Picnic

The sun shines upon our windshield as we drive down the Blue Ridge, blaring 106.9 as we drive ’round bikers and sight seers toward the top of Grandfather Mountain.

Finally, we get there and we pull over and park. We pull the picnic stuff out of the back, the basket and the food and the sparkling water and the blankets. We take the short hike up through the trees, waving to other hikers, families and couples and elderly people with dogs.

We reach the top. We go out to the edge and look out. People are taking selfies. We stretch out our blanket and set up shop. We talk about the day, of work and worries, of small celebrations. We eat every last morsel and drink every drop, then we pack up and go home.

The view is just as lovely going down. It’s not about the journey or even the destination, but the time together. You gotta redeem the time while you can, cuz it’s fleeting. That’s for sure.

In the meantime, we’re happy just being us.

Compost

So here’s the thing:

compost is essential to good gardening.

It’s like natural Miracle Grow

What’s in compost?

Trash, basically.

Food scraps, leaves. Things you tend to discard.

But you put it all together and give it some time,

it does some really cool stuff.

I think this is an important life lesson:

the soil doesn’t start good.

First we’ve got to get all our garbage out there.

It does it no good just sitting about in a corner of our kitchen,

but put it in the ground and give it time,

and good things happen.

So air out your garbage and see what good fruit comes from it.

Time is Game of Jenga

Time is a game of Jenga

Even if you could take out a bit of the past,

how do you know it is not a supporting structure

upon which many other blocks rest?

How terrible would it be to take out one unsavory element

only to see everything else come toppling down

in its absence?

We are who we are: finite creatures caught up

in the gears of time,

yet we relish in the knowledge that one day

Time itself will dissolve and its whole game will be packed up

and taken away,

by the One who began it all.

So, God teach me to play the game well, to move onward,

to lean on your for peace and guidance

when the game really seems to hard to win.

Like Dandelions

The stage is set,

the audience is arriving, sitting down

We are undressing, redressing, getting into character

assuming our roles

Jim calls time and I take the stage, talk to the people

See how their day is, make them grow comfortable

Soon it’s time to go, I give the signal, we start to act

There are hula hoop performance, salsa dances,

excerpts from Joyce and Chekov

The living statue gives an erotic monologue

I sing a song, have my heart broken

and it’s all okay, all good

Tonight we’ll do it again

Then it’s curtain call,

we take a bow.

The audience cheers, we depart for the yellow room

They depart, we change

back into our normal selves, whatever that means

We talk with those who stay behind, clean up,

celebrate our victories, recap anything weird that might have happened

linger in the foyer, not wanting leaving

absorbing all the post-play magic that we can.

Then there are hugs and well wishes,

we get in our cars, we drive off

The next morning, when it’s not a theater night

A strange sense of loss consumes me

a grasping at the wind,

but theater is a moment, and eventually the place will cease its run

and all will move on

like Dandelions

The work never ends

God of life and passion and everything good,

bless my friends as they go on their way.

Fiction and Social Intelligence

I read a fascinating article about the link between fiction and social intelligence. In ancient literature, the narrative primarily focused on the external, on battles and bloodlines. Even emotion was expressed externally- via the ripping of clothes, the tearing out hair, etc. Over time, especially around the time of the Greeks, we begin to see a shift from that external world to the internal one. We begin to focus more on the mind, the heart, even if they had a fundamental distrust of the latter.

We see this shift affect even religion. In the Judeo-Christian tradition, we watch as holiness moves from what you do to what you feel. That is why David, in his psalms, is able to count himself faultless, because in his mind he has kept all the dictates of the law up to that point in his life. Then Christ comes in and presses on beyond the law to the heart. Now, obedience to God is not so much about murder as about hate, not so much about adultery but about lust. From that point on, our spiritual walk begins to capsulate all of us, not just what others see.

But the narrative goes deeper. With Shakespeare, we are given soliloquies and asides, painstakingly pointing out the mental-emotional state of the speaker as the character in question literally BREAKS FROM THE PRESENT ACTION to give his impassioned speech.

Skip ahead many years, as we move from theater to film. Now, the performer does not have to project his feelings out to a distant audience. No, as camera equipment continues to evolve, we are able to get closer and closer to the performer, to see his or her every nuance of facial feature and movement in hyper-clear detail. And, as the medium changes, so does the approach. Method acting was born out of shift, challenging performers to explore every aspect of the character, from backstory to emotional state. Everything is laid out on the table. Classical Shakespeare performers are taught to believe that nothing exists outside of the written scene. Method actors are taught that the prescribed scene is just the tip of the iceberg, as far as the character is concerned. And the audience is not only invited, but many times sucked vacuum-tube style into this every deepening world.

As the narrative becomes more emotionally are, so too does the reader/audience member. Because the reader, as the article most insightfully points out, is a co-creator of the story. I mean, who doesn’t feel a certain ownership of a certain text that they feel deeply connected to? Who doesn’t feel a sense of profound loss or accomplishment when the story is finished? So, as the narrative deepens, so too does the reader.

Now, I believe that it so important to read and be open to every style of literature/media, because all have something to offer, and all have their own inherent strength and weaknesses. The ancients had a wonderful sense of history and accomplishment. The moderns have a profound sense of self-awareness. The ancients lacked the verbiage to explore the totality of human emotion. The moderns can be so myopically focused on the moment, that they lose sense of the bigger picture. So, the challenge is to read, watch, experience everything, as you continue develop your own sense of taste and interest. You will never find the same book or movie twice, because you are always different. So, be different, be open, and have fun.

There is so much wonderful material out there. So, go exploring. You may be happily surprised by what you find, both about yourself and the world at large.