Art Changes People

Carved African Faces. One of my cherished Christmas Gifts
Carved African Faces. One of my cherished Christmas Gifts

“The point is, art never stopped a war and never got anybody a job. That was never its function. Art cannot change events. But it can change people. It can affect people so that they are changed – because people are changed by art – enriched, ennobled, encouraged – they then act in a way that may affect the course of events … by the way they vote, they behave, the way they think.” ~ Leonard Bernstein

Last week I wrote that my resolution for 2016 was to be one light that helps dispel darkness by embodying love, empathy and peace as much as I possibly can. And one of the ways I do that is through my creative endeavors.

I don’t write much about the fact that I teach theatre classes at our local community college. It’s only part-time after all, because as Leonard Bernstein pointed out, the arts don’t get people jobs. It’s the artists struggle to get paid for the work they create. Some garner recognition, but most struggle along working to pay the bills while doing their artwork on the side. I’ve been caught up in those same struggles, but the point of this post is to share my thoughts about why it’s important to be creative.

I teach theatre because I love to see the light in my students eyes when they’ve taken my class because they need an art credit to complete their degree, then they receive compliments on their acting. Or the light of understanding dawn when they connect with the multi-layers of meaning in a play or movie. I love helping them discover things about themselves that they would never have experienced if they hadn’t taken one of my classes.

This past semester, I taught a class called theatre workshop. It’s a performance class where students get a chance to produce and perform in a play. This time, however, we performed five short student written plays. It all came about because somehow, miraculously, a few of my acting students began to write their own scenes. One thing lead to another and I thought of offering this class. I’m so glad I did because it was one of the best things I’ve ever done.

The plays were fantastic and the audiences liked them so much that I decided to offer the class again this coming semester. I have students who had written plays that we didn’t get to perform the first time around. Getting recognition for something you’ve created is life changing. I want my students to know what that rush feels like. I want them to become empowered by the process of creating so that they will continue to produce art long after they’ve finished their school work.

If you’ve never taken an art class, this might be the year to stretch your creative horizons. The camaraderie that develops among the artists is one of the fantastic side effects, but you might also find a new passion that will enrich your life and make it happier and more worth living.

Here’s one final quote to end this post and this year. “We’ve got this gift of love, but love is like a precious plant. You can’t just accept it and leave it in the cupboard or just think it’s going to get on by itself. You’ve got to keep watering it. You’ve got to really look after it and nurture it.” ~ John Lennon.

Creating artwork is one way to nurture ourselves and others, to spread love and compassion, both internally and externally. We humans are imbued with creativity and like plants we wither and die if we are unable to use our talents. I hope you find new ones to share with the world this coming year.

Thanks for reading. I hope you have a blessed 2016. Feel free to leave a comment, or share this post with a friend.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2015

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On Strength and Weakness

It's a Wonderful Life Village
It’s a Wonderful Life Village

“Opinion is really the lowest form of human knowledge. It requires no accountability, no understanding. The highest form of knowledge is empathy, for it requires us to suspend our egos and live in another’s world. It requires profound purpose larger than the self kind of understanding.” ~ Bill Bullard

“We think that forgiveness is weakness, but it’s absolutely not; it takes a very strong person to forgive.” ~ T. D. Jakes

“Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering.” ~ Yoda

“The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places.” ~ Ernest Hemingway

I’ve been thinking a great deal about strength and weakness as we approach this most sacred time of the year. We often think that a show of force is strength, as in military retaliation, or getting revenge on our enemies. To me that’s the weakest kind of human interaction. I think strength is having the courage to accept and feel all our emotions. To cry and not be ashamed, to love with abandon, to be kind and compassionate, to feel another’s pain. When we can do that we can effect real change.

While revising my novel, I came to a section where Jenna, one of the main characters, is fired from a position that she thinks is her dream job. That and other life shattering events force her to face herself and who she is meant to become. If her life hadn’t been shaken up in such a cruel way, she would have continued to follow the path she was on and not reached her full potential.

Though the circumstances are different, the situation I wrote for Jenna came from an experience in my own life. I was fired from a much beloved teaching position. It was a political thing. Shortly after I lost that job, I was having breakfast with a friend of mine from the school and I was stunned when she said, “I hate to say this but you were weak and they took advantage of that.” I’ve thought a great deal about that statement over the years because I think my friend is dead wrong.

One of the major lessons I learned from that experience is that we each live in our own little worlds with a set of goals we want to accomplish. We see anybody who stands in the way of achieving those goals as our enemy. In fact one day as I was driving by the turn off to the school I remembered something an actor, I don’t remember who, said when asked why he played so many villains. He squinched up his eyebrows and said, “Well, you know, the villain is the hero of his own story”. I had a huge aha in that moment. I was the villain to my school enemies and they were the villain to me. We had opposing goals and stood in each other’s way to accomplishing them. All of a sudden I thought of those two people differently. They weren’t evil, they were just righting a situation they thought was wrong. I wasn’t supposed to be hired for the job, you see, the daughter was. Someone was going to lose the fight and it was me.

Now I can’t say I forgave them that very day. Oh, no. I wanted to hang on to my anger a while longer. I wanted the situation made right, which meant I wanted them to apologize for wounding me so deeply. I wanted them to see that I was really the better teacher for that position. I wanted my job back. It wasn’t until I gave up wanting a different outcome that I was able to look for what I could learn from the situation. Once I did that I began to make the steps toward forgiveness and toward finding my true purpose in life. In fact it was only a few weeks ago as I was meditating that I saw myself hugging them and telling them they had done me a huge favor and I thanked them for helping me find the most happy and fulfilling life that I now enjoy.

Over those several years when I was struggling to make sense of why my perfect life was shattered, I’ve learned that real power is wielded by the compassionate, the loving, and the empathetic because they are the ones who see the true souls of others. They are the ones who know that who we really are is not the things we own, our bank account, our jobs, our belief systems, or our behaviors. Most of us are completely unaware that we are beautiful light beings connected to each other and to the Divine.

One of the reasons I love this time of year is because almost all of us celebrate the sacred. Instinctively we know that light is more powerful than darkness for it is easy to dispel darkness by lighting one candle. Spiritual light shining from within is much the same. It can lead us to peace and happiness if we commit to loving those who are drenched in the darkest of places.

I know it’s a little early for making resolutions, but this is mine for the new year. To be one light that helps dispel darkness by embodying love, empathy and peace as much as I possibly can. If we band together in our intention to be the peace we wish to see, it can’t help but happen one day soon.

I hope you have a blessed holiday season.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment or share with a friend.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2015

The Gifts of Controversy

U.S. Constitution
U.S. Constitution

“Words are singularly the most powerful force available to humanity. We can choose to use this force constructively with words of encouragement, or destructively using words of despair. Words have energy and power with the ability to help, to heal, to hinder, to hurt, to harm, to humiliate and to humble.” ~ Yehuda Berg

“We write for the same reason we walk, talk, climb mountains or swim the oceans – because we can. We have some impulse within us that makes us want to explain ourselves to other human beings. That’s why we paint, that’s why we dare to love someone – because we have the impulse to explain who we are.” ~ Maya Angelou

I know, I know, controversy is difficult on the nervous system, at least it is on mine, so how can it be a blessing? These are somethings I’ve been thinking about recently. At first they seem disjointed but they will come together, I promise.

A couple of weeks ago I met with my friend Debrah to discuss changes to my novel. She’s a writer too and extremely honest in her assessment, that’s why I asked her to give me feedback. What was supposed to be a lunch meeting ended up being a six hour discussion. One thing she said to me was that some of the characters are too good and everyone loves them. It’s her philosophy that writers need to beat up on their characters so that when they finally learn their lessons, the reader is satisfied. Hmmm, why do I shy away from putting my characters into difficult situations?

While I was ruminating on that problem, Donald Trump declared that he’d ban Muslims from entering the country, the latest in a long line of such declarations, which caused a huge outcry from individuals, newspapers, business owners, and religious organizations. Hmmm. Here we are again at another time of great upheaval. It seems like my entire lifetime has had very few peaceful times. I’d like to see what living in true peace would feel like.

Then I saw an interview with Deepak Chopra, one of my favorite spiritual teachers, on Conan O’Brian’s late night talk show. Conan said he’d heard that Deepak was meditating with members of congress and he asked if Deepak thought Donald Trump could benefit from meditation, Deepak shot back, “some people are past hope.” The audience howled with laughter. But something about that interview got me to thinking that Donald Trump might be a catalyst so that we are finally willing to take a good look at ourselves and our society. This is our time to evolve to the next level as a country, or to shrink back into fear, isolationism, and hatred.

It seemed to me that what Deepak Chopra was trying to point out was that some people choose not to wake up and some of them, like Hitler, and so many others throughout history give us the opportunity to make great changes in history. I think Donald Trump may be one of those people.

Years ago I read the book, Seat of the Soul by Gary Zukav. In it he says that for some reason humans have chosen to learn through crisis. That’s what’s happening now. Throughout history people like Trump have brought us to the brink of a decision that we’ve put off for a very long time. We have to decide once and for all what kind of society we want to live in and we’ve got to take a good hard look at ourselves. How have we perpetuated discrimination, fear and all the other negatives about our society?

I look at myself and I don’t think I’ve done enough for those who are truly in need of love and compassion. I’m looking for ways to do more because I want to hurry up and get to the good stuff. I don’t know about you but I’m tired. I hope we can pull together to create a new friendlier society.

As I was thinking about this post, I remembered when I was in college and I became the center of controversy at two different times. One thing I learned from those situations is that controversy causes conversation and I think that’s a good thing. It’s one time when people get riled up and state what they really think and feel without reservations. They hope to change the minds of their opponents. That’s what we’re seeing that in our country right now. People are standing up and often shouting that we’ve got to protect ourselves, while others are saying that hatred is always wrong. I think Deepak’s point was that once a person’s mind is made up, it’s difficult to get them to change it and we should stop trying. The only person we can change is ourselves. It is sometimes possible to affect others when we do our personal work because of a ripple effect.

Which brings me back to my novel. It occurred to me that I wanted my characters to get to the good life quickly. I didn’t want them to have to suffer too much. I suspect it’s because I’m tired of suffering through all the unrest both inward and outward that I’ve witnessed throughout my lifetime. However, I’ve learned some great things about myself and about what it means to be a citizen of the world because of those struggles. Those insights didn’t come easily but I’m grateful for every one of those difficult people and situations. I wouldn’t change any of those situations now if I could. Which means I can’t deprive my characters and readers from going on the same kind of journey. I think I’m finally ready to go do those major revisions Debrah and I talked about.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment or share with a friend.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2015

Fear of Success

Our Road
Our Road

“Success is how high you bounce when you hit bottom.” ~ George S. Patton

“I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life and that is why I succeed.” ~ Michael Jordan

“A champion is afraid of losing. Everyone else is afraid of winning.” ~ Billie Jean King

“Do something you really like, and hopefully it pays the rent. As far as I’m concerned, that’s success.” ~ Tom Petty

My sister Celeste and I were talking the other day about pursuing our life’s dreams and some realizations we’ve had along the way. She is a certified life coach, but has had difficulty getting her career started. However, since moving to the Seattle area, it looks like her business will be taking off. That’s what started our conversation about success. As we were talking she said, “I think I’m afraid to succeed.” Boy could I relate to that because I’ve felt the same way about my writing.

As we talked we acknowledged that the same situation applies to both of us. We get used to our life circumstances and it’s hard to visualize living any other way. Does that ever happen to you? It takes a great deal of effort to create a new way of living. If you choose to create an unconventional life, you have to give up some things that are fun but not productive in your old life. And you face opposition, people will not hesitate to tell you that your dream is not worth the effort, or that you will never succeed so you may as well give up. It’s difficult to shut out the naysayers. You have to be willing to fail, perhaps many times before you succeed and that’s scary.

Celeste and I both want to live a new kind of life. We want to help people while we do what we love and make money doing it. We both long to travel, be open to new and unexpected experiences,  and we want to meet new and interesting people with a different perspective than our own. These are dreams we’ve talked about over the years, but for some reason it’s been difficult for us to break out and go for that new life. Both of us have suffered through some difficult times, especially financially. That’s one thing that is the hardest to overcome, our financial circumstances. We get so used to living with less that it becomes hard to see ourselves as being prosperous.

Celeste and I both think that visualizing what it feels like to have abundance and success while at the same time helping others is essential to making our dreams come true, which got me to thinking about the circumstances in which we were born. Our parents struggled with money until later in their marriage. I’m the oldest so life was more difficult for me than for Celeste who is the youngest. For example, I wore lots of hand-me-down clothes growing up. When mom and dad had more money, mom continued to act as if they didn’t have enough to buy my younger sisters the clothes they needed. She was stuck in her old thinking that they had to do without many of the nicer things in life. Dad on the other hand embraced their more prosperous situation and always made sure my sisters had the things they needed. Sometimes Celeste and I find ourselves stuck in our mom’s pattern of thinking instead of our dad’s. That’s one of the struggles we each face in making our dreams come true.

Most people continue on much as their parents did. There is nothing wrong with that, but there are people who long for a different kind of life. They have dreams that go in a different direction from their “tribe”, as Wayne Dyer called it. My sister Celeste and I, and our husbands are such people. Something inside drives us to seek out a new kind of life, one that doesn’t appear to be outwardly secure but is highly creative. We want to take the road less traveled and that’s the tension we feel each day as we struggle to support our families yet create something new.

Even though we’re taking the road less traveled, there are others who have forged the paths that we want to take, it’s just that not as many have chosen these paths and that makes our desire to follow them a little scary. There aren’t as many footprints to follow. Sometimes the footprints are lost all together and we have to guess how to reach our destination. Every day we have to reassess and move forward with our plans. We have to give ourselves a break if we take two steps forward and one step back. That’s all part of the game.

So, we’re both excited and a little frightened to think about how we’ll react when we succeed. Celeste and I feel that if we’re not a little frightened of the outcome, it’s not worth doing. The thing we look forward to is the fact that we’ll both be living very different lives than the ones we’re experiencing now and as far as we’re concerned, that will be wonderful.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment or share with a friend.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2015

We Can Change the World

Earth from the Moon
Earth from the Moon

“Conflict must be resolved. It cannot be evaded, set aside, denied, disguised, seen somewhere else, called by another name, or hidden by deceit of any kind, if it would be escaped. It must be seen exactly as it is, where it is thought to be, in the reality which has been given it, and with the purpose that the mind accorded it. For only then are its defenses lifted, and the truth can shine upon it as it disappears.” ~ A Course In Miracles Lesson 333, “Forgiveness Ends The Dream Of Conflict Here.”

I’m a big fan of reading fiction and watching plays and movies. I say that because there have been so many books, plays and movies that have changed the way I see the world. I believe I’m a better person because I love to be transported by the stories.

This past weekend my husband and I went to see The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2. I had read the books and seen the first three movies. In general I’m not a fan of dystopian books and movies, because most of the time they don’t end on a note of hope. I believe in hope. This series has a large dose of hope at the end. If you haven’t read them, I suggest you do because the main characters must deal with the horrendous mental and emotional wounds they suffered throughout the arch of the story. They must find hope and healing. And they do, as much as they are able.

At the end of the movie, Katniss Everdeen is on an outing with her family. It’s many years after the events that transformed her society. She’s holding her baby, while Peeta, her husband and fellow sufferer, is playing with their young toddler. The baby jerks awake, as if from a nightmare. Katniss then tells the baby how she deals with her nightmares. She makes lists of all the acts of kindnesses she’s seen people do. It helps her remember that there are good and kind people out there and that eases her memories of the horrors she’s experienced.

I can’t say I’ve witnessed horrors first hand, though I have seen real horrors on TV. I’ve never lived in a war torn country, or had to flee my home, but none of us get through this life without scars. According to studies done on the effects of witnessing horrendous events, it doesn’t matter whether we experience them in person or see them on TV or in movies. They don’t even have to be real for us to feel them as if they happened to us. We are affected no matter what the delivery system. The same goes for acts of kindness. If we witness an act of kindness, it’s as if the kindness was done to and for us.

So, we live in a violent world. It’s always been violent. That’s nothing new. However, we’re at a turning point. We have an opportunity to change the world from a violent environment to one of peace. But to do that we have to focus on the problems we face, acknowledge that we’ve allowed them to go on unchallenged and find a way to solve them.

Some of the people I know focus only on the negative. Maybe we’re wired to notice negativity first, but the thing is that people who study the brain, like Dr. Joe Dispenza, and Bruce H. Lipton, have discovered that we can rewire our brains so that we notice the positive first instead of the negative. That’s what I advocate and try to do. That’s why some friends I know want to be around me, because when the conversation turns to all the problems we face in this world, I point out good things that are happening and they feel better.

The thing is, each person must decide to focus on the positive themselves. We each must choose to see beneath the surface behaviors of the people in our lives and in the media as well. That’s not always easy. It’s comfortable assuming we know all there is to know about people we see in the media, or even people we live or work with. But we can’t ever know the deepest hopes and dreams of another person unless they reveal themselves to us. That requires trust.

The media can be our enemy when trying to discover the true nature of people in the spotlight, or it can help us see another side of a person. Not too long ago my husband and I were watching CBS Sunday Morning. It’s a Sunday morning ritual with us. This morning they interviewed Charles Koch. I’ve not been a fan of the Koch brothers because they donate outrageous amounts of money to political causes that I abhor, however, we watched the interview to see if our assumptions about this man were correct. We found that they weren’t. Yes, he supports a large number of causes that I think are destructive. On the other hand, the Koch brothers, Charles and David support causes that I too support. That interview was an eye opener. It made me take a good look at the assumptions I make about people. Each one of us is a bundle of contradictions. What I learned was that I can’t condemn the Koch brothers just because they have billions of dollars and I don’t. Having billions of dollars doesn’t automatically make them evil, as some people would have us believe. And just because they have billions of dollars doesn’t mean I can point my finger at them and lay all the world’s problems at their feet. Oh no, I too have to take responsibility for the mess we find ourselves in.

I often say, and people look at me as if I have two heads, that our thoughts create our reality. Quantum physicists figured that out many years ago, but that idea is just now taking root. Not long ago someone shared this article on Facebook about that very thing, that what we think, creates the events and even the physical things we use in our world. Generation after generation of humans have created the conflicts that have plagued us for millennia and now we have a clue why. Once it got started, nobody thought it could stop. Oh, a few highly enlightened people tried to show us the way, but we thought they were anomalies and we didn’t follow their lead. We clung stubbornly to our old thought patterns because changing was too difficult.

So here we are. We’ve got scientific proof that what we think creates the events out in the world, and that we can change our thought patterns. The question is, will we do it? Will we get up off the couch, figuratively speaking, and actually do something concrete to change the world? Will we notice all the kind things people do for each other? Will be find opportunities to be kind and compassionate? Will we change the focus of our thoughts? Those seem like ephemeral things to do, but they have a huge impact. I’ve been watching it happen. You have to look outside the media in this country to find evidence of change. You have to dig for the stories of goodness happening. You have to lay your assumptions aside and be willing to see the world with new eyes. And then you have to be willing to change yourself to bring about peace. Take it from a Baby Boomer, it’s not easy, but it’s worth it.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment or share this post with a friend.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2015