Sunday, February 28, 2010

Before it gets weirder...

It's my 20-year college reunion this year. I'm not going. Although Trinity looms large in my internal legend, I haven't actually set foot on campus since my surprisingly teary graduation day all those years ago. They recently sent me a list of the classmates who are attending, which somehow made it all more real, and so I find my college years making more of an appearance in my thoughts than usual. That and some wonderful discoveries on You Tube are setting me off on a trip down memory lane. I will warn you that much of what I loved learning about in school was the weird stuff, the stuff that makes the top of my head blow off, a feeling I LOVE. So brace yourself!

But before we go there, I need to address the summer before college, definitely one of the most fun times in my early life. I was living on Long Island, working at the local public library, hanging out with my best friends Ed and John, and listening to a lot of The Smiths, thanks to Ed. And the highlight of the summer definitely was seeing The Smiths at Pier 84 in NYC. Here's where I love the internet. Now I can see footage from a concert just weeks before and get the set list for the show I saw. Oh, what a fun night that was! This is the soundtrack to my summer of 1986. (And I was NOT depressed:) This music was sheer joy to me. Still is.)

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Six word story 7

Everything was an act of love.

Friday, February 26, 2010


I've been feeling sort of tender and vulnerable these days. Here are some words that have arrived on my doorstep in the midst of it:

February 25, 2010
Tricycle's Daily Dharma
Feeling More and More

...We have to get to know and be honest about our particular strategies for dealing with vulnerability, and learn to use our practice to allow ourselves to experience more of that vulnerability rather than less of it. To open yourself up to need, longing, dependency, and reliance on others means opening yourself to the truth that none of us can do this on our own. We really do need each other, just as we need parents and teachers. We need all those people in our lives who make us feel so uncertain. Our practice is not about finally getting to a place where we are going to escape all that but about creating a container that allows us to be more and more human, to feel more and more.

- Barry Magid, "No Gain," Tricycle Summer 2008

And these words from a talk by Jon Bernie that I was transcribing yesterday:

"What’s important is to be able to, like you’re doing, is to kind of put your cards on the table. We often want answers but really the important thing is to be able to ask the question. That’s what’s important. To live in the vulnerability of the question, 'Am I doing OK? Is there something I’m not doing?' See. Live with that. And don’t go further. And that vulnerability will open the door to freedom."

Thursday, February 25, 2010

No turning back

Hooray for Jess Gonacha Swift who posted this beautiful video on her blog yesterday. What fun! Think Yellow Submarine meets Marcel Dzama.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Life as it is...

February 23, 2010
Tricycle's Daily Dharma
Life As It Is

By accepting the agreeable and disagreeable aspects of life, we are no longer limited by our longing for life to be different than it is. We have all the time in the world, in the spaciousness of every moment.

Michele McDonald, from "Finding Patience," Tricycle Summer 2004

Oh, but I just like the agreeable parts so much more!:)

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Spring Forward

The other day when a Netflix DVD refused to play, I grabbed an old favorite off the shelf to watch while I did my ironing. Oh, how I love Spring Forward! I seek out stories of transformation and this is such a special one. Ned Beatty and Liev Schreiber are wonderful in it. And the great news is that it is currently streaming on Netflix!

You can watch the trailer for it here. And a fun little interview with Ned Beatty about it here:

Monday, February 22, 2010

How the light gets in

I love Leonard Cohen. And this probably should have been the video for "Let the Light Shine," especially on the heels of "Let your heart break," but it was good to see Berger and Claude again, right?:)

Sunday, February 21, 2010

This is water

If you haven't already read the late David Foster Wallace's commencement address from 2005, I highly suggest checking it out. And it is certainly worth rereading. I'm so grateful to Swirly Girl for posting the link to it recently. What a great reminder. And what a loss.

"If you're automatically sure that you know what reality is, and you are operating on your default setting, then you, like me, probably won't consider possibilities that aren't annoying and miserable. But if you really learn how to pay attention, then you will know there are other options. It will actually be within your power to experience a crowded, hot, slow, consumer-hell type situation as not only meaningful, but sacred, on fire with the same force that made the stars: love, fellowship, the mystical oneness of all things deep down.

"Not that that mystical stuff is necessarily true. The only thing that's capital-T True is that you get to decide how you're gonna try to see it."

Read the rest here.

[Side note: Anyone who knows me will know that the idea of this art project delights me!]

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Let your freak flag fly!

Wrapping up my Personal Commandments (for now) is "Let your freak flag fly" -- also known as be your real, true, playful self without concern for what people will think. Here are a couple of videos to inspire - if you haven't seen The Family Stone, it will make sense eventually, I promise.

And the Disney version...

Friday, February 19, 2010

O my soul-bird

Katherine Barr Atherton Griffith
April 18, 1912 - February 19, 2010

How should the soul not take wings
when from the Glory of God

It hears a sweet, kindly call:
"Why are you here, soul? Arise!"

How should a fish not leap fast
into the sea from dry land

When from the ocean so cool
the sound of the waves reaches its ear?

How should the falcon not fly
back to his king from the hunt

When from the falconer's drum
it hears the call: "Oh, come back"?

Why should not every Sufi
begin to dance atom-like

Around the Sun of duration
that saves from impermanence?

What graciousness and what beauty!
What life-bestowing! What grace!

If anyone does without that, woe-
what err, what suffering!

Oh fly , oh fly, O my soul-bird,
fly to your primordial home!

You have escaped from the cage now-
your wings are spread in the air.

Oh travel from brackish water
now to the fountain of life!

Return from the place of the sandals
now to the high seat of souls!

Go on! Go on! we are going,
and we are coming, O soul,

From this world of separation
to union, a world beyond worlds!


I love you, Nonie! We will miss you.

The lesson of delight

So it was The Thing this year for all the bloggers I follow to choose a word for the year and that sounded good to me, so I chose a word that I felt would reflect my philosophy of Enjoy and Love. And that word was "delight". It's been an interesting word to focus on because I quickly learned that delight is a strange bedfellow. Delight involves a sense of surprise. It isn't really like mellow joy. There's a little shock with delight. And here's the crazy thing, delight shows up in the strangest places, where you least expect it. Often the places you don't want to go. Suddenly, delight!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Good enough is good enough

I don't think this phrase needs much commentary:) Any recovering perfectionist knows what I'm talking about. And it is always such a relief when someone I admire says I don't have to even try for that elusive perfection! This was written on the back of a painting given to me by a wonderful art handler I used to work with. It immediately popped into my mind when I was thinking of how to capture this feeling in a picture. I love it!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

When in doubt, feel

I stole this Personal Commandment right from Jon Bernie's wonderful teachings:

"When in doubt, feel. That’s all.

"Mental torture happens because something hasn’t been felt. It’s the surface siren, the car alarm. That annoying thing that goes off when you’re trying to sleep (if you live in San Francisco, you know exactly what I’m talking about!). So instead of going out and smashing that car with the alarm, go in and feel. Because the torture is a mental alarm; the obsessed, unhappy mind is the result of emotional energy that has not moved, like a weather system that’s been trapped. It’s dangerous; it can cause physical illness, can cause all kinds of destruction. So, when in doubt, feel."

You can find the whole teaching here.

For me this process is really aided by physically feeling my body. Feeling my feet on the ground (preferably on a wonderful walking trail like in the picture above) and feeling my breath going in and out. After years of acting like I didn't really have a body, the second half of my life has been a process of getting reacquainted with it. We're so lucky to have these amazing bodies! It reminds me of these lines from Mary Oliver's beautiful poem, "Wild Geese":

"You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves."


Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Gratitude, gratitude, gratitude

I'm in love with Brother David's lovely videos. This sums up my Personal Commandment of "Gratitude, gratitude, gratitude" so well.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Let the light shine

"When a candle is lit in a dark room, it illuminates the room to some extent, but its power is limited. But if you use the same candle to light another candle, the total brightness increases. If you continue to do this, you can fill the room with brilliant illumination... If we keep our own light selfishly hidden, it will only provide a limited amount of illumination. But when we share our light with others, we do not diminish our own light. Rather, we increase the amount of light available to all. Therefore, when others light our candle, we issue forth light. When out of gratitude we use our candle to light other people’s candles, the whole room gets brighter... This kind of light is continuous and inexhaustible."

- Master Sheng Yen from "Rich Generosity" (Tricycle, Spring 2009)

My next Personal Commandment is "Let the light shine," which is probably just another way of saying "The blessing of love," but there's something about this phrase in particular that works for me.

I received this quotation through Tricycle's Daily Dharma emails right about the same time that I posted my musings on helping others with a smile and a sense of well-being. And the symbol of light really fits that feeling for me. When I'm helping people in this kind of loving way, my sense is that my light is resonating with their light. And I really do believe that's why we feel good in that moment. We are flooded with light and we both benefit from the interaction.

I have the great good fortune to have a job where I get to interact with all kinds of people. And some of my very favorite people are those that have been cast out of society to some degree. I can tell you that they are filled with light. Many of them are veterans, which fits the otherwise mostly unrelated song that popped into my mind when I finally found the right words for this Commandment. It's not quite the same phrase, but when I look at the faces in this clip from a family favorite, I see the light.

[Smugness disclaimer: I hope it doesn't seem like I'm saying that these commandments are how I act all the time. Goodness no! These are just reminders to the Future Me of things that work well. I'm really making this list as a toolbox of things I can try when things are clearly going wrong:) If they're useful to you in any way then that's lovely, but my intention isn't to tell anyone how to be. Perhaps you will enjoy thinking of your own Personal Commandments, which may be radically different from mine. I'd hope so:) We all have our own light to shine.]

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Blessing of Love

This probably should become my third Personal Commandment... Happy Valentine's Day everyone! Sending you all the blessing of love:)

February 14, 2010
Tricycle's Daily Dharma

The Blessing of Love

The claim that love pervades this world may not sound real to you but that doesn’t mean it isn’t true. Most of us just haven’t learned to pay much attention to the countless moments of love, kindness, and care that surround us each day: a child at the store reaching for her mother’s hand, an elderly stranger at the park who smiles upon a young family, a grocery clerk who beams at you as she hands you your change.

The “blessings that are always pouring forth” include the love that has permeated our lives, peeking at us through many eyes. Think, for example, of someone you loved to be near when you were a child: a parent or grandparent, a special aunt or uncle, a family friend or teacher—someone it felt wonderful to be with. Why did you like to be near that person so much? Probably because she radiated a wish of love to you through the quality of her presence, her words, her play with you, or simply through her smiling eyes when you came near. Try to remember someone like that from your childhood right now. Hold that person in your mind for a moment and recall how it felt to be near her. That’s what it is like to receive the love that simply wishes for your happiness. We like to be near people like that because we have a deep need to receive their unspoken love, to drink up its life-giving goodness.

- John Makransky, "Love is All Around" (Fall 2007)

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Let it break your heart

Continuing on, my second Personal Commandment is "Let it break your heart." I really do feel, for myself, that the more heartbroken I can be the more present I am. Maybe heartbroken is a loaded word, but it is truly how I feel. Not heartbroken in a romantic sense -- I'm very, very lucky in that aspect of my life -- but heartbroken seeing how truly vulnerable we all are. It is a sweet sort of sadness, because when I'm feeling this kind of heartbroken and raw I see all the love, too. And I want to hold everyone in my heart with a deep sense of connection.

One surefire way for me to break my heart when it gets too rigid and cold is to read The Sun Magazine. The interviews, essays, memoirs, fiction, and poems are always thoughtful and well-written and the photography is beautiful, but the section that regularly cracks me wide open is Readers Write where people send in their stories relating to different posted topics, topics like "borrowing," "beauty," and "slowing down." And they knock me out. Every time.

Sy Safransky started The Sun in the mid-70s and went ad-free in 1990. That's right, ad-free. Take that Oprah!:) If you're looking for a source of honest, provocative writing to keep you human, I recommend checking out The Sun, an artistic endeavor well worth your support.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Don't push the river

I continue to love Gretchen Rubin's wonderful Happiness Project. After enjoying her blog for several weeks and following along with the weekly assignments, I went ahead and bought the book, which just hit #1 on the NYT bestsellers list. Well-deserved! And in it and on her blog she pretty regularly mentions one or another of her Twelve Personal Commandments, such as "Be Gretchen" and "There is only love." It's been making me think about my own "personal commandments," phrases that I find myself living by. So I thought I'd explore them individually here as a series of posts. I have no idea how many I'll come up with, but the first one definitely needs to be "Don't push the river."

To me "Don't push the river" is about not fighting how things just ARE. Not that we have to passively accept everything, but there are some things that are pretty much out of our control and it would and could be a constant source of frustration to ram one's head against them day after day. Traffic, weather, big changes in the workplace, these are all basically out of our control and for me it is much easier to just accept that that is the way the river flows. We can certainly figure out the best way to maneuver our way along the river and engage with the situation that way, but we can't ask it to stop flowing or to flow the other way. Or if we do, we can't be too disappointed when our wishes aren't granted.

Another aspect of this phrase for me is when I find myself trying to force a situation to be a certain way. This is about how I can come up with some kind of plan and then try to make it happen without the right sensitivity to what needs to happen or what "wants" to happen. I can get really into my ideas of how things "should" be, but I like to think I'm getting better about stepping outside of the situation a little and seeing how my plan relates to what's actually happening. And often when I'm getting kind of rigid in how I'm going to make it happen this phrase will pop into my mind as a kindly reminder.

Because I'm me, this commandment (and probably others) comes with a song. I'm really not sure what Van's getting at here and I'm fairly certain it has very little if anything to do with my Personal Commandment, but it's such an excellent tune that I have to share it with you. This is definitely one to enjoy!

A side note: The photo at the top is of the Harpeth River, which flows by the hill where we live. It is one lovely, twisty river. If we take our usual route to work we pass over it three times and I try to be conscious of each crossing and look over at the river just flowing along. I've fallen in love with it a little I think. And it has struck me that there is something of a fairy tale quality of passing over it three times, like getting three wishes.

I stopped on my way home this afternoon to try to catch a picture of the winter river, with its deep greenish water and some snow along the banks, but I knew my batteries were low and sure enough I wasn't able to take one. But I did have a magical moment when I saw a blue heron flying low over the river, traveling along with the flow of the river. Such a beautiful image. I'll remember that for some time. So graceful and seemingly effortless in flight, his big wings slowly beating: swoop...swoop...swoop. He wasn't pushing the river either.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Mulatu Astatke update

If you enjoyed the Mulatu Astatke videos I posted a while back, went to Amazon searching for a great CD of his music to have for your very own, and just didn't know about Ethiopiques, Vol. 4: Ethio Jazz & Musique Instrumentale, 1969-1974, I can't recommend it highly enough. I bought a copy that next day and have been grooving ever since. One part Winston, one part that fabulous jazz of the late sixties/early seventies, one part the soul-moving rhythms of Africa, it is the best company ever if you have to drive to work in the snow:) Trust me on this one.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

What Was Said to the Rose

Thought you might enjoy this beautiful performance of one of Rumi's poems, read by translator Coleman Barks. Ah!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Feeling the need for speed

When we were snowed in recently we had a wonderful film festival! Turns out I love gritty action movies from the late sixties/early seventies. Shouldn't be a surprise knowing how much I love the original Kojak:) There's something about the clothes, the music, and the moody heroes that just delights me!

(Vanishing Point and Bullitt are currently streaming on Netflix.)

Monday, February 8, 2010

Valentine treats!

In case you were hoping to make an amazing Valentine's Day gift for your sweetie, here are a couple of places to look for some great craft ideas: Kind over Matter and Lavender and Limes. Isn't it lovely of them to share so many wonderful ideas with us? Hooray!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Getting things out of my head

I thoroughly enjoyed The Whole Self's 21 Days project, which concluded this week. I know I'll be re-reading several of those insightful posts. One that really hit home with me was Day 11 - Neglect. The part that immediately jumped out at me was about writing things down, getting it out of one's head:

"I think David Allen was the one who coined the term psychic RAM, meaning the memory in your head that retains all the facts and figures you carry around with you. Writing everything down essentially creates a download from your head on to paper. What you write down are all the things you have on your to do list. Your work commitments, things to do at home, projects that you want to be able to do, someday maybe projects. Just keep writing until you've committed it all to paper. This decluttering of the head has the same emotional impact as the black bin bag exercise. It lightens the load."

I knew that was just what I needed. I'd be feeling extremely overwhelmed trying to keep all the different parts of my job in my mind. I was ready to download it to paper, especially after watching this video of David Allen at Google:

It is a long watch, but like water to this thirsty soul actually. I bought a package of little notebooks that happened to be at the checkout counter at Staples - the universe giving me what I need through impulse shopping, love it! One lives down in my studio and one up at command central, the kitchen table. If I think of something (excuse me as I go write "gluesticks" and "book glue" on my list...) I go jot it down, which frees up my mind to focus on what I'm really doing at the time and the act of writing it down actually seems to help me remember better later and at a more appropriate time. My sense is that more things get done, that I'm more focused and less distracted. I definitely feel a lot less overwhelmed.

A couple of things stand out to me from the talk. One is that our brains just aren't made as remembering devices. Now, I can really resist this argument. How did the Iliad and the Sutras get handed down? Look at how little we actually use our brains, etc, etc. And there are some memory issues in my family. So it becomes a point of pride that I need to and can juggle all of this in my head. But haven't things changed over time? How much were our ancient ancestors juggling in addition to the stories they carried in their minds? I like to think it was a simpler time. I seem to remember reading somewhere that one newspaper today carries more information that our forefathers received in a lifetime. And then just as I was pondering all of this, a related article was listed in the Art Journal daily email I receive, "Willpower And The 'Slacker' Brain". The focus of the article is on how overworked brains lose willpower, which isn't exactly the part that resonated with me. I just liked hearing how it isn't necessarily a good thing to stress your brain out, keeping it maxed out with remembering lots of information all the time.

Another part that I loved was about information overload and how the mind actually loves to look at complicated things, that's why we feel good in nature. And that really rang true for me, too. Very little feels as good as walking through nature and just letting my eyes and my mind soak it up with no narrative, just looking. It feels like eating. I can feel the experience nourishing me in just the same (wordless) way. And now that I'm not, or at least less frequently, repeating to myself somewhat unconsciously but definitely with great anxiety the five things that must get done that day (which immediately disappear except for a nagging feeling once I step into my office and see the light flashing on my phone and the emails that piled up during the night) I find that I can go into that same state of reverie on my commute to work and arrive much more refreshed and ready to prioritize what needs to be done, also thanks to my wonderful husband who does the driving!

Another thing that he touches on is how our brains have a funky sense of time. And that's been a surprising part of getting things onto paper. A while back I realized that part of why I feel so overwhelmed is that some part of me doesn't understand that some projects are over. I had to consciously tell myself that the exhibit had closed years ago, the artwork was returned, we could put it to rest. I've been working on a report of past shows and have found that to be useful in helping me focus on the present and upcoming projects.

So, anyway, for what it's worth, this all has been on my mind lately, so I thought I'd get it out. Maybe some of it will resonate with you? And as always, thanks for reading!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Six word story 6

Today I loved everyone I saw.

Friday, February 5, 2010

A Meaningful Life and Keeping the Moth out of the Flame

Wish I could say I did a better job with virtue and avoiding harmful behavior (definitely fall down in the speech and mind categories), but something resonated about this quotation when I read it earlier this week, I think it was the section on well-being...

February 3, 2010
Tricycle's Daily Dharma

A Meaningful Life

“What makes for a meaningful life? I consider each day, not just the life as a whole. I look at four ingredients. First, was it a day of virtue? I’m talking about basic Buddhist ethics—avoiding harmful behavior of body, speech, and mind; devoting ourselves to wholesome behavior and to qualities like awareness and compassion. Second, I'd like to feel happy rather than miserable. The realized beings I've known exemplify extraordinary states of well-being, and it shows in their demeanor, their way of dealing with adversity, with life, with other people. And third, pursuit of the truth—seeking to understand the nature of life, of reality, of interpersonal relationships, or the nature of mind. But you could do all that sitting quietly in a room. None of us exists in isolation, however, so there is a fourth ingredient: a meaningful life must also answer the question, 'What have I brought to the world?' If I can look at a day and see that virtue, happiness, truth, and living an altruistic life are prominent elements, I can say, 'You know, I’m a happy camper.' Pursuing happiness does not depend on my checkbook, or the behavior of my spouse, or my job, or my salary. I can live a meaningful life even if I only have ten minutes left.”

B. Alan Wallace from "What Is True Happiness" (Fall 2005)

And then these fabulous wild words from that dear Chogyam Trungpa...

Ocean of Dharma Quotes of the Week
February 4, 2010


When you are trying to help someone, you have to have humor, self-existing humor, and you have to hold the moth in your hand, but not let it go into the flame. That's what helping others means. Ladies and gentlemen, we have so much responsibility. A long time ago, people helped one another in this way. Now people just talk, talk talk. They read books, they listen to music, but they never actually help anyone. They never use their bare hands to save a person from going crazy. We have that responsibility. Somebody has to do it. It turns out to be us. We've got to do it, and we can do it with a smile, not with a long face.

From "Helping Others," in GREAT EASTERN SUN: THE WISDOM OF SHAMBHALA, page 180.

OK, helping people with a smile and a sense of well-being. That I think I can handle.

Thursday, February 4, 2010


And while we're on the theme of younger generations working to make our world a better place, I'd like to let you know about a fun project that I've been enjoying: Spring, Inspiration in Bloom. As they describe it:

"Spring is a collaborative project that has a single, overarching theme: inspiration. Through videos, blog posts, and the website itself, Spring is opening an insightful dialogue that focuses on helping you design a life you love.

"With four creative entrepreneurs and inspirational bloggers discussing hot topics over their own virtually brewed cups of coffee (which contain the not so secret ingredients of inspiration and humor), Spring will certainly prompt a new type of interactivity across the nation and the world…one computer screen at a time. These stewards realize that their mission may seem lofty, but you'll notice immediately that they are anything but afraid. Quite the opposite, they approach this project as they do all others: one step at a time, consistently emphasizing quality over quantity."

So far the topics discussed have included gratitude and intentions, and this month they're posting a video each week about support. The discussions have all been fun and heartfelt. If you feel like crashing some great conversations with creative, thoughtful young women, I definitely recommend checking out Spring!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Dave Eggers

If, like me, you sometimes feel like we're going to hell in a handbasket, Dave Eggers is someone you should know about. His devotion to keeping the written word alive is completely inspiring. You may know him as the author of A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, Eggers's memoir about the death of his parents and his experience taking care of his younger brother, or as the editor of the literary quarterly, McSweeney's.

But I think I really fell for Dave Eggers when I read his response to questions from The Harvard Advocate, which I know as "The Flaming Lips Rant", and it is definitely how I came to love the Flaming Lips. Here's an PG13-rated excerpt:

You want to know how big a sellout I am?

A few months ago I wrote an article for Time magazine and was paid $12,000 for it I am about to write something, 1,000 words, 3 pages or so, for something called Forbes ASAP, and for that I will be paid $6,000 For two years, until five months ago, I was on the payroll of ESPN magazine, as a consultant and sometime contributor. I was paid handsomely for doing very little. Same with my stint at Esquire. One year I spent there, with little to no duties. I wore khakis every day. Another Might editor and I, for almost a year, contributed to Details magazine, under pseudonyms, and were paid $2000 each for what never amounted to more than 10 minutes work - honestly never more than that. People from Hollywood want to make my book into a movie, and I am probably going to let them do so, and they will likely pay me a great deal of money for the privilege.

Do I care about this money? I do. Will I keep this money? Very little of it. Within the year I will have given away almost a million dollars to about 100 charities and individuals, benefiting everything from hospice care to an artist who makes sculptures from Burger King bags. And the rest will be going into publishing books through McSweeney's. Would I have been able to publish McSweeney's if I had not worked at Esquire? Probably not. Where is the $6000 from Forbes going? To a guy named Joe Polevy, who wants to write a book about the effects of radiator noise on children in New England.

Now, what if I were keeping all the money? What if I were buying property in St. Kitt's or blew it all on live-in prostitutes? What if, for example, I was, a few nights ago, sitting at a table in SoHo with a bunch of Hollywood slash celebrity acquaintances, one of whom I went to high school with, and one of whom was Puff Daddy? Would that make me a sellout? Would that mean I was a force of evil?

What if a few nights before that I was at the home of Julian Schnabel, at a party featuring Al Pacino and Robert DeNiro, and at which Schnabel said we should get together to talk about him possibly directing my movie? And what if I said sure, let's?

Would all that make me a sellout? Would I be uncool? Would it have been more cool to not go to this party, or to not have written that book, or done that interview, or to have refused millions from Hollywood?

The thing is, I really like saying yes. I like new things, projects, plans, getting people together and doing something, trying something, even when it's corny or stupid. I am not good at saying no. And I do not get along with people who say no. When you die, and it really could be this afternoon, under the same bus wheels I'll stick my head if need be, you will not be happy about having said no...

...There is a point in one's life when one cares about selling out and not selling out. One worries whether or not wearing a certain shirt means that they are behind the curve or ahead of it, or that having certain music in one's collection means that they are impressive, or unimpressive.

Thankfully, for some, this all passes. I am here to tell you that I have, a few years ago, found my way out of that thicket of comparison and relentless suspicion and judgment. And it is a nice feeling. Because, in the end, no one will ever give a shit who has kept shit 'real' except the two or three people, sitting in their apartments, bitter and self-devouring, who take it upon themselves to wonder about such things. The keeping real of shit matters to some people, but it does not matter to me. It's fashion, and I don't like fashion, because fashion does not matter.

What matters is that you do good work. What matters is that you produce things that are true and will stand. What matters is that the Flaming Lips's new album is ravishing and I've listened to it a thousand times already, sometimes for days on end, and it enriches me and makes me want to save people. What matters is that it will stand forever, long after any narrow-hearted curmudgeons have forgotten their appearance on goddamn 90210. What matters is not the perception, nor the fashion, not who's up and who's down, but what someone has done and if they meant it. What matters is that you want to see and make and do, on as grand a scale as you want, regardless of what the tiny voices of tiny people say. Do not be critics, you people, I beg you. I was a critic and I wish I could take it all back because it came from a smelly and ignorant place in me, and spoke with a voice that was all rage and envy. Do not dismiss a book until you have written one, and do not dismiss a movie until you have made one, and do not dismiss a person until you have met them. It is a ****load of work to be open-minded and generous and understanding and forgiving and accepting, but Christ, that is what matters. What matters is saying yes.

I say yes, and Wayne Coyne says yes, and if that makes us the enemy, then good, good, good. We are evil people because we want to live and do things. We are on the wrong side because we should be home, calculating which move would be the least damaging to our downtown reputations. But I say yes because I am curious. I want to see things.

Doesn't that just inspire you? It does me, even reading it all these years later. And here he is in the short version of his TED talk:

Here are links to Once Upon a School and 826 Valencia. Let's say yes to being "open-minded and generous and understanding and forgiving and accepting" and see if there are ways we can help with the things we care about. It can only make the world a better place.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

After the Wedding

This movie wrecked me yesterday, in the best kind of way.

Have I told you lately how dear you are to me? Because you truly are.

Monday, February 1, 2010

The Housekeeper and the Professor

I read about The Housekeeper and the Professor on my sister-in-law's wonderful book blog, My Cozy Book Nook, where she quoted the review from Bookmarks Magazine's May/June 2009 issue:

"The success of Ogawa's 'deceptively elegant novel' (New York Times Book Review) was a surprise, considering its lack of action, romance, melodrama, and even character names (none of which are ever mentioned). However, there is enough suspense and sly humor to keep readers enchanted by this slow-paced, delicate novel - even those with bad memories of high school math class. Ogawa makes a crucial choice not to minimize the impact of the professor's brain injuries; she portrays his limitations and daily difficulties realistically, but also with warmth and affection. Critics praised Stephen Snyder's seamless translation and compared Ogawa's graceful prose to that of Japanese writers Kenzaburo Oe and Haruki Murakami. This touching story of a devoted friendship may captivate Western readers as well." (page 35)

I don't think you need to read much more than "brain injuries" and "Murakami" to know that I immediately requested this book from the library. What a lovely read. If you're looking for a quiet, kind story, this could be for you.