Art is Fundamental

Toucan Snail by Barry Midgorden

“Next to the Word of God, the noble art of music is the greatest treasure in the world.” ~ Martin Luther

“The world is but a canvas to our imagination.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

“Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.” ~ Edgar Degas

“Vision is the art of seeing what is invisible to others.” ~ Jonathan Swift

Many of you know that I have degrees in theatre, I’ve taught English and theatre for many years. And I’m married to an artist. Which means, art of all kinds is extremely important to me. I think it’s important to all of us, though often we don’t know it.

Last night my husband and I watched an episode of Origins: The Journey of Humankind on NatGeo. The episode was about how, beginning with graphic representations, communication helped make humans the dominant species on the planet. It happened as those graphic communications morphed into story telling with words and dance. From there we developed ever more complex ways of communicating with each other until now we can reach anyone on the globe in an instant.

It’s the art left behind on cave walls, in archeological digs, and in ancient writings that help us understand how we have evolved, and how we have stayed the same. Art is communication. As the narrator of Origins, Jason Silva says, “Studies have shown creating art rewires our brain, increasing the gray and white matter in the cerebellum. This increases overall cognitive function.” Creating art helps us understand the intangible undercurrents of human emotion. And because of art we have the ability to get underneath the artist’s skin and experience life from his or her point of view. Because of this, art is fundamental.

I hate it when school districts need to make budget cuts, it’s always the arts that get cut first. As if communicating on deeper levels, is not important. So, I’m against this current push toward STEM education, which stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. I know that those things are important, but we wouldn’t have any of those disciplines without first having invented art. Art encourages creative thinking because to participate in art is to think outside the limits of what we already know.

I don’t mean to say that scientists and mathematicians are not creative. They can be but they need to be able to do what Picasso says, “The artist is a receptacle for emotions (ideas) that come from all over the place: from the sky, from the earth, from a scrap of paper, from a passing shape, from a spider’s web.” In my limited experience, people who are involved in the STEM disciplines see the world in a particular concrete way and are uncomfortable with ambiguity. Artists love ambiguity because it’s not linear thinking. Ambiguity is where the magic happens, the visions for a better world, and the innovations come from. I believe great scientists use ambiguity too.

I would love it if art were given its due and instead of this push for STEM in education, we included education in the arts as well. We should make our educational model STEAM instead to include all students. Not everyone is suited to think in linear ways. Some of us are out on the edges of human emotion and thought. We see things others may not even have a clue exist. I don’t want us to leave those students behind as if they’re not important. After all, how many novels, movies and TV shows have predicted, or caused future inventions. I don’t think it’s an accident that the novels, 1984 and The Handmaid’s Tale are flying off the shelves during these turbulent times. Those and many authors, felt the coming of dark times and wrote about them. Some of them envisioned solutions that have little or nothing to do with mathematical equations, building structures or proving new scientific theories.

It takes all kinds to make this world a better place, and to paraphrase Winston Churchill, if we don’t appreciate art, then what’s the use of all the struggle? It’s the beauty of the flowers, the sunrise, or sunset, the fluidity of the moving human body, the smile on the face of another, the colors of the painting, or the words or music that touch our heart and make life worth living. Jason Silva also said on Origins, “No human society has ever been found without music. It lies at the core of our culture.” So, it is art that touches our souls and help us appreciate each other. That’s where the next innovation needs to take place, in our hearts. We can have all the fabulous gadgets in the universe, but what good are they if we are fighting with each other and destroying our planet?

I didn’t mean to get so philosophical. It’s just that as I develop as a writer, I’m able to express that I’ve felt for a long time that we humans sometimes get our priorities mixed up. We think that art is a frivolous thing, but without art, we never would have evolved to where we are now. I know from experience that every time I see a movie, or a play, read a book, listen to music or see a painting, my point of view about the world is altered. I can’t say that about seeing a mathematical theorem. That might happen when I see great architecture, but then again, an artist had to create the design for the building. It seems to me without art, STEM might never exist.

Thanks for reading. I hope you leave a comment or share with friends and family.

If you’d like to join my email list click here.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2017

Mother of Invention

Apollo Launch

“The Cold War did a lot for us. Just think of it, we went to the Moon and back because we wanted to win the “Space Race.” ~ Aaron Sneary

“Don’t be so gloomy. After all it’s not that awful. Like the fella says, in Italy for 30 years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder, and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love – they had 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did they produce? The cuckoo clock.” ~ Harry Lime in The Third Man

A few weeks ago we had dinner with a friend who is going through huge life changes. During our discussion, he pointed out that the Cold War helped us with a great many technological advances. My husband and I agreed with him. It seems to be our way for necessity to be the mother of invention.

Last week I used some quotes from Gary Zukav’s book The Seat of the Soul, to make my point that the human race is evolving. Sometimes we need to take a look back to discover where we are going. Near the end of his book, Gary Zukav points out that at some point near the beginning of our existence, we five-sensory human beings chose “to learn through fear and doubt instead of through wisdom.” Yet the point he is making with his book is that we now have a chance to choose a new way to learn and evolve.

Here we are at this crucial time in human history, not just in this country, but all over the planet. What will we invent? How will we grow? Will we choose to set aside our petty squabbles and begin to work together? I hope we really do move away from inventing ever more complex technology, and instead make deeper connections with each other and with who we really are.

Last week I also referenced an article on the site, Prepare For Change that gave evidence that humanity is waking up because the frequency of the earth has risen drastically in the last few months and years. If you didn’t read my post, just know that the frequency of the planet is linked to human brainwave activity. Maybe we’re finally using parts of our brains that have been dormant for so long.

If you look back at history, it takes a lot to shake us up enough to make us adopt major changes in the way we think, in the way we treat each other, and in our societies. Usually most of us fight that change with everything we’ve got. It doesn’t seem to be that way this time. Maybe I’m wrong, but it seems that the number of people trying to hold on to the old ways of being and doing are relatively small. Unfortunately, at the moment they also happen to be those in power positions, at least in this country. But the flow of history has changed. The old ways no longer work. We can’t abuse the environment, or people and assume the planet or people will lie down and take it. This is illustrated by the multitude of demonstrations, calls, emails, and snail mail being sent to our elected officials. It’s also reflected in our art.

I think I can speak for other artists when I say that the work we create is our attempt to understand, and maybe even define what it means to be a human being. And some artists of late have attempted to point out that humanity is standing on the precipice. We can either evolve or die. The remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still, The Matrix series, and Arrival are just a few of the movies that use human evolution as themes. There are also other art forms that do that same thing, but I don’t need to list them all here.

Arrival is particularly interesting because it advocates cooperation as a way for the human race to save itself so that millennia in the future humans can help save the alien race that has arrived. I’m all for using more cooperation probably because that was a major lesson I learned from my involvement in theatre. If the director, producer, actors, designers and crew don’t work together, the production falls apart. It’s like that for companies, sports teams, educational classrooms, families, and so many other life situations

In Arrival, the key to human evolution has to do with changing the way we think by learning the language of the aliens who have come to earth. I loved the idea that the language we speak causes us to think in specific ways and one way to change the way you think is to learn a new language. So, maybe we need to require that all students learn one language other than English by taking six or eight years of the language they choose. Wouldn’t that be great, to have lots of different language offerings for students. I for one am sad that I attended a series of small towns with scant foreign, (I don’t like that word) language offerings. I wanted to learn French, but when we moved to a new school, they only offered Spanish and German. I wish now living so close to the Mexican border that I had taken Spanish. Instead I took one year of German. Not enough to learn the language properly.

What we need is one universal language that everyone on the planet learns, like everyone on the planet eventually learns in the movie Arrival. I think it would be great if it was a completely new language not spoken by anyone on the planet at this time. Maybe some linguist will come up with such a language, or the one that they created for the movie could be developed further and we could use it. I’d learn it. What do you think?

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

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2017

Tenacity

Susan B. Anthony

Susan B. Anthony

“The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity. The fears are paper tigers. You can do anything you decide to do. You can act to change and control your life; and the procedure, the process is its own reward.” ~ Amelia Earhart

Patience and tenacity are worth more than twice their weight of cleverness.” ~ Thomas Huxley

“Turning pro is a mindset. If we are struggling with fear, self-sabotage, procrastination, self-doubt, etc., the problem is, we’re thinking like amateurs. Amateurs don’t show up. Amateurs crap out. Amateurs let adversity defeat them. The pro thinks differently. He shows up, he does his work, he keeps on truckin’, no matter what.” ~ Steven Pressfield

People succeed not so much because they are smart, but because they don’t give up. There will always be the naysayers. The people who take cheap shots from the top row seats, but who are afraid to get down and do the work to make their own dreams come true. The winners never listen to them. They don’t complain, they find their way around obstacles. But one thing is sure, they keep moving forward no matter how slowly.

Now that I’m about to publish my first book after seven years of work, what have I learned?

One of the things I’ve learned is that the work feeds the work. When I made a commitment to work on my novel a little bit every day, more ideas came and soon I couldn’t wait to get up in the morning to begin working.

I’ve also learned that the work feeds the work only when you’ve found the RIGHT work for you. I was fifty-four years old when I found the right work for me. Yet no time was wasted while I was looking for my place in the world. Everything I’ve learned along the way contributes to what I now write.

Another important lesson has been that the time to be the most tenacious is when you’re stuck.

For five years I developed Morgan’s story in the past. It was the easier story to tell because I saw Morgan as distant from me. But eventually I was stuck. I couldn’t move on with her story until I wrote Jenna’s story in the present. I didn’t want to write Jenna’s story because much of what happens to her happened to me in different forms. I didn’t want to relive those tough times. But I learned something else that is vital for a writer, you can’t close the books on one part of your life until you’ve wrung out every bit of the lesson your soul desires to learn. As the character Pi in Life of Pi says of not saying goodbye to Richard Parker, the Bengal tiger he’s just crossed the Pacific Ocean with, “It’s important in life to conclude things properly. Only then can you let go. Otherwise you are left with words you should have said but never did, and your heart is heavy with remorse. That bungled goodbye hurts me to this day.” pg. 414

I don’t know if it’s this way for all writers, but for me, writing is the way I say the proper goodbyes. It’s the way I can reimagine or redefine what happened to me and put closure on those things that nag at my psyche, and my emotions.

One of the things Jenna suffers is being unjustly fired from her job, and then accused of embezzling money from the publishing company she worked for. I included that situation in my book because I lost a most beloved job teaching drama. I lost it unjustly. Years later one of my students told me that the story told by those who had engineered by dismissal was that I was let go because I had mishandled the drama club funds. It was a lie of course. In fact, the woman who handled the accounting for all the clubs had thanked me earlier that school year for making sure my accounts were accurate when I turned them in.

I used Jenna’s situation as a way to put some closure on my own story. In The Space Between Time, the lie was exposed and the perpetrators were tried and found guilty of not just one embezzlement scheme but of many. I used Jenna’s predicament as a way to get that negative energy out of my body. I didn’t want it to continue to rumble around in my head and heart.

Will the truth ever be revealed about that situation? I don’t know, nor do I care. I’ve had a chance to tell my story the way I wish it had happened and that helped me forgive my accusers once and for all.

Maybe the naysayers will be right. Maybe my book won’t sell no matter how hard I market and promote it. But I still have the advantage over them. I created something and if I did it once, I can do it again and again. One day there will be people who appreciate what I’ve written. I’d rather be working on something I love than dying in anguish and desperation doing work that I hate.

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

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden @ 2017

The Space Between Time Sample #1

A Woman

A Woman

“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

“And it’s human need to be told stories. The more we’re governed by idiots and have no control over our destinies, the more we need to tell stories to each other about who we are, why we are, where we come from, and what might be possible.” ~ Alan Rickman

Since I’m getting close to publishing my first novel The Space Between Time, I thought I’d share a scene from the book.

This is scene with Jenna in the present.

Sitting in the chair in front of Jenna’s desk Joan said, “Hey, are you all right? You look like your dog just died.”

Jenna took in a deep breath, needles pricking her heart. “Sam walked out this morning.”

“Oh man. That S.O.B. Did he say why?”

Jenna rolled her eyes. “The usual crap, ‘It hasn’t been working for a long time.’ Oh, and he got a promotion and he’s moving to L.A.”

Joan clasped her hands. “Well, good riddance. You were thinking of ending it anyway. Now you can move on.”

Wiping away a tear, Jenna said, “Yeah, but when it finally happens, it’s still a shock. And as usual I blame myself.”

Joan got up and walked around to sit on the edge of the desk closest to Jenna. “Oh, sweetie, just because he wasn’t the right guy doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you.”

Jenna took Joan’s hand and gave it a little squeeze. “Keep telling me that until I believe it will you?”

Joan squeezed her hand back. “I’ll take you to lunch and we can talk, okay?”

“That’d be great. Thanks. We better get to work. I don’t want to lose my job too.”

Standing up, Joan said, “Okay. We’ll go to Chin Yen’s and boil him in oil.”

Jenna laughed. At the door Joan said, “Still haven’t heard anything about your promotion?”

“Not yet.” Just then Jenna’s phone rang. They both jumped.

Joan said, “Maybe this is it.”

Jenna cleared her throat. “Jenna Holden.”

A female voice on the other end of the line said, “Miss Holden, this is Officer Parker from the Roseburg PD.”

“Yes. What can I do for you?” She looked at Joan and shook her head. Joan waited to find out who was on the phone.

“I’m sorry to tell you that your mother’s been in a car accident. Can you come as quickly as possible? She’s just gone by ambulance to Mercy Medical Center.”

Trying to make sense of what the officer had said, she felt the blood drain from her face as she looked up at Joan. “What? What did you say?”

“You’re mother has been in a serious accident. You need to come right away.”

The room began to spin. “No. It can’t be. Oh, God in heaven, Mom.”

The officer said, “I’m so sorry Miss Holden.” her voice was so kind that Jenna nearly lost her composure. “Can you drive yourself here? Or is there someone who can drive for you?”

“What? No.”

“I’m sorry, what do you mean? Do you want us to arrange for a State Policeman to drive you down?”

Closing her eyes and taking a deep breath to help herself think, Jenna said, “Um. No, I’ve got my car here. I can drive myself.” First Sam, now this! Jenna looked at Joan who had a concerned look on her face while she waited to hear what new disaster was unfolding.

The officer was saying something. “… All right?”

“Thank you. I’ll leave as soon as I can.”

“I’ll let the hospital know you’re on your way. Again, I’m sorry to be delivering such bad news.”

Jenna couldn’t say anything more. The phone beeped three times indicating the officer had rung off.

Joan’s voice floated into Jenna’s consciousness. “What is it?”

“It’s Mom. She’s been in a terrible accident.”

Joan knelt down next to Jenna “Oh, man! I’m so sorry and on top of Sam walking out. Do you want me to go with you?”

Clenching her jaw with determination, she said, “No. I’ll call you when I know something.”

I hope you enjoyed this little segment from, The Space Between Time. Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2017

Living Out Loud

meryl_streep_at_the_2014_sag_awards_12024455556_cropped“When you get into a tight place and everything goes against you, till it seems as though you could not hang on a minute longer, never give up then, for that is just a place and time that the tide will turn.” ~ Harriet Beecher Stowe

“Do not consider painful what is good for you.” ~ Euripides

“If you ask me what I came into this life to do, I will tell you: I came to live out loud.” ~ Emile Zola

I don’t watch award shows even though I think honoring great work in the arts is fitting. I don’t like the hype of most of those events. But when I woke up to a string of posts about Meryl Streep’s speech at the Golden Globes, I found the video and listened to what she had to say. One thing she said was, “An actor’s only job is to enter the lives of people who are different from us and let you feel what that feels like.” And Viola Davis said when she introduced Meryl for her Cecil B. DeMille award, “An artists job is to make us feel less alone.” That’s why I’m an artist, to help myself and others feel less alone. And to try to understand people who are not like me.

I loved Meryl Streep’s speech. All of it, but I’m not going to comment today about our next President or his actions. I’m not a political pundit and I’ve already written in past posts about how I feel about his behavior and the result of it.

Today and for the next few entries, I’m going to write about what it has meant to be to be an actor, director, writer, and teacher of the arts.

But let me back up a bit. I have a writer friend I met though social media. Her name is Julie Christine Johnson author of, In Another Life. On January first her blog post was titled, “A Word of Resolution for 2017.” Each year she picks a word to focus on for the year. I’m not big on making resolutions. I have life goals, but those are on going and don’t end when the calendar says the year is over. Anyway, I liked Julie’s idea of having a word to focus on for 2017 and I chose the word wholehearted. I borrowed the word from Brené Brown who says that living a wholehearted life, is to be vulnerable and open hearted no matter what happens to us. It means to embrace life and to live it out loud.

I have not been a person who has lived life out loud. For most of my life, I kept many thoughts to my self. I had lots of thoughts about what was happening in our society, in church, at school, or in our personal family life. But I didn’t want to make waves or stir up controversy. I was quiet until I became involved in theatre. Then slowly, through the years I have opened up and begun to say all those things I’d been thinking. Now I’m becoming more brave and writing my true thoughts. This year I’m committing myself to becoming even more wholehearted in my writing.

When I first began writing, an instructor told me my work was guarded. It’s been difficult to write exactly what I’m thinking and feeling. I’m still not very good at being completely honest about my opinion. I learned from my father that it’s almost impossible to change someone’s mind once it’s made up. And I’ve found that to be mostly true. Often I have wished I were more like my sister, Celeste. She never holds back her opinion. We think alike, but I’m the quiet one; she’s not. Yet, as a teacher, I learned to express my opinion by posing questions to my students. I think they found this technique to be less threatening, yet opened their minds to new possibilities.

I will break my promise not to say anything about our incoming President. Maya Angelou used to say, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” Donald Trump has shown us who he is. He’s not a nice person, nor is he going to be a good leader. He doesn’t care about us or the problems we face. He only cares about how he can leverage his position to get more for himself. But he has done us the great service of opening up societal wounds that have not ever healed. We now have this fantastic opportunity to examine our wounds and mistakes, and expose them to the light so they can finally be resolved.

So to follow my intention to become more wholehearted, I’m going to follow something else Maya Angelou said, “If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.” I may not be able to change the people who are bullies, or who want to spread hatred, but I’ll never know if I don’t listen to their concerns and point out how much they are hurting others. Oprah Winfrey said that one of the greatest lessons she learned while doing her television show all those years was that people just want to be heard. They want to feel like they matter.

That’s why I was drawn to the arts. When we are exposed to art, they show us the light and the darkness inside people. Through stories we have an opportunity to get new perspectives and learn something vital about others from vastly different cultures and backgrounds than our own. I want to listen and observe so I can “see” and “hear” people who don’t think exactly the way I do and then incorporate what I’ve learned into my stories.

That’s why I think the arts are vitally important. They help us walk around in another person’s life for a while. What can be more life changing than that?

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

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2017

Reflections

Taj Mahal at sunset

Taj Mahal at sunset

“Without reflection, we go blindly on our way, creating more unintended consequences, and failing to achieve anything useful.” ~ Margaret J. Wheatley

“It is not by muscle, speed, or physical dexterity that great things are achieved, but by reflection, force of character, and judgment.” ~ Marcus Tillius Cicero

“My role in society, or any artist’s or poet’s role, is to try and express what we all feel. Not to tell people how to feel. Not as a preacher, not as a leader, but as a reflection of us all.” ~ John Lennon

“Many scientists think that philosophy has no place, so for me it’s a sad time because the role of reflection, contemplation, meditation, self-inquiry, insight, intuition, imagination, creativity, free will, is in a way not given any importance, which is the domain of philosophers.” ~ Deepak Chopra

I’m a bit of a rebel. I don’t usually create New Year’s resolutions, or do the end of the year reflections. I don’t do them because resolving to improve myself and reflect on what I’ve learned is something I do on a continuing basis. However, after the year we’ve just had, I have some things I’d like to express.

2016 has been a fantastic year for me! For a while I got caught up the crazy political shenanigans, read lots of articles and such, got angry and sad. Then I realized that what was happening in society was part of the current of growth and change that is always flowing. Sometimes it’s underground, and other time, like now it’s more apparent. It was then that I gave up focusing on the outside and realigned myself to continuing to become a more open, loving, joyful and compassionate person. I felt like that’s how I can best contribute to our awakening.

This is a process I committed to on January 1, 2015. I was tired of my bouts of being unhappy and critical of my life choices. That felt like it didn’t fit with where I see humanity headed. So, I began the work of clearing out old thought patterns and embracing a new, or rather the real me.

I’m so glad I made that choice, because today I can say that every morning I wake up choosing to be happy and noticing all the abundant beauty and opportunities that come my way.

It sounds like becoming happy was easy. It wasn’t. I fought it for so many years because I thought we were meant to suffer. Letting go of that idea took way too many years. The day I acknowledged how I had tortured myself thinking I was getting closer to God by doing so, was my liberation day. I’m excited about the new life I’m creating.

I participated in several activities this year that helped contribute to the next step in my awakening.

I had a great time teaching two performance classes at the college, during the 2015, 2016 school year. My students wrote their own plays. It was great fun for both students and audience members. In the spring, most of the plays made reference to, or actually had a Star Wars storyline. Seeing the joy of creation on the students faces helped me embrace joy too.

Since I began writing in 2008, I have felt great satisfaction of creation. This year I finally finished my novel, The Space Between Time, except for minor edits. It’s been a nearly seven years journey of learning how to construct the plot, develop the characters and improve my overall writing. When I read Steven Pressfield’s book Nobody Wants to Read Your Sh*t, his insights helped me put the final plot points together. It was kind like he knocked me up the side of the head and all the puzzle pieces landed into place. Not only that, I now have the tools to plot out the next novel and reduce the time I will need to create the story.

Something about Pressfield’s book along with other events, gave me the idea to create my video series, “Loving Literature”. This is a long term project that I’m looking forward to working on. Stories help me make sense out of my life and the world. I began the series hoping to be able to define for myself, and hopefully others, why story is so important. Then I read an article on Upworthy, about a little girl, born 16 weeks too early, who lived because her father read her the entire Harry Potter series. The mom, Kelley, said, “Stories were invented to conjure meaning from randomness. They give us our history, even our identity.” Tom, the father said of deciding to read the stories to his daughter, “Stories are a promise. They are a promise that the ending is worth waiting for.” What touched me the most about it was that when J.K. Rowling heard about Juniper and her parents, she sent them a special gift of the entire Harry Potter series for Juniper to read for herself. The inscription on the first books reads, “To the girl who lived.” Now that’s the power of story and how sharing stories with each other connects us in profound ways. If you want to read the article for yourself, here is the link. Or you can buy the book, Juniper: The girl who was born too soon by Kelley and Thomas French.

So, I’m committed to telling lots of stories both written and on video during 2017 and hopefully connecting with my readers in profound ways, and learning lots more great things about myself. I want to listen and support, I want to make a difference in at least one person’s life with my creative endeavors.

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

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2016

Terrible TV

Statue of Zeus in Greece

Statue of Zeus in Greece

“A moment of anger can destroy a lifetime of work, whereas a moment of love can break barriers that took a lifetime to build.” ~ Leon Brown

“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” ~ Anne Frank

“A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself.” ~ Joseph Campbell

The other night I had a rare evening to myself and I thought I’d watch something on television. I’m pretty picky about what I watch. The series, movie, or educational program has to be informative, positive, and/or shed some light on the human condition. I couldn’t find anything to watch that I thought was worthwhile, or that I thought was interesting.

Ever since the first episode of Survivor aired, I’ve watched television decline into competitions, name calling, with a dog-eat-dog kind of mentality as a major part of the program. TV, like all visual/emotional story telling, is a powerful tool for impacting the viewer. We are often unaware of how deeply our thinking and feeling has been influenced by what we watch. I believe these divisive kind of shows have contributed to the change in our society from kind to mean.

I know that TV is entertainment and people have the choice to watch what they want. But I wonder if this kind of dumbed down programming has also contributed to other declines in our society. The masses get one kind of entertainment, while the more well-to-do get another. If that’s the case it makes me sad.

Yet there may be hope. Great programming has emerged in unlikely places. Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, and other networks outside the traditional stations are offering interesting documentaries, and fictional shows that people are talking about. PBS is enjoying a resurgence in popularity since Downton Abbey aired. They, of course, have always offered great programs of all kinds. Choosing our entertainment is just a matter of deciding what kind of energy we want to put into our brains, mindless bickering, or something enriching.

Not all modern programs and movies are bad. For example, I have heard people lament the proliferation of superhero movies. Some people think that we should watch nothing but classic movies and television. But I disagree. Entertainment reflects what’s happening in our society. So to me, the abundance of fantasy, sci-fi, and superheroes in our entertainment is a clue to what is going on in our collective unconsciousness at this juncture in history.

I think it was Joseph Campbell who said about the popularity of the Star Wars movies, that we modern humans hunger for our own myths. These new kinds of stories strike a cord with people who want their own kinds of heroes to look up to and emulate. These modern mythological characters deal with their inner and outer demons much like in ancient myths, however, they do it differently.

One of the ways heroes in modern mythological stories are different than those of old, is that they band together to face the common foe. Like Harry says to the villain in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, “I’ve never fought alone, you see. And I never will.” It is only in working together that wrongs can be righted, or a problem solved. It is tempting to think that we are fighting the big battles alone, but we don’t have to. It’s harder to break ten sticks bound together than it is one lone stick. That’s a good thing to teach our young people.

Okay enough ranting about television for today. Maybe I shouldn’t care since I have reduced the amount of TV I watch over the years. However, I do want to see good stories being told in all kinds of mediums. I want to see stories where the characters learn something valuable, and are able to make themselves and their world a better place in which to live. Those are the kinds of stories that inspire me.

I will most likely address this issue again in my upcoming YouTube series, “Loving Literature.” Stay tuned for the launch date.

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

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2016

Opportunities

My Favorite Books

My Favorite Books

“If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door.” ~ Milton Berle

“Your big opportunity may be right where you are now.” ~ Napoleon Hill

“Aging is not lost youth but a new stage of opportunity and strength.” ~ Betty Friedan

Recently I’ve been helping my sister brainstorm ideas for a series of YouTube videos to help promote her life coaching business. While we were talking, I got the urge to create my own videos. I have my own YouTube channel created some years back so I could post videos of my students performing their acting scenes. It helps if they can see themselves and the mistakes they make, but also seeing how well they do gives them confidence. For the most part, the videos are not public, only the people with the links can view them.

So, I already have a channel set up and I’ve been thinking how I can monetize it. There are people who make a great living posting videos. Maybe I can earn a little money too. But what would my videography theme be? Finally the idea crystallized through a series of events, to complicated to enumerate here, of creating videos tentatively titled “Loving Literature.”

It’s funny how lots of experiences and elements in my life collate and synthesize into a new, better understanding. When that happened last week, I got energized and I can’t wait to begin making videos.

What will the videos be about? The importance of reading and understanding literature, of course. In fact, to me it’s the most important basic skill we need because without being able to read, our learning is handicapped. It’s not that we can’t learn, it’s just a great deal more difficult.

Reading literature, watching plays, movies, and television are ways we can walk a mile in another person’s shoes. That’s what makes storytelling in all its forms so compelling. We’re fascinated by other human beings and their experiences. Stories help us widen our world view and understand people who have a very different outlook on life than we do. We can learn from their experiences. To me understanding what it means to be human is the basis for building societies, cultures, even governments.

In my opinion, if you don’t understand other human beings and why they feel and act the way they do, you can’t be a completely successful person. I’m not talking about gaining wealth, I’m talking about gaining friendships, nurturing families, and being part of a team at work, all of which make having the money worthwhile.

When I’ve got the first few videos posted, I’ll include the link here.

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

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2016

Review: Army Brats

Army Brats Cover

Army Brats Cover

“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at the typewriter and bleed.” ~ Ernest Hemingway

“What underlies great science is what underlies great art, whether it is visual or written, and that is the ability to distinguish patterns out of chaos.” ~ Diana Gabaldon

“When I am writing best, I really am lost in my world. I lose track of the outside world. I have a difficult time balancing between my real world and the artificial world.” ~ George R. R. Martin

“You have to write the book that wants to be written. And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children.” ~ Madeleine L’Engle

I love sharing the work of fellow writers, so this post is about my friend, Michael G. Cerepanya’s new book, Army Brats. I got to read it through several drafts and it was exciting to see how he developed the story and grew as a writer. This is not his first book (the other is about his hiking adventures) but this one is more personal. It’s a novelization of his experiences being an Army brat in the late 1950s and early 60s in Germany.

One thing I loved about the book was that it’s funny, poignant, tense, and sad. It’s about difficult family relationships, and can’t we all relate to that? Michael doesn’t shy away from the torment of feeling his father doesn’t love him, or having a sister who is always trying to trip him up. I cheered when he gets in a good hit to his father during a boxing lesson, and it was particularly satisfying when his sister finally gets punished for being a tattle tale. What I particularly liked about the book is that by the end, his main character finds self-confidence.

Another thing I loved was the glimpse it gives into what life was like growing up with a dad who was career military. My dad hated his stint in the Air Force and was openly anti-military, so it was nice to see what life was like for Lucas Baryskivka and his family as they moved from posting to posting. Luke, the oldest boy in a family of five children, is sensitive and Michael relates with equal sensitivity how he learns to cope with his domineering father while at the same time managing to enjoy many funny and even dangerous adventures. Some of the adventures of Luke and his friends made me gasp with anxiety, or laugh out loud, a sign of a well written adventure. The relating of those childhood antics alone are worth your time.

Some writer once said, and I’m paraphrasing, the best writers mine their own lives for material for their books. Michael has done this with Army Brats. He has shown courage in examining his life and in the end we get a sense that he’s come to terms with the ups and downs of his childhood in a particularly satisfying ending.

Army Brats is available as an ebook or in paperback at his website. I hope you’ll consider adding it to your late summer reading list.

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

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2016

Writing Emotions

Henri Matisse - Blue Pot and Lemon

Henri Matisse – Blue Pot and Lemon

“I do not literally paint that table, but the emotion it produces upon me.” ~ Henri Matisse

“I love writing. I love the swirl and swing of words as they tangle with human emotions.” ~ James A. Michener

“The best and most beautiful thing in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart.” ~ Helen Keller

I love books that move me to tears, or laughter, or foreboding. That’s how I want to write, but often, like this morning, I wake up with the certain knowledge that I’ve failed on a certain scene and must go back to rework it.

When I’m trying to write the physicality of emotions, how my body would feel if I were in the character’s situation, I find myself in a quandary. As an actor/director I know about body language and facial expressions. They convey our inner states of being, but an actor doesn’t necessarily need to experience the bodily reactions when they are supposed to be demonstrating strong emotion.

I’ll tell one short story to illustrate what I mean. The first play I directed as a public school drama teacher was Our Town. The actor playing George Gibbs could not cry in the crucial scene near the end of the play. So, I told him to lay over his wife’s grave on his forearms, head down, and move his shoulders as if he were weeping with the appropriate crying sounds to go with the action. It worked! We cried during rehearsals and the audience did during performances.

But you can’t fake emotions in a novel and describing them is something I struggle with as I’m sure many authors do. I’m going to include a portion of the scene here that I was thinking about this morning. I made a few changes but it will undoubtedly need more work. You can tell me what you think.

* * * * *

Once Jenna had read those words something was pulling her into a vortex of swirling energy. Panic overtook her but no matter how hard she struggled, she could not free herself. Her mind was paralyzed with fear. Though her present life was a mess, it was familiar.

As her vision cleared, the calming voice of the woman came to her, All is well. “Fine for you to say!” She was not prepared for this experience but she was trapped. The one thing that came to her paralyzed mind was something her father used to say, “The only way out iss through.” She would have to trust. That was difficult for her. However it was her only option. She took a deep figurative breath, and allowed the mists to engulf her.

When they cleared, She was standing in an old style kitchen. There were three women working there wearing Civil War era dresses like her apparition’s. Somehow Jenna knew this was Morgan’s home and who these women were. It was the day of Morgan’s father’s funeral. Jenna’s writer’s curiosity supplanted the panic of only moments before. Looking up from her task, Morgan’s best friend Emma said, eyes dancing, “We’re here if you need us.”

Jenna had only a moment to comprehend that her consciousness had merged with Morgan’s as she said, “Thanks.” Emma’s motto was, “Why put off until tomorrow what you can do this minute.” Morgan knew she was right. She couldn’t put off the confrontation any longer. She walked to the door of the small sitting room where her aunt sat fuming.

Looking at Veronica’s stoney face at the funeral, she was glad her father had decided to keep his illness from her. They’d sent the telegram informing Veronica of Thomas’ death the day before the funeral. When she arrived just in time for the service, storm clouds filled her eyes and each word she spoke was covered in ice crystals.

Morgan paused outside the sitting room to gather her thoughts with sweaty palms and a roiling stomach, before facing the ogre. Veronica was nothing like Morgan’s mother Julia who had been loving, open minded, fair and generous. Morgan always thought of her mother as the perfect representation of pink, lavender and green, caring and restful.

Veronica was made of different colors. She was gold, silver and shimmering diamond. Lovely to look at, but cold and hard-hearted. She wanted riches, power and position. That’s what she got when she married into Boston’s highest echelons.

Morgan took a deep breath hoping to regain her ability to think as she opened the sliding doors of the sitting room.

“So, you and your father decided to deceive me,” Veronica said with malice. “How do you think this will look when my friends back in Boston hear that you did not tell me of Thomas illness? Don’t you think I had a right to know? After all, I am family.”

Morgan felt a shiver run down her spine. Jenna understood very well how she felt. It had been the same for her when interacting with Fletcher and Mr. Dayton, but they weren’t family, and she didn’t have to associate with them any longer.

Morgan squared her shoulders. “Father wanted us to be left in peace, to spend what time we had together uninterrupted by fussing nurses, which you no doubt would have insisted upon.”

Veronica sniffed. “Your father never knew what was best for you. I’m sure he did this to spite me because I wanted to take you away and give you every advantage he couldn’t.”

Morgan crossed the room and stood in front of her aunt. “Aunt Veronica, father was a good and kind man who loved me very deeply. He knew that I’d be just another bobble for you to polish and have admired.”

At this statement Veronica bristled and lost control of herself. “Morgan, you are too independent by half. I see now that your father has taught you too much and not had a thought for your future. If he’d cared about you, he never would have raised you to think like a man nor would he have involved you in this underground railroad nonsense.”

Morgan gasped. How had her aunt found out about that?

A malicious smile spread across Veronica’s face. “Ah, you’re surprised I knew about that. Your father exposed you to filthy, shiftless slaves who ran away shirking their duty to their masters. Any number of terrible things could have happened to you because of your father’s thoughtlessness. I intend to change your foolish notions by taking you back to Boston with me and see that you’re properly looked after by marrying the right sort of man. I will brook no refusals. You’re not getting any younger, you know. Go upstairs this instant and pack your things. We’re leaving on the evening train.”

Deep calm swept over Morgan. Ignoring the bait her aunt wanted to distract her with, she spoke softly. “No, Aunt Veronica. I am not going with you.”

* * * * *

Thanks for reading and sharing with friends. Feel free to leave a comment from a reader’s point of view.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2016