It’s official

I am hereby canceling the Quiet Strength meditation series. Trying to jumpstart my writing was a good idea, but merciful heavens what a truckload of treacle that book is!

Just scanning ahead to find a topic to write about this morning, again, trying to get something out of my head and onto the page, was enough to cause permanent pursing of the lips and raising of the brows.

  • People-pleasing
  • Crisis and pain in relationships: relationships are like crabs; they have to shed their shells to grow; and then they’re vulnerable… ::shivers down the spine::
  • Men as brothers: actually quotes Whitman and encourages us, as we are “trained to pursue women,” to “actively pursue friendships with men.” Come onto the raft, Huck, honey. (Yes, I know, but icky!)
  • Wordless language: I talk to the trees.
  • The True Work: SHA, anyone? How about a podcast sitcom?
  • Wounds into gifts: bang that drum, honey.
  • Zaniness: “one of the most endearing qualities of men is our zaniness”
  • Search for the sword
  • Removing my armor
  • Side-by-side intimacy
  • Body wisdom and sexuality
  • Howling

And we’ll leave it at that.

Meditation: The false self

I’m bored in a hotel, so I’ve picked up an old draft of a post of one of those wounded warrior meditations. Sorry.

Part of my problem with my source material is that so much of it smacks too much of “such a worm as I,” albeit in a new agey way, which probably makes it even worse. Take today’s topic. Please. [/rimshot] The point seems to be that “as boys, we learned we had to find out who others wanted us to be,” and then we had to become that person. “Now,” though, we’re ready to become our “authentic” self.


I know that a large part of growing up is figuring out what societal norms are, and we ignore those norms at our own peril. I’m sure most of my male readership, and probably the female as well, knows all too well the pain of not conforming. If I cared what my bucking those norms has cost me in my life, it would probably drive me mad. What, don’t you think, as I do, that one of the reasons NCTC never gained traction amongst the power elite in this town is because it was led by me? And I was, well, just a little bit off?

Who among us does not understand that we are many selves, that our true “self” is this amalgamation, did you know that amalgamation was synonymous with miscegenation many years ago?, of selves, and that we do not, can not show our “true self” to anyone because there’s not a single such persona to be shown?

Yes, I show different “selves” to different people. I share different things with different people. I’ve told things to Marc that I wouldn’t feel comfortable sharing with Jeff, and heaven knows Jeff and I have chatted about things in ways that would raise others’ eyebrows, and none of you knows the things I’ve told Ginny and withheld from you. And above all, there are the things that I’ve told no one, haven’t even put into private blog posts.

(Did you know there was such a thing? If you’re not the creator of a website, there could be all kinds of blogposts you never see, like little ghosts drifting between your reading, gazing knowingly out at you in your ignorance of the full measure of your host. So… back to your reading.)

So do I have a secret self? Dern tootin’. Does that make my public selves false? I cannot think how. I’m thinking that our wounded warriors have a problem with self in the first place. Grownups in the Lylesian sense don’t worry about that. (We worry about people finding our private blogposts.)

Meditation: From separation to serenity

One reason I have not been faithful to the “daily meditation” thing is that the meditations in A Quiet Strength are just so sappy. I knew they were, and I figured I would either react to the sentiment therein or just use the title for my own purposes. But the overwhelming blue-ness of it all gets to me.

I know everyone is wondering how much I accomplished on the labyrinth today, and the answer is nothing. Coriolanus rehearsal all morning, of course, and then I got home and realized that there’s nothing more to do until I learn how to lay paving bricks.

Sure, Home Depot has instructions, but they’re mostly for nice, rectangular areas. Plus which, the actual installation, rectangular or not, involves skills and equipment I don’t have yet. One has to excavate the earth to a depth of two and a half inches, how exactly does one do that? The paving stone catalog says you then till the soil to mix in concrete to form a base. I’m not going to do that: too expensive, too permanent. Then everyone agrees you add an inch of sand, pounding into place with a pounder thingie.

I am under no illusion that this is a one, two or even three-day job. This is a year-and-a-half job. Either I pound that sand with a pec-inducing hand pounder, or I find a way to buy or rent a machine to do that. You can see the rental fees mounting up, but buy one? Sheesh.

Then the circularity of the thing. I know I have to buy/rent a bandsaw to cut curved stones. Again, sheesh.

Then there’s the actual purchase of heaven knows how many tons of paving stones. Yes, tons. One pallet of stones will cover 144 square feet, and it weighs over 2,000 pounds. I don’t have the math skills even to estimate how many square feet this thing is. Kevin?

My interior argument is to go ahead and get started, and by October 25, I can play freaking Aufidius with my shirt off. Let’s see if that happens.

So, anyway, today’s meditation.

The gist of the book’s little screed is that we’re all wounded fellows, don’t you know, who have been abandoned or left to die or something, and that if we just stand tall, and I mean that as a Shakespearean pun, so snicker away, we can all avoid the trap of drugs and destructive behavior. Or something.

You see what I mean?

All right, let’s give this a shot. Grown ups, in the Lylesian sense of the word, figure out soon into their adolescence, if not before, that we’re all alone in this together. Further, it does no one any good to bewail our lonely state in the universe. After all, what does the universe care for our wailing?

(Side note: if there is a God, the same applies. What does s/he care for our wailing? Even if she’s an all-loving God, her attitude would have to be like those of us who have slept through our baby’s insistent screams. At some point, God figures, we have to figure out for ourselves how to get through the night.)

Yes, we’re alone, and yes, it hurts. That’s why I have my family, my kitchen, my music, my blog, Lacuna, the Lichtenbergians. That’s why we have Art. We can amuse ourselves with these connections while waiting for the universe to come to our rescue. Which, as grown ups, we know is not going to happen.

So that “serenity” arrived at by the poor hurt creatures in A Quiet Strength should be the natural state for all of us grown up men. It’s false, of course. I don’t think we can ever shake that sense of wanting to be whole with the universe, but as long as we know that we can pass the time with all these distractions, and that that’s what they are, then I think we can figure out how to get through the night.

Now I think I’ll go light a fire in the labyrinth and sip my martini.

Meditation: Questions

Why would anyone vote for George W. Bush? Twice?

How can we create art?

How do we create art?

What is art?

Why is it so hard to exercise?

Why is the sky blue?

Why are LOLCats just so darn precious?

Where do babies come from?

Why do we think we love someone?

Why do we think they love us?

Why are words like oint and flammivomous so cool?

Who is this God person anyway?

What is your quest?

Why is the internet down?

Why does Windows suck so bad?

Would you rather have the body of an Olympian swimmer, gymnast, water polo player, or sculler?

Why am I not king?

When can I win the lottery?

How were Shakespeare and Mozart and Bach, to name three, even possible?

Will Coriolanus make it to the stage?

What will my son do with the rest of his life?

How long will I live?

What’s for supper?

Meditation: Anger

Take a deep breath.

I used to get very angry. Most of it was the self-righteousness of the young, of course, but some of it was a deep-seated personality flaw, by which I mean that I was unaware that my “green”ness was not actually an unflawed way of looking at the world. The fact that greens are “98% right”, and it is a fact… trust me…, doesn’t mean we’re 98% correct.

It took me a long time to realize that other solutions to problems I encountered could be as valid as the one I proposed. In other words, I realized that what I thought was the way things were supposed to be was just my brilliant evaluation and only that.

Eventually, I became aware that sometimes the best way for others to realize the weakness of a plan was not for me to point it out but to allow them get it wrong. Enough times of that happening, and one builds a reputation for reliability, if not outright infallibility in some circles.

And of course, if things went well, that was fine, too. There would always be time to refine the process if necessary. Successive approximation became my modus operandi, and I was able to expunge a major source of my anger, in that I could relax if my solutions were not the ones adopted by whatever group I was involved in.

What makes me angry now? Waste, mostly, people wasting time or energy or talent. George W. Bush wasting our nation’s reputation and standing in the world, not to mention our treasury. Me wasting my time and talents in regards to my music.

But my anger these days is self-contained. I don’t direct it outwards, because I don’t like the way that feels. Instead, I focus on it and allow it to dissipate into a sadness over things I cannot directly affect or to become the determination to change the things I can.

What anger has to do with “masculine meditations” is a bit of a puzzle to me. My wife has a much fiercer temper than I and is not averse at all to releasing into the atmosphere. The assumption that men have an “anger problem” is more than a bit sexist, although I realize there is a connection between testosterone and rage. As always, these things are more of a personal problem than a gender issue.

Meditation: Spiritual progress

Okay, this one I do not get. That has to be because either I was at a fairly advanced spiritual state to begin with or I’ve never advanced beyond some kind of larval stage.

What does it mean? When I was young, it would have meant “growing in Christ” or a “deepening relationship with God.” As far as I could tell, all that meant was burrowing like a Guinea worm deeper into the warm flesh of Southern Baptistry and refusing to be pulled out.

At least, that’s what it meant for my family and those around me. It seemed to me that most (not all, certainly) people who were determined to become bigger and better Christians were merely becoming more severe judges of humanity.

I remember distinctly being in elementary school, either 2nd or 4th grade (we lived in Macon my 3rd grade year), and thinking I was being sold a bill of goods. Someone was lying about something: an all-good God who was apparently eager and willing to condemn 90% of the planet to a pretty vivid damnation? (Remember, I was a Southern Baptist.) The same guy who rampaged through the Old Testament, testy and implacable? As the great theologian Oolon Colluphid wrote, “Who is this God person anyway?”

Other faiths, even other Christian denominations, were dismissed out of hand. As far as I could tell, it was simply because They were not Us. As far as I could tell, we were being told to seek God, and everyone else was going to hell because they were seeking God the wrong way. But it was clear to me that They were all seeking God.

Eternal optimist that I am, I chose to believe that we are in fact loved by an eternal God, that is what they told me, after all, and that those who seek will find.

As far as “progress” goes, I guess I would have to claim the steady unpacking of my Southern Baptist upbringing as being progress. Big white-haired white guy in the sky? Check. Exclusive path to salvation? Check. “Salvation”? Check. As I’ve gone through life and had enough time to turn my attention to these and other concepts, I’ve unwound the bandages from the underlying shapes to see what we might have meant by putting the bandages on to begin with. Every time, I’ve found very simple concepts that are not as scary or as scarifying as what I was brought up to believe. (I once offended my family by referring to myself as a “recovering Southern Baptist.”)

Occasionally I’ll be asked where I’m going to church these days. I’m not, of course, which in SB terminology means I’m “unchurched.” I should probably call it “dechurched.” Progress? I think so.

Meditation: Gratitude

This is an easy one.

I am grateful to my wife, the very fact that she is my wife. One reason I fell in love with her was her ability to keep my ego in check, but the fact of the matter is that she is my biggest supporter, often rising to my defense even when I don’t. She has kept me laughing for more than 30 years. When I look at who I was 30 years ago, I am constantly amazed that she was even attracted to me.

I am grateful for my son. Children teach you many things about life, the most important being that you are temporary. I am grateful that my son is smart, witty, and kind. I am grateful that teaching at the high school level for as long as I did, and working with young people in the theatre and GHP, taught me about letting go. I think I have done a lot better in that regard than many parents.

I am grateful to my profession, where I get to go to work every day and do battle with the forces of ignorance. I get to take a child’s mind and help it realize there’s an empty shape inside it, and how to fill it. I am grateful, you can’t know how grateful, that my school is a good school, full of smart, competent teachers and smart, supportive leadership. I’ve been where that’s not true, and I will never tolerate that kind of evil again.

I am grateful for the role theatre has played in my life. It has brought me great joys, great frustrations, and great triumphs as we worked together to make the thing that is not and share it with an audience. I am looking forward to Coriolanus for that very reason. Yes, my heart sank a bit as I wrote in all those Wednesdays and Saturdays between now and October 25, but I know that it is going to be a marvelous adventure.

I am grateful to my friends, the Lichtenbergians, the Lacunians, the GHPers. One of my true concerns about leaving the theatre behind was that I had no friends in my life outside the actual production of a show. This has not been the case, as this and other blogs go to show. These people have kept my mind working, served as audience and kibbitzers for my work, and have been supportive in ways I don’t think they realize.

I am grateful to music, for everything it brings to my life. I am about to plunge back into my own music, for better or for worse, and I tender that gratitude as an offering to the gods to take it easy on me.

I am grateful to GHP and the role it has played in my life, for over half my life. From attending as a student, where Diane Mize changed my life forever by showing me exactly what the creative process was and could be; to teaching in the program, where Lonnie Love, the director, taught me how the program is deliberately put together to produce its effect on students; to heading up the instructional program itself, a life-altering experience and responsibility indeed: the whole time has been the most incredibly enriching and challenging process in my life. Every time I think about not doing another summer, I realize that I’m not through with GHP yet, nor GHP with me.

In a similar vein, I am grateful for the life of the mind. Ideas are important, expression of those ideas is important, and sharing of those expressions is important. Books, music, theatre, film, the web, these blogs, all are part of the Great Conversation, and I am grateful to be invited to take part.

Meditation: Change

One of my favorite educational consultants, Heidi Hayes Jacobs, snorts, “Change? Nobody likes change! Change is bad! Growth, on the other hand…”

I don’t like change myself. I am suspicious of it, especially change instigated by other people. Part of that is my innate green-ness: can they possibly have given this change the thought that I would have given it in order to make sure that the consequences are not unduly horrible? Years of experience have confirmed my suspicions, generally.

I suppose, too, that my dislike of change is largely responsible for my having decided years ago that a career in education, completely in my hometown, was a better option for me than pursuing a career in theatre in New York or that other coast. I was always envious of guys like Wayne and David and Helen and Paul (and Mike and Bailee!) who just headed out and worked job to job, from city to city and apartment to apartment, and who along the way built careers of one kind or another. Envious, but not enough to follow their example.

Even now, eligible for retirement, knowing that I could probably make a lot more money as an educational consultant, I shove that idea to the back of my mind. My entrepreneurial spirit barely registers on those aptitude tests, because my tolerance of risk and change is minimal. Trying to track down people to hire me, staying on the road half the time, constantly having to assess my status and the status of those for whom I’m working: too much change. My stomach rebels at the very thought.

It is ironic then that I have so often been an agent of change. At school, at GHP, at the theatre, in Masterworks, I push(ed) constantly for a re-examination of what we do and whether making a change might be beneficial. Doing the same thing over and over, resisting change for no good reason, drives me as insane as change itself. I suppose that this is what Heidi would call growth, and I’m OK with that.

Resistant to change as I am, it’s important to ask the question: Have I changed? Absolutely. I’m sure everyone in my life would tell you I’ve gotten “nicer” as I’ve gotten older. I think they mean that I’m more tolerant of other’s foibles. I’m not sure that’s true, but I have gotten more interested in finding explanations for the idiocies of others. I still think they’re idiots, though.

I’m not as single-minded about most things in my life as I used to be, and I even am able to let go of personal disappointments in what I hope is a healthy way. (A common myth in my family is that I always get my way; it might be truer to say that they don’t realize when I don’t get my way because I don’t mention it.)

I don’t think I’m as disciplined as I used to be, which may be the same thing as the previous paragraph. I find that I mostly require a deadline to be extremely productive, which is one reason I’ve ginned up this series of meditations. My failure to work on any real music since April 23 is another example of this difference in my life. Change, but definitely not growth.

A change I’m hoping to make in my life is the ability to examine it more thoroughly, another reason for this series of essays. Of course, a blog is not the place to do a lot of airing of dirty laundry, so I’m not sure how effective I’ll be in making this change in myself, but as I scan through the topics in the book, I can see some that will require me to do some deep thinking before writing about them. Forced change. It will do me good.


I think one thing about the word change that leaves me wondering about myself is that I don’t really see myself as fundamentally changed since I became an adult. I’ve learned more stuff, naturally, and my understanding, and perhaps tolerance, of the world has broadened, but then I was never very narrow in my judgments anyway.

I do change my hair. I got tattoos. I just got my ear pierced. Those are changes, but external. Internally, I think I’m the basically the same, just bold enough to get my ear pierced.

Meditation: Many lives, one man

Yes, I’m already a day behind, but it’s okay because I’ve cheated with the timestamp.

Part of my condescending irritation with the little book I’m using to generate topics for this series is its wide-eyed naivete about its essays. None of them are revelatory in the least. I mean, “many lives, one man”? Who hasn’t realized that he’s more than one person, at least anyone over the age of thirteen?

However, I’ll be bold and agree with the main point of the essay and say we’re not talking the external roles we play. Yes, I’m a husband, a father, a teacher, a friend, but that’s not what we’re confessing here. Within us we harbor more than one actual person.

To begin with, I am a sensualist, which should shock no one who knows me. (Well of course, some would say, you’re a Taurus.) I seek delight for all of my senses. Pretty things enchant me. Well-prepared food is a constant goal. Silk, cotton, skin, against my skin. The sight of a beautiful human body, male or female. Music of almost any kind. Well-designed type. Shakespeare’s language. Wooden boxes.

I am a creator. I seek to make the thing that is not, whether it’s music or a blog post or supper or a new lesson plan. I look at the chaos that the universe presents and I organize it into something new. With any luck, and years of experience, the new thing is something coherent.

I am a leader. It’s hard to write that. I don’t know why, other than I have taken hits in the past from those who resent my ability to lead. But even though modesty does not permit one to brag, I have to recognize that I have an almost magnetic leadership ability. As the years have progressed, my leadership has become more and more what I call “permission giving,” in that I simply make the decisions that allow others to come together to accomplish things. Yes, Coriolanus and the Lichtenbergians are good examples of that.

Now I am thinking very hard and trying to come up with other personae, but I’m drawing a blank. Warrior? Not so much. Fool? Not the same as a wit, I hope. Lover? See sensualist. Wanderer? I am not, as evidenced by my entire life. “Wounded man,” as Quiet strength concludes in its maudlin fashion? Pshaw. The hurts I have received in my life are as nothing and do not hamper my other selves. (‘Tis but a flesh wound.) I don’t think that’s braggadocio, truly, but then perhaps I am not an analyst, either.