Skipping down the “Road of Trials”

Just got off the phone with my wife Tananarive, who has been teaching in Santa Barbara while I’m taking care of son Jason down here.  A sick or convalescing kid takes a huge amount of energy of course, but you make do.

 

We have a film script   in play, for which we have a meeting coming up at a studio  next week (probably just a general meet-and-greet), while other companies are reading.   I’ll tell you though–if I think about it, my guts will churn.     That script is one of those “this is the best I can do” works, the “home run” vibration going right down to my toes the minute I finished the first draft.

 

The question is: is it a home run in the minor leagues, or the majors?  Is it good enough to get into the Big Game?   Was it even a home run, or just a base hit?   When you invest yourself fully, it HURTS to wait. It hurts to fail.   I totally understand why so many people don’t “go for it” over and over again in life.  At some point the voices saying “why bother?   Why keep pushing yourself?  This is enough.” grow so loud that you can’t   argue with it any more, and you settle for the level you currently hold.

 

But…while there are other opinions, every expert on human performance I care about says that “talent” doesn’t matter remotely as much as focus, and modeling, and willingness to practice, and acceptance of pain and disappointment.

 

That when you look at the highest performers in the world, in any field, what you see is a clear differentiation in one arena: the amount of time spent practicing.

 

That’s it.  The very, very best in ANY field spend more time than the “merely excellent”, who spent more time than the “good”, who spend more time than the “average.”  It really is that simple.    Does that say that if you spend that time you WILL be the best?  No.  It says that if you want to be the best, you must spend more time than anyone else.

 

And…practice HURTS.   Because you must push yourself out of your comfort zone again and again and again, when any sane person wants to stay in bed, or party, or quit.

 

“You’ll never be as good as the other guy” is a reason to quit.

“It hurts” is a reason to quit.

“If you fail, you’ll break your heart” is a reason to quit.

“How many times are you going to beat your head against the wall?”

“You’re too old”

“You’re too young”

“This is unrealistic”

“You’re already good. Why keep pushing?”

 

And on and on and on.   And you can find smart, good, people who will reinforce each and every one of those positions.  And beyond a shadow of a doubt, sometimes…they are right.

 

But the world is not changed by reasonable people. Reasonable people don’t hit the heights.  Crazy people, focused people, obsessive people do.    Of course, that’s another trap, which is why I “judo’d” that imp, and decided to become obsessive about balance.    THAT was the “safety rails” I put on my life, so that I wouldn’t crash and burn as I’ve seen so many do.

 

Or…sell out.   Once you have some success, you will be offered the kingdoms of the world: sex, money, power.  They are fool’s gold, and if you chase after them, your chances of ruin are multiplied many times. You have to set your life up so that doing your duty, doing the things that are close to the essence of your existence, you produce those things as a BY-PRODUCT.   They are ephemera, sparks flung out of the furnace of creation, not the fire itself.

 

So…what is the furnace?   It is the first four “chakras”: survival, sex, power, and emotion.   Interpreted in my life as Martial arts, family, business, and art.  Get those four, the “root four”, and I’m anchored into the world.

 

T and I have had challenges.   That’s life.  But I CHOSE THIS LIFE.  I chose to love this woman.  To have this beautiful son and daughter.   To commit myself to this process, so that I could experience life to the fullest.   And…right now, as I wait to hear about the script, it is critical to have other things to focus on, or I’d go crazy.

 

Why?  Well…it is that “a watched pot never boils” thing. That “effort is foveal, success is peripheral” thing–that the external world’s rewards come out of unexpected directions, and YOU just have to focus on what is right in front of you: chop wood, carry water.

 

It is Krishna telling Arjuna that HIS task is to do what he is honor-bound to do, that the results are not his concern.

 

It is the M.A.G.I.C. formula: Magic equals Action times Gratitude times Intention times Conviction: do what you can, all you can, with positive emotions, every day, and the magic will happen at unexpected moments and from an unanticipated direction.

 

It is taking care of Jason, seeing the blessing in his “down time”: a chance to bond more deeply, to help him understand the importance of his academics, to get him to realize that physical awareness is critical to performance.

 

To focus on my business. Who is my ideal customer (a younger version of myself), what is my Unique Selling Proposition (balanced life seen through the lens of Storytelling).

 

To focus on my body.   I’m getting  another private lesson from Danny Inosanto as my Christmas present.   To take advantage of that opportunity I want to be in terrific physical condition, with a clear mind and the ability to show that I’ve practiced what he gave me two years ago.    That I am a worthy student.

 

And…to play with my art where I can.  I’ve finished and sold another story since finishing the script, as well as working on the new Niven project “Ghost Writer” which is strange.  I don’t know where its going exactly, or what length its going to be.   I suspect that what I think I know about it isn’t totally accurate.  And I am back on “Traveler” my time travel story, working on a 30-page chunk of script that is critical to the entire book.  Or is it a book?  Maybe a screenplay…but a massive 245 page script right now.  Do I cut it down?  Expand it?

 

  1. Right now, today, just focus on those 30 pages. Get them right. And when I’m working on it? Oh, I’ll probably be streaming some television show or another, because this is “dream work” not intellectual work. It is just letting my unconscious mind move blocks around, seeing how they fit.   La de dah, la de dah…how does THIS look?  How does THIS flow?  And not be frustrated that I don’t’ have answers, settle for coming up with good questions.  Let time do the rest.

 

Jason’s leg can’t heal in a day…he must focus on what he can do NOW: rest, balance his emotions, do his schoolwork.

 

My business cannot bloom overnight.   I need to master a very specific aspect of it, then coordinate everything so that I am giving the greatest service to my customers, and helping to build a world for my children.

 

My body cannot change overnight.  I have to focus on rest as much as work.  Decompression of tissues and realignment of joints, not just how much pressure I can take, or speed or power I can generate.   Flow.

 

And…there is NOTHING I can do directly to make people love and buy my script.   Right now, I have to trust my allies, trust the process.   Wait for the magic.

 

What pushes you beyond the average?  The commitment to BEING THE BEST YOU CAN POSSIBLY BE.  Working every day to get better at some component of your task.  EVERY DAMNED DAY.

 

I remember what that Grandmother said: “parenting isn’t difficult.  It is just daily.”

 

Grandmasters say that about Mastery, as well.   Duh.

 

If walking the path of Mastery  also makes you better than some particular person, fine.   But once you get that  people better than you probably put in more time than you, life seems much more fair.  It is RIGHT for them to be better.     That means that if I want it, REALLY want it, I have to be willing to give more than the other guy.  And when I’m in “waiting” mode I have to shift attention so that I don’t burn out with adrenaline and fear.  Balance.

 

Oh, its fun. But from story viewpoint, this is all just  the “Road of Trials.”  There are no dark nights, no giant crashing waves of problems. There is the work.

 

And the recovery, of course. We grow while we rest.  Which brings me to what the VERY VERY VERY best thing I can do right now..?

 

Get into the Christmas spirit.

 

Love my family and friends.  Drive to Burbank tomorrow to pick Tananarive tomorrow and kiss her thoroughly when I see her, so that she knows and feels how much I adore her, how proud I am that people come from all over the country to study with her.  That she has a pitch meeting on Tuesday, and later we have that meet’n’greet at the other studio.

 

That we will conspire together to make Jason’s broke-leg Christmas the best he’s ever had, and celebrate that we are together, and have hope, and love, and expectations that 2018 will have been  our most successful year ever, and 2019 will be even better. That we have more to live, and to give, and that Jason is starting to understand the importance of studying and actually applying himself. That Nicki is happy and healthy and warm and loved and out in the world living her life.

 

Life is good.   The MAGIC  formula says to take daily action with gratitude and focus, and expectation of positive results.    I will do that, every day, for the rest of my life.  That is my duty to my soul.

 

And the external stuff? The sales, and money, and fame?  Well…the world will make those decisions. It isn’t my major concern.    Right now, my concern is how to be the very best Santa Steve I can be.

 

And you know what?  That’s enough, my friends. It really is.

 

 

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays!

Steve

www.theancientchild.com

Advertisements

“You don’t know what love is.”

Trigger warning.  This one is rough.

##

Ever have one of those stories in your head where you can’t remember if it really happened, or if you read it in a book or saw it in a film?  I have a bunch of those.   I remember a story about a deadly feud in the Ozarks, something that had claimed dozens of lives over multiple generations.   The thing that was notable is that each side said the other had started it, and each side said that their violence was in retaliation for what the other side had done.  Someone traced the argument back and back and it turned out that the first transgression was something about a pig getting into someone’s garden. And the other guy shot the pig.  And dozens of people over almost a century died because of that damned pig.

 

The same thing is true with tribal wars of course: each side says the other started it. Each is responding to an outrage.  Every stimulus is also an effect, every effect a stimulus.   The peacemakers are people who can step out of that action-reaction cycle. And they are the only ones who can.

 

In race in America, you can trace the roots back to the slave trade…or you can go even deeper and further, until you hit prehistory.  Who knows why the hominids who developed into Europeans and Asians left Africa?   Maybe they were the smartest and most adventurous–that’s what white racists say.   Maybe they were the weakest and got their asses kicked the hell out.  I’ve heard that one from black racists.    One can imagine ancient grudges going back to 80k B.C., acted out in endless cycles of violence, until the end of time.

 

And in gender…wow.   When men behave badly, it is because they are men.    Or “programmed by the Patriarchy.”  When women behave badly…they are acting like men.

 

Whoa.  Heads I win, tales you lose, and the sad thing is that there mopey little guilt-ridden boy-children who buy into this.

 

If you start with equality, you come to a different conclusion.

##

 

My first real girlfriend (I was about 19) was named Sandy.  She was a gorgeous creature, what a buddy of mine called a “typical Radcliff sister” and I adored her and she definitely turned me out sexually. But…she had some troubled friends.   Well, to tell the truth, all of us were struggling, whether we knew it or not, just trying to make sense of the world.  This one girl we’ll call “Sarah” was in special trouble, though.

 

Sarah  had a boyfriend we’ll call Tommy, who abused her. Tommy finally stepped over the wrong line, and went to jail.  While there, she met a new guy: sweet, gentle, and kind.  She seemed to change, that hard and nasty edge lurking just below the makeup softening.  We were optimistic for her…and then the boyfriend got out of jail. Came looking for her.

 

Beat the hell out of her new guy, and then…there is no way for me to say this without flinching.  He mutilated her genitals with a rusty razor blade.

 

That was bad enough.  But when she got out of hospital…Sarah got back together with Tommy.  Sandy was aghast, and asked her: “why?”

 

The reply:  “you just don’t know what love is.”

 

##

 

I wish I could say this was the only time I’d heard from abused women…girls…men…boys…that they went back again and again to negative relationships. Some physical, some emotional.

 

And there will be some who blame this on the man, which is an understandable  response: he is 100% responsible for his vile and loathsome actions.   If she’d been my sister, I’d have killed him.

 

But who is responsible for her going back? Him?  An abusive father, perhaps?  Or how about the mother who CHOSE that abusive father?  And if her, who damaged her?  Her mother?  Her father?  “The Patriarchy?”

 

And how about the boyfriend?  Who messed HIM up?   Was it nature? Nurture? A combination of these things?  His father?  His father’s mother?  His father’s mother’s father?   His father’s mother’s father’s mother..?

 

The entire society?   The evil men in it? The weak and twisted women?  Who? What?

 

 

We can blame each other, or we can take a cold, hard look in the mirror and end the war.

 

##

 

Get past gender. Men and women do horrible things out of fear.  And EVERYTHING they do is trying to feel better about themselves.

 

Men who do terrible things and make bad choices.  Women who make bad choices and do terrible things.

 

We could argue all day about men and women and violence and sex.  There are endless potential explanations for what went wrong in this woman, this man, this relationship, these family histories, this society.  This species.

 

Or we can focus on what a healthy human being is, what a healthy relationship is, and just concentrate on getting back to that.    We want to survive, have healthy sexuality, the power to control our environment, experience and give love, contribute goods and services to our communities, raise our families according to our own values, speak our truth, understand life and communicate that understanding, age with dignity and die at peace.

 

ANYTHING that interferes in that flow is an obstruction to be removed, a “kink” in the wiring to be untangled.  Life seen as a living thing is as simple as a flower.  Seen as a maze and a trap it is an unwinnable, rigged game.  Some declare “victory” by rejecting the obligation to try.

 

This is madness: you don’t solve a Rubik’s Cube by painting the whole thing black.

 

The most basic thing that we can extract is that both Sarah and Tommy  started life seeking joy and peace.  Love.  And somewhere along the way, that got twisted and warped.

 

How twisted does “Tommy” have to be to be so fearful, so confused about the connection between sex and violence?   Partnership and possession?   Can you even IMAGINE him having any genuine self-love?  The capacity to nurture his own heart?  No.  All of his nurturance probably comes in moments he feels sexually loved.  His entire life is a seething mass of fear and confusion, and when he felt cut off from that source, it triggered rage and violence.

 

Had he been able to START with love, he never would have abused her in the first place, he likely wouldn’t have gone to jail.    Coming out, he never would have beaten up her boyfriend–why would he?   If you love yourself, and KNOW you are of value, you lose little or nothing if a particular person rejects you. You know there will be others. Further, if you love THEM you WANT them to be happy, don’t you?  You can let them go with your blessing.

 

And he never, ever would have mutilated her, desecrated the sexual temple at which he worshipped.  This is so extreme and pathological that one doubts this man can ever heal, absent an epiphany or spiritually transformative experience.

 

And what of Sarah?   Why did she choose him?  If you believe there are no good men out there, please be my guest–your natural partners are the people who think there are no good women.  Have fun with each other.

 

But throughout the primate kingdom, and much of the animal kingdom, females have as much agency in choosing mates as males, and some primatologists suggest they have MORE.

 

Let’s stick with equality. Healthy people choose healthy partners. Sick people choose sick partners.   We can be nurtured or damaged by our families, by the men our mothers choose, and the women our fathers choose.

 

If you need to believe one gender or the other is sicker, more twisted, then I simply suggest that that is your fear about the male or female aspect of your own soul.   People who have made peace with both, who can embrace both, and have mastered the art of building a life with the opposite sex don’t have that delusion.

 

Sarah…what in the hell was SHE looking for, such that she sought out Tommy?   Such that she was willing to go back to him? Was she terrified he’d kill her if she rejected him?

 

Probably.

 

But what if what she said to Sandy was the truth?   That from her perspective, Sandy “didn’t know was love was”?

 

What WAS love to Sarah?  Some possessive, ugly sharp thing that cuts you no matter how you use it?   What IS the world that it seems so dangerous that you have to have a beast in your cave to protect you from even greater beasts outside?

 

How alienated from her own strength AND softness would she have to be to need such a twisted mockery of strength, and mistake that violence and horror for love?

 

What in the living hell happened to Sarah? To Tommy?

 

We could go into endless social and psychological theories, or we can ask what the way OUT is…for either of them.

 

It is the same in both cases.  Somewhere along the messages of love and fear got scrambled.  Can you even IMAGINE Sarah wanting her daughter to suffer such horror?  Can you even IMAGINE her as a little girl, thinking “when I’m grown up, I want to love a man who will mutilate me?”

 

Hell, no.  SOMETHING HAPPENED ALONG THE WAY.

 

And with him. Can you imagine him holding his newborn son and saying: “I want you to never experience love or joy.  To spend most of your life in prison. And to destroy everything you care about, and have no sense of peace!”

 

Can you?  I hope not.

 

We start life with a cascade of pure emotion, that Buddha Baby sense of “Earth Below, Heaven Above, No One In The World Like Me!” That primal birth scream of joy and fear mingled in pure emotion.

 

What does it take to get a man or woman so far off track that they will damage themselves, or each other, in such a way, and confuse fear for love?

 

The way out is to give yourself the thing you are seeking.  Love, pride, connection, passion…these are  emotions that are either already IN us, or we would never be able to experience them. People and events trigger these emotions but do not CREATE them.

 

If you have no love within you, no one can give it to you. If you have no fear in you, nothing can trigger it.

 

Whatever the emotions are that we seek, they are already there.

 

If I could go back to either of these sad, sick people, I know what I’d say to them IF THEY WISHED TO CHANGE.  Oh, you can poke around and point out how unproductive or destructive their actions and attitudes are…but if they don’t agree? If they don’t associate pain with where they are?   They’ll never change.

 

But if they did?  If you could catch either of them in a vulnerable moment?  A moment when they have dropped their guard, honestly connect with their sense of loneliness and desperation and can admit they want a way out?  If by some grace or luck you get such a moment?

 

Then I would take either of them, and get them to remember a time they felt totally loved and supported.   Whether you have a CONSCIOUS memory of such a time or not, the experience was there.  Human beings who never experience nurturing, even in infancy, DIE.  It is called “failure to thrive.”

 

I would connect them with that memory.  Then sort through every negative action, every negative choice and ask them why they did it.  And what they were trying to accomplish thereby.

 

And in EVERY case, if you go deep enough, you will find that what they were seeking was love, and peace.  Every time, if you go deep.

 

But…they already had what they were looking for. And searching for it in the outside world is ALWAYS a fool’s errand. If neither of them had ever been parented, or nurtured, or had the grace to discover this love within themselves, then helping them find it will be a revelation.

 

At that point, they would be likely to break down and sob their eyes out, feeling lost and found.   And then…friend, you had better have a support structure to help them, because EVERY OLD ASSOCIATION and habit pattern was designed to support their old world view. And human beings would rather be wrong than be alone.

 

They will need resources. Friends. Mentors. Support. The “voices in their heads” will scream and rail at them that the new path of love is wrong, and weak.   If their social context is damaging, they will hit reality HARD, and the walls of their new positive world will come crashing down and they’ll fall back to their old selves.

 

Hero’s Journey time:

 

  1. We are confronted with the challenge of becoming mature, loving human beings.
  2. We have no role models of possibility, no paths to success
  3. But have to take action anyway, so…
  4. Down the wrong road we go.  Along it we…
  5. Meet allies who reinforce our negative beliefs, and harden the tools that help us survive in the cruel world we live in, choose, or create.
  6. Eventually there will come a major threat or challenge
  7. And this will throw us into despair. We reach the end of ourselves.
  8. The way out is faith.  Faith that we have more potential, faith that there are friends, family, mentors, lovers who embrace and guide us to happiness. Or that there is a higher power, a higher order to the universe that can guide us if we can just surrender to it, in the same way that a sailor can navigate the sea if he understands tide and wind.
  9. If we can believe in ourselves, model healthy mentors or surrender to faith we can beat the devil.   Break the old chains, even if they are multi-generational.
  10. And…in so doing we can become models ourselves. We can guide others from the darkness, and become avatars of light.

 

I have no idea what happened to  eventually happened to Sarah.  I suspect Tommy  is dead by now: that level of hatred and fear for the feminine energy cuts one off from the flow of life itself.    Sarah would have so much healing to do that I can’t imagine anything outside of a fanatical religious belief saving her from total self-destruction. Hanging on to something “bigger than herself” by a fingernail.

 

If she managed that…perhaps her children will be a little healthier.   Or their children.

 

Sigh. We don’t know what bombs go off in families, but they can be damaged for generations. Or, it might be genetics, and another reason to be careful in the partners you choose. Or…it might be a twisted soul, damaged or demonic soul.  Who knows? The answer are on the outside of the box, and we’re trapped on the inside.

 

What I do know is that Love and Faith are the way out, and that they are so critical that I want every one of you to deliberately connect with them daily.

 

Daily give thanks for the blessings you experienced in the past.

Daily give thanks for all that you love and that loves you.

Daily imagine the life path ahead of you, and what you will do TODAY to bring it into existence.

Daily remember all that you care about, all that you love, all that you want to contribute to the world, until you are vibrating with energy.

And…contact the love within you. Go so deeply into it that you NEED nothing from the outside world. Which frees you to enjoy the wonder of life and human relationships without dependency.

 

Every day, give yourself the gift of love, and joy, and connection…first with your own soul, and then with the family of your heart.

 

I do this, every day. And every day I connect with you, the family of my heart.  And bless you for being there.

 

Namaste

Steve

www.theancientchild.com

“Sex and the City” (1998-2004) and the “Throw Down”

“Therefore, Arjuna, you should always think of Me, and at the same time you should continue your prescribed duty and fight. With your mind and activities always fixed on Me, and everything engaged in Me, you will attain to Me without any doubt.” — Bhagavad-gita

This conversation takes place on the morning before a great battle, where the warrior Arjuna is troubled by the fact that, if he does his duty, he will have to kill his own relatives. And Lord Shiva tells him to keep his eyes on duty. Truth. Doing what must be done. In Zen terms, to concentrate on shooting the arrow perfectly, and not be concerned about whether it strikes the target. The moment is all you have. Do what you need to do IN THAT MOMENT. The future is not yours to decide, whether with pride or shame…so long as you are doing your duty.

Being who you really are.

Asking “what is true?” and “who am I?” and acting accordingly.

##

“Sex and the City” was an insanely popular HBO show about four women in NY seeking to balance love, career, independence, commitment, and relationships.

The series rests upon the fact that the world has changed, that there are new expectations about how we can balance love and career, sex and power. Carrie Bradshaw is a young New Yorker who is determined to beat the city…to have it all: career, freedom, passion, AND love.

But it is HARD. No one really has it all. And the modern human being, male or female, has no real “map” of how to navigate this new territory. Or…so they think. The truth is, WE DO. It is wired into our basic survival, and available to anyone who STARTS with those animal drives, and works from there to become an awake, aware, adult human being.

In the Ericksonian “Parts Party” model, Carrie was split into three different personalities: Samantha was raw sex, Charlotte was feminine elegance, Miranda was practical business sense. And the show used this “Parts Party” approach to expanding out a human psyche, then watched the way the intensified personalities coped with the world and each other.

In one episode, Carrie had a boyfriend who was sweet, and smart, and adored her…but lacked “force” in bed. According to Carrie, he didn’t have that “throw-down,” That all-or-nothing urgency.

And despite her attraction to him, and fear that she is “being too picky” ultimately that doomed their relationship.

Have you ever had that happen? Wondered if this relationship, this job, this opportunity of whatever kind is “good enough?” Heard the voices hammering at you to TAKE THE OPPORTUNITY, that otherwise you will be broke, or alone? THAT is coming from fear. What we want is to go beyond that…and come from love. To feel drawn TO a person rather than running AWAY from loneliness. TOWARD an opportunity rather than away from fear and doubt.

Carrie DOES step away from that relationship, in faith that there was something better for her out there. It took courage to believe in herself — that she was the mirror-match to her perfect partner. Mr. Right. Who of course, appeared finally as Mr. Big.

###

Why does the “throw down” in sex or life matter? Couples test each other. Play with each other. Stimulate and tease each other, as well as support and nurture.

WHO ARE YOU? They are asking. And very few activities tell you more about someone than sex. Touch taste, smell, sight, values, energy, balance, income (once you’re in their house!) creativity, and on and on.

The “throw-down.” Think about how these relate to a core question: if I mate with you, am I likely to increase my status/pleasure in life? Are our children more or less likely to survive? Will you protect me and our family? Will we continue to please each other? Will we relish each other in the ways important?

If there was one ampule of medicine, and we were in a plague, would you give it to me, or our children, rather than some seductive Other? How about twenty years from now, when the fleshly fevers have cooled a bit? Do you have the discipline and clarity not to chase new fires just because they seem to burn more brightly?

Remember the Chakras? The metaphors for different levels of human existence? The first three are survival, sex, and power. The “belly brain” of animal existence. Get those straight FIRST, and you can built a hell of a human life atop them.

That animal question is right there, whether you are talking appearance, energy, emotional balance, or whatever, relates to children or the child within us, our own limitations: will the potential mate be there? Will they give it EVERYTHING they have?

Most of sex. Not all…but MOST of it is a willingness to treat our partner’s pleasure as our own, to commit 100% to the moment.

Anyone who would trade sincere, simple intense love-making with someone who loved them for an anonymous lover who, as the line goes, “knows more tricks than a monkey with sixty feet of grape vine” is chasing after fool’s gold, bumping their head against the walls of a maze with no cheese.

Most most of success in any field isn’t “talent” other than the talent for showing up, working hard, and modeling success.

ALL THAT STUFF CAN BE TAUGHT.

Remember that first you have to know WHAT you want, then WHY you want it, only then asking HOW to do it?

The WHAT is a happy life. The WHY obvious until you break the different aspects of life down: in my own life that was marriage, writing, martial arts, and business.

Once you have connected each of these to your most basic beliefs and values, the “Hows” are the same in all arenas: Passion, self-respect, tolerance for pain, willingness to risk, willingness to learn and grow, finding role models of success. It isn’t “easy” but it is simple, so simple that people try to complicate it so they can generate excuses for failure.

##

But what if I‘”’m not strong enough?

Let’s address this by applying it to issues of women’s self defense. I saw a comment yesterday (most of my conversations are triggered by comments, so please do!) How did women get soft? Why did we stop teaching them or encouraging them to be strong?

From the perspective of human equality, it happened about the same time we told men that they couldn’t be nurturing.

Its really simple: We have physical sexual dimorphism as opposed to hermaphrodism because it is more effective for evolution and genetic diversity. And once you have two genders, one of which gets pregnant, it is more efficient to distribute labor between “EXTERNAL” to home and “INTERNAL”. Someone has to go and hunt, someone has to nurture the children. Specialization for enhanced efficiency.

And we chose each other: women chose men for aggression and power, men chose women for nurturance and exciting secondary sexual characteristics.

So: A biological need (genetic diversity) plus

Family efficiency (division of labor) reinforced by countless generations of mating choices bifurcates people, reinforced by society to exaggerate those differences.

And unfortunately, we “forgot” that we made this deal, and can therefore re-negotiate it.

Men began to believe their own bullshit, and women theirs. Among other things, Toxic masculinity would be exaggerating your strength and the power and rights it gives you. Toxic femininity would be pretending to be WEAKER than you really are, and manipulating others into feeling they are obliged to protect you and provide for you.

Do what I say or I’ll bash you” is the flip side of “I’ve always counted upon the kindness of strangers.”

That’s how it begins, with illusion. Where we are now, is post-industrialization, firearms, max population and birth control WE DON’T NEED THESE GAMES any more, but we still have some of the social, psychological, and even biological programming that supports the old way. The “Men’s Rights” guys make the mistake of saying genetic INFLUENCE Is genetic or biological DETERMINISM.

It isn’t. And we are in the midst of designing new rules, changing the world as we speak, torn in two directions at the same time.

And it is causing chaos.

What is the way out?

BOTH sides need to contact their nurturing, loving, protective self. BOTH sides need to have their own strength and softness. Their own “throw down” so to speak, willingness to go ALL OUT to protect, engage, strive. But also the open heart that creates nurturance, softness, love, intimacy. Two people who have both of these things are each other’s natural partner. They will recognize each other. If you love yourself, you will relish the notion of a partner at the same distance from the goal as you, walking at the same speed. Such people can watch each others’ backs, nurture as well as protect. They have “throw down.”

But should I take the risk?

What happens if you love the wrong person? You can get your heart broken. You’re strong. You’ll survive.

What happens if you go for a career doing something you love? You might fail. But every single person you admire in that field was someone willing to take the risks.

What happens if you fight back against a mugger or rapist? You may be hurt. Or killed. THAT’S true for anyone, male or female. But then…people who DON’T fight are more likely to be chosen as victims in the first place, and therefore more likely to be damaged.

They did an experiment, asking professional muggers who they would attack, showing them films of people walking down the street. There was a remarkable consistency between the people chosen to be attacked, and those who the muggers would leave alone. The researchers brought in kinesiologists to study the videos. What was it that attracted or repelled predators..?

The ones less likely to be attacked walked with efficiency, energy, and purpose. They seemed to know where they were, and where they were going. They paid attention to their environment.

EVERY successful person, in ANY arena, has more of these qualities, on average, than the failures in that same field. And if that is triggering for you, I’m sorry. (It is NOT said to evoke guilt, blame, or shame — those are tools your ego uses to trap you into thinking you cannot change. Wake Up!)

##

I believe in you, maybe more than you believe in yourself. At core you are an animal, a survival machine, capable of fighting to the death, loving like there is no tomorrow, speaking your unique truth, and working like a maniac to create a dream or protect a family.

Capable of waking up every morning and celebrating the simple joy of existence, the “chop wood, carry water” of the tasks that generate the good life.

Want that? BE THAT. Acknowledge, with appreciation, the patterns that have brought us here. And vow to go beyond them. Men: claim your strength, then your softness. Women: claim your softness, and then your strength.

Then: Claim each other.

Where is YOUR “throw down”? And when will you stop blaming your past, or our past, or the world, or your parents, or men, or white people, or ANYTHING ELSE from doing 100% of what you can to be the most authentic “You” you can be? At that moment…when you find the part of you that doesn’t give a shit, that can go all out for your dreams, for your self-defense or the defense of your family, or heck, behind closed doors with your sweetie…you have found a part that is more concerned with being authentic in the moment than what might happen in the future.

Learning to fight, to work for your dreams, or to truly open your heat to love requires courage and clarity, and it would be insane for a potential mate not to judge us.

Where’s YOUR “throw down”? You don’t need to “find” or “acquire” it. You just need to get out of your own way. How do I know? Because I could take ANY of you, stick your head in a bucket of water, and you would fight like a fiend to free yourself. THERE is your passion. Something…something is in your way. A crimp in your wiring, a false belief about your identity, an excessive concern for what others think, or about yesterday, or tomorrow, when you need to be living in the NOW.

How to uncrimp that wiring, become a “room temperature superconductor”? First, acknowledge that it is there.

Second, acknowledge that it is caused by illusion, and lack of clarity, and fear.

Third, vow to do all in your power to protect your dreams, your children, the child within. To live authentically every day you have.

And perhaps most importantly, MODEL THE PEOPLE WHO HAVE THAT QUALITY. Find them. Study with them. Absorb their beliefs, they behaviors, their strategies.

Find your bucket of water, your access to the “third rail” of human energy — survival. And learn to connect it to ambition, sex, love.

Do that…and you are as safe as it is possible to be in this world. You are a human ANIMAL, who plays social games, not a domesticated human being trapped by the rules.

All you have to do is give up your illusions that if you play quietly you will be safe. That you can be small enough that death will not notice you.

Remember the picture of the two buzzards on a tree in the desert, and one turns to the other and says “Patience my ass. I’m gonna kill something.” That, my friends, is your “throw down”

And in terms of the immortal Bhagavad Gita, and the eternal war within, if you fulfill your duty to your own soul, you maximize your chances of success. The timid will always ask “what if you fail?”

To which I can only reply: “what if you don’t try?”

Ultimately, we all must make a choice.

Namaste

Steve

www.theancientchild.com

The Day I Escaped the “Incel” trap

Reading a post yesterday from a pitiful guy who is certain that people oppose communism because, with a level economic playing field his superlative masculine characteristics would allow him to dominate all the soft girly-men and he would get all the nookie.  Really.   And I can’t count how many men and women I’ve heard complaining about the way the world judges them for insufficient power or beauty.   The fact that THEY are judging potential partners in precisely that way seems to escape them, and they are wandering down a very narrow, jagged path that will eventually tear their hearts out, as they “settle” for “less than they deserve,” that relationship always just one too many drinks from someone speaking the truth: they feel they could have done better.  Marrying this person ruined their lives.   “You aren’t good enough for me.”

 

There are times Tananarive frustrates the living hell out of me.  And when I get angriest, I remind myself: she is who she is. I CHOSE HER. Either I have to question my own judgement, or remember that she is absolutely the best I believed I could do.  Yeah, I said it.   This woman, who strives and works and loves with me, is my mirror.  If I want more from her, I have to bring out more from myself, or there is no room for her to shift.

 

It’s all on me.  And always was.

 

##

 

When I was about five years old, my parents divorced.  I’m not really certain about that age…all I remember is my mother asking me which of them I wanted to live with.

 

Kids shouldn’t have to make decisions like that.

 

Anyway, he was not present in my life, and I was raised by my mother and sister, who loved me but could not help me understand male energy.  As a result, I floundered in my social and athletic endeavors, and had no idea what girls were seeking in boyfriends and potential life partners.   A string of disastrous efforts to find girlfriends in Jr. High school weaned me off the whole notion.  Today, people might say I was asexual, but please, I was only 13 so that would seem a little odd, don’t you think?

 

Anyway, I wasn’t any good at sports, not much at academics, and was rather drifting. It had to have been terribly frustrating to my mother, who had seen my test scores and knew I could do hella better.

 

I liked writing, and public speaking (SF titan David Brin was my debate coach in high school.  And yeah, he was just as brilliant back then), and acting.   I drifted through the halls like a ghost, feeling like no one saw me, no one understood me or appreciated me.  And…maybe they were right.

 

Teen angst.

 

Everyone else seemed so happy.   Other guys had girl friends, other guys wore letterman’s jackets and heard the roar of the crowd.  My best friends were pulling away from me: Howard Kokubun, who had been my closest buddy in elementary school, was an officer in ROTC while I was still a corporal, and MVP in Basketball and Softball, with straight A’s and the admiration of every girl I knew.  Calvin Peterson, who had used to spend the night at my house, was a six-foot studly football player who made jaws drop when he walked into a party (I still remember a piece of advice his father had given him: when you are going to a dressy party, dress down.  At a casual party, dress “up.”  Always stand out.   It helps if you’re build like a god, I suppose. The fact that Calvin had a weight room in his house and hit it every day didn’t really register on me.)

 

I remember my senior year at Mt. Vernon Junior High.   I realized that every pretty girl I liked was paired up with either a sports hero, an academic powerhouse, or someone with a large, expansive personality.  In high school the junior girls wanted the senior guys with cars. In college, it was guys with cars and jobs.   Something clicked: power.  This part of the game was about power.

 

And that was the moment I could have chosen the “Incel” path.  All I had to do was lie to myself and say it was unfair.   Ignore the fact that I was interested in what I considered to be the most attractive 10% of women.    Why in the hell was it wrong for them to be interested in the top 10% dynamic guys?

 

It isn’t. But the “Incels” and “Femcels” pretend not to understand what’s really going on, and in essence want to cheat the system.   There is no joy down that path.  And looking back, I am so grateful that instead of becoming bitter, something inside me GRINNED.

 

Oh, is that the game?  All right.  I’m going to become powerful at something.  SOMETHING.   Then all I have to do is find the ladies who consider that SOMETHING attractive, and I’m In Like Flint.

 

But what was that something going to be?    I liked writing, but had no idea how to make that a flag saying “here I am!” Maybe if L.A. High had had a literary magazine…but it didn’t.  Journalism wasn’t cutting it.   Describing reality wasn’t my strong suit.

 

Acting class was pretty fun. I got to be other people, and seemed to have a little skill at it, but was too shy to really push for any roles.  While the kids in the class enjoyed me (and I remember a flirtation with a lovely girl in that class, but never had the nerve to really step to her.  Sigh) nothing really clicked.

 

And then one day, everything changed.  The Student Body President came to the drama class and said they wanted to do a school “clean up” assembly to encourage kids to bag their trash.   Did anyone in the drama class write skits, perchance?

 

I raised my hand, and over the next week dashed off several that they liked.   They liked them so much that they invited me to participate in the program, onstage.    I decided to do a parody of the comic Henry Gibson, who used to recite odd little poems on “Laugh In” (remember that show?  “You bet your bippy” and “Here come the Judge”?).   I was so thrilled…until the day of the performance.

 

You see, the last time I’d been onstage with a real role had been in second grade. A Christmas pageant.  And…I had totally blown my lines. My mind had gone blank, and it was an embarrassment that still curdles my stomach just a bit when I think about it too closely.

 

And there I stood onstage, waiting in the wings for my moment.   My blood felt icy, my face flamed.  I felt faint.   The teacher told me “go!” and I walked out into the spotlight.  Where Gibson had carried a big bright yellow-orange artificial flower, I carried a bouquet made of shredded newspaper.  Hey, it was a trash assembly, right?

 

I stood there, looking out at the faces of half the school. The people who didn’t’ know me, and didn’t care to.   They had always seemed distant and alien to me. The voices in my head said “run!” but I choked back the sour taste in my throat, and began.

 

“A poem,” I said, “By Henry Gibson.”  I cleared my throat with a hum.

 

I like to look at trash heaps tall and tow’ring to the sky

They’re beautiful, yes one and all, and made by you and I.

Perhaps one day these joyous things to which we’ve given birth

Will take to flight on orange peel wings, and conquer all the Earth.”

 

Thank you.”

 

And…they ROARED.  Laughed. Applauded.  I was stunned. Never in my life had a room filled with people shown me approval.   My little heart was leaping. Was it a fluke?

 

No. We repeated the show an hour later for the other half of the school, and if possible the applause was even stronger.    I felt something open within me, and like Judy Garland once said, “They like me!  They really like me!”

 

I had found something, SOMETHING to give me just a little leverage in life.  Later, walking through the halls, the guys were clapping me on the back, and the girls were smiling at me as they never had before.   Within a month or so after that performance, I had my first girlfriend, and felt I was on my way.

 

I have to be good at SOMETHING.  I didn’t know the stats then, but intuited that it really didn’t take that much to be “good” at most things.   Ten hours of study in most disciplines, and you can hold your own in a conversation.    A hundred hours and you can hold your own in a casual conversation with an expert. And a thousand hours in, you ARE an expert.

 

And if that thing you are good at has fans, and if the expression of that thing brings you to their attention…bingo.   Contrary to the Incels and their female dopplegangers, it isn’t unfair at all. It’s just life.

 

If I hadn’t realized that, and made my peace with that, I could so easily have stumbled down the wrong path.  And become a pitiable Incel, blaming the maze for hiding the cheese.

 

Blamed bosses for not giving me more money.  Magazines for not publishing me.   Bullies for being tougher, women for not being attracted to me.

 

But the instant I took responsibility, everything changed.  EVERYTHING.   And that taking responsibility was possibly the first “adult” decision of my life. Suddenly my  “inner child”, the part that says “Love me!  I’m dancin’!” and wonders why the world doesn’t respond as aunts and uncles and brothers and sisters and mom and dad used to  (“aw.  Isn’t he adorable?”) was protected by the mature decision to find SOMETHING I was good at, that the world appreciated, and learn how to MARKET that to the right audience.

 

And don’t tell me you can’t.   In a world where a guy made a Zillion dollars selling Pet Rocks, anything is possible.  And when it comes to relationships…you don’t need a zillion girlfriends.  You need the right ONE.  You need ONE person who is on your wavelength, your frequency.  Moving at the same speed and at the same direction.  One person who is both equal and complementary.

 

That person will be the best you can do. And if you’re like me, you’ll thank God every day you found her.

 

 

Namaste

Steve

www.theancientchild.com

“Mr. and Mrs. Smith” (2005) and on ending the “war” between men and women

I’ve been reluctant to directly state some of the things I’m saying today, but as we approach the “Soulmate” class, I realized that there is no way to speak of healthy relationships, or human sexual psychology and philosophy, without goring a sacred cow or two.   Sigh. There just isn’t.

 

So…consider this an article and a form of manifesto.  A new opportunity to open the door to new potential in human relationships by understanding how the past created our present without believing that it must limit the future.

 

Here we go.  My goal is simple: to show how the racial war and the gender war are related to the same illusions, and call a truce.

 

###

 

“Mr and Mrs. Smith” (2005) is an exciting and hysterically funny action movie.   The film starts with Mr. and Mrs. Smith (an absolutely gorgeous Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie) in marital therapy, bemoaning their lack of communication and sex life.

 

The problem, we soon learn, is that they are actually assassins working for competing American agencies, neither of them aware of the other’s true identity.  They realize the truth when their agencies assign them to assassinate each other.  And…they try to do it, ending in an absolutely wonderful, lethal, bruising shoot-out and punch-up, trashing their beautiful house.  It is GLORIOUS.

 

But what is clear to anyone watching, the entire time, is that they are pulling their punches. Neither really wants to kill the other.  Why shooting,, punching, blowing each other up, then?

 

Because, under all of it, they are a mated pair of human predators, each of whom was pretending to be a leaf-eater.

 

Pitt gets the drop on Jolie at one point…and cannot pull the trigger.  “If you want it, its’ yours,” he says, lowering his weapon.   She cannot kill him either, and they fall into each other’s arms for some absolutely volcanic sex.

 

Why? Because for the first time they have shed their masks.  For the very first time, they are real with each other.  That kind of deep, transformative, orgasmic explosion usually only happens in two contexts:

 

  1. Strangers or new lovers experiencing sex with each other for the first 1-10 times  or so.
  2. Bonded couples who are totally committed and open with each other, all masks dropped.

 

There are problems with such abandon, of course.   It can be very dangerous to open completely, vulnerably to strangers, but it does happen…anyone remember the comments about how sexy crazy people can be?

 

There you go.

 

And in committed relationships, the actual business of life can drain the passion, because the passion exists to signal and bond, and then that heat creates steam to drive the turbines of the family engine, working and striving together. When your values and goals are the same, the passion isn’t pulling in opposite directions, and IF you are careful to protect the intimate time and space, the sex then isn’t the same kind of volcanic “discovery/first time” sex, but it is deeper, hotter, even more shattering and satisfying.

 

“Newness” is interesting and novel, but honesty, stripping away the masks, is even better.

 

I had the honor of studying sexual magic for years, comparing approaches from Native American, Taoist and Yogic traditions.  And what they have in common is the notion that the intensity of an orgasm is in direct proportion to the amount of ego released at that moment.

 

In other words…if you can remember your name, it wasn’t very good sex!

 

Charkras.jpg

 

The Chakras are a road map of the human energy centers.  IT IS NOT THE TERRITORY, and if you get lost in discussions of whether there are “really” little spinning wheels inside you, you are missing the point.   Look at them on the level of metaphor.   And if you do that, the most primary chakra is the base, the core.  Survival.

 

Nothing trumps it.   Those who believe sex is the strongest human drive are deluding themselves.   NO one has ever stopped running from a forest fire to get laid.  But sex is the next one.   The very next.   Personal survival at the base,  genetic survival right upstairs.   That energy, non-gendered at the root, splits here the second “chakra”, called svahasthana in Sanscrit, and related to sex.

 

Another metaphor, the “Ida” and “Pingala” representing female and male energy. When they manifest on the different levels of being it is called a “kundalini awakening” and is a doorway to extraordinary function and perception.   They wind their  way up through Power, Emotion, Communication, Thought (A gendered difference exists in the  types of synaptic connections between groups of neurons.  But there are no significant differences in the NUMBER of neurons, once body size and “packing density” are taken into account), and…join again up top at Spirit. We come from oneness, and we return to it.

 

It’s the stuff in-between that gets us into trouble.

 

###

 

Many years ago, I was arguing with a mentor about the racial situation in South Africa, specifically apartheid.  My contention was that apartheid was damaging for black people.   One question was whether they  had problems and disadvantages relative to the white dominators. But another was whether they were worse off than blacks in surrounding countries.

 

He suggested a standard for me to research.  The World Health Organization has a simple standard for the health of a people, a fast-and-dirty standard they use all over the world: life span and infant mortality rate.

 

Looking at Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs, or again with the Chakras, a six-thousand year old tool of yogic psychology, personal and genetic survival are clearly primary.   There are other things that measure personal satisfaction and wealth (inherited wealth is a great one) but these two are foundational: handle those, or the rest don’t matter at all.

 

To my very great chagrin, while applying these standards to the blacks and whites in South Africa clearly demonstrated the disadvantage black Africans felt relative to whites…they actually demonstrated advantages relative to their cousins in neighboring countries, a factor that could have been predicted by looking at migration patterns: more blacks ENTERING South Africa than leaving.

 

This didn’t mean that apartheid wasn’t terrible. It meant that the situation was more complicated than I thought.  I wanted to reject this conclusion, but the part of my brain that is a scientist had instilled in me the need to follow the evidence wherever it went, even if uncomfortable. So…I accepted it.

 

I’ve used those basic questions of “Life Span” and “Infant Mortality” as primary, with income, inherited wealth, declared life satisfaction and so forth as secondary.  They’ve proved very useful over the years. For instance, in asking about the efficiency and effectiveness of Socialized Medicine, the answer is pretty clear: every country with higher lifespans and lower infant mortality–the measures of health–has socialized medicine.  Add in cost of delivery per capita, and the picture is, IMO, ere is very little competition.

 

Note the way opponents try to attack these basic stats, distract you, get you to ignore them…I promise that if corporate healthcare were superior in these measures, they would talk about little else.

 

Useful standards.  Which is problematic, as you will see.

 

##

 

I want to offer a set of definitions: Philosophy and Politics. Philosophy is asking “what is true?” While Politics is about “how can we win.”

 

And remember the song: “Everybody wants to rule the world.”  ANY group. EVERY group, would be best assumed to want to control the rules and the conversation, especially if they are politicized. The more politicized, the more important it is to remember this.

 

And here is where the problem comes in.    It is a matter of faith in gender politics that women are dominated, controlled, disadvantaged. That “the Patriarchy” controls and subjugates women.  And it is common for “woke”  men and women to believe this.

 

But one day I decided to apply these same standards, dealing with  these factors, and a rather complicated picture arises.

 

Yes, women have less control of overt power and finance. Little question. But they also live longer, die less often from violent causes.  And unless you believe men WANT to die, I would suggest that you look more closely.

 

Racists and their allies will often apply eerily similar arguments to explain racial disadvantages in America (or almost anywhere you have a dominated/colonized people): relative to whites blacks not only earn less money, have less inherited wealth, and higher incarceration rates, but they also have higher infant mortality rates and shorter life expectancies.

 

And racists will claim that this is just something innate in black people.  That maybe they don’t WANT to live. That they don’t love their children as much.  Which in my mind, violates   basic biological reality–all organisms will move away from pain and toward pleasure (maturation is largely a matter of learning to override this, and to postpone reward).  And trust me: we love our children as much as anyone on the planet.

 

So…what, then?   Who is in charge?  Who is controlling the game?  Men or women?

 

There is no way I can say anything here that will make everyone happy.  So I’ll just speak what I believe in my heart to be true, and what matches as much observed biology, sociology and psychology as possible, and also maps with the spiritual revelations of most cultures.

 

The world doesn’t exist to satisfy men OR women. It exists “Selfish Gene” wise to produce the maximum number of grandchildren, and will use both sides to that end.  Viewed that way, women’s dreams and men’s lives are relatively disposable, a strategy that means each side has programmed and bred the other for psychological and social sexual dimorphism, with societies EXAGGERATING THE NATURAL DIFFERENCES.

 

On one political side you have people claiming it is all programming. But on the other, and frankly less appealing  side, you have people (mostly men) claiming that we are totally controlled by our genetic history.

 

But nature and nurture meet and mingle in so many ways, including epigenetics turning genes on and off as the environment changes.

 

There is a fight going on, a “war” between men and women dealing with safety and opportunity, risk and consent, communication and agency, freedom and responsibility.

 

I speak to those who want to end that war.   Whatever the truth was in our pasts, technology has changed the game hugely in the last couple of centuries: industrialization, firearms, maximum population density and effective birth control are obviously freeing both sides from the rigidity of their past roles.

 

The result is both opportunity and danger. BOTH SIDES can explore new roles, shed the masks we have worn for thousands of years.

 

The result: greater freedom, opportunity, creativity.  And the energy released by dropping the mask. A new potential for men and women to relate to each other more honestly than ever in our biological history.

 

If an orgasm is the energy released by dissolving the ego shell, then Mr. and Mrs. Smith must have blown each others’ minds that night. And…on an unconscious level, it is obvious why they would have been attracted to each other in the first place.

 

Whether FINDING your soulmate, or NURTURING that relationship afterward, the key to thriving is being true to yourself, and one of those truths is that we hunger for  mating, something so deep that once the bond is formed, it is more important than personal survival.  This reproduction-driven hunger goes way beyond “mere” reproduction, influencing the behaviors and desires of gay couples or older couples beyond the time of reproduction.  Basic wiring that is now meeting a modern world where the old rules no longer apply in the same way.

 

To get to that energy, that aliveness, the passion and sensuality and state of being  we have to stop the war between men and women, and to do that, we have to stop the war between the male and female aspects of our own selves.

 

##

 

As soon as I applied these standards to race, and realized that IF I STARTED FROM AN ASSUMPTION OF EQUALITY, I could understand the entire history of the world, or our country, and spent a decade of my life writing books like LION’S BLOOD, ZULU HEART, SHADOW VALLEY, GREAT SKY WOMAN and BLOOD BROTHERS that specifically explored this: neither side was especially smart, or evil.  It was just the territory human beings have been crossing, and emergent qualities of “we rule, you drool” that begin in the schoolyard.

 

Applied to men and women its very similar, with the difference that they are complementary as well, with that pesky sexual dimorphism thing. But then, that whatever differences there are are, as said, exaggerated by societies, to the advantage of neither side–not once you factor in what Maslow and the Chakras say are most important: survival.  I have my own theories about why the illusion of dominance is so persistent, but that is for another time.

 

The advantage of this perspective, challenging as it might be, is that it is a perspective on how we got here, one that explains our world without demonizing anyone. And without LIMITING anyone, either, because we both program and epigenetically adapt.

 

What will the future be?

 

I think the future is less dimorphic in marriage.  We’re talking mated pairs of animals, equally good and bad, similar strengths per pound, capable of switching and modifying roles to a degree that would shock those born before, say, effective birth control.

 

Those who want to blame, who don’t care about men’s lives or women’s dreams, need not apply.  Whether speaking of race or gender, I invite you to BEGIN with the assumption of equality, and modify if there is no rational option–as we must admit that men don’t have babies.

 

Want a future of freedom, joy, possibility, strength, passion, power and fulfillment for your sons AND your daughters?  Where female human animals have the same freedoms and responsibilities as the males, or at least as close as we can come?

 

Then walk with me.  Believe in each other, and our shared potential, whether we speak of race or gender.  We might have to modify the pictures a bit, but if you START with equality, I believe you will make fewer errors, and less egregious errors, than if you go with the default: assuming one or the other side is inferior or superior.

 

That was yesterday.  Welcome to the future.

 

Namaste

Steve

 

(In 2019 my wife, award winning author Tananarive Due and I will be conducting a seminar  on finding, wooing, and nurturing your soulmate.   To learn more, and score a FREE copy of the dynamic “Ancient Child” visualization for inner balance, go to www.theancientchild.com)

“It’s a Wonderful Life” (1946)

“It’s a Wonderful Life” (1946) is probably my favorite Christmas movie, and I’ll watch it every year until the day I die.

 

 

We all know the story:  George Bailey is a kid who adores his father’s commitment to service, but dreams of leaving the tiny town of Bedford Falls.   He wants to travel the world, but the needs of others constantly impinge upon his personal desires, starting with the rescue of his brother from freezing water, which leads to a damaged eardrum, and the subsequent 4-F categorization.

 

He almost manages his escape at one point, but realizes he loves Mary Hatch, who has had a crush on him since childhood, and will try to build a life with her.  They are heading out of town on their lavish honeymoon when a “run” on his late father’s Building and Loan forces him to give up his plans.  He scales down his dreams, deciding to head up  the Building and Load, raise a family, try to be the man his father was, battling the venomous greed of Mr. Potter, who owns most of the town.

 

But after years of indirect and relatively moral opposition, Potter finally “crosses the line” and steals (deliberately chooses not to return, and lies by omission) a critical bank deposit.  George’s uncle is now implicated in theft, and George in bank fraud.  Crushed, beaten, George sees his entire life as a failure.

 

His lifetime of service attracts the attention of angels, who in a spectacular miracle, show him what Bedford Falls…and the world…would have been like without him.

From seeing himself as a failure, he now sees himself as “the richest man in town” with love, family, contribution, community.   Potter doesn’t even come close.

 

For those who are ticked that Potter “got away with it” I offer this classic Saturday Night Live routine, which suggests otherwise…

It’s a Wonderful Life: The Lost Ending – SNL

 

##

 

The fact is that George’s despair on the bridge, thinking he is worth more dead than alive, is not a rare experience.   The Christmas holidays trigger depression in millions of people.  And there are so many reasons why it happens

  1. Loss.  We lose family, friends, lovers over the years.   It is an unvarying constant of human existence.
  2. “Roads Not Taken”. The end of every year gives us perspective on our lives. Another year gone!  Another year older.  More aches and pains?  More gray hair?  What have we accomplished?  Where are we on life’s journey.  The loss of parents and friends contributes to this, as the realization that we, too, are mortal becomes less and less avoidable.  I recently lost the last blood relative from my parent’s generation.  That is kinda…final.   We’re next.
  3. Comparisons to past holidays.  If we were at all fortunate, our parents did all they could to protect us from pain, and make holidays as festive as possible. They KNEW that we would need every emotional resource possible to survive adult life.  And the creation of happy touchstones: birthdays, Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc., are moments of joy most of us can count on and look forward to.  It might get a little harder every year to surrender to “the Christmas Spirit” but if you can…if you are surrounded by love and joy…it connects you to the sense of limitless possibility and wonder you felt as a child.  Its worth the effort.

 

##

 

Almost forty years ago,  my mother was diagnosed with aggressive lung cancer.  No, she’d never smoked.   We’d gotten her out of the hospital just before Thanksgiving, into a room in the house of our dear friends  the Littlejohns.   I remember carrying her up the stairs.   She felt as if she weighed about seventy pounds.  I also remember sitting in her room, trying to see the loving face I remembered in the wasted continence of the skeletal thing in that bed, as she called friends and asked them to come visit her for her “last Thanksgiving.”

 

Sigh.   She died about two week later, smack dab between Thanksgiving and Christmas, and as families do, my sister Joyce and I dealt with it.    Every year, that memory sits, right between the two holidays, that memory of her confusion, pain and fear.

 

About two years later I married, and we eventually had Nicki.  And one Christmas when Nicki was about four,   my sense of loss and grief was almost overwhelming.  I was sitting on the couch, miserable, holding back tears.  Nicki was playing with a Christmas toy, as I recall.  A ball, I think.

 

I’d never see my mother’s smile again. She would never get to see the success for which she had laid foundations.  I remembered the childhood sense of joy experienced on Christmas morning, that total feeling of love and warmth and safety and miracles.  And knew I would never feel that again.

 

The pain was overwhelming, hammered at my guts, drained all happiness from my heart.   I sat there, eyes closed, sinking into grief.  And then…I felt something pressed into my hand.   Opened my eyes.

 

It was Nicki’s ball.  She was gazing up at me with those big, brown, loving eyes.  “Here, Daddy,” she said.  “Merry Christmas.”

 

I looked at the ball, and then at her, and realized that while I might not ever have that sense of total warmth safety again…Nicki could. And did. And felt our connection so deeply that she had experienced my pain, known something was wrong with her daddy, and given me all she could to alleviate it.

 

I swept her into my arms, covering her face with kisses, overwhelmed with love and joy.

 

We lose everything in life.   But if you open yourself, you also connect with all of creation, one heart at a time.

 

The joy you felt in childhood is still there, lurking inside you…and can be triggered by unselfishly giving to others.

 

The living heart of those you loved and lost still beats in time with yours, if ever they meshed with you at all.

 

There are so many things we can do to connect with love and joy, and you should seek them out.

 

The company of happy people

Places, things and activities that brought you pleasure as a child

Giving to those in need.

 

And one of my favorites, the realization that at every moment of your life, you’ve done the best you can. Done all you could to live up to your highest values.

 

George Bailey WANTED to travel the world.   But he NEEDED to be a good and decent man, in the mould of his father. A husband, a parent, a contributing businessman, an honest and caring soul.

 

There are people who think money and fame and power are the greatest gifts of life. But on their death-beds, with almost 100% reliability, people say that the most valuable things, the things prized most highly, are love, connection, contribution, self-discovery, living with courage and a sense of adventure.   NONE of the things that old Mr. Potter had.

 

And George, surrounded by people who loved and trusted him, had EVERYTHING that little Georgie needed and wanted, even if older Georgie forgot what was really important.

 

As the song goes, you can’t get everything that you want, because “wanting” is infinite. But you CAN get everything that you need.

 

And the beautiful thing is that you can feel that warmth so critical to our own health by extending  it to others. The fire you carry warms you, as well.

 

As we enter this season, please take care of yourselves. And seek ways to help others as well, help them remember who they are, and what they once valued. It is so easy to lose our way, and forget that there is nothing, nothing in the world as warming as the small gifts of love and caring from the people we love.

 

I never in my life got a more precious gift than Nicki’s ball.  And never enjoyed anything as much as giving it back to her.

 

Be kind to yourself, and each other.

Steve

 

(The visualization designed to connect your own heart, mind and body was the flagship of my entire product line.  It is now available for free at www.theancientchild.com.  Happy Holidays!)

“Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” (2018)

I’m going to do something a little different.  I’m going to quickly review “Spider-Man: Into the Spider Verse” and then I’m going to speak of an aspect of it some of you might not want to dive into.  You’ll be warned.

 

##

images-1.jpg

First, “Into the Spider-verse” is a revolutionary piece of  cinema.  The tale of an alternate Earth Spider-Man, Miles Morales, is told in CGI animation that ranges from realistic to Loony Tunes 2-D, depending on the mood and tempo of the scene. And what at first is jarring becomes, as we realize we are watching a comic book brought to life as we’ve never seen it before, something that reminded me not just of previous live action and animate versions of the character, but of the astonishing visuals of “Yellow Submarine” and even “2001: A space Odyssey.”  Because the story deals with a master criminal (The Kingpin, voiced by Liev Schrieber)   who creates a rip in reality to bring back his dead family, in the process unleashing Spider-heroes from multiple time lines.  Against this bizarre backdrop is the origin story of a kid named Miles Morales, bitten by a radioactive or genetically altered spider and gaining powers he doesn’t know how to control.  Really…that’s all you need to know, other than IT WORKS.  It all works. Improbably, even the most bizarre variations on the character (Kimiko Glenn as Japanese “Peni Parker” in a giant Tamagachi?  Nicolas Cage as “Spider Man Noir” a black and white version who talks like a Micky Spillane character?    John Mulaney as “Spider Ham”, such a Bugs Bunny variant that they have to discuss whether they are violating Warner Brothers  copyright?) work. Each has their own tone, own look, own feel. And It isn’t just a gimmick: it all comes together thematically, amid visuals so psychedelic that you’d expect them to sell hash brownies at the concession stand.

 

Wow.  Just…wow.   Really amazing, Spider Man.   Well done.   Instantly in the upper echelon of superhero films, and if you have any childhood left in your heart, one of the best movies of the year.

 

###

 

And now…let’s dive deeper.    Trigger Warning for anti-BLM types.   You probably won’t enjoy this much.

 

Last Night, I watched the light go back on in my son Jason’s eyes.    Allow me to explain.

 

##

 

Just yesterday, I watched the teaser trailer for “Avengers 4.  `Infinity War: Endgame’.  It looked intense and spectacular, but I felt no thrill at all.  I haven’t felt a thrill for a Marvel trailer since the end of the first Infinity War, where I saw the light go out in my son’s eyes.

 

Jason has ADHD, and a bit of trouble identifying with characters in movies.    I never had that problem, even when I noticed that characters who looked like me tended to die.  I still remember, clearly, the day I put a label on that observation. It was the movie DAMNATION ALLEY, where George Peppard, Jan-Michael Vincent, and Paul Winfield were traveling across a nuclear wasteland in an atomic powered Winnebago.  I was watching it with a white friend of mine,   up in Hollywood. So there’s a scene where they come to the ruins of (I think it was) Las Vegas. And out of the ashes walks the (apparently) Last Woman In The World.  And…she’s white.

 

I had an intuitive flash.  Turning to my friend,  I whispered “oh my God. They’re going to kill Paul Winfield.”

 

“Why would you say that?” he whispered back.

“Well, they’re not going to pretend he’s not interested in her. And they’re not going to let him compete for her. The only option they have is to kill him.”

 

“Jesus,” he said, disbelieving.    “Do you have to be so cynical about race all the time?”

 

And…five minutes later Winfield got eaten by giant cockroaches.  Dan was kinda quiet after that, but  insisted that was a lucky guess on my part.

 

##

 

What did I learn from that moment?

  1. That filmmakers will kill off the only black character(s) in a film quite blithely. There is NO American film in which all white characters die, if any POC survive at all. But I’ve listed over sixty movies where all black characters, or all black male adult characters, die.  Often to protect white people.  Often to inspire them to become heroes.  Sob sob.  (And yes, chances are that I’ve seen whatever movie you think breaks that rule.    A “character” is someone with a line of dialogue.  You’ve almost certainly forgotten that in whatever movie you THINK all the white characters die, there was indeed another character.  Maybe he wasn’t white enough for you, but he was there IMO.)
  2. That sexual competition is a trigger.  This makes sense, as the only human drive as strong as individual survival is species or genetic survival.  What you see onscreen is the externalization of a fantasy, the natural human urge to believe that you, and by extension your tribe,
  3. That white moviegoers generally won’t notice it has happened.   They “don’t notice” when all the black characters die, or die to protect them, or to motivate them to mighty actions.  And watching them reel off movie after movie where they THOUGHT the opposite happened just to watch me shoot them down has been an amusement, but in the era of BLM it is just sad.   Yes, it happens. No, it isn’t just “Hollywood.”  If the audiences didn’t weep and feel ennobled or invigorated by “The Green Mile” or “The Unforgiven” or “Spartacus” or “Terminator 2” the trope wouldn’t exist.

 

Black audiences notice, though.  I remember being about Jason age, about 14, just forming my self image, and going to see such movies.  Maybe it was “The Dirty Dozen.”    When I got back home, raving about it, the other black kids in my neighborhood asked me a terrible question:  “how did they kill the brother this time?”

 

Oh, yes. They’d noticed.  And I didn’t have an answer for them. Didn’t even formulate my thoughts on the subject until “Damnation Alley.”    It was real. It was a fantasy of extinction and primacy.   I’ve seen a couple of movies in which all the white characters die: they were Asian films.   “Chinese Connection” is a good example, and the death of “Russian” karate expert Robert Baker at Bruce Lee’s hands was clearly an expression of hostility, resentment for China’s occupation by foreign powers.  “We are not sick men!” Bruce snarled, and Hong Kong audiences went berserk–remember, they were still a British Colony at the time.  That inferiority complex vented itself in an image of throat-chopping death.

 

One is tempted to wonder what fear, what guilt, what pale inner need drives the need for American audiences to see such things. Or believe that black people love to die protecting them, or to ennoble them.   A desperate need, one suspects.  But…that’s another subject.

 

###

 

Jason had noticed this. About the time he watched his fifth “X-Men” movie, he noticed that ALL the black men die. Not one has survived in the entire series.  Frankly, “Logan” was their last chance with me, and in that one they killed the entire family.  “Why do they always kill the black people?” he asked me.  And that led to a rather painful conversation.   “The Talk” applied to cinematic experience.

 

I remember loving “Spider-Man” comics as a kid.  The most famous sequence in the entire canon might just be the one where Spider-Man, Peter Parker, is trying to rescue his dying Aunt May by recovering stolen isotopes that might save her from a transfusion of HIS radioactive blood. The isotopes were stolen by eight-armed Doctor Octopus, in a 007-style underwater lair.   Doc Ock has Peter dead to rights, but the enraged Spider-Man just tears through him and his henchmen as if they are made of butterfly wings.  Wow, it was amazing to see. But the fight damages the internal supports of the lair, and Spider-Man is trapped under a huge piece of machinery as the dome cracks and spills water, the precious isotope cannister just out of reach.

 

He tries to life the machinery…and cannot. The water grows deeper. And…the issue ended.   Cliff hanger!  For a month, I wondered how he would get out of it. What brilliant strategem would he use, what clever solution would he find. I remember biking to the drug store on the fateful day to buy my comics and find out what the hell Peter Parker would do.

 

And…I’ll never forget what happened.  He tried, and failed. And was faced with the fact that his Aunt would die…because of him.  As his uncle Ben died…because of him.

 

With great power comes great responsibility. And what did Peter do? Something clever? No.  He simply decided that this was the test of his life. This was the moment he had lived for. That if he couldn’t’ do this, for the family he loved, he was unworthy of the gift.  And he went deep, DEEP into himself:  “within my body is the strength of many men!” he said, and somehow, against all odds, he hoists that Hulk-busting weight of machine onto his shoulders, and…stands up.  It was amazing.  It was a full-page image of Spider Man, his every muscle rippling and straining, lifting an impossible weight…because he had to.

 

Because there was no one else.

 

For love.

images.jpg

I was stunned. That lesson, that if you had enough WHY’S the HOW’S became possible…that lesson has never left me.

 

It didn’t matter to me that Peter Parker was white.  EVERYONE in the comics was white.  I just accepted it.   It wasn’t until later, when I started pitching in Hollywood, when I started writing professionally and was told in no uncertain terms that white audiences would reject black faces, that I realized that that love and respect were not reciprocated.   That there was something so obvious that I hadn’t let myself see it: the more you identify with a character as being ‘like you’ the easier it is to empathize with their struggles, and feel their victory as your own.

 

These were images of power, beauty, heroism, intelligence and moral clarity that cultures all over the world understand their children NEED.  And give to them in stories, comics, movies, songs, plays, and every other form.  24/7.   365.   Turn on any television and flip the channels a bit and you’ll see such images.  When I was a kid there were NONE that looked like me.   It is better now, much better.

 

But Jason had still noticed. And it made him blasé about movies.   Why identify with a black character if that character had increased risk of death?  And how do you identify with a white character if you suspect, on some level, that that character wouldn’t identify with you?

 

There is a scene in TUSKEEGEE AIRMEN where Laurence Fishburne asks:  “what do I feel about my country? And how does my country feel about me?”

 

I’d hoped that if I could work hard enough, strong enough, long enough, I could change the world enough that my son wouldn’t go through the existential pain I had suffered, realizing that the filmmakers and audience apparently ENJOYED fantasizing about his death.

 

##

 

There were plenty of black characters in early Marvel movies: Fury, Falcon, War Machine, and so on.   They were fun.  REALLY enjoyed seeing them.   But the first time Black Panther appeared in “Civil War” something electric happened in the air.  This was different. He wasn’t in a chain of command, controlled by white people.  He hadn’t had his ancestral name stripped away. He knew his history, his spirituality. T’Challa didn’t follow some white guy’s orders, HE WAS A KING. And when he kissed his father’s ring there was a level of love between two black men I’d not seen in a film before. Contrast with the mess Tony Stark was about HIS father. With half a BILLION dollars in therapy and the remove of decades, he was still more shattered than T’Challa was mere days after cradling his father’s corpse in his arms.   And it didn’t end there. When Florence Kasimba faced down Black Widow saying “Move.  Or be moved” black women in the audience, even if they weren’t comic book fans, screamed “YES!!”

 

Remember the “No Man’s Land” sequence in “Wonder Woman”?  Over and over I heard women say: “I didn’t even know I needed to see that.” And I heard a LOT of guys saying “what’s the big deal?”  They didn’t get it.  Why should they?  They’d seen COUNTLESS images like that to nurture their own inner hero. Yawn. It was just one more.

 

To understand the impact of “Black Panther” you would have to imagine an entire movie composed of “No Man’s Land” sequences. There had never been anything like this before. It was something every other group of human beings on the planet have…except black Americans: a creation myth that connects them directly to the divine.  It was MYTHIC.   Bless Disney for giving Ryan Coogler the room and resources to do something no one had ever done. And as DJANGO UNCHAINED producer Reggie Hudlin put it: BP made “all the money.”

 

Yes it did.  Bless its pointy little ears.

 

##

 

Jason saw Black Panther, and I saw the light go on in his eyes. The same light I had felt watching Spider-Man lift that piece of machinery, half a century ago.    He was EXCITED.  And then we went to see INFINITY WAR.

 

And Heimdall was the first person to die. And they killed Falcon, and T’Challa after disgracing the kingdom of Wakanda with the weakest and most unfocused defense I’d ever seen.   Only the disabled War Machine survived, a man who is totally owned by a white guy, who didn’t create his own technology, and frankly would not be considered sexual competition, spinal damage being what it is.    And then the crowing insult…after a multiple movie absence, they brought back Nick Fury in the “stinger”…ONLY TO KILL HIM.

 

I was stunned.  Don’t tell me this was random distribution.  ALL the original (and white) Avengers survived. Every one.  Do I have to wonder if all the decision makers, all the core producers, writers, directors were pale? That it never occurred to them how it would feel to a boy with few superhero role models to watch that massacre?

 

Of course I know most of them are coming back. Don’t insult my intelligence.  A number of readers pointed that out to me, and I wonder if they really didn’t think I knew that.  Predictably, most of those are people who have expressed antipathy toward BLM and “taking a knee”.

 

Jason, born into a world of Tamir Rice and Trayvon Martin, watched those Infinity War images.  I watched his face. Saw the light, kindled by Black Panther, go out in his eyes.

 

In the real world AND the “reel”world, his life was not as precious.  He was surrounded by people who could judge, jail, fire, exclude, or even kill him in real life or fantasy.  And worse, if he said something about it, his white friends would in essence tell him “why are you so racially paranoid?”

 

I can see how much the world has changed.   Jason has not. And in sitting down and explaining that no, it isn’t worse than ever. No, things really have improved.  No, white people aren’t evil. They are just…human I realized how very much I’d hoped I wouldn’t have to have that conversation with him. You know, like the one to move slowly and keep your hands in plain sight and NEVER argue if you are pulled over by a cop.

 

It was heart-breaking. And it broke the “magic” I felt with Marvel films.  It was a sense that I couldn’t trust them. That I KNEW, and no one could tell me different, that if the filmmakers had been diverse that they wouldn’t have kept either T’Challa or Fury alive, and had a better defense of Wakanda.   Hell, Captain America threw together a better defense of New York in about thirty seconds, and Wakanda had had YEARS to prepare.  It was a disgrace.  It was contempt: the filmmakers didn’t’ really believe in these people, these characters.   Wakanda was just a neat place to stage a massacre.

 

##

 

Which brings me, at last, to “Spider Man: Into the Spider Verse.”   Jason broke his ankle nine days ago, and he’s been laid up, only leaving the house to go to the hospital.  He didn’t want to leave yesterday. But…we bribed and cajoled him, renting a wheelchair so that he wouldn’t need crutches, and drove him 27 miles to Burbank for the sneak preview.

 

And…the instant he saw Miles Morales, a kid as dark as him, with hair like him, with similar hopes and dreams and humor…I watched Jason, who had been in terrible pain for a week, SURRENDER TO THE FANTASY.

 

And when Miles began to discover his powers…Jason was smiling. Leaning forward.  And when the “other” Spider men appeared, he laughed and cheered.  And when Miles suffered loss, there was a tear in Jason’s eye. And when Miles finally tapped into his full powers, unleashing Spider-Hell on the omnipotent Kingpin, Jason was grinning from ear to ear. THE LIGHT WENT BACK ON IN HIS EYES.

 

For a little while, he wasn’t a kid with a broken leg.  He was SPIDER MAN.  Swinging from the rooftops, a hero, a kid like him.  For just a moment, he had no limitations, and the weight of his pain was off his shoulders.  For a moment…the world was right, and beautiful.

 

That moment lasted all the drive home.   Until bedtime. The happy smiles.  The tiny crack in the armor around his heart.

 

And the final message of the movie was incredibly subversive in the world that fed Paul Winfield to the roaches, that executed an innocent black man in  The Green Mile so that Tom Hanks could have a better erection.  It was: we are all heroes.  We all can wear the mask.  It is what is in our hearts, not on our skin or between our legs.   It is what we feel, and do, not how others see us.

 

I’m not sure I can tell you how much I would have given to see BLACK PANTHER when I was fourteen. How much it would have changed my life.   But INTO THE SPIDER VERSE is another example of what my wife and I call “movies from the other world.”  A world in which people don’t have to pretend not to mind when they die for the entertainment of people who do not cherish their lives.

 

It is a movie from the future. No…it is a movie of NOW.  We are still haunted by the ghosts of what has been.  But increasingly, and blessedly, the cycles are moving faster now, such that an INFINITY WAR is followed by a crowd-pleasing juggernaut of a film, 100% on Rotten Tomatoes as of yesterday, one that ALL audiences can cheer…that just happens to have a 14 year old Afro-Latino  kid named Miles Morales at the center.

 

I’ll take my victories where I can find them.  And today, I feel like a hero.  And more importantly…so does my son.

 

Thank you Sony. Thank you Stan Lee and Steve Ditko. There is a reason I’ve loved Marvel all my life: there is something at the core of that primal dream that has led to things like Black Panther…and Miles Morales…and even little Spider-Ham.

 

I’ve gone on long enough.   Go see it.   And as Spider-Ham would say…that’s all folks.

 

 

Namaste

Steve

www.afrofuturismwebinar.com

Walt Whitman, Will Hunting, and James Bond

One of the most powerful scenes in “Good Will Hunting” is the moment when the psychiatrist (RobinWilliams) corners Will (Matt Damon) saying the simple phrase: “It’s not your fault.”  Again and again, until Damon breaks down sobbing.  Ias first it is as if those words are blows, lashes, and Damon recoils, responds with anger,and then fear, begging him to stop.  Williams comes closer and closer, ultimately wrapping his arms around Damon.  “It’s not your fault,” he says, again, and we see all of the blocked emotions come boiling up out of Damon, anger giving way to fear, then fear to hope, and then the tears, and on the other side of them…a glimpse of heaven.

 

It is the film’s emotional climax, and if you surrender to it, it is as powerful as a sledge-hammer to the heart.

 

##

 

It’s not your fault.

 

##

A reader recently said that the lack of a “villain” was one of “Good Will Hunting”s strengths.  Agreed–there were forces of opposition, but no real “bad guys” on screen.

 

And yet…opposition is every scene. It is the warp and woof (whatever the heck that means) of drama, and without it, your scene lies dead on the page or the stage.  And we can actually examine this scene from the perspective of a villain by using a simplistic story pattern, say the one taught by Dwight Swain in “Techniques of the Selling Writer.”

 

Situation, Character, Objective, Opponent, Disaster.

 

Here’s that pattern with a black-and-white “villain”, let’s say in the 1964 movie “Goldfinger”:

 

Situation: when large amounts of gold are being smuggled across Europe

Character: Secret Agent 007 James Bond

Objective: Is assigned to stop the leakage.  But little does he know that his suspect

Opponent: Super-industrialist Auric Goldfinger

Disaster: Is really only smuggling gold to finance his real operation, the destruction of Fort Knox with an atom bomb.

 

 

Lining up your “elements” like this simplifies things drastically, and suggests scenes and plot-twists galore.

 

But what happens with a movie with real living breathing characters (or at least better simulations thereof?)  In real life, we rarely get preening, taunting, “monologuing” villains. We have human beings, doing the best they can with the resources they have, and sometimes making terrible mistakes.  Look around…most people hurt themselves far more than they ever hurt others.   While it is comforting to place the locus of evil outside ourselves, it is also a cop-out.

 

Will Hunting’s greatest “villain” was himself, his own emotions.  His own actions created his adult pain.

 

But…the roots of adulthood are found in childhood. “Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking” Walt Whitman wrote, in a poem which touches on the fact that our earliest experiences are always with us.  Will Hunting’s early life was rejection and abuse.  He was shuttled from home to home.  His friendship with his blue-collar friends was the very first real family he’d ever known, the place he feels safe. But that castle has become a prison, and a man of his intellect will chaff and rot under the stricture.  His early life, the fear and terror of having no agency, no control, and being abused by the very people who should have provided protection, were a snarl he could not unwind alone.

 

“The instructions on how to get out of the box are written on the outside of the box.”

 

##

 

So, with that perspective, let’s try to apply that simple plot structure to a complex film:

 

Situation: When faced with the task to “adult” (connect with a good woman who is his natural mate)

Character: neurotic genius Will Hunting

Objective: Has to find a way to finish maturing, enter the adult world of responsibility and contribution and self-discovery.  But standing in his way is the internalized false image created by

Opponent:  Everyone who ever hurt, abandoned, painfully programmed him as a child

Disaster: Creating a false self image so smart, so strong, that it will take an entire tribe of loving support to dismantle it.

 

Seen this way, we can easily see the scenes that have to be written:

  1. Introduction of his basic day-to-day world
  2. Introduction of his eventual allies
  3. Establish both his brilliance and self-destructive tendencies
  4. CHANGE HIS WORLD: introduce something new, namely the woman he will love enough to risk “dying” (killing the false self image) for.

 

We know that there will be a series of scenes in which the stakes will grow higher and higher, rejection of chances for growth, a delicate dance of fear and love, and a SERIES of confrontations what will answer “who am I?” and “what is true?” at deeper and deeper levels until the past is thrown away, and a man capable of love, independence, and accepting his own value are revealed.

 

NOTE: there would be other versions of this film.  Depressing versions. Where for some reason he is unable to take “the leap of faith” and devolves back to his old life–diminished.  Why? BECAUSE HE WILL HAVE GLIMPSED SALVATION.

 

If you cannot see the light, no one can blame you for not swimming to shore. You can blame the darkness as you drown. But if you SEE the light, and refuse to swim toward it?  You have made a decision, and on some level…you know it.

 

The first is death

The second, damnation.

 

THIS is why it is so hard to get people to open their eyes and see inconvenient truths.  Because if you SEE it, you have to act.  And…most will.

 

But you have to move past the anger, past the fear which supports it, and touch the love within. The hope, and possibility.  Great sex with someone who loves you can do that, bet your bottom dollar.

 

Napoleon Hill in “Think And Grow Rich” speaks of the power “Love X Faith X Sex.”  Wow.  KILLER combination. It blows your mind, and points the way toward a new set of possibilities, not a mere “improvement” over what has gone before but something NEW.

 

The first time you experience that, the pattern of life gets clearer, and suddenly you understand the world differently.  Not just “better” but actually DIFFERENTLY.  THAT is what Minnie Driver did to him in that movie.

 

She said: I am a potential future. I would be your mate. Strive with you.  Bear your children. Watch your back. Give you EVERYTHING a woman can.

 

But you must throw off your delusions. Be the Lion you can be, to match my Lioness.  Protect and serve the family.  Watch my back. Give me EVERYTHING you have.

 

No games. Playtime is over.

 

Can you step up?

 

If he does, he gets much more than a wife and partner.  HE GETS HIMSELF. His true self.  Further, he gets to “defeat” the “villains” who programmed him with pain and fear.

 

With a two-dimensional story, the best line is likely to be something said by a hero strapped to a laser table: “do you expect me to talk?”  “No, Mr. Bond…I expect you to die!”

 

With a deeper story, that line is also about death, but it is: “It’s not your fault.”    Damon is afraid, angry, in tears, because his entire personae has been built around the belief that it IS his fault. That he IS guilty, and unworthy of love and happiness.  To accept the new live, he must kill his old self.

 

“Its not your fault” said to the new self is “come to life!”

But to the old self it is, really, “I expect you to die.”

 

Only the promise of love, and hope, and self-discovery…and the support of friends and mentors and lovers ALL COMBINED were enough to shatter those chains for Will Hunting.

 

But the path he followed is available to anyone willing to kill their self-image to gain their actual life.  Or…to love more than they fear.

 

Namaste

Steve

www.theancientchild.com

What It Takes To Get Everything You Need

Once upon a time there was a monk named Costello, who trained in meditation in a noted monastery. One day after a frustrating session, he approached the chief monk. “Hey, Abbot,” he said.  “I’ve been working hard for months,” he said. “And I need to know: what will it take to become enlightened?”

The old abbot, who had observed the young man carefully but at a distance, smiled. “You really want to know, Costello?”

“Yes, Abbot” the young man said.

“Then come with me,” the old one said. He walked with the young man down to the river, then suddenly and with an eagle’s grip seized Costello by the back of the head and thrust his face into the stream! The young monk struggled madly, but could not escape the elder’s grip. At the point he was about to pass out, the abbot pulled his head out of the water and gave him a few seconds to gasp in a breath.

And then…stuck his head back under the water. Then a breath. Then back in the water. Over and over, then pulled the young monk back out and threw him on the river bank, where he sobbed for breath, spitting up river water.

The abbot waited for the young monk to regain his senses, and then asked “what were you feeling?”

The young monk recoiled, but answered. “I…I…I thought only of a breath. One more breath. I would have done ANYTHING for just one more breath.”

The old abbot smiled. “When you want enlightenment THAT much…then you will begin.”

###

Jason broke his ankle a week ago, and has been miserable since then. He wants to settle into an aimless haze of playing video games with kids (?) who mysteriously have no school to attend, and I’m not having anything of it. We had a clash of wills yesterday, and I won.

He was miserable, profane, spitting venom (fear) at me, and I was calculatedly unresponsive, except when I removed him from the Playstation and took his phone, isolating him in a world of pain and grief. It was terrible, and all I could do to maintain that emotional distance. My natural tendency is to go to him, to comfort him.

That’s what I would have done with Nicki. And it would have been precisely the wrong thing with Jason. I HAVE to make him come to me. I HAVE to force him to find the internal motivation to take that step. If I don’t…I’m dooming him. I watch the emotional storms and every time they reach the level where they would cost him a job, I’m starting to tell him.

“You just lost your job. You can’t pay your rent, or buy food. I hope you aren’t married, and don’t have any kids, because you just let them down. Again.”

Jeeze, it hurt to say that, and the ONLY reason I could get away with it is that we have enormous rapport. He KNOWS I adore him, would do anything for him. But what he doesn’t have is confidence that he will find his way out of his emotional maze.

That fear creates a false ego shell, composed of the juvenile bravado that passes for wisdom among teenagers. Fed by the illusion of competence fostered by video games. Just look at them performing feats of skill and courage beyond Navy SEALS and circus acrobats and world-class MMA fighters! Wow!

That’s a world in which tests and injuries and loneliness don’t exist. Where there are “friends” you’ve never met who enjoy shooting you in the back, but they’re better than having no friends at all. Where the notion of pulling your head out of your…I mean, turning off the PS4 and picking up the text book to study is a dose of real-world pain.

No. You aren’t a great hero, or cowboy, or ninja, or master criminal. You are a kid with no idea how you will become an adult, how to protect your body, satisfy your sexual urges with integrity, develop the power to build and protect a home and family, feel safe enough to open your heart and genuinely love.

And later, after the emotional storms had passed and he had done his homework in tears, realizing he had lost his other privileges for the day, he was miserable, wondering how he could have avoided the mistake that got him here, the moment of lost focus on the football field that led him to slipping and having the sled run over his leg, which shattered his illusions of invulnerability so that he had no agency over his body or behavior.

A better metaphor for taking the wrong path in life I could hardly have asked for.

“What do I do?” he finally asked, as honestly and openly as I’ve ever heard him, with a voice that was both mature and vulnerable.

“What do you want?” I asked.

“I DON’T KNOW!” he cried.

In other words: I am afraid to ask for what I really want. It hurts to strive and fail. It is better to pretend nothing matters.

NO. It is NUMBING to pretend nothing matters. It HURTS to care. Just as you can and probably will injure yourself exercising or playing sport.

There’s only one problem: NOT exercising is even more damaging. And NOT caring ultimately hurts so much more than striving and losing.

“You don’t know what you want…because you don’t know who you are,” I said.

He has two questions to ask himself: Who am I? What is true?

And he must struggle with those, every day. With every action, every thought, those two questions are in the background.

Once you know who you are, you know what you must do.

Once you know what you really want, you know the kind of person you are, or must become to do it with integrity and joy.

The questions are connected. Once you know what you want, and who you are or must become, you know WHY you want to do those things. When you have enough reasons, the fear and obstacles vanish, as if your child was trapped in a burning house: the only question is: what do I do to rescue my child?

##

There is a picture on the door of our refrigerator, a picture of his sister Nicki holding an infant Jason. And he swears he remembers when it was taken. In all likelihood, no, he doesn’t. But I won’t argue with him.

Because constructed or not, it is his first memory, a memory of love and support and caring, and Nicki is unutterably beautiful to him.

And last night, casually, I asked him: “can you visualize yourself as a baby?”

Yes, he could.

“Can you imagine holding that child?”

Yes, he could. I let his imagination go there. Until he was smiling, his face relaxed, adrift in a world of love.

“And what would you be willing to do to protect that child, that innocent, helpless self?”

And…I watched something in him bare its teeth. ANYTHING. He would do ANYTHING to protect that child.

“Look at me,” I commanded. “I am doing all in my power to give you the tools you will need to do just that. Protect your dreams. Walk the world with power and dignity. Find love. Build a home. Have the family you want, and protect them. All you have to do is be real with me. Be the son I love. I would do ANYTHING to protect you. What are you willing to do to protect yourself?”

Enlightenment is the step beyond non-dualistic thought, an extreme and rarified state. But “Awakened Adulthood” is available to all of us, and a goal worth striving toward.

All it takes to get everything you need…is everything you’ve got.

If you can’t do it for yourself…do it for the child you used to be. All the aliveness, and joy, and creativity, and energy is THERE. Right there. Waiting for you to hold your own head in the river and remember the blessing of your next breath. At every moment of your life, that reality is available if you’ll just move beyond ego and seize it.

I don’t know what will happen with Jason. I do know is that I will look for every moment where he is willing and able to be real with me, and I will tell him in no uncertain terms that he is worth the world. That there is nothing I would not do for him…but I cannot do it FOR him.

That he is my boy, and I love him.

Namaste

Steve

www.theancientchild.com

“Good Will Hunting” (1997) and finding your new tribe

Two years ago I was climbing   Dog Mountain in the Columbia Gorge. A 3000 foot peak, if you can climb it in three hours, you are said to be fit enough to climb Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.   Fifteen years ago my family was climbing it every weekend, as we tested the potential to make that journey.

 

That earlier trip had been canceled, and now years later I was testing my fitness: how far was I from that earlier mark?   I felt fit, but you never know.   I parked in  a river-side lot and then climbed and climbed, through a series of switchbacks, up rock-strewn dirt paths, and as I got   higher, I saw fewer people.  Most turned back.  If you aren’t ready, it is a brutal climb, and I’d not done any climbing in a decade.  My entire body was burning, every carefully measured breath a struggle as I neared the peak. The last hour, I walked alone, the Columbia river becoming smaller and smaller beneath me, the voices in my head telling me to quit, to turn back, that I had already pushed beyond the line I’d agreed to when I began.   But that voice was lying: I’d agreed to discover if I could climb to the top in three hours, and if I was over that line, it was only by minutes. I needed to know HOW FAR short of that mark I was.

 

And…something odd happened.  As I got closer to the top, I started meeting more people.   Almost by magic, the loneliness decreased, and the smiling faces of climbers coming BACK DOWN the mountain greeted me at every turn.  “Almost there!” they said.  “You’re doing great!” they said.

 

And…when I finally got to the top, there was a flattish place of grass and smooth rocks, where I sat, and ate the lunch I’d brought up with me. There were a dozen of us there, and we shared a quiet unity.  We are the ones who made it. Who didn’t turn back. We are tired and aching…but we did it.

 

We’re all alone in this…together.

 

###

 

There is a scene in “Good Will Hunting” (1997) , one of many that I love.  Two scenes, really. One is when Matt Damon’s (a janitor/math prodigy at M.I.T.) psychiatrist Robin Williams tells Stellan Skarsgård, Damon’s M.I.T. math mentor, that the reason Damon hangs out with his blue-collar friends is that “any one of them” would leap to his defense at any moment.   We need tribe. For a boy like “Will Hunting”, an orphan who dreams of having twelve brothers, any group that would defend him from the abuse he suffered in childhood is precious beyond belief.

 

Over the course of the film, Hunting meets Skylar (Minnie Driver) a rich, brilliant medical student who falls in love with him, who has an earthy sexuality and sense of humor that appeals to his street-level friends but also points the way to a better future.

 

And…she terrifies him. As leaving his “lowly” but honorable job terrifies him.    If he leaves his friends, what will he have? If he trusts Skylar with his heart and she leaves him, what will he have?

 

Untangling that ball, exposing the fear, convincing Will Hunting that he is worth the risk, that there is a world beyond Boston (he has never been on a plane, or left the city at all) requires the support of everyone around him: all his friends, his mentor, his psychiatrist, his loving girlfriend.

 

And there is a scene when co-writer Ben Affleck, playing his best friend, tells him that his fondest wish is that one day Will Hunting will just take off, fulfill his genius destiny.   Affleck’s  Chuckie knows that Will needs him…but also that Will is being crippled by that need.

 

And in telling him point blank “go away” he is being a true friend.  Go. Fly. We’ll be here if you ever need us. But if you can spread your wings and find a new home…do.

 

Will must have faith that if he has to climb that mountain alone for a time, there will be others on the far side. And they will be warm and welcoming.

 

Hey!  You’re almost there!  Keep climbing!  Good job!

 

Yes, you will be alone for a time. Most drop away.  They quit the karate lessons, stop submitting their stories, stop seeking true love.

 

And they join the crowd of those saying that it is impossible. That the pain and struggle isn’t worth it. That Soulmates don’t exist. That diet and exercise don’t work. That balancing your checkbook is folly.

 

But…if you keep going, somehow, because you have faith in yourself, or your companions, or a higher power…

 

You will meet the others who have struggled long and lonely, with faith, and they will welcome you with open arms.

 

Hey!  You’re here!   Isn’t the view wonderful?

 

 

And the friends who supported you along the way…and then let you go further than they could have…if they are real friends?

 

They’re happy for you. And if they weren’t real friends?   You needed to leave them anyway.

 

Don’t be afraid to be alone.  That’s the way you meet your true tribe, you know.

 

Strange isn’t it?

 

 

Namaste

Steve

www.theancientchild.com