"One's philosophy is not best expressed in words; it is expressed in the choices one makes." - Eleanor Roosevelt
More than half of my November was consumed in Salt Lake City sorting, giving away, and packing the remains of a former life not-so-neatly contained in a cavernous storage locker, not to mention the guest room of my sister's home.
A good friend whom has moved many times in her life says she gives everything away, keeping only handwritten letters and artwork.
"Furniture, clothing, you can get anywhere." In short, she cherishes heART expressions over commodities.
In my frenzy to give away all "self-help" books (which I don't consider art), I'd added Pam Grout's Living Big: Embrace Your Passion and Leap into an Extraordinary Life to the pile. Something made me open it up before the pile made it to library. The book was packed with stories (yes, examples with the self-help formula of a moral, or statement to make, yet they still captured me).
I am sharing the story that stopped me in my tracks at the end, and this snippet below:
"There's a strong sentiment afoot that creativity is frosting [on the cake], expendable, unnecessary. This is the same voice that tells you you're expendable, the voice that assigns you a number, a punch card, a place in line [a rank on Technorati ;-)]. It's the voice that's desperately afraid that you're going to figure it out.
Usually when we aspire to be "spiritual," we think of things like being kinder, being more understanding, saying more prayers. But in order to fulfill our destiny as spiritual beings, we must also become more creative, more open to the magic, the deep vistas that gush through our souls." - Pam Grout, Living Big: Embrace Your Passion and Leap into an Extraordinary Life
About the same time as I'd re-discovered Living Big, I came across a clipping from week of November 15th astrology that stirred me to a new resolve to share more direct experience, more art, and less opinion:
"Stories interest me more than beliefs. I'd rather hear you regale me with tales of your travels than listen to you regale me with your dogmas. Filmmaker Ken Burns agrees with me. He's worried about the increasing number of people who love theories more than stories. "We are experiencing the death of the narrative," he told the San Francisco Chronicle. "We are all so opinionated that we don't actually submit to narrative anymore. That's the essence of YouTube: Abbreviate everything into a digestible capsule that then becomes conventional wisdom, which belies the experience of art." Your assignment, Leo, is to help reverse this soul-damaging trend. Spout fewer opinions and tell more stories. Encourage others to do the same." - FreeWillAstrology.com
"Live your beliefs and you can turn the world around." - Henry David Thoreau
Actually, I'm fine with the death of the narrative. Quantum, nonlinear, holographic vibes for me. I agree that dogmas disengage, disconnect, whereas art unites. It's the pithy pundit and the didactic pandit that's heralded these days at the expense of the poet and dancer.
By the way, didactic comes from the Greek didaktikos which means "to teach". Whereas, educate comes from educare, which means "to draw forth". Big difference.
Okay, here's the story that inspired me to share my (short-term) vision with y'all finally in this blog. (The long-term vision is the stuff of science fiction for most eARTHlings...but that too in its time.)
"In January 1959, a thirty-year-old eighth-grade dropout from Detroit borrowed $800 from a family savings plan to buy a house - not an unusual goal for a man of his age. Only this enterprising thirty-year-old had his sights set a little higher. He was going to use that unassuming two-story house to start a record company.
The man, of course, is Berry Gordy, the record company is Motown, and the plan, well, let's say it worked. Between 1959 and 1972, Gordy's Motown released 535 singles, 75 percent of which made the pop charts. From a recording studio that's barely larger than a king-sized bed, Gordy produced 60 number one hits before he moved to Hollywood and sold Motown to MCA Records for $61 million.
I tell you this story because it demonstrates the power of opening to a bigger possibility. Berry Gordy could have easily settled for less. He was black at a time when black wasn't yet beautiful. He dropped out of school in eighth-grade, had already failed at an upstart boxing career, and could neither play an instrument nor read music.
But he had a dream. He wanted to write songs. And if nobody else would produce them, well, he'd just do it himself.
Catching a dream is the point at which all of us must start. We see a vision. We hear a tapping on our heart. We start to wonder if "maybe, just maybe, we might be able to"... write a song, dance a poem, leap into a new way of being. We become willing to say, "It is possible."
When we first begin to listen to our dreams, we don't always know where they're leading us. This is good news. If we could see the final outcome, we might get scared off, put on the brakes, and think, "Whoa, Nelly, that's way too big for me." So luckily all we have to do for now is take the first step, put that first toe out the door.
The other thing that the Motown phenomenon demonstrates is the wealth of talent that so often goes undiscovered. Had Berry Gordy been content to plug lugnuts at a Detroit auto plant, one of many jobs he tried before starting Motown, he would have never plucked Diana Ross, Stevie Wonder, and hundreds of other poor black kids out of the ghetto. It seems impossible that superstars of their stature might have taken another path. But had Diana Ross not caught a vision, she could very well be just another bag lady on Ninth Street; Stevie Wonder, another blind kid on welfare. Thank God, they had the opportunity to tap the creative spirit that was within them.
If Gordy hadn't turned 2648 West Grand Boulevard into a "happening" place to be, "Heard It Through the Grapevine," "Ain't No Mountain High Enough," and thousands of other songs would never have been written.
...The same kind of talent that Gordy found in his ghetto protégés is hidden in the people we walk by every day. It lies hidden because nobody bothers to look, nobody bothers to say, "Hey, look what we can do." It lies hidden behind thoughts of unworthiness, behind "masks" that we put on for a good show.
Each and every one of us has that same creative spirit. But, no, you're probably thinking Detroit was different. The list of superstars goes on and on - the Temps, the Tops, the Vandellas, the Supremes. But you know what? Gordy could have just as easily opened that record company and been just as successful in Cleveland or Chicago or Omaha, Nebraska, for that matter. There are Temps, Tops, Vandellas, Supremes everywhere. There are people who are just as talented, just as musical. The only thing they don't have is Gordy's vision.
This is not to deny the huge talent that existed in Detroit at that time. What they did on that little three-track recording system in Studio A can only be described as the musical equivalent of sitting in front of the bus.
But it only happened because one man was willing to step up to the plate, was willing to say, "I believe."
"Not to dream more boldly may turn out to be, in view of present realities, simply irresponsible." - George Leonard
p.s. In truth, it's just my hunch that I'm Leo ascendant. While I'm first-born somehow my mother seems to have erased all consciousness of my birthing.
p.p.s. Oh, my, will serendipities never cease. The artwork at the top of this post is from a blog I stumbled across Googling for images with search terms like "supremes art" and "musical chairs". The Pro Commerce blog also makes mention of an interesting twist to a "restaurant." (I did still keep my copy of Marketing Without Advertising by Michael Phillips, the blog's author, after giving away almost all of my marketing and biz books. I also kept Brand Hijack, if you're curious.)
After my friend Cindy's recommendation, I ended up eating and absorbing the inspired spirit of One World Cafe just about every single day for a week. It's been influencing the vision. And I knew the visioneer, Denise Cerreta, when I lived in SLC. Much mo later, or l8r, as I say in emails.
UPDATE: Now this is up my storytelling alley - both for my admitted attention span as writer, present sketch focus vs. distillation of memory, and adoration of the first, raw draft as final draft. Via Reckon (twitter.com/reckon): "[Donald] Barthelme's short stories are often exceptionally compact (a form sometimes called "short-short story," "flash fiction," or "sudden fiction"), often focusing only on incident rather than complete narratives. (He did, however, write some longer stories with more traditional narrative arcs.) At first, these stories contained short epiphanic moments."
Art Unknown artwork that I stumbled across (via Google Images on Michael Phillip's Pro Commerce blog); Irish mailbox photographer unknown (via Emerging Writer blog); current photo of Berry Gordy's unassuming recording company, now a museum; cover art for Stevie Wonder's early album, Innervisions.