Constant Havoc

Yes, I thought about this stuff before I put it here.

Category: life

Sharing Thoughts

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I stopped giving medical advice to friends suffering from the common cold a very long time ago. Decades actually. I figured out no one – absolutely no one – ever took my ideas and tried them. They didn’t really want to hear what I had to offer.

Somewhere along the line, I took that knowledge and applied it to the rest of my life. I stopped speaking about many of my ideas for situations, unless I was asked. Even then, I would word what I said carefully. I would make it plain that my ideas worked for me, and they may or may not work for others.

I have noticed that few people hear what I say wholly. They hear what they think is advice, and they politely ignore it.

When did it happen? When did we stop listening to each other? When did we start listening selectively to reinforce our own preconceptions?

For example, I follow astrology, but I don’t pretend it’s a subject that most people wish to hear about. I don’t talk about it very much at all. I have studied it a great deal, and I am fully aware that the horoscopes published in the paper and on a vast number of websites are rubbish. It is a complex science, and many variables go into making an accurate assessment of what astrology reveals about our lives. Nowadays, people believe astrology is nothing more than the short quips written in the newspaper. That’s a wrong assumption. Still, I keep quiet.

For the most part, I am very careful with my choice of words when I write or speak. I avoid “you.” It erects barriers. It sounds accusatory even in benign situations.

I forget which book it was in, but the classicist Anne Carson wrote something to the effect that every word is a blow. By “blow,” she means a physical hit. Words can do that. They can reach across the space that divides people, and they can affect others positively and negatively.

Maybe that’s why we stopped listening. We’re protecting ourselves from unwarranted punishments and judgements thrown at us unnecessarily. Is it just defense?

On some level, I’m sure it is defense. There are other times when I know motives are more nefarious. People simply refuse to hear words that question their preconceptions. They fear they might be wrong about an idea. Being wrong requires contrition and change. Pride does not allow many people to acknowledge they may need to think anew.

And there may lie the crux of the matter – fear. It is powerful.

Fear walls us in. It divides us. It eats at our core and causes all manner of difficulties. Importantly, it blocks proper hearing. When we fear others may have ideas better than our own, we fear we may need to be open and vulnerable and change.

Fear is really quite simple. We learn it immediately when we’re born. Our first fear is that we might not be fed. It’s that primal. It is seated in the stomach.

Perhaps at the most basic level, we don’t listen carefully, because we fear hunger.

Would anyone like some bread and butter? Anyone?

Vision

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I want to live in a glass house without curtains.

Ephemera

I once heard that “may you live in interesting times” is a very old Chinese curse. We live in interesting times.

Our militarized police state sickens me. Young people of color are gunned down at random by police officers who seem eager to use their lethal weapons.

Access to clean water is a human right.

I am rereading Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon. In the last thirty years, I have lost count how many times I’ve read it. The words seem preternaturally clear this time. The book is so simple really. It’s just words.

Reading is the most important skill I possess. I learned to read critically at Oklahoma Baptist University and St. John’s College Graduate Institute.

I cannot read pulp.

I will buy the work of two living authors without knowing anything about the book in advance. The first author is Thomas Pynchon who has already been mentioned. The second is Anne Carson, a classicist. Her book Eros, the Bittersweet should be required reading for every breathing human.

I lived without a television for a very long time. I have one now, and it’s rarely on. I went through a period of years when my mental illness would not allow me to sit and enjoy television. Now, I can watch comfortably, but most of what’s on bores me.

Girls mature. Boys age.

Climate change is going to be worse for us than we currently realize.

I am optimistic about humanity in the long run.

No one knows how the spiritual realm really works. No one.

Contemporary cynicism is the easy way out.

A great many people fear careful thought.

I have not read all of William Shakespeare’s work. Some of it is rotten. I couldn’t stand Troilus and Cressida. His sonnets were divinely inspired.

I love being a peer specialist in mental health and working with other people who live with mental illness. We are passionate folk.

There are only two emotions: love and fear. Everything flows from those two.

Fear is the greatest threat to life. Fear eats passion, and passion is life. Embracing love eradicates fear. Maybe we are all here to learn to release fear and accept love.

Every person must have passion. It can come in a billion different forms, large or small. Nurturing passion is the most precious gift we can give another person.

What is theatre that fits?

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Life has dimensions. We are each of us just the right size, and knowing that size keeps us happy. When we lose sight of our size and begin to push out of or contract to less than what we naturally are, we experience discomfort. I am me, and I love me. I know just how far I extend, and I find everything I need to keep me happy easily within reach.

Art has dimensions, too. I believe art’s value lies in reminding each of us of our true dimensions. Many of us think ourselves very small. We are not. We are large and can grasp great chunks of life to fulfill ourselves and keep us happy. We need art to remind us how big we are.

I am a theatre artist. Others are dancers or musicians or painters or writers or a myriad other types of creators. I am happy they know their passions. Theatre gives me breath. When I am acting or directing or reading a play or studying the writing of other theatre artists, I am full. I know my dimensions, and I am very large.

I can touch you with my art. We can make contact. Magic happens in moments of contact.

Theatre is created in sequences. First, there is the urge. I have a desire to touch, and I begin to search for the vehicle that will allow that touch to reach me. I talk to friends about the theatre they are creating. I see theatre. I imagine the possibilities. I allow the urge to grow, and it forms a force that draws more creativity to me.

I begin to study. I feel what’s in the air. I pay attention to the sounds on the street. I listen. I hear. I contact people, other creators.

We are all creators.

I read. I see the words of playwrights, and I make contact with their intentions. Plays on paper are potentialities and promises. The words release themselves in me, and I feel their powers push me to remember how large I am. In my mind, I reach out to the possibilities.

I see forms. A vision shapes itself in me. Ideas are born. A vehicle to contact the spectators arrives.

I contact creators who help me fill my vision with life-giving air. I touch other creators, and they touch me. We are in contact. We share our gifts of creation.

There is some time that passes, during which we all concentrate on creating the vehicle to contact the spectators, and when the vehicle is ready, we call the spectators to help us give it birth.

The creation is born when it is viewed. It is given life when the spectators participate. In being seen, contact is created, and magic occurs.

I need to create magic. I need to contact. I can breathe when I create contact.

In his book, The Empty Space, Peter Brook writes,

The theatre is the arena where a living confrontation can take place.

Contact happens in living confrontation. I believe contact is sacred, and I strive to create sacred contact. When my creation touches another person, a space is created that fills us both. We are made whole. The spectator finishes me.

If I lose sight of the contact I strive for and make theatre for the sole purpose of showing, I cannot make contact. It is mere ego. It hides my soul from the spectator, and when I am hidden, contact is impossible. Magic is impossible. The sacred bond is impossible.

Art that fits creates sacred contact. Art that knows its dimensions can appear very small physically, but living confrontation is always the perfect size. It is just large enough to create a space where we can breathe.

Theatre that fits creates room for people to touch each other. There is magic in that sacred embrace.

Epiphany

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It takes more strength of character and integrity to be open and teachable and vulnerable than it does to have a thick skin and a hard heart.

The Rocky Places

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I’ve been through a rough patch recently on several fronts. I’ve been told to get a thick skin. I’ve decided I don’t want one. I like being sensitive. I like feeling. I want to be accepted as such.

I’ve been told to ignore those who mistreat me. I’m sorry, but that’s self-censorship. I won’t buy that. I will not remain silent to protect my peace of mind. I should be treated with respect simply because I’m human.

Abuse me and expect to be shown your own behavior in no uncertain terms.

And don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

Eruption

Greek helmet

Rage — Goddess, sing the rage of Peleus’ son Achilles

Homer, The Iliad

My lungs become bellows, and I release words. I regret nothing said. I was in a safe place and with people who like me. My thoughts are my own. I am a kind, generous, understanding man.

What you heard was honest. I can’t control how you interpret what you decide you heard.

I don’t even care.

Anger has a place, and I felt it. I used it. I am done with it now.

I forgive me.

“You?” Not my problem.

Homeopathy

medicine

“Let’s whisper words over water like I used to whisper ‘vermouth’ over gin to cure what ailed me.” ~ Jake, October 2013

The Shape of Life

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I remember my geometry teacher from high school. I don’t remember his name, but his outline is clear. Or is it the room that is clear?

Large windows like any school building let ample light in. There was an enormous slide rule on the wall above the blackboard. Yes, they were called blackboards then. The teachers wrote on them with chalk. Inventive teachers bought different colored ones adding depth to the flat surface. The erasers were large, and one side had a chamois-like cloth to it. I have no idea what it was made of. Perhaps it was real chamois.

My geometry teacher was good. He was thorough. He drew clean lines and dotted ones on the blackboard. They intersected at precise angles he made using an enormous compass. We’d be given some measurements, and then we had to use our algebra skills to solve for x. It was sometimes not even a number. It was simply a formula we had to discover.

We learned about points and lines and angles and shapes. Things fit together. Lines were simple. Circles were, too. Objects could be extrapolated into three dimensions. We could compute the area or the volume.

We could know things.

The universe was comprehensible.

Erasing.

Erasing.

That was antediluvian life. After the flood, it warped. Lines lost their edge, and cones turned upside-down and leaked like a sieve.

My geometry teacher had white wavy hair. His clothes were unremarkable. There was nothing particular about the way he carried himself. But he had a voice. It was sure and constant. He smiled. He honestly enjoyed what he was doing, I think. He must have had a sense of humor. I remember him chuckling. He was a presence.

All that is gone now, and some of it is best forgotten. The lines and shapes are shadows.

But where there are shadows, there must be light. I turn to face the brightness, and I squint. My eyes can’t adjust. They are too accustomed to the dark.

It’s like I’ve been in a cave for a very long time watching a shadow play beamed on the wall.

Casual Conversation

Cable car in San Francisco's Union Square

Cable car in San Francisco’s Union Square

I walked up as innocent and excited as any this-is-my-first-day-on-the-job I. Magnin employee could be. The late fall air in San Francisco filled my head with vapors better than any coffee high. The cable thumped and sang beneath the street.

She lay in wait.

I was dressed in my best: charcoal gray wool pants, a silk sport coat, a plain white Oxford-cloth shirt with a button-down collar, and a brown and black faux-regimental tie that might still nestle in a bag somewhere under my bed. Nah, possibly gone to Goodwill ages ago. All that covered by a London Fog coat.

She was short, dark hair, mid-thirties I’d say. None of her dress flashes back now. Too many decades intervened. Glasses? Yes, maybe glasses. Clear, fair skin and dark eyes. No makeup to remember. Plump.

I glanced to the hilltop, looking for the cable car.

“I could drop dead any minute they say.”

Pivot. Eyes wide. A full step back. I reply, “Good morning?”

“The doctors, you know. They say it could happen any time.”

“Oh.” A look up the hill.

“Waiting for the car? It’ll be here any second. Where are you going?”

“To Union Square.” Still not used to talking to strangers in The City.

And rescue crested the hill, clanging and wrenching its way down to us. I wrestled my wallet out of my pocket ready to brandish my fresh MUNI pass, my ID that I belonged in The City. The car thumped and almost shrieked to a halt in front of us, and I stood aside allowing the lady to climb aboard first. I followed and flashed my pass.

I found a seat far from her and imagined my coat was warm.

But is it ever cold in San Francisco?

I mean, apart from out in the avenues in June?

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