Archive for the ‘inspiration’ Category

Life by proxy?

May 23rd, 2011 No comments

Did any of us stop to consider that when we watch television, we’re actually watching other people live their lives?

Not only are average folks airing their dirty laundry on reality TV, but athletes are playing their games, actors are playing their parts (and working!), cinematographers are shooting, directors are directing, editors are editing and marketing people are trying to keep their jobs by selling us stuff. Even if we’re not watching someone living their life directly, we are watching the result of their living, as seen in the aforementioned editing, directing and so on.

Sure, some programs can change the way we see the world, but most leave us none the wiser, but a little bit older. I don’t know about you, but that thought keeps me off the couch most of the time.

Wait — here’s an opposing view. If you liked Csikszentmihalyi’s idea of Flow, you might see why I think the opposing view is mostly ridiculous. Here is my take on the respective assertions of the article: 1) The writer is advocating useless downtime that isn’t actually refreshing. 2) Sure. Have the TV on while doing needlepoint. I guess we really don’t like doing either, then? 3) Okay, TV isn’t all trash. 4) I’d rather laugh in good company, not at a TV set. Now if it bonds the family, it has a value, but there are better ways to bond, and if a family can’t laugh away from the tube, something’s not right. 5) Sure, as long as part of that inspiration includes getting off the couch and doing whatever it was we were inspired to do.

Meh. Time to go for a walk.

How to be a Hero

March 25th, 2011 No comments

In 1995, Psychology Today came up with a list of the characteristics of a hero. At the time, I found the article interesting, but I was in search of some inspiration. As usual. To that end, I thought I’d rephrase the characteristics in the imperative, to make them more of a set of affirmations. I printed up little cards with these imperatives, but only gave them to people who asked. Don’t want to be pushy, you know.

They’re rather lofty, but hey, aim for the stars and hit the moon.

  • Be courageous and strong
  • Be honest
  • Be kind, loving and generous
  • Use skill, expertise and intelligence
  • Take (reasonable) risks
  • Be charismatic

The risky part should be qualified, don’t you think? I wouldn’t advise anyone to risk harm to themselves or anyone else, but often we avoid risking damage to our self-image through embarrassment, for example. Naturally, there’s no need to be complete here, as a fine and honorable life can be lived through observance of only the first three of these. If the meaning of the list isn’t clear, do read the article.

By the way, this post came about because something popped into my head recently — another pearl of wisdom from Dr. Dave, who said “there can be no refinement without repetition”. Dave defined integrity as saying and doing the same thing. In other words, what you say and what you do match, they integrate, therefore you are integrated. You have integrity.

Hm. How about adding “thinking” to make it a trinity of enlightenment?

Conversation Piece

October 18th, 2010 No comments

Sometimes music is more than just that. In the hands of skilled jazz improvisors, it’s more than melody, harmony and rhythm. It assumes its role as a language, a means of communicating ideas, even poetic ones.

Until recently, the first time I noticed this was at a concert by the Marsalis family, an immensely talented group of jazz musicians, the most famous being Wynton and Branford. They were joined by their brothers Delfayo and Jason as well as their elder statesman father, Ellis. We were extremely lucky to see the family live, and not just because of the high level of musicianship, but because of the depth and variation within that stratospheric level of talent. To clarify: although the brothers were top-notch pros, Wynton was out of their league. Next-level. Why? Because he wasn’t playing tunes any more — he was speaking to the audience through his horn. Just as we can convey ideas, statements, questions and emphasis through speech, he did it through music. It was incredible — he had such a command of the horn, he was so comfortable with expressing himself on it, he knew it as well as spoken English. Amazing.

Fast forward to earlier this month, when we had the good fortune to attend a concert by jazz pianist Chick Corea with Christian McBride and Brian Blade. This time, however, though the musicians were also top-drawer, this time there was something different: they were having a conversation.

Of course, this is generally only possible in the context of improvisation, since most conversations are improvised. If the musicians were playing a written piece, there can be interactions, but it would have been like seeing actors perform a script … with chemistry, yes, but a script nonetheless. However, in an improvisation, every moment is new, and each player has something to say. Believe ti or not, I felt I was party to a lively conversation between bass and drums, with piano agreeing, complementing and supporting the bass player’s point of view. Although it took some concentration to follow (I felt concerned for our poor companions), it was quite extraordinary.

Yet they made it seem quite common. Their comfort with the instruments and the basic harmony of the piece (the framework) made it all look too easy. So easy in fact, that it was possible to see a strong connection between the musicians. It was as if you were watching a conversation in a foreign language, but you could see the relationship between the speakers, and were transfixed.

So what does this have to do with anything?

Well … when you just get so good at something, when it becomes natural, you move to another level. You go from technique to communication to energy transfer. Maybe. I’m not talking about raybeams or heat … just something that’s powerful but hard to pin down.

Does that make sense?

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Roger Ebert: inspiring stuff

February 17th, 2010 No comments

Yes, Roger Ebert may not be well, but he’s still with us, thank God. Esquire did a piece on him that’s wonderful reading.

Just to let you know, the article opens with a more recent portrait of Roger without the turtleneck. Poor guy lost his lower jaw to cancer. He doesn’t remember the last thing he ate, drank or said, but he’s still writing. Quite a guy.

It just makes me wonder: if the same thing happened to me, would I remember the last thing I ate, drank or said?

Here’s a follow-up (rebuttal?) by Roger.

… and here he is with his new voice.

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