkelosh. (Of course, you'd have to know what a Tokkelosh is, but that's why many Africans have their beds up on bricks, just to prevent the Tokkelosh from leaping up!) Children learn to fear it. So too for the Boogeyman! Yes, we advance the Gods of yore too (especially in reincarnations of Greek mythology). And how easily we o'erlook the Roman Gods, never mind Ra or Isis. Yet although not everything is scary or real, there remains the sense that, Icarus like, one's flights of fancy ought not to go too near the Truth. Still, Ockham's razor divides, (we’ll learn.) But deceit and prevarication marries the self, and in its guises we respond with emotion. We feel things. We are touched. No wonder when someone outright lies, or is in and of themselves false, we are uncomfortable, outraged, incensed, and deeply cut. Or not.

Who amongst us has never (ever) lied?

William Ockham, in medieval times, outlined a split between perceived reality, and that which is actually real. It was the dawning of science. To one side was declared that which is True, and to the other fell that which is 'good' (or bad, for that matter). Religion became divisive. Science triumphed. And the Ptolemaic system was replaced by the Copernican. Knowledge of itself became a pursuit of facts. Intuition, that ephemeral substance of superstition and supposition, was sliced aside by the incontestable, by the rational and actual-factual. And to this day our schoolchildren and our populace are led to place a higher order of value on the materially attainable, on that which can be measured in accountability. Spiritualism and Angels and Friday the 13th are for zombies. It is no wonder that the marvel of Spider-Man and Wonder-woman and Thor and Harry Potter entertain us so; we easily delight in our suspended disbelief.

Which of us still really believes in the Gods? Believes in magic? Believes in miracles? Believes in ghosts and goblins and sprites? Believes that our sacrifice will do much to tally the balance of our karma? Believes that our connections with others are 'forever', and are independent of our actions that disconnect and dissolve and fragment and bifurcate the expected from the actual? It is in our very politics. We argue. We are present to each moment, yes, but Future and Past are adjustable, even so for the very depth of breath one may take at coming to a single tiny period.

We breathe. We are alive! But let us not unto the farce of our fragile thoughts admit that we do not search for some succour for our present predicament. “Somebody, save me!” We each feel insecure in the perpetual climate of uncertainty around us (since it is predicated so much on the actions of others: how they drive; how they dance, dress, think, behave, speak; and what their avowed politics are!) We feel helpless in the face of all the conflict. We are victims. We cannot do much else but exercise our one poor lonely little vote. Say our piece. And the bank rates will change. Taxes will change. Death will steal us each away. Ideas will rot at our stability. New habits will break our comfortable old paradigms. New expectations will threaten our very soul.

And so, which of us has not disliked that with which we do not agree?

Learning to accept and allow for and integrate and have compassion for and include that which is not understood may take lifetimes. (Or is that stretching 'a truth'?) We can feel the other's upbraiding of our Self as a physical punch, as a slap in the face of all that was meant, that was intended, that was learned. Potential and purpose, or presentiment too, dissolves to disillusion. We are incomplete. And in accepting incompletion, so are we more accepting of another. No?

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Coordinating Contrition

Immediately wrought contrite over a childhood thought, of more than fifty years ago, the old man deeply shuddered. The searing of it had resurfaced, unwittingly. But why now? What was the cause? Where did it spring from? Who else had he hurt in the long hurtle from the 'there', in the once-upon-a-time, to the here and now? How aware had he been? And why had he not, as far as he could remember, recalled with sufficient regret having had that ‘bad’ thought, again, until now?

Guilt is an awkward thing. It resonates with rancour. One easily can beat oneself up. What self-serving impulse, what shallow instinct has not invaded any one of us? And how can one be forgiving of another if not having had, albeit in some smidgen of a way, a similar 'sin' visited upon the self? Have you never (ever) wished someone dead? Have you never-ever filched, stolen, or sneaked so much as a cookie when not supposed to? Not even thought of it? But there are much more subtle issues at stake in the monitoring moments of the self than taking actual action. There is thought itself. And such thoughts that we know instinctively to conceal are those that we might examine in ourselves more closely. For they indubitably saturate the consciousness. They can cause others to feel uncomfortable. They can be unethical. They can harm one's integrity. Yet we think of almost everything, (and which part of Everything is 'not'?)

Indeed. "I am not to be held responsible for the thoughts that enter my head," said Einstein, "just the ones I entertain." Yes. We easily have thoughts ballooning by, but being conscious of them, learning when to look away, to veer off course, or purposefully to go higher (if not deeper) into the realms beyond their immediate import, now there's the thing! We are too easily impregnated by “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune". We too easily (especially men) can lean at an atavistic slant to one side and with cocked heads study the click-click of high-heels bobbing by. Distractions abound! Thoughts infiltrate. Yet it’s in deeds that we perpetrate who we are, indeed.

"We are what we think", writes James Allen (in 'As A Man Thinketh'). It affects our character. It affects our circumstances. It affects our health. It affects our purpose, our achievements, our visions and our ideals. In fact, the effect of our thought affects, ultimately, not only ourselves!

Thing is, the territorial imperative would have us linked by constellation to the genetic code impelling us since Adam. (We can hardly be held responsible!) Yet 'sophistication', (that word that connotes a veneer of civility yet denotes the management of one's animal instincts, one's selfish desires, one's self-serving impulses,) sophistication would have us manage our motives, manage our base natures, manage even our memories. Yes, how does one free oneself from the tyrannical grip of the past? Somewhere in thinking-about-our-thinking (that essentially meta-cognitive process of practicing more than being predominantly led by intuitive feeling, and with our using the perpetual bridle of thought on the free range of emotion) we attain a sifting through the shallow, callow, lewd and rude. We slough off the dross of objectifying and vilifying and adjudging those whose condition renders them insensate to our own preferences. In effect, we become more and more enlightened, if such a thing be recognition of being more and more at peace not only with the self, but with everyone and everything, despite their given predilections.

That ‘ill’ teenage thought felt by the old man, a day or two ago, had him shudder with regret. Thing is, even though he tried throughout today, and with this writing, to recall precisely what that thought was, he cannot. It is as though we eventually shudder at our past sufficient to sift beyond its effect on us, such that forgiveness of the self becomes a primary platform from which to realize yet more compassion, acceptance, and conscious of others too as they are connected to the self. Always.

After all, "All for one, and one for all!" Yes?   


Sunday, July 2, 2017

'Harvey', Homilies, and Hope

How very fragile it all is. One hurtles between cities and hopes all will be well. Like life. One mounts a concept, a production, a venture, and expects a success. All our lives, we have grand schemes, dreams, and beliefs. We wear talismans. We imprint ourselves with tattoos. We pay obeisance to our ancestors. We take on personas and beliefs and expectations. And eventually, it dawns on us: perfection is so very fleeting, so momentary. We best go with the flow. (Learned lines, rules, are so difficult to generate each time, as though truly "for the first time, every time"). And our holding onto what is essentially transitory, each little passage of life itself, tends for too long to be too attached to the past. We each move from moment to moment. We step but briefly on the boards of the great panoply of life, and each person, in their time, "plays several parts."

Where have we heard that before? What part of Awareness; Balance; Character (versus Personality); Demon-(S)-tration; Enfoldment; Fear or Favour; Give; Heighten; Intensify; Justify; Kinetics; Lunge or Lilt; Momentum; Notes; Observe; Pivot; Question; Respect, Receive, Rejoice;
Semiotics of Speech; Tone, Tempo, Texture; Utterance; Value; Waken; Axcept or Expect, (but not Except); Yield; or Zig-Zag is just far too esoteric for you? Precise coordination, definition, or resonance may well be obtuse. (So also for incomprehensible medical or engineering terms. Or for cosmology and astrology and phrenology. Yes, big words and their effect on our eschatology can be off-putting). The more one knows the more one knows how much one doesn't know!

But this I know: We had a marvelous success! We each took a slice out of life, committed ourselves to its import, to its moment, and brought ourselves to the creative collaboration with passion for attaining a product worthy of our time and effort. (For those not "in the know" we might refer to a social engagement, or a graduation, or perhaps even going on a holiday. The generality of 'application to task' is what is here called up for inspection.) The specifics, the details, all add up to what becomes a fragmentary memory, eventually. Recall the holidays you've been on? Recall every day? Recall the parties you've been to? Recall every guest? Recall the birthdays you've had? Recall every present? Indeed, the specifics fade away. But the essence of the time spent, the energy that went into the event, the feelings that were realized, they all become part of the past that we are making, even as you read these words. We can but do what we do within the given moment, imperfect as the collage of moments may eventually appear, on reflection. But that overall 'good' sense, the lasting 'happy' impression, that's the one for the memory banks! (Even though, yes, some of our memories are indeed 'bad'). We each learn. We each process things. And many things strike us each quite differently, indeed.

Science needs have it perfect. Certainly, I want my brakes on the car to work! I want my vehicle's engine, mile after mile after hour after hour to turn over, smoothly, efficiently, and to transport me to yet another realm. So too for our hearts. So too for the arteries and vessels and molecules and atoms that constitute our very sense of existing. Be good, "Or what's living for?"

'Harvey', an invisible Pooka, as the alter ego of Elwood P. Dowd, harboured being pleasant as opposed to being smart. He imbued politeness, respect, dignity, grace, and comportment. He stood for sensitivity to others, inclusion, and integration. He was neither pretentious nor inauthentic. He imbued a sense of collaboration, of a ghostly presence to be accounted for at every occasion, and of a respect for the dignity of the whole. Harvey, indeed, is expected to be a part of all of us, always. To see Mike Johnson play Elwood was to witness the very best of a person brought to light, each and every time, as though being present was indeed the first time, every time. So too then might we represent that much in ourselves, as much as is possible.

Or is that just too full of homilies and hope?