Saturday, November 29, 2008

Inigo Montoya's Lessons in Honor

"My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die."

I have watched The Princess Bride so many times that I have lost count. Originally I watched it because my sister had a thing for it, so at Christmas we would watch The Princess Bride and Dr. Zhivago. I categorically refuse to watch Dr. Zhivago anymore - don't get me wrong, it's a great movie but seeing it twenty times wastes too much Kleenex and kills too many trees. I suppose I could just let the tears run down my face but then my clothes get wet. Or watch naked, but we won't go there.

Buttercup and her prince charming, Wesley, the Dread Pirate Roberts, fight against the evil Prince Humperdinck, his dastardly minions, huge rats, the fire swamp, the Pit of Despair and the prince's nefarious plot to kill Buttercup on their wedding night. Buttercup has despaired of ever seeing Wesley again and has agreed to wed the prince, not knowing he plans to kill her in order to accuse a neighboring kingdom of murdering his bride and thus justifying a war. A lust for power. Although, what guy in his right mind would kill the lovely Buttercup? Obviously not in his right mind. Must remember that.

Although Buttercup, Wesley and Humperdinck (sounds kinda crude doesn't it) are vastly entertaining, I find the character of Inigo Montoya the most engaging. Mandy Patinkin was so cute is the eighties. And he makes a lovable hero, avenging his father's death at the hands (or digits) of the too-many-fingered minion of Humperdinck. Stopping at nothing to fulfill his pledge to his dead father. He is driven by passion, by justice and by the child he once was who adored his father. He is driven by his sense of honor, a word that seems to have no or little meaning in society anymore except in the most negative sense (ie. so called honor killings, disgusting). I'm also not suggesting that vengeance is a good idea because that leads to a vicious cycle of reprisals and more destruction.

Honor is a code of ethics one lives by. Honor is having personal integrity about who you are and the actions you take. Honor is about taking responsibility for yourself and your actions. Honor is having a standard and not abandoning it just because it is inconvenient.

There is not enough honor in the world today. It seems to be dog eat dog, with little concern given to what is right or honorable. Todays children need to learn about honor and personal integrity but not many people bother to teach their kids this. Do the parents have no personal integrity themselves? No, I don't necessarily think so. I think parents are so busy trying to make things work financially that they throw money and things at their kids to substitute for time with their children. Understandable, in a way, but not so understandable in another.

The school system does not set a child's moral compass. That is the job of the guardian or parent of the child. I know that in most families, both people have to work. That is a simple reality in our world. Those who can afford and want to have one parent at home are fortunate. But that doesn't mean that one can abandon a child to the school system, X-box, iPod or the Gap for Kids and hope they learn what they need to know. Parents must take an active role in shaping their child. I'm not talking about programming any child down to the last iota of brain cell. I'm not talking about smothering a child with endless rules and regulations. Kids need to be kids. But parents need to be parents.

Parents need to instill in their children a personal code of conduct, a personal code of honor. A realization that everyone is a part of a larger society that must work together to succeed as a whole. That keeping your word means something. Your word is your bond. This all sounds old-fashioned to some, but if you can't rely on people not to lie to you, not to cheat you, not to try to steal from you, then you end up with the society we have today--severely dysfunctional and driven by greed. Just look at the current economic crisis. Caused by the greed of the few to infect the entire world with financial malaise.

We need more Inigo Montoyas in our world and fewer politicians.

I'll get down from my soapbox now.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Labyrinthine Love and Life

The book I'm currently writing has a reference to the Chartres Labyrinth in France. So I went looking for one in the city I live and I found one! The other day, according to tradition, I walked the labyrinth and I started thinking as I paced the path. Uh oh, you're thinking, she's contemplating again!! Horror! Run, run fast, run far far away!

But since you're still reading, I'll assume I'm not scaring you and shall continue. :) The labyrinth is made up of four sections and it loops closer to the centre before moving away from it, out to the far reaches of the structure. And it occurred to me that the labyrinth is a metaphor for life. And for love.

At first, I followed a straight path until I was almost halfway to the inner sanctum, my goal, a six petal rose. The path forced me to detour around the circle, closer and farther away from the centre. Close, so tantalizingly near to my goal, only to be led in another direction. Such is life. Such is love. 

We always seem to be on a path in our lives, one that takes us closer to ours goals and then moves us away from what we want. A pushmi-pullyu sort of animal. Dr. Dolittle has never seemed so profound. 

Life can be a maze with dead-ends and wrong turns leaving you lost and alone. But life for me is a labyrinth, one path, a circuitous, winding road that gives us some of the things we want--love, home, hearth. But it also leads us away from what we what, only to have teasing glimpses of our goals.

I suppose I could have just run to the centre, ignoring the path, but what would be the point?The path teaches one patience. The path teaches one wisdom. The path teaches one discipline. The path teaches one about life. Running to the centre would have cheated me of the journey, the process of reaching my goal.

When I reached the centre goal of the labyrinth, the six petal rose, I walked into each petal and did a little spin, celebrating the fact that patience had won out over impulse by walking the path.  It took me 20 minutes to get to the rose. I then left the rose and followed the path out of  the labyrinth, again winding closer to and further away from the petals.

When I left the labyrinth, the only thing I could think was, "I will be back."

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Salsa Confusion

I went to my first Salsa Practice yesterday. It's a group of Salsa enthusiasts who get together once a week to practice their moves. Or their non-moves, as in my case, or maybe confused movements is a better description of what I was doing yesterday.

The practice session doesn't include lessons, it isn't a meet market--people are just there to dance, enjoy themselves without any pressure and learn from the different partners they dance with. Rank beginners, like myself, intermediate level dancers and those who really know what they're doing. At each new song, people switch partners (I let anyone I danced with know that I am a beginner, just so they understand that I don't know what I'm doing).

And despite being spun off balance a few times, stepping on my partners' feet and bumping into them at inopportune moments, I had fun. I went to a Salsa nightclub a few weeks ago and the night-clubbers apparently only want to dance with people who know what they're doing and look really good doing so. I am not one of these people. Too much pressure and snobbery for me. 

I just want to learn to dance Salsa.  I don't have a partner with whom to take to lessons, I can't afford private lessons, so Salsa practice is a wonderful way to accomplish what I want to learn. I'm assuming, of course, that I am not totally uncoordinated and will catch on, like everyone tells me I will, in 5 to 10 sessions. I practice the basic steps at home, but the spinning thing doesn't work well without a partner - I overspin without someone there to stop me. The kitchen counter or a chair don't work well as partners.

So maybe, just maybe, in a couple of months, I won't be spinning off-balance, stepping on feet and bumping into my dance partners. What surprised me the most was that the numbers of female and male dancers were pretty well even. I had originally thought that there would be a bunch of women there, but no. Fairly even numbers and everyone was friendly and understanding and the men knew what they were doing. 

I don't know if anyone else has tried to drag their significant other to dance classes, but I used to do this, only to discover that if the man doesn't know how to lead, then I can't follow and I try to lead. Which only irritates all concerned.

So yes, I am very happy if a man knows how to lead and lead well. I am a feminist, but somethings just work better when you don't try to lead. I don't want to lead--I don't know what I'm doing. And the rules of hand-to-hand (contact??) dancing are that the man leads. Some feminists will argue that the rules of dancing need to be changed, but I am not one of these. I don't want to change the Bible so that God is referred to as a woman. I don't care. It doesn't matter to me. What matters to me in terms of feminism is gender equality before the law and in society. Domestic abuse (although either gender can be abused), prostitution (ditto), equal legal rights, equal working rights, freedom from sexual harassment etc are far the more serious issues that feminism should deal with. Not dancing. 

It's dancing for God's sake, not war.

Friday, November 21, 2008

A Cobbled-Together Life

Life is like a box of choc-o-lates. (Sorry for the plagiarism from Forrest Gump). You never know what you’re going to get—the yucky ones, the not so yucky ones and the ones you LOVE. My favorite is the cherry centered one with the actual cherry and the gooey syrup in it. And I think, maybe ol’ Forrest had a point.

Life comes at you at the speed of light these days, the good, the bad and the ugly and sometimes I think, “This wasn’t what I had planned”, or “This wasn’t supposed to happen”, or “What am I supposed to do with this situation/person/dilemma/success/failure/illness/health?”
I was on the subway today, staring blankly out the window as the train stopped at each station as I made my way downtown. Staring at all the different tiles lining the subway walls and floors and stairs. All cobbled together into a single, pulsing organism that moves people from one end of the city to the other. The life of a subway system. All walks of life, all types of people, with a common goal—to get through this day and onto the next. Busy, busy, busy. Confused, bewildered, scared, focused, successful, unsuccessful, worried, happy, sad. A kaleidoscope of humanity, like a kaleidoscope of types of chocolates in a box.

The chocolate you take a bite of and spit out because you find it disgusting. The chocolate that tastes like a bite of heaven. The chocolate you eat anyway, even if it isn’t your favorite, but hey, it’s chocolate! Everything cobbled together into a single box for your dining pleasure.

In a cobbled-together life, you don’t know what’s going to happen next. You don’t know if your trip to the store will be a pleasure or a pain. You don’t know if someone is going to walk up to you and change your life. You don’t know if a bus will hit you as you cross the street to get to the other side (no chicken jokes, please—I know, I know, I just handed that one to you, what ARE you going to do?) You don’t know. We only know what we have experienced in the past and the moment that is happening right this second. Now. While you’re reading this.

I think we all like to plan our lives to a certain extent. To have security. To have a home. To have a way to make a living. But life can’t be entirely planned, some of it yes, but not all of it. Your entire life can change in a single second, that’s all it takes. One second to change where you are going, to change your focus or to change yourself. To change the flavor of your life.

Sometimes to truly live, you have to totally let go of everything familiar, throw yourself off the metaphorical cliff and hope for a not-too-bumpy landing. (Please don’t throw yourselves off anything dangerous, I couldn’t take the guilt.) And you discover what you can do, what you can accomplish, what you can dream. A heady, exhilarating feeling.

You, just you, are a box of chocolates all on your own—the good, the bad and the not-so-bad. A group of people is a box of chocolates in and of itself—the good, the bad and the not-so-bad. A world of people is the “cornucopia of awesomeness” box of chocolates—the good, the bad and the not-so-bad.

No one is completely perfect. No one is totally good. No one is wholly bad-to-the-bone. We cobble ourselves and our lives together to fashion it into a lifetime of adventure, a lifetime of sorrow, a lifetime of discovery, a lifetime of happiness, all intertwined together. We, each of us, have many lives to live in a single lifetime. We, each of us, have untapped resources we are as yet unaware of. We, each of us, cobble together a life to live.

Make sure your cobbling creates a box of life that you can love and can be proud of.

Thursday, November 20, 2008


This is normal?? This, this disaster, these consequences, this life is normal?? I don’t know about you but I have asked myself these questions any number of times. I guess what I am really asking is, ”Is this fair?”, “Did I really deserve this?”, or, “Why does everyone else seem to have such a normal life?”

It’s a child’s question, really. “Why is the sky blue, Mummy?”—“I don’t know, dear, it just is.”, or, “Why is grass green, Mummy?”—“It just is, dear.”, or, “Why do I have to go to school, Mummy?”—“Everyone has to go, dear.”

Things just ARE. Yes, there are logical, understandable (by human standards) answers for some questions and some answers you just have to take on faith. No one understands everything. Hell, we understand so very little in the grand scheme of things. We have barely scratched the surface of what it means to be human. We don’t understand ourselves, we don’t understand others, we don’t understand the world and we don’t understand the universe. Why, why, WHY??

I have a hard time with “why” because I want to know why about everything. I have a hard time just accepting an answer – I want to know what went into the answer. This urge to know why is wonderful at times and a hellacious trial at other times. And sometimes, I just want to shout out (maybe on my balcony—I can be a deranged Juliet), “Okay, I’ve had enough. I know that adversity builds character, but I have enough character now to last me a number of lifetimes. Can I please just get on with it?”

But howling won’t help me. Not much, if at all. Actually, when I become angry about something/someone and I vent, I just feel worse afterwards. More angry, more guilty, more out of control than before. It’s a cycle that feeds on itself, spiraling into a fire-breathing dragon. I have tried meditating through it, breathing through it, talking myself down out of my anger. But I’m still mad.

I have to experience things for myself. It’s a part of my “why” problem and not accepting answers without question. I’m just lucky that when someone (probably one of my parents) told me not to play in the street, I stayed off the road. So at least I don’t have to learn “everything” first hand. Although it does come in handy for a writer.

Trying to put things into perspective is probably the most helpful thing I can do and trying to treat myself like my best friend would. I know I can’t control everything—least of all, anyone else. I can control the things I do but I can’t control how my body and mind react, not instantly anyway. My pulse speeds up, I start jiggling my foot up and down jack-rabbit fast if I’m sitting, the flight/fight instinct kicks in and off to the races I go. But I don’t want to go to the races. I hate the races. I want to go back to being calm and philosophical. Relaxed. Breathing slowly. Simple stuff.

Beneath all the fancy clothes, makeup, haircuts we have, beyond the technology we possess and our so-called superior lifestyles, we are still cave people, hunter-gatherers. Driven to huddle beside our primordial fires to keep the wild beasts at bay. Defending our little clans with clubs against marauding invaders who would steal our resources, our peace of mind, our security. I guess some of us (who, me?) are just more primitive than others. Reacting to negative or positive stimulus as though they are imminent dangers. That’s how humanity has survived for, what it is, 100,000 years or so?

I am learning to slow down my reaction times. Instead of a knee-jerk, shoot-from-the-mouth reaction, I'm backing away mentally to think about what is really happening. Is this reaction warranted by the circumstances? Am I blowing things out of proportion? What are the facts versus what am I feeling? Do the facts support/qualify the feeling? Giving myself the space to pick and choose my reactions while still assertively reinforcing my personal boundaries.

“An unexamined life is not worth living.” This is a quote from some ancient Greek philosopher, Socrates, I think. He isn’t advocating suicide or killing people who don’t contemplate life. He is saying that the “cost” of living life is too great not to examine it in detail. Sort of like buying a house without having done a house inspection before plunking your hard-earned cash down. Your life shouldn’t be a lemon you bought for a bargain but now want to return. The cost of life, the responsibility of life, is too high if you don’t know who you are and why you’re doing what you’re doing. Making life, through examining it, worth the costs of living it. And that means not driving myself crazy with “why”.

Know thyself, goes the saying by the Oracle of Delphi from two thousand or more years ago - I don't know the actual date. I think it’s an important saying. Knowing yourself will help you live the life you want to have. Shaping and crafting your life into something that is pleasing to you.

It’s the only life you have.

There. Now I feel better. I’m not even going to ask “why”. It’s a gift and I’m accepting it.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Silent Words, Silent Worlds

Imagine if you will...GMail and its chat capability. Not what you were expecting, was it? Hee, hee. Gotcha. Anyway, I shall continue.

The person you are emailing suddenly shows up as a glowing green dot saying that you can reply by chat. You are so startled that you end up "chatting" by accident. Yes, Google has taken over your life and is directing it, or so it would seem. They said it would happen eventually. :) The future is now. If Google could come up with a way to wash all your clothes, dry them and put them neatly away, that would be great!

It comforts you, in a way, to know that your “pen pal”, for lack of a better word, is on the e-mail server at the same time as you. A tenuous, but real, connection. Looking at that little green dot doesn’t seem like much in the whole scheme of things. But it means worlds to you. You both know that the other is on GMail at the same time and probably thinking of the other person. An unsaid link, a silent communication, a mute message all in itself, saying, “I’m thinking of you.” Even though neither of you says anything, the nothingness is charged with meaning.

"Nothing" has never meant so much.
"Nothing" has never been so eloquent.
"Nothing" is…something important.

Sighhhhhh. Just a thought.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

A Rose

Poem by Galaway, Inner Tennis

When We plant a rose seed in the earth,
we notice that it is small, but we do not
criticize it as “rootless and stemless”. We treat
it as a seed, giving it the water and nourishment
required of a seed.

When We notice that it is small, but we do not
criticize it as “rootless and stemless.”
we treat it as a seed, giving it the water and
nourishment required of the seat.

When it first shoots up out of the earth,
we don’t condemn it as immature and
under-developed; nor do we criticize the buds
for not being open when they appear.
We stand in wonder at the process taking place
and give the plant the care it needs at each
stage in its development.

The Rose is a rose from the time it is a seed
to the time it dies. Within it at all times it contains
it’s whole potential. It seems to be constantly in the
process of change; yet at each stage, at each moment,
it is perfectly all right as it is.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Live in Your Fingers and Toes

Like many writers, and other people, I tend to live in my head. That's how I write and so that's where I seem to spend the majority of my time. But I just realized something. I'm realizing a lot of things these days, so please bear with me while I have my epiphanies. However much I live in my head, analyzing problems and situations, my body knows what's wrong in my life before I do. Even my dreams know what's wrong in my life before me.

Sounds crazy, huh? I think I am one of those people who disconnect their head from their body and just drag their body around for the ride. I was in a bad relationship and during that time my health suffered. I got sick all the time, had back problems and many weird nightmares. One of my worst nightmares would be when I thought I was awake but I couldn't move. I would hear someone creeping up the stairs to the bedroom and feel them standing over me - I could even feel their breath on my face. Freaked me out. The grim reaper standing at the foot of the bed with his blade also was one that I feared.

I left the relationship and my health improved. My dreams, however, were still weird. The one that sticks out in my head goes something like this: I am in Venice (I think). There are canals flowing amongst the streets and I am riding in a horse drawn carriage of some kind and I am sitting with the driver. We round a corner and I see puddles all over the ground. Some are big and some are small. One of the puddles has a disconnected head, no body, hovering next to it. The head, a man in a top hat, says to me, "You have to get rid of the poisons" and he spits (gross, I know) into the puddle. As soon as he spits into the puddle, his body reappears and he is a whole person. At that point I wake up.

This dream, in retrospect, makes total sense. I had disconnected my body from my head. The poisons (my relationship issues, my "bad" emotions, etc) were keeping me from making "contact" with my body. I ignored my bodily issues because my head was in the clouds. I was stuffing my emotions down, out of my head, and into my body. Poor body had taken a terrible beating because of this.

Rationally and logically, I know there's a mind-body connection. But I never really felt that connection before the last year or so. What's happening in your head is happening in your body. Your mind controls your body in ways that you can't even imagine. Or at least I couldn't.

So now, I try to be very aware of my emotional state and my physical state. I try to live, at least more of the time, in my body. Feeling how my body moves when I stretch or exercise, noticing small pains and areas of tension. Wriggling my fingers and toes, almost like pushing my mind into the fingers and toes. There you go - live in your fingers and toes - the very furthest appendages from your mind.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Crazy Is Good - How to Travel around the World Alone and Survive

If you've been on my site and looked at my Bio page, you'll know that I am a world traveler. On my trip around the world, the majority of the time I spent in Australia and New Zealand but for five or so months I was in Asia by myself. And I learned a few things that have been useful in everyday life. In a lot of Asian countries, if you're female and you're traveling alone, the locals think you are a prostitute. And they act accordingly. I had packs of men follow me down the streets making rude and lewd noises.

Not an enjoyable experience.

When I was in Asia, I was constantly being asked where my husband was. As if I couldn't possibly be alone because, as a woman, I needed a man to protect me. And, I have to admit, at times I really wished I had a very tall, muscular man with me. It would have prevented a lot of problems. But I didn't have that so I had to resort to different strategies, let's call them, to avoid or divert or scare attention away from me.

The things to do in Asia for women traveling alone:
  1. Buy a cheap gold colored ring and use it as a "wedding" ring. When people asked, I would  flash the ring and tell them all sorts of stories: my husband was sleeping off a hang-over, I'm meeting him down the street, etc. 
  2. Cover as much skin as possible and wear baggy clothing. I didn't cover my head but at times I think it would have prevented some of the negative attention.
  3. If you're blonde, seriously consider changing your hair color to dark brown or black. Blondes have a target painted on their backs.
  4. Realize that people in Asia get North American and European TV shows and somehow think this is how all Westerners behave. I cannot count the number of "Hey baby, you want to come to my place" comments I received. I took to either ignoring the comments, sneering at the guy or looking at the guy like he was crazy. Another four letter word plus the word "off" also did the trick.
  5. Never tell anyone you're lost - they seem to take it as a game to see if they can confuse you more. Know where you are going 100% of the time if you can manage it. Study maps. If I absolutely had to ask for directions, I ended up asking five or so people and taking the most popular answer. And even then, I still got the wrong directions 80% of the time.
  6. If you walk down the street muttering aloud, then people generally leave you alone. 
  7. Walk with purpose, your head up, shoulders back and a determined expression on your face. Don't stare at people you walk by but don't drop your eyes either because that marks you as a target.
  8. Realize that you are in some of the poorest countries in the world and the poverty is devastating to see. The urge to give a thin, frail-looking child a few rupees is overwhelming but be aware that, if you do this, the kid will tell all his hundreds of friends and you will be mobbed. 
  9. Enforce your personal space no matter what. I was in Srinagar, Kashmir, India for long days some months before the all the fighting started. I stayed on a houseboat on Dal Lake which was very nice, looking out towards the Himalaya Mountains. The not so nice part was that I would take a skiff to the quay and there was always a group of men congregated about ten meters away from the dock. They would always verbally harass me but didn't touch me. I took to walking on the opposite side of the street to avoid them. One day, they verbally harassed me as usual but one crossed the street and grabbed my arm. I turned around and slammed my fist into his face. Not very hard but hard enough that he fell, probably out of shock. His friends started to laugh. I wouldn't necessarily recommend this course of action (I have never hit anyone but my younger sister, when I was around eight years old, and this guy) because the situation could have gone either way. Fortunately it went my way. No one EVER came near me again and the verbal harassment stopped. Personal boundaries are important, even life-saving. Enforce them.
  10. Learn to lie. Like a rug. Back in Kashmir, I decided I needed to get out of Asia because I was tired, cranky and I just wanted something familiar, or at least identifiable, to eat. So I went to the airline office in Srinagar to book a ticket back to New Delhi. The man I spoke to was extremely unpleasant, saying that I hated his country and the people of his country, asking why I should want to leave, spoiled Western woman that I was. I knew I wasn't going to get any help at this rate and believed he would delay my departure out of spite so I told him that my younger sister had just died in an automobile accident (a total fabrication - she is very much well and alive). Tears rolled down the most miserable, sad looking face that I could conjure. The man's attitude changed into one of sympathy (because I was acting like a stereotypically emotional woman in need of manly assistance) and, wouldn't you know it, I was on an airplane the next day. A few days later, I landed in London, England.
Despite the above, I don't regret going to Asia. It was an EXPERIENCE. I grew up in Edmonton, Alberta, which at that time was very, very white. I didn't even see a non-white person until I was thirteen years old. For the first time in my life, in Asia, I was in the minority and I hadn't realized until that point how much I stuck out, how out of place I felt, as one of a minority. People make assumptions about minorities that have nothing to do with reality. As well, the sheer volume of history is staggering and humbling. You can breathe, feel, eat and touch the history in the air, in the food, in the water (bottled, of course).

Of course, I had some beautiful times in Asia. Some of the most perfect moments of my life were in Asia. I was walking up a winding road in the Cameron Highlands in Malaysia with a fellow traveler I'd met, the road surrounded by undulating hills and forest. The Islamic call to prayer started to drift throughout the area, the singing chant filtering magically through the trees to reach my enthralled ears. I had never heard anything so beautiful before, never anything so ... indescribably, exotically foreign. I'll remember that until the day I die.

Thailand and it's people were beautiful. I'm straight but I swear the most stunning women in the world must be Thai with their delicate grace, smooth ivory skin and their almond-shaped tilted eyes. I rented a moped in Krabi, Thailand to take a look at the surrounding country-side. I had never driven a motorcycle before and barely understood the concept of shifting gears, especially without drifting onto the wrong side of the road (most of Asia drives on the left side of the road). At one point, I drove up to a roadside restaurant with outdoor seating. I was covered in dust and thirsty. I sat down and asked for a Coca Cola because the entire world knows what you're asking for. When I looked back from the waitress, there were about twenty villagers all gathered around me in a circle. Not threatening in any way, but curious and friendly. They were fascinated with my white skin (kind of sunburned at that point), green eyes and lighter hair, all of which they touched and looked at with delicate but respectful curiosity. It was actually very sweet - they charmed me and I think I amused them with my butchered Thai and my wordless communication attempts.

These days, traveling in Asia is much more dangerous but I think it can still be done safely. If you can at all manage it, travel with someone you know. A satellite phone would be a God-send. Research, research, research. Use your common sense to stay out of trouble - think ahead. 

And finally, know that these countries are totally foreign and can't be judged by Western standards.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

The Music is all Around Us--All you have to do is Listen

I just watched the movie "August Rush" for the first (and second) time tonight. The title of this blog is from the last words spoken by a young musical prodigy in search of his parents. The child uses his musical talent to lure his parents to him as he's been in an orphanage his entire life. Aside from Jonathan Rhys Meyers being beautiful, which by the way was quite distracting, I felt very moved by the entire movie. I had never heard of it before (I may have been in a hermit writing phase or something) but I just got The Movie Networks on cable and it happened to be on. I watched the last half of it and then watched the movie again.

At the end, his parents unknowningly come together to watch him conduct a Central Park symphony he composes. His parents had been the victims of fate, untrustworthy jade. His father never knew of his existence and his mother thought her child dead. The mother finds out her child is alive and does everything to find him. The father never stopped thinking about the mother - their one night of passion together ten or eleven years earlier.

I'm not a movie critic by any stretch of the imagination, but this film stopped me in my tracks. A journey of a little boy towards something he yearns for and can feel so strongly that he runs away from the orphanage to The Big Apple. He walks to the beat of a different drummer - the drummers are his parents, unknowingly calling to him through their own musical talents. He knows they are out there. And he calls back - through his own music. He hears music in everything - the trees, traffic, basketball - you name it, it is music to him.

I have to admit it. There are two distinct things I'm a sucker for - inspiring musical composition, classical or modern, which never fails to raise the fine hairs on my neck and arms and a happy ending. So shoot me - I'm a romance novelist. I sat there shivering as I watched the movie.

I just checked and this movie was nominated for several awards, including an Academy Award. Wow - I really must have been hiding in a hole when this was released!  I didn't know it was nominated when I watched it. But the idea that a little boy's perception of reality was so concrete, something he could actually hear, was wonderful. His perception successfully drove this fairy tale/journey/love story. Perception is reality. I wrote about that in another post.  I think therefore I am. I ask and I am given.

While the movie is obviously fictional and highly unlikely to ever happen in reality, it does hold lessons. Unfortunately, most of those lessons are cliches but cliches are cliches because there is a grain of truth in them. Your hopes and dreams are your aspirations. You generally aren't given or conceived of a dream without some way of making it real. You may fail. Many, many times. You may fall. Many more times. But what matters is that you pick yourself up and try again. Within reason. I mean, Stephen Hawking is not likely to physically climb Mount Everest, but what he can do with his mind is more impressive. He has climbed a Mount Everest in his mind. But if he wanted to be at the top of Mount Everest, I would suppose a helicopter could get him there (I'm assuming there isn't a problem with thin air that would prevent an engine from running properly).

The point being that your dreams can be reality. The reality, the path, the experience may be different than imagined, but the dream is still fulfilled. "The music is all around us - all you have to do is listen." The music, in this case, is a dream you choose to listen to and to follow to your reality. Whatever perception of reality that is.