Author Archive

the art of gambling

“You’ve got to know when to hold ’em
Know when to fold ’em
Know when to walk away
And know when to run”
– Kenny Rogers

Sometimes people gamble money, and sometimes people gamble time. Artists do both.

The vast majority of artists passionately do their work with very little pay for years and years and years. In hopes that, one day, “it’ll pay off”. But no matter if they walk away or if they run, if they hold ‘em or if they fold ‘em, how marvelous that they put their chips in at all! Our society celebrates the successful, the famous, the wealthy, and the winners. I’m opting to celebrate all those who were / are gutsy enough to sit at the table and play the artist game.

Have you ever gambled?

deflation

The phrase “a penny for your thoughts” has apparently been around for five hundred years. Surely a penny was worth much more back then. So are thoughts now worth much less? In this day of tweets and comments and texts, perhaps so. But I do believe that some thoughts have incredible value. And since the world needs all the good ideas now, shout ‘em out! Even if it doesn’t earn you as much as a penny.

big kids

“The most potent muse of all is our own inner child.”
– Stephen Nachmanovitch

I recently rode a ferris wheel with my sister and two childhood friends. It occurred to me that it’s simply impossible to be 40-something on a ferris wheel. In truth, we all are 40-something, yes. But when that thing started going up and down and around, we turned into four kids with large feet and big grins.

Have you taken your inner child on a ride lately?

looking up

There’s a tale from my college days about a fellow student that’s gotten lots of mileage. Let’s call the student “Brittany.” The story goes like this:

American teens wait in line at the Sistine Chapel in Rome for hours. They’re finally let in and are bustled through. Upon entering, Brittany exclaims loudly, “Oh my God, y’all. Look. Up.”

The funny thing about this, of course, is that Brittany didn’t know that the very reason they’d been waiting in line for hours was precisely to “look up.”

At the time, I laughed at this story and at Brittany. But now, 20+ years later, I’m thinking we could all stand to have more of her delight and surprise in the simple act of looking up.

a coat of humility

“Winter is not a season, it’s an occupation.”
– Sinclair Lewis

I have perfected the art of bundling up. It involves a few pairs of socks, pajamas under pants, and my “sleeping bag coat”, which is reserved only for days under 20º F. And when I’m in that getup and I still feel uncomfortable in the freezing temperatures, I add to my outfit a soft layer of humility. You see, a hundred years ago, my great-grandmother reared eleven children on a North Dakota prairie near the border of Canada. It snows half the year there, with temperatures regularly below zero degrees. When I think of her (with gratitude and awe), the bitter wind sneaking under my sleeping bag coat doesn’t feel so bitter at all.

How do you best manage the cold?

duty and doughnuts

I signed up to be an election official this year. It was a wonderful day. I got a hundred bucks, the satisfaction of civic duty, and many offers of doughnuts.

A definition I found for civic duty is “the responsibilities of a citizen.” I suppose that each of us tends to those responsibilities in a unique way. That tending certainly doesn’t have to be in an official capacity. It could be as simple as checking in on your elderly neighbor or picking up trash in your neighborhood park. The important thing is that we regularly tend to those responsibilities, keeping in mind that each of us is part of a larger whole. Heck, it can even be fun to keep that society train moving along. And sometimes there are doughnuts!

What’s been your civic duty lately?

lifting up

“The man who has no imagination has no wings.”
– Muhammad Ali

There is much despair in the world these days and, therefore, much need for uplift. How awesome it is that we have billions of imaginations available to us! Uplifting occurs with problem solving, clever ideas, new perspectives, genius inventions, visionary stories, and hopeful connections… all products of the imagination.

What has uplifted you lately?

sky high branches

I fell in love with the song “Cactus Tree” by Joni Mitchell soon after college graduation, during the time I was adjusting to adulthood. (Perhaps it was the lyric “she’s so busy being free” that got to me.) But I never truly accepted that a cactus could be a tree. Having been raised in the East, I couldn’t imagine a cactus having roots and height and longevity. That is, until I met this one. It’s in the yard of the place I rent in Los Angeles. A century old, I’m told. Its branches brush telephone wires, and it houses a squirrels’ nest. A tree indeed!

Funny that something I couldn’t imagine is the very something I now see every day. Has that ever happened to you?

the corridors of emily d

“One need not be a Chamber — to be Haunted —
One need not be a House —
The Brain has Corridors — surpassing
Material Place —”
― Emily Dickinson

I had the honor and delight of visiting Emily Dickinson’s house this past summer. It’s where she wrote nearly all of her poetry. It’s where her brain was haunted by the world, by the human experience. It’s where she was free to discover herself and her work.

Thousands and thousands of people traipse through the corridors of this house each year in a quest to understand Emily better. But it was the corridors of her brain (as the poem suggests) that actually housed her singular brilliance. And she was the only one to ever traipse there.

What is uniquely housed in your brain?

none of my business

I’ve had a few intense experiences lately of being proved wrong. And they’ve been fantastic. I was assuming people had certain (negative) thoughts about me. But those same people ended up offering me amazing opportunities, clearly having very positive thoughts about me instead. The negative thoughts I’d assigned to them were completely imagined on my part.

I totally appreciate the old adage “what someone thinks about you is none of your business”. But that’s easier said than done. The truth is that I do care what certain people think about me. It’s my responsibility, then, to watch what assumptions I make about what they’re thinking. I have to know when I’m projecting, inferring, or just plain making stuff up. I also have to ask myself why I care so much and what’s the cost of that to my well-being. Making all of it “none of my business” would certainly be liberating.

What opinions of others have you made your business lately?