Archive for February, 2013

February 15 through February 22, 2013

Tell ‘em that it’s human nature
Does he do me that way

If they say
Tell ‘em that it’s human nature
Do they do me that way
I like livin’ this way
I like lovin’ this way


Well, who else? [He chuckles.]

What are you doing … sneaking up on me like that? You startled me.

Sorry! But why?

Why what?

Why don’t you do it? It would feel so good to just get up and do it!

[By way of explanation to my readers, who must by now be scratching their heads and wondering if I have totally lost it, I just completed an art project that I am absolutely thrilled with … over-the-top, off-my-rocker in love with … and when I finished it … saw it whole and completed for the first time, I wanted to just get up and do a jig all over the room. Instead, I just sat back in my recliner and clapped my hands together a couple of times with a big smile on my face.]

Which is good too … don’t get me wrong. I love that! But your first instinct to get up and dance and ‘shake your body down to the ground’ in joy was ignored, dampened. That first flush of joy was diluted, watered down. Why did you do that?

[Jan laughs.] Because I would look like a total fool and feel like an idiot. In addition, I don’t know how to dance and there’s no room in here to dance around the room. I’d hurt myself!

My answer to the first three points is: Who cares? Do you see anyone around to laugh at you or think less of you because you got up and shimmied? There’s no one here to see you and ridicule you for jigging up and down the stairs or turning somersaults in your enjoyment of the moment … except me … and I would have jigged and somersaulted right along with you.

Well, I hope you can call 911! I can just see me doing somersaults at my age. The emergency room technicians would be calling for a stat psychological workup while the ERT’s were applying my body cast and preparing my traction! [Jan laughs.]

Ecstasy 2.19.13

Okay, I admit it … somersaults might be pushing it a little! The point is: children don’t do this. This is a learned behavior. Have you ever watched a young child who has been told that he is going to get a special treat … like a trip to an amusement park … or something as simple as his favorite ice cream cone? His enthusiasm cannot be contained. He doesn’t know how to dance but it doesn’t stop his feet moving and his body wiggling. He dances up and down or skips or jumps … or kicks his feet into the back of the seat you’re sitting in if he’s in the car. [Michael laughs.] Whatever he can move, he moves! The joy and excitement and anticipation moves him and in surrendering to those urges he experiences all the joy the moment holds for him … fully and completely … all the way … no holds barred. He is raptured in the moment … until some adult in charge of his care yells at him to ‘control himself’ or to ‘sit still and be quiet.’

Somewhere between that joy-filled child and the joy-filled adult who has just completed an art project and is over-the-top in love with it, something got lost and we need to heal that loss. Can we talk about it?

Of course, we can talk about it. Yes, I admit it. I curbed my enthusiasm. It’s one of those things that most of us have learned as we grew up. Curb your enthusiasm … dampen your joy … hide your anger … don’t display your disappointment … laugh away your fear … don’t show your emotions … big boys don’t cry … big girls don’t cry.  All of these make a person too vulnerable … bare his Achilles tendon … expose him to too much ridicule.

And in avoiding the ridicule, you also minimize the joy that you experience in that moment of discovery or accomplishment that wants to move you.

Many adults know the meaning of the word joy and can give you a detailed definition straight out of the dictionary, but have forgotten how to allow themselves to fully experience the emotion and, therefore, can’t relate to it when they see a kid so filled with enthusiasm that he can’t sit still. There is a reason; they have stepped on the brakes of their emotions … to slow them down or stop them altogether … so often that it has become second nature or an automatic reflex. “Tell them that it’s human nature.” [Michael sings.]

I never learned to dampen my enthusiasm. It was that enthusiasm that moved my body when I was on stage. My excitement, my enthusiasm, my uncontrollable need to make a connection and share my love of music and dance and performance with all of you was the motivation behind all my concerts and performances. And like the little kid anticipating a special treat, I was raptured … moved … beyond the merely physical exertion … to a state of ecstasy approaching a spiritual or ‘in-spirit’ communication of ONENESS with all of you.

Will you do me a favor?

Of course, if I can.

Will you look up the word enthusiasm in your dictionary and put the definition here?

Of course, My Heart, I would be happy to do that. According to Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary, enthusiasm comes from a Greek word meaning to be inspired. [entheos is en (or in) plus theos meaning God. So, the Greek root word literally means IN GOD!]  The definitions listed are: belief in special revelations of the Holy Spirit; religious fanaticism; strong excitement of feeling; ardor. Along the same vein, an enthusiast is a person filled with enthusiasm or one who tends to give himself completely to whatever engages his interest. That last definition for enthusiast is SO YOU, Michael!

[Michael giggles.] Thank you. That’s sweet. I consider that a compliment. A lot of adults would consider it a sign of losing ‘control’ and would want nothing to do with it (especially a self-proclaimed control freak) … or, worse, would consider it an insult.

You see, somewhere between the joy-filled child and the joy-filled neo-artist (we’ll talk about your discomfort with describing yourself as an artist a little later, so bite your tongue … or fingers, as the case may be), a change occurred.

People often say that children are egocentric; meaning that they believe the world revolves around them. I disagree! It’s the adults that are egocentric. Children haven’t developed that ego-centered view of life and emotion, yet, because their ego isn’t fully established.

If a child is moved by the ‘spirit’ of joy or laughter, he surrenders himself to the moment and experiences it fully and completely. If an adult is moved by the ‘spirit’ of joy or laughter, he looks around to see if anyone is watching, tells himself that it’s silly to feel so elated, ‘don’t be an idiot,’ he says to himself, ‘don’t make a fool of yourself.’ So, who is ego-centric? The child or the adult?

The difference is that the adult has learned to be self-conscious … or aware of himself from the ego’s perspective at all times … even when he (or she – ahem) is totally alone and knows there is no one around to witness his display of joyous communion ‘in spirit.’ He channels all his emotions through the filters of that self-consciousness to arrive at ‘unacceptable’ emotion (an emotion which does not fit in that false self-image he has created and which he has learned from a society that adheres to principles of conformity) … or ‘acceptable’ (an emotion that does fit his false self-image.) Acceptable and unacceptable are judgments like right and wrong and good or bad or worthy and unworthy (which we’ve discussed before.)

So, in our society, it’s okay for a man to display aggression and anger and, even, violence and depravity … these tendencies are expected and, while not exactly encouraged, are easily forgiven unless his aggression is displayed by harming others. The proof of this is shown every day in every movie theater in the world. Our heroes on the big screen engage in car chases, exploding bombs, flying bullets, fist fights, cruelty towards his fellow man or women or children. These are what our little boys are being taught to look up to, to emulate. But tenderness, vulnerability, nurturance are emotions that ‘real’ men are taught from an early age to ignore … and, if felt, are never displayed.

Unfortunately, our society is rife with ‘real’ men expressing aggression, anger, violence and depravity in ways that do harm others all the time. Snipers shooting children in schools, husbands beating their wives and children, men killing women and children in war zones … it’s enough to make me wanna SHOUT! One viewing of a news broadcast will give you all the proof you need of that.

The allegedly ‘ego-centric’ child has not developed those filters through which adult society sieves its emotions. He feels the joy and surrenders to the ‘spirit’ that moves in him by acting like he’s got ants in his pants and can’t sit still.

And the Greeks are right … entheos … in spirit … in God.

Tell me something. When was the very first time you ever wanted to draw something that you can remember.

Oh, my … that’s a long time ago … over fifty years ago. I remember I had a friend in grade school … seventh or eighth grade, I think … so I was maybe eleven or twelve years old. I can’t remember this friend’s name, but she could draw horses beautifully. I used to watch her draw and think, “Oh, how I wish I could do that.” I may even have given it a half-hearted attempt and, when unsuccessful, told myself that I couldn’t draw a straight line with a ruler.

There are very few straight lines on a horse. Have you noticed?

Now, you’re just teasing me!

[Michael giggles.] Yes, I’m teasing you. You were unsuccessful on your first attempt, so you gave up. Do you remember any other times when you wanted to draw or paint something?

Yes, oh this memory is embarrassing! When I graduated from high school my parents moved the family to another city and I had to leave my boyfriend, at the time, behind. Of course, this caused MAJOR drama and tragedy in my eighteen-year-old life. Romeo and Juliet got nothin’ on this tragic tale! While my parents were moving into the new house, I and my younger brother and sister went to stay with our grandmother in a suburb of Detroit. All I had was my boyfriend’s high school picture and I would sit and stare at it all moony-eyed all day long, like any self-respecting eighteen-year-old star-crossed lover would. One day, I decided to get a pencil and try to draw the picture! Oh, my word! What a catastrophe. I believe I told myself something like, “See, I told you I couldn’t draw a straight line with a ruler.”

And you gave up again?

And I gave up again.

What happened to the star-crossed lovers?

They got married a year later. Within six months, the honeymoon was WAY over. They were divorced before a full five years was up and the love sick heroine of the story began to live at the ripe old age of twenty-four.

Did she want to draw or paint?

No, I don’t remember any interest in artistic activity. Of course, I was working two jobs and trying to keep a townhouse. I think I began to experiment with writing at the time, though. I’ve always loved art, particularly Renaissance artists, but I had no desire at that time to emulate them.

And the next time you wanted to draw or paint?

Ah, that was when you ran over me with that train, Beloved, and knocked the stuffing out of me. Only now, I didn’t want to draw horses or boyfriends. Now, I wanted to draw YOU!

Never Can Say Goodbye 2.20.13

And did you try?

Of course, I tried and made a terrible mess of your beautiful features … and … at least, I should get points for consistency … I gave up!

Okay … I’ll give you points for consistency. What has made the difference between all your earlier attempts and now?

Gee, I don’t know. Maybe, the fact that I have time to dedicate to learning and won’t take “NO” for an answer? And I have muffled that voice in my head that tells me I can’t do it?

So, you are, finally, realizing the fulfillment of a lifelong ambition, really, in these past few months. You began to feel an urging toward painting or drawing more than fifty years ago. You picked up a pencil once or twice and shelved those urgings because you hadn’t put in the time and practice to really learn what you needed to know to make a successful drawing. You just shrugged and told yourself that you didn’t have the talent or ability and gave up. A few years later, the same thing happened … and a couple of decades later, the pattern repeated.

Would it surprise you to learn that Michelangelo didn’t paint the Sistine Chapel the first crack out of the bat? Would you be astounded to discover that Van Gogh didn’t paint “A Starry Night” the first time he picked up a paint brush? Or that Thomas Edison’s failed experiments far exceeded his successful ones? Or that, while I was enormously gifted by a Gracious and Loving God, those gifts had to be sharpened and polished by endless rehearsals and voice exercises to bring them to their fullest and most beautiful expression?

As we’ve said so often before: Practice, practice, practice until you get it right … and, then, practice some more until you get it beautiful!

You have to work at learning and perfecting your craft, as you are doing now … some times for many years. You don’t just fall into the top slot! Everyone who has ever risen to the top spent a while at the bottom … failed at first … but as they continued, their art began to take shape and their successes began to outnumber their failures. So, please stop feeling guilty when you spend all day with a pencil and eraser in your hand! There is nothing to feel guilty about! The joy you experience in doing it is God’s way of saying, “You go, girl! Keep it up!”

This applies to any art … even those things that we don’t think of as art … like mechanics or mathematics or scientific exploration or domestic goddess or raising children … whatever! 

Art is a skill acquired by experience, learning or observation that moves you outside of your everyday, commonly-held emotions or imagination. It is ‘spirit’ wanting to move you past your self-imposed limitations and restrictions … the union between the physical and the spiritual … remember the Greek word … entheos … IN GOD!

Each of those events in your life were really ‘invitations from spirit’ to explore a different side of yourself … a side, perhaps, that you never knew existed and a view of the world that you had never suspected was available to you. The ‘spirit’ moved you; but your circumstances at the earlier times were not right for an in-depth exploration of your field of interest, so you ignored those urgings. But your curiosity remained and came to the surface again and again through the years … until, finally, NOW … when you have the time, leisure and privacy to really jump into that curiosity and take joy in the exploration and discovery and accomplishment.

Don’t curb that joy! Don’t dampen that enthusiasm! You deserve it!

Have I told you lately how much I love you, Baby?

Only with every pencil stroke and every word you write. And I love you much, much more!

Jan – 2/21/13


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