“American Crime” – Studies in Character

I love a good character study, whether enjoyed through reading a good book or a watching a dramatic presentation.charac quote.jpg

Nothing says “humanity” better than witnessing exposed human foibles and a character’s visually-recorded self-delusion.

It’s the mirror we all stare into but seldom realize who we see because we are so busy watching ourselves acting in different bodies with strange faces that sometimes appeal to or repel us.

This comes as no surprise to anyone who watches it, but our present television offering is the black hole of attention consumption. It sucks away our hours, our days, and our lives. We watch renditions of LIFE rather than actually living it.

And in return, television media gives us…….um,……I mean besides all the blatant money-grubbing advertising, …it basically gives us little other than being an insomniac’s last refuge or a 50-inch, rectangular pacifier.

I wouldn’t even call most viewing options “entertainment” as much as I would call it varied flavors of escapism—escapism geared to your favorite obsession or fear.

So when I, in my own escapist foray, ran across a really good dramatic series based mainly on character study utilizing creative character dissection, I took notice.american crime

I’ve trolled the Netflix options many times. Some series are so-so, some hard to get past the first 4 minutes, and some were fairly interesting. But if you are really into character studies, I would suggest the series called “American Crime.”

It’s certainly not what I expected it to be, and gladly so. The main actors are some of the best, and are well-known in their own rights, but combined together in this unusual format and artistic renditions of “life as it actually is, not as we project it to be” they are superb mirrors of human self-deception, self-destruction, and self/family annihilation.

And that is the ironic title’s claim: “American Crime” – it explores the cultural/societal/legal crimes we commit daily on ourselves, our families, muslim women.jpgand our communities.

Why on earth would that be interesting or entertaining to watch?

Because it is so revelatory in each unveiling episode. You relate to the de-masking of the characters—their proposed aspirations, their genuine woundedness, and seas 2.jpgtheir hidden weaknesses. Through each of their depictions, you see how easy it is to slide away just a little from your own integrity and end up in a complex situation with the sudden choice of now facing the evolved problem head on, or trying to bury it deeper in even greater deception coupled with harsher future consequences. (Hint: they all go for the latter one.)

What I liked most about the two season series other than showing the same actors in alternate character universes, was that there really were no clear good guys—no clear child protectbad guys depicted in the show. There were no easily distinguished heroes and no pure villains, although some were implied and assumed until proven not to be.

In each season’s dramatic character exposition, there were only flawed people like you and me, making one or two choices that led to violent repercussions and forever tainted lives because of their simple acts of greed, lust, loneliness or self-loathing.character are you

The most prevalent theme I took from both seasons was that all of us need love and acceptance, openness and understanding. But without those necessities, we live shallow, deceptive, and destructive lives that eventually implode.

It isn’t that our lives are fated to be that way—it’s that we choose our fates because of those unmet needs.

And that is the biggest crime.

Advertisements

The Juxtaposition of Expectations

I was fascinated by this image—the subtlety—the softness—the ephemeral quality where the horizon is inferred yet not easily distinguished—and most of all, non pink flamingos.jpgwhere the expectation is reversed of seeing black flamingos against a pink background with a pink sun.

To me it is powerful on many levels: You have the incongruity of subject matter whose very name suggests a distinct color, you have the distinction of the silhouettes cast against the pastel backdrops, and beyond all of that, you have the mirror reflections of sky with birds crossing a suggested watery surface that gives the impression of floating above their own shadows.

My mind quipped, “It’s a juxtaposition of juxtaexpectations. Nothing here is what you expect it to be: not the sun, not the birds, not the sky or the water. You aren’t even sure where the horizon meets the sky.”

That’s what makes it so powerful.

It could be my Graphic Arts training, but when I see an image this strong and almost other-worldly it gives me pause to assess why it is so impactful.

True, there could be considerable image manipulation here through filters and color adjustments to achieve that unusual background hue, but compare the image above to a few additional images that cover the same subject matter, and then see for yourself how pastel sky waterthe photographer/artist really took the walking flamingos to a new level with his rendition of them.

flam sky.jpg

 

 

 

flockflaming in water

 

Celebrating Grayness

(Written 10/23/02, Edited 8/21/16)

Outside the day was as gray as my hair appeared in the mirror that morning, and I sighed just thinking about it.cloudy.jpg

“I’m not nearly as morose as I sound,” I thought, but the enticing dreariness was convincing me otherwise. “It’s a dark day,” I said to my mirrored reflection. “But so what? We all have dark days. The sun can’t shine brightly every day.”

It’s easy to go with the mood of the day—to slide into cynicism and negativity. Why not? Who cares? Gray days are meant for gray moods, aren’t they?

Gray is that inbetween color—including all the multi-shaded variations ranging from blackest black to whitest white. There are a lot more gray areas than there are the polargray shades.jpg extremes wherever you look—whatever you see. Even silver is just light gray buffed to a high shine. There’s nothing wrong with gray. If you could actually see their true hair colors, some of my best friends are going gray. My favorite cat is gray and white. My favorite slacks outfit is gray. (Well, it’s not really my favorite, but it looks sharply astute.) That’s what gray does for you. It gives you subtle distinction.

So I was having a “subtle distinction” day. Yeah, I could go with that.

That definitely describes it better than calling it a “gray” day. A “subtle distinction” day is a day devoted to nuances rather than contrast, detached engagement rather than enthusiastic support, and perhaps even contemplative acquiescence rather than flat out refusals.

Today was the day for “maybe.” Today was the “perhaps” of lingered consideration. Today stood mootly by with glazed expression and simply said, “I AM, …or I think I AM, …if I don’t think too hard.”

Gray days are for indecision. They celebrate fence-sitting, hem-hawing, shrugging shoulders, sagging heads, blank stares, mumbled responses, luke-warm coffee, and melted ice cream.

At lunchtime a gray day will promote clerk indifference, order confusion, bad choices, and frustrated.jpgsitting in ketchup.

At dinner, you will see crabby faces, hear stinging comments about your cooking, and you will wish that you lived alone.

Gray is for quiet contemplation far away from the nasty attitudes of others.

Gray is for monastery cubicles lined with slender white candles that allow you to watch melting candle wax slowly fill the pewter holder until it spills onto the shelf and then the floor knowing that the residents won’t scold you for not blowing out the candle sooner.

Gray is for stupor—for simple, unabridged “nothing” existing between the ears.spouses.jpg

Gray is grumbling spouses and cranky workmates, all in the same day.

Gray is finding, as you are ready to leave for work in the morning, that your garbage bag has been shredded in the night by the neighbor’s dog.

Gray is having your toddler sit on your lap with a wet, leaking diaper when you are already 10 minutes late for an appointment.

Gray is discovering an ironing rack full of clothes to press and none in your closet to wear.crabby woman.jpg

Gray is welcoming your new neighbors with open arms before realizing that they like staying in your house better than their own.

Gray is having Sunday buffet with in-laws that smilingly criticize your every thought, word, and deed.

Gray is the smell of something rotten when you open the front door after a two-week, summer vacation and remembering that you meant to put the newly-purchased hamburger into the freezer rather than on the counter beside it.cat in litter.jpg

Gray is having a cat that occasionally “misses” the litter box and leaves little “Uh-oh, better cover this up,” front paw tracks up the stairs, through the foyer and onto the livingroom carpet, before nesting in your favorite recliner.

Gray is for taking a deep breath and helplessly watching that 3rd button from the top pop off your blouse while meeting your new employer.

Gray is for shaking your head in disbelief at how every stoplight changes to red, just as you approach them.vaccum grass

 

Clearly, a gray day is meant for thinking all these gray thoughts, and then laughing at the craziness you call your life.

The OPEN Mind

Limitation is so unnecessary.

open.jpgWhen we focus so tightly on a single issue or a single viewpoint, we limit ourselves and our outcomes.

You don’t need to do just “one thing” in your life when you can do many things. You needn’t “specialize” in a certain subject or a course of study unless you feel that “one thing” is the single guiding force of your life. Specialists in nature are often a rare, isolated species, and are the ones most prone to extinction because they limit their food sources.

While there are advantages to a tight mental focus, there are disadvantages to limiting your frame of reference so severely that you exclude other possibilities. When you zero in so tightly on a concept or even an ideology, you restrict any other explanation from penetrating your mind set.einstein quote.png

I don’t mean to be the judgmental finger-pointer here but in today’s world, being able to keep your mind OPEN to a problem’s solutions is an attribute, not a detriment.

Not only are we, the residents of this world we all share, still ignorant to the answers to all the world’s problems; we aren’t even aware of the best questions to ask pertaining to those problems.

That might sound critical of what is presently occurring in the world’s greatest problem spots, but world problem-solving depends on increasing your base knowledge of the issues, not restricting it; and single-point perspectives with limited options only create the same scenarios we’re trying to dig ourselves out from now.

Case in point: If you ever have the opportunity to go through Mediation Training please mediationtake it. Mediation is where a mediator helps two or more parties define their key problem issues; then she helps them to successfully resolve their problems in a mutually beneficial manner.  That training will help you realize how difficult it is to help two very different viewpoints find and accept common ground to build a better future outcome based on mutually beneficial goals.toddlers.jpg

It’s a lot like getting toddlers to share a slurpy even if they have two straws.

What you usually encounter in Mediation is that combatants are often like the two primary political parties mid-election year mayhem: There is the standard stalemate caused by “my way or the highway” thinking or the “you are so WRONG how could you ever be that stupid” viewpoint expressed by one or both participants in the mediation.

Emotion rules the disagreements, not rational thinking.

common groundBut the mediator’s goal is to find common ground between the two deadlocked camps, which means that if you are the mediator you have to dig deeper into each combatant’s wants/don’t wants to find out what the REAL issues are behind their immovable stances.

You’d be surprised what deeper wounds and hidden agendas are revealed in this process.

Sometimes the disagreement has nothing to do with the subject in question. The acrimony between the two camps is often pure, raw woundedness raging on whatever ground it can find to take its stand.  Those are tough situations to resolve amicably. A good mediator (not the same thing as a negotiator) earns every dollar s/he makes.

And the single most difficult task at hand for any mediator is to encourage the participants to come to the table with an OPEN mind—a mind willing to consider an option not previously proposed.

An OPEN mind recognizes that the “highway” is meant for two-way travel, and being “wrong” is often just a shift in perspective to being considered “not so wrong.”backyard.jpg

Common ground is the single unifier most sought by a good mediator. Once that is established then a mutually beneficial outcome can be defined for both parties. And once the emotional aspects of the arguments have dissipated, the warring parties are more willing to consider rational solutions to the dilemma.

But the key component to any problem resolution is that all participants must somehow achieve and maintain an OPEN mind state that is willing to simply consider ALL possibilities.kids.jpg

As dedicated as we are to our own viewpoints, stubbornness and intractability are less productive outside the nursery-school playground.

Archetypes and Metaphors

Referring to my Aug. 5 post: “We Do Not Yet Understand,” I had that avatars theme looping through my noggin yesterday.

The concepts of archetypal symbology coupled with the words “LIFE as Metaphor” kept archetypesslipping into the avatar scenario playing in my head. To me, archetype theory is a very important subject.  I’ve been fascinated by C.G. Jung’s theories on archetypes for decades.

Caroline Myss also provided a great exposition on the subject in her own book, Sacred Contracts: Awakening Your Divine Potential. I recommend those reads to anyone wishing to explore the subject further.

sacred contracts.jpgI’ve always felt that there was far greater importance to the archetypes theory than most folks acknowledge, so when all my afore-mentioned thought tangents converged—the archetypes symbolism merged with the avatar imagery while LIFE as metaphor phrase kept bouncing between my ears, I recognized the significance of the union.

Let’s consider that WE are avatar archetypes (set players with a game plan) per Jung and Myss; and as archetypes we are here exploring certain life themes (If you are not familiar with archetypes Myss explains over 70 archetypes on this page:  https://www.myss.com/free-resources/sacred-contracts-and-your-archetypes/appendix-a-gallery-of-archtypes/ ).

Those life themes are the “tasks” we are assigned for this life experience—tasks that create learning situations where we explore our reactions, emotions and thought processes pertaining to how the symbolic archetype that we represent (i.e., victim, warrior, savior, …etc.) views and responds to the potential situation.wheel.jpg

The primary, personal archetype that WE represent would naturally perceive the situation a certain way (i.e., victim/perceives a possible threat, warrior/ perceives a hearty challenge, savior/ perceives the sacrifice necessary to intervene,…etc.).

So how that archetypal avatar (meaning YOU or ME) would react to the situation would be dependent on the clarity and strength of our self-concept besides our own interpretation/perceptual filter of what was happening to us.

But then how does the LIFE as metaphor come into play?

Per www.dictionary.com, “A metaphor is a figure of speech in which a term or phrase is applied to something to which it is not literally applicable in order to suggest a resemblance,…” .

metaphors.jpg

Okay, …but to me, a metaphor goes beyond a “suggestion of resemblance,” it creates a word image packed with emotional residue/personal memories used in the sentence to convey a deeper association to the subject matter than the literal statement can carry on its own. It touches a deeper part of us than the cerebral description can muster.

So when I repeat the phrase LIFE as metaphor, I mean LIFE is far deeper than surface appearance “doings” and is only the superficial representative of a greater implication; or what we do in our daily living is only representative of something we may not be able to comprehend any other way.

LIFE as living metaphor means that our daily doings are symbolic representations of the greater reason that we are here exploring these scenarios as specific archetypal avatars.

We aren’t just players in the Grand Play of LIFE, we are also the directors of the actions and playwrights of the endings.

Our main problem is that we don’t comprehend our multi-functioning capacities in the larger picture.

I asked in the previous posting on avatars what our 7-D SELF gets out of watching our 3-D self struggle around with these challenging situations. I’ll ask it again a different way using a metaphor:

theatre.jpg

What does the playwright get out of writing, casting, directing, and watching his/her play being performed?

A Little Sunday Morning RUMI…

rumi.jpg

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house

Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,

some momentary awareness comes

as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!

Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,

who violently sweep your house

empty of its furniture,

still treat each guest honorably.

He may be clearing you out for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,

meet them at the door laughing,

and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,

because each has been sent

as a guide from beyond.

~Rumi

The Creative Writing Process

pro write.pngBackground info dump: Among my many careers, I’ve taught Technical Writing at the community college level. I know the nuts and bolts of teaching students to communicate their thoughts and feelings—specifically like how to package those thoughts within a structured, cohesive report meant to convey a clear message for their intended audience, while doing so within the confines of grammatical expertise.

That last sentence is why I am no longer teaching Technical Writing.

Technical Writing is purposeful but restrictive—structured but confining; and while skilled, technical proficiency is useful at getting your point across, especially in the business environment, it can also be creatively stifling to a writer. That’s why I truly admire and celebrate a gifted writer—I know how hard it is to write effortlessly—it requires tremendous self-awareness on multiple levels.

As both a writing teacher and a writer myself, I also know that how I actually write, you cannot teach. You simply have to DO.

Were I teaching Creative Writing to students I would explain only my own inner process: that when I sit down to write it’s usually because I feel a desire to say something, but I may not consciously know what that something is because the simple desire-to-express is the primary driving force within me.message.jpg

I may not even have a particular message to convey as I am often surprised at what comes out on the page—surprised because I had not realized that on another level of consciousness I had seriously dissected the subject matter.

My here-and-now conscious mind may only be aware that there is some nugget of truth that desires further exposition, so I grab that truth-nugget and run with it.  It might be some tangent of my personal take on life that has burned an escape-hole outward to free itself from my being.

So I give it the freedom to dash and weave, to leap the fallen tree and climb the gnarly hill. gnarly hill.jpgIt can choose the escape path it wishes without restrictions. I cheer it on saying, “Go where you need to go—say what you need to say—I’ll just go along and chart the territory that you cover.”

Then when it appears that the escapee is winded and needing to rest a bit, I review the path covered to straighten out the zig-zags and eliminate the missteps. The message always goes where it needs to go—to feel FREE—to breathe the fresh air of non-confinement, to feel the blood racing through the body.

And when “the message” is free, I actually feel a pressure release within me knowing that some higher aspect of me just communicated its thoughts using me as its medium. I say this because the desire to say something that I once felt has dissipated. What needed to be written, was.

For me there is no judging the message that escaped my being—a message whose path I charted on the page before me. But there is a choice I make in whether I share that message with others. That is MY decision to make—the writer of the words you read.

journal.jpgMy suggestion to other writers who are still developing their skills and voice is to write daily: journal—do free-association rambles—whatever thoughts are scrambling your head, get them out—let them all flow where they need to go; and in the process of logging all that verbal dysentery you will grow more comfortable with yourself.  It will help you understand WHO you truly are and WHAT you really want from your life.

After a few years of doing this you’ll develop quicker methods of getting to the point, you’ll slip into more natural similes and metaphors, and your vision will clear to better see the world in your own unique way.

The last main point I wish to emphasize is that if you really want to write in multilevel prose, you have to strengthen your connection to your Higher Self to transcend your limitations of contextual meaning.

So aspiring writers, if you really want to write, then WRITE.high self.jpg

But if you want to be a writer with a message that resonates, you need to strengthen your higher connections.

When you can simply allow your Higher Self to speak through you without translating its message, your writing will be more powerful, more impactful, and a lot less work.