My heart and my prayers go out to the families and friends of the innocent victims that were gunned down in the Thousand Oaks shooting, and to further compound an already horrendous situation people have lost their homes due to raging fires.
I’m not sure how much heartbreak one can endure. How many more senseless killings we can mourn? We live in such a dissociative state where as long as my life-style is maintained, then all seems okay. We celebrate violence, aggression and greed. We arm mental illness with guns and incendiary rhetoric. We hide behind alarm systems and Netflix binges, waiting for the next Jimmy Shoe to drop. We are held hostage by our homes but our homes don’t offer any insulation from Human Nature or Mother Nature. How do we stay upright in a world that is upside-down?
I never thought of myself as one to lose their spirit or sense of humor, but it is being tested. I meditate, I do yoga regularly. I am trying to be better tomorrow than I was today. I certainly don’t think I am alone in that pursuit but I indeed feel alone. I can’t protest with any kind of verve as I certainly don’t see my vision for the world as having any kind of adhesive. I believe in disruption but I don’t believe in corruption and those two ideologies have seemed to collapse into one another.
At one point I was an agent for changing the world and an advocate for injustice. I was more global in my expression. I am now more focused on what I actually can control, or at least feel that I can control, where there is more of a tactile connection. I am working on being a better person and making my kids into better people. It’s more of a local pursuit rather than a global one. Like Michael Jackson said, “You have to start with the Man in the Mirror.”
How is it, even in such a diverse world, that we still have old white men in power? When I was blonde, I could make blonde jokes. Now that I am old I can indict old white men. History has proven that those who get the changes the fastest have a distinct advantage. People don’t like to relinquish power once they have tasted it. Old white men are all stuffed in the top floor of a high-rise, clinging to their art as the building is being demolished and they are plummeting to their death. Little do we know that the inevitable was proclaimed a while ago and it’s just a matter of time before the hardened truth hits us.
The balance and the distribution of power is being delivered into many different outstretched open hands: black hands, brown hands, yellow hands. The fist that’s clutching on to a time that’s already gone is an anachronism that is to be pitied.
There are many variations to the following story, but it’s quite instructive. In South America, Africa and Asia the natives have devised a very effective method of trapping monkeys. The plan is deceptively simple: the natives take a gourd or some similar object and drill a hole just large enough for a monkey’s hand to pass through; they add some extra weight to the gourd with sand or pebbles, then put a nut or some fruit inside and place the gourd where a monkey will find it. Here is what happens: the monkey sticks his hand through the hole to get the food — but with the prize in its grasp, the monkey cannot get its hand back out. The hole is too small for the monkey’s hand to pass through so long as it’s holding the treat, and the gourd is too heavy for the creature to carry. But because the monkey will not let go of its prize, it becomes trapped. The animal gives up its freedom to hold on to a small piece of food.
It seems obvious that all the monkey needs to do is let go of the bait and it can escape. But because it views the treat as its possession and is not willing to let go, the monkey is trapped. It loses its freedom.
We are a people dedicated to results, dedicated to finding solutions to a problem. To conclusions and outcomes. That’s all well and good but it can also cause problems of its own. It takes us out of the present time and throws us into a future answer that is meant to heal what ails us. If your attention is on the outcomes, your actions will be either passive or aggressive. You see attention on the outcomes kind of naturally puts you into hope, and hope evokes two distinct affects: passive or aggressive. If you are in hope of something working out, you will not take necessary actions to insure the result. You become afraid and tentative of messing something up, so you leave it to the universe or whatever to determine the outcome and it never works out. Or you become too aggressive and you are not in relationship with the person, place or thing and you are in the throes of your own agenda and that doesn’t work out.
Instead you want your attention to be on getting the information, not the results. If you go for the information with no survival about the results, you will know what actions to take. You will know how to pivot, you will not take something personally . You will be freed-up to hear the truth. You will be free ask any and all questions without the need to manipulate what comes back at you.
Now there are exceptions to this rule, as there are exceptions to any rule, and I don’t have any answers as to why there are exceptions. Sports seems to transcend this, possibly because there is such a declared outcome that is all agreed upon, which allows for the freedom to go for the goal line. There is nothing covert/ashamed/manipulative, it is just clear we --as a collective-- know this is what we are going for. Apparently that collective gives an athlete the freedom to do everything to win. This doesn’t account for sore-losers, but as I said, there are exceptions to everything. Otherwise go for the information.
Summer is back and the urban sounds of hip hop are painting it black. My birthday is in a week and I am old and white-- that’s a bad combination these days. My son just berated me for his lack of diversity, due to my patrician genetics, and he thanked God for his Spanish mother. I struggle with not wanting to be so disdainful and to have an open heart, but unless I am in yoga class, there doesn’t seem to be much chance of that. I used to think that hard work and some skills were a formulae for success but with incompetence and entitlement being the winning strategy, I am buying more lottery tickets and getting more gas.
The world is upside-down, trying to figure out how to be creative while standing on your head is challenging. Retirement is about something being over, forced retirement is about the culture saying you’re over. What to step on or where to step-up? Who to look to or who to look out for? Where to focus or how to focus?
Due to social media we have a paranoia pandemic that we are being left out or left behind.
And on any given day, you are.
So what's a white boy to do?
I am a native New Yorker, I was born and raised in NYC, but I have lived in Los Angeles for over 30 years. I love Los Angeles. Many people have mixed feelings about the city: some don't like it at all, others love it conditionally (much like most of the relationships in this city), and all love it when there are those perfect LA days that are like nowhere else. A slight breeze, absolute perfect temperature, crystal clear sky after a rain. This is when LA conjures up that magical elixir, that drug where everything seems possible.
Los Angeles is usually regaled for the resources–– the access. The mountains are close at hand. The ocean is close at hand. The desert is close at hand.
Physical Beauty is all around, both geographically and in human kind. (A friend of mine once remarked that they feel Comely but Stupid in NYC and Brilliant but Homely in LA.) Los Angeles is now boasting some of the finest restaurants and world-class chefs. All these amenities are fantastic and enhance the living experience, but for me it's what you cannot see that enthralls me.
It is a city of contradictions. A transitional city where people come to talk and talk about moving somewhere else but somehow never do. It's a strange place to call home. I don’t think anyone consciously says, “You know I would really like to move to LA to raise a family.”
It’s the most authentic city in the world and the most inauthentic city in the world, reflected by many things but certainly the language. The word “wannabe” was coined here; that is not a word that’s used in Kansas. It’s a word that distinguishes the real from the faux, the “haves” from the “have-not’s”. And the city knows who is something and who isn’t. It demands authenticity, and at the same time cultivates in authenticity. The word “Like” was coined here and has become an essential marker for all things LA. Of course, that word was coined here because the entire city is a “Set” it’s not real. It’s “like” something. We have turned simile into an art form. The word “Like” also reflects the commitment of the city. If I say it’s “like” something, I don’t actually have to “Stand” for anything.
It has become completely acceptable when dating in LA to promote one thing and be something else. The contradictions are unique. You can tell someone on the first date that you are madly in love and then never call again. We have bitter and possibility cohabitating beautifully here in LA.
It's a city of entrepreneurs. You can make anything happen here, you don't have to have any degrees/credentials. You don’t have to have a history or you can have a criminal history. You can start as one thing but predictably you will end up as something else. You are rewarded for very bad behavior and then you are indicted for the same behavior. Your life-long friends depend on what fad you are following. When we take to drinking more, we have a whole new set of life-long friends.
As a little boy, I loved going to the Circus. Going to Madison Square Garden to see Ringling Brothers Circus was one of the highlights of the year. To live in Los Angeles you must love the Circus, you must love The Three Ring Circus and you must have a good case of ADHD so you have the ability to watch all three rings at the same time. Different City’s require different skill sets. It takes some time to figure out LA’s. It’s not as easy as taking off your shoes upon entering a traditional Japanese home.
It takes something to fight for something, and many times those acts are not public. They are mostly private battles that you have to win every day. We battle with the best part of ourselves, and certainly the lesser part. We are faced with choices all day long, choices like: to have character, to have integrity, to eat well, to exercise, to develop, etc. Knowing what to get behind and knowing what to leave behind. Letting go and letting be or pushing through. In a crowd surrounded by family and friends lost in social media mayhem, we are still alone. We have to get up again and again.
I often wonder as I am in the shower for the millionth time, doing the same routine over again–– washing my face, washing my body, washing my hair–– when will I just give up and just not shower anymore? Life is not easy of course, and I have great compassion for what it takes and what makes it difficult for people. From the beginning, we face those challenges, the challenges kids have in school––bullying, peer pressure, focus, fitting-in, feeling safe.
Maintaining your spirit, your passion, your heart is daunting when faced with those pressures. That is not say there are not great times or profound moments, but in between those moments there is the struggle. The struggle to keep your vision when all around you is distracting and misdirecting, is a daily discipline.
This is usually the time for review, a time to look back and reflect but not this time. That does not mean that excavation is not taking place, it just means all of the unearthing is in service of a powerful forward momentum.
We are in the throes of great change. We have been coming to this for a long time now. All has been under examination for a while now: how we eat, how we sleep, how we were parented, how we parent, how we relate to one another. We have been examining all that we are as human beings and all that we do, and so it’s not surprising that men are now under the microscope.
Most of us don’t like change, especially if it looks like it includes loss. There is a shelf-life to everything. Recognizing one’s outdated behavior and surrendering to a new direction is challenging but it’s also refreshing, energizing. There are historical accounts and retrospectives of what pushes us into new paradigms. There are those inciting events that architect our future, but really there are a series of low-profile moves that allow for an inciting event. One person might get credit for great change but it is thousands of unheralded actions that have created scaffolding for a time which has come.
I usually wish for love and care around the holidays, not that that shouldn’t be there always, but this year there’s an additional wish. This is a Sisyphean time where all have to push the rock up the hill and surrender to a new direction.
The truth will set you free but first it will scare you down to your very core...
Here's to truthful Holidays.