The Importance of Story

Dad and me on Easter Sunday

Dad and me on Easter Sunday

“Literature is my Utopia. Here I am not disenfranchised. No barrier of the senses shuts me out from the sweet, gracious discourses of my book friends. They talk to me without embarrassment or awkwardness.” ~ Helen Keller

“Every man’s work, whether it be literature, or music or pictures or architecture or anything else, is always a portrait of himself.” ~ Samuel Butler

“Literature is the art of discovering something extraordinary about ordinary people, and saying with ordinary words something extraordinary.” ~ Boris Pasternak

“No matter what is happening in life or in the world – war, natural disaster, poor health, pain, the death of loved ones – if existence is filled with art, music and literature, life will be fulfilling, a joy.” ~ Karen DeCrow

In the next week or so, I’m going to launch a video series on YouTube titled, “Loving Literature”. At first I thought, “This can be a tool for teachers to use.” But later I realized that the real reason I’m doing this series is to relive some of the great things I learned as a result of my dad staying up late with me on Friday and Saturday nights watching movies. I loved those times together with him and I loved that he helped me understand that even if a story is deceptively simple, there are always layers of meaning hidden within the plot, characters and setting.

I was gratified last week, when one of my acting students said to me, “You’re right. This scene seems simple, but there is a lot going on between the two characters.” Hah, another student won over! Thanks dad.

I’ve learned it’s like that in life too. When I have an encounter with someone there are so many things going on. There is what’s going on inside me, and what’s going on inside the other person. Sometimes outside circumstances even play a part in the encounter. Because of my practice analyzing fictional stories, I can analyze the situation with that other person, and hopefully either work things out, or help the relationship deepen. It’s all because I had a great dad who asked me all kinds of questions about the movies we watched together. Because of that, I understand a little bit more about why people do what they do.

I don’t know if my video series will help anyone understand themselves and others better. Or if it will help them learn to think more critically. I hope it will. All I know is that I have a passion for discussing all kinds of literature and I want to share that love with others.

My husband and I were watching an episode of Ancient Aliens the other day. It was about the similarities in the mythologies of all the ancient cultures and how we’ve taken the basics from those stories and created new mythologies in the science fiction and superhero stories we tell today. They cited Joseph Campbell and his work in finding the similarities in the myths of ancient cultures. He said, “Myths are public dreams, dreams are private myths.” In other words, story is in our DNA. we need stories to help us make sense of our world.

So, I’m embarking on this new adventure. (Don’t fret. I’m nearly finished with The Space Between Time, and I will continue to post this blog weekly.) I don’t know where it will take me, but I think it’s going to be fun. I’ve got the “donut”, as my husband says the intro and outgo are called, created and the first episode ready to place in the middle. And I have ideas for at least four or five more episodes. I’d love to hear your ideas of what I could talk about. Feel free to leave them in the comments below, or at my writer’s site on Facebook. You can also tell me why you love reading, watching movies or TV. Is it more than entertainment? It is for me.

Thanks for reading. I hope you leave a comment and share this post with your friends and family.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2016

Deep Listening

Woman Listening

Woman Listening

“One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say.” ~ Bryant H. McGill

“The art of effective listening is essential to clear communication, and clear communication is necessary to management success.” ~ James Cash Penney

“Efforts to develop critical thinking falter in practice because too many professors still lecture to passive audiences instead of challenging students to apply what they have learned to new questions.” ~ Derek Bok

“Responsibility to yourself means refusing to let others do your thinking, talking, and naming for you; it means learning to respect and use your own brains and instincts; hence, grappling with hard work.” ~ Adrienne Rich

Every few semesters, I revamp the classes I’m teaching. I think it’s boring to teach the same thing over and over again. I’m in the process of revamping the acting class materials for this fall and I decided to incorporate more exercises in listening. It’s a great skill for acting and for life in general. In fact, my first instructor in good listening skills was my father. That skill has served me well both in my work in the theatre, but also in teaching, and in life.

To me listening is much more than just hearing the words someone is using to express their ideas. Deep listening involves matching what the person is saying with their body language, facial expressions, and the emotion behind their words. In a way, listening involves our entire body. Empathy is part of it but trying to decipher all the physical, emotional and cognitive messages is part of it as well. It’s such an important skill I wish we were using it more.

It’s sad to say, but in a way we read the memes, or the one liners coined by the media and think we understand what someone is saying. We think we understand their point of view. But what my dad, and theatre have taught me is that there are many layers of meaning behind what someone says, and you can’t sum it up in a headline. When we do that, we belittle that person in our mind. It’s disrespectful. That’s why it’s important to listen to what people from a political, religious, or social group are saying, and to actually consider their point of view and why they feel the way they do. Which means critical thinking is a big part of listening. It takes a great deal of worthwhile effort to even remotely understand another person’s perspective. When we take the time to try to understand another person, even if we fail, it honors both them and us because we learn something.

Listening also helps us distinguish between propaganda and persuasion. When I taught American Lit at the high school level, I designed a unit on the difference between the two. Sometimes the lines between them get blurred. We all fall into those traps of believing the propaganda, thinking that we know the truth. The bad thing is, propaganda is subtle brain washing. That’s why listening and critical thinking skills are such important things to teach ourselves and our children. In my opinion, not knowing how seductive propaganda is might be part of why we’re in this weird situation this political season.

I won’t go into all of the propaganda techniques here, you can look them up for yourself, but advertisers, the media, and politicians use propaganda to get us to buy their product, believe what they are saying or vote for them. It takes a lot of diligence to sort through the red herrings, attempts to divide us, or buy into their false causes.

Images can also be propaganda. I showed lots of examples of posters which use images, mostly from WW II, to skew the audience’s thinking about the enemy. Now we have social media to spread images which divert our attention from the real issues at hand. And that brings me back to deep listening.

It’s important to watch people as they talk, and to try to understand exactly what they’re saying. What emotions do they express? Does their body language and do their facial expressions match their words? Are they really saying anything of consequence? If we practice deep listening in our work places, with our loved ones, in chance encounters, and to people in the media, we might learn something important about them and ourselves.

So, I’m making it my mission this semester to teach my acting students better listening skills, and I hope that they use them long after the class is over.

Thanks for reading. I appreciate your comments and hope you share this post with your friends.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2016

Life Lessons

At rehearsal for The Tavern

At rehearsal for The Tavern

“It is a universal principle that you get more of what you think about, talk about, and feel strongly about.” ~ Jack Canfield

“I am an ordinary man who worked hard to develop the talent I was given. I believed in myself, and I believe in the goodness of others.” ~ Muhammad Ali

The other day I had an encounter that woke me up to the fact that I’m a helper, and not always in a good way.

Being a helper is a good skill to have if you’re a teacher but not so good if you’re in a group of business owners and creatives. One of my strengths is helping people make connections. Connections between disparate bits of information, or connections between people and resources. But the other day, I overstepped my bounds and made someone angry, understandably so. This person rankled when I made suggestions about connections she could make for her business. She then turned the tables on me telling me about a course she had taken that I might need. When I responded that I didn’t really need the class, she asked me if I was teachable. Baffled by her question, I said yes. The encounter stayed with me and I went home to examine what I had done that made our interaction go south. After several days of thinking and meditating, it came to me that I had tried to be a helper, when what she needed was a listener.

This encounter came at a time when I’m actively working on discovering my true self. That means shedding old behaviors and allowing myself to become more open to others. For that reason, I’m grateful that this incident happened because I needed to face a part of myself that I must release. I love the way the universe works, because this morning as I was getting ready to finish this article, I read a post that applies to the above incident.

I follow Elizabeth Gilbert on Facebook. Today her post was titled THE ALPHA MARE. She wrote it in response to an online conversation she was having with a woman who wants to lead with an open heart but who has been hurt because of that. To help the woman, Elizabeth cited this information she got from Martha Beck about the psychology of horse herds. Herds of horses are lead by an alpha mare who keeps the herd together. (Apparently the stallions come and go.) The skill the alpha mare exhibits best is boundaries. “She knows exactly who she is, and nobody messes with it. … The alpha mare never lets herself be influenced by another horse’s fears or anxieties or aggression.” When I read that I understood that, as an empathetic person, I often take on other people’s emotions. I haven’t completely mastered setting up good boundaries. So, sometimes I absorb the emotions of others instead of blocking them. Today it hit me that’s part of what I’ve been working on is cleaning up and sweeping out all the cobwebs of other people’s stuff that I’ve been holding onto for years. I’m learning who I really am. I’m learning to set my boundaries so I can be calm in any situation.

And thanks to the above encounter, I realized that I no longer need to be a helper. I can follow my father’s advice and let people figure stuff out for themselves. That’s really the only way we can learn anything valuable anyway. We may meet people along the way who point us in the right direction, but what works for me may not necessarily work for you. That’s as it should be. We’re all trying to figure out what it means to be a human being in our own unique way. I hope I can maintain my empathy, while not taking on the fears and anxieties of others and at the same time be supportive and a good listener. I no longer want to be so arrogant as to think I have the answers for someone else.

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

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2016

What If … Mary Wasn’t A Virgin?

Working Mom

Working Mom

“The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.” ~ Albert Einstein

“Curiosity is one of the forms of feminine bravery.” ~ Victor Hugo

“So curiosity, I think, is a really important aspect of staying young or youthful.” ~ Goldie Hawn

Do you ever wonder what if thus and so were true about situations, belief systems, or circumstances? I do all the time. I wonder about all kinds of things from what we’re taught about history to religion to politics. Some of the things I wonder about are rather trivial, others can be controversial or upsetting. They are just my musings but my goal for asking such questions is to make myself, and hopefully you, take a fresh look at our belief systems.

One of my earliest what ifs I had as a child, was why was it so important for Mary to have been a virgin when she became pregnant with Jesus? I was raised in the church that Joseph Smith Jr. founded in 1830. A side note, in the late 1800’s the Supreme Court ruled that the church I grew up in was the original church and the Mormon church was an off-shoot.

Anyway, having written that, the doctrine of the church I grew up in was very much like Protestant Christian doctrine. The virgin birth was one of the tenants in our belief system. I have no idea why I questioned the whole virgin birth idea. It just didn’t make sense to me, even though as a child I didn’t have a full understanding about sex. I didn’t understand why Mary had to be a virgin to be the mother of Jesus. Why did that make a difference in who Jesus was? I didn’t come to a conclusion about that until many years later.

When I was a religious studies student, I learned that the word that was translated as “virgin” in the Bible, really should have been translated as “maiden”, which meant an unmarried woman. As far as I remember from my Old Testament class, the custom of the Jewish culture was for a couple to become betrothed, and have a kind of trial marriage. Sex in that culture was looked at very differently than in ours. It was possible for a betrothed couple to have sexual relations and not have any stigma attached to them. So, it could have been entirely possible that Mary and Joseph had made love and Jesus was the result. For some reason, I liked that idea.

If God is all powerful couldn’t he have brought the two people together who would produce the amazing miracle of Jesus? In my way of thinking, that’s just as much a miracle as if Mary were a “pure” virgin and God was Jesus only father. From there my thinking goes to my belief that each new life is a miracle and we are all created in the image of God. It’s just that we each have different “contracts”, as Caroline Myss calls them, for our time here on this earth. Just like puzzle pieces, we each have our part to play in the great pattern that is this life we’re living. And as humans we can’t possibly fathom what the big picture will be when the puzzle is finished, if it ever is.

From those ideas, my thoughts branch off to a theme that irritated the heck out of me while studying various religious doctrines, and still does to this day. Most doctrines were created by religious leaders to control their congregants. The male leaders wanted to keep their thumb on women in particular for reasons we could speculate about from now until dooms day. In any case, that was most likely the true origin of the story of the virgin birth. Sex makes women impure, or diminishes their spirituality in some way, even within the sanctity of marriage. (I’d like to slap the person who came up with that idea.) While within most religions, men, aren’t diminished in any way by sex, even if they participate in it before marriage, or any other act that would condemn a woman. How unfair is that!?

I could write volumes more, but I like to keep my posts short. My purpose for this essay was to express my belief that Jesus was a miracle no matter whether Mary was impregnated by God, or by Joseph. And I could go on to argue that he is a much more interesting figure to me as an historical person who became enlightened rather than a divine being that is too far above me to be able to emulate. I like the idea that he showed us how to become enlightened ourselves if we so choose to do so. But that’s a post for another time.

I had fun expressing ideas that have been rattling around in my head for many years. I don’t get to have many deep discussions on religious topics anymore. Sometimes I miss the flurry of ideas expressed passionately and the new patterns of thinking I develop as a result. So, from time to time I’ll be writing more “What If” posts and hoping that you will participate in the discussion.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment or share any of my posts with friends. I’m going back to revisions of my novel The Space Between Time now. Until next week …

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2016

My Father part 4 – Leading by Example

Dad's Birthday

Dad’s Birthday

“A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.” ~ John C. Maxwell

“A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.” ~ Lao Tzu

“Example is leadership.” ~ Albert Schweitzer

“I suppose leadership at one time meant muscles; but today it means getting along with people.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi

This past weekend I had a Facebook conversation, if you can call it that, with one of my friends. His politics are conservative judging by his posts and there have been times when he’s posted photos and memes that are, in my opinion, hateful toward Muslims. Sometimes when I see those, I hide them, because the photo or sentiment promotes violence and hatred, and I don’t want them on my feed. I have not unfriended him, because one thing I learned from my father is that the only way to change someone’s mind is to try to understand them and then lead by example.

Now, this person and I only have contact on Facebook. However, I believe social media can be a powerful tool. With it you can spread any message you choose. I choose to try to spread compassion, understanding, kindness and love. I’m not perfect and sometimes I post questions that are nagging at me about our current national dialogue on so many issues. And sometimes I post memes that express something that I hope people will think about.

Thursday, I found this meme on my newsfeed, which I reposted: “There are well over a billion Muslims on this planet. If Islam was really about violence you’d all be dead by now. Stop letting your TV and Newspaper tell you who to hate.” Most of my friends liked the post, however, it set off a firestorm of nasty comments from the above mentioned Facebook friend. I admit it is rather confrontational and unlike me to repost such a thing, but sometimes we do need to state clearly our point of view which this meme did for me.

However, as I was reminded by the debate I set in motion, you can’t change anyone’s mind once they’ve become entrenched in that point of view. My dad used to say that and he was right as I relearned last week. Fortunately for me, this man did not unfriend me. I stopped trying to convince him of my point of view and he did the same. Maybe if I continue to post my viewpoint about treating others with compassion and empathy, eventually he and I will change our feelings toward each other.

I know it seems like there is so much hatred in the world but if you look you can find messages of hope. Saturday I reposted this meme from “Parliament of the World’s Religions,” after the attacks on Brussels. It reads: “If you are not Muslim, say to someone who is: ‘I’m glad you’re here.’ If you do not know a Muslim, meet a Muslim, then say to them: ‘I’m glad you’re here.’” Whoever created this meme is trying to get us to think in new more loving ways instead of continuing to perpetuate retaliation which only exacerbates a situation. Insert any word that describes a group different that you into the meme and be kind not confrontational with them. That’s easier said than done for me when it comes to politics especially since the extreme conservatives have entrenched themselves and are, figuratively speaking, arming themselves for political battle. It’s been like this for almost eight years and the situation seems hopeless. Yet, we can change the situation by taking a new tack. I’ve read two articles recently that give me hope that the tide is changing away from attack to empathy.

The first is from Popular Resistance titled: “History Teaches That We have the Power to Transform the Nation, Here’s How.” The authors, Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers published this on June 12, 2013, but it seems even more relevant today and points out all the times in history when regular everyday people banded together to effect huge changes in their societies. Most of their examples are based on non-violent movements, but our country was formed by people banding together and saying, “We want to govern ourselves.” It seems we’re having to do that again. I hope we accomplish it using empathy this time.

Another article I read recently on the same theme of non-violent change, was a much more personal piece published on March 18, 2016 by George Lakey on the Waging Nonviolence website It’s about his experience protesting outside a Trump rally. The title of the article is “How empathy, not protest, can defeat Trump and right-wing extremism.” In the article he asks these questions: where does the violence of the Ku Klux Klan, and by extension other hate groups, come from? And where is empathy honored in our culture? He believes empathy is the vital tool to bridging the gap in the wide divide between political groups. I think he makes some important points in his article. Each side has been attacking the other. That hasn’t worked to solve our problems. Maybe using empathy will.

These are just two examples of people who are advocating that instead of continuing to confront our “enemies”, we should lead by example and use compassion and understanding to create a bridge. I’m all for that and will continue to plant seeds and show compassion and use empathy wherever I can. My first act of compassion is to keep as friends people who don’t agree with me and show as much empathy toward them as I can. Remember, “Water is fluid, soft, and yielding. But water will wear away rock, which is rigid and cannot yield. As a rule, whatever is fluid, soft and yielding will overcome whatever is rigid and hard. This is another paradox: what is soft is strong.” ~ Lao Tzu. My father was soft when dealing with people. I want to be that too.

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

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2016

Snippet #3 The Space Between Time

Cochise Campus Flower

Cochise Campus Flower

This is the third installment of segments from my upcoming novel, The Space Between Time.

Set Up: Jenna has moved back to her hometown to recover and regroup. In this segment, from Chapter 7, She’s unexpectedly confronted by her ex-fiancé.

“She hadn’t been out of the house much since the funeral. No doubt on this little trip she’d run into old friends, and renew acquaintances. It was still difficult receiving condolences, but being cooped up in the house all the time wasn’t good. She grabbed her purse and keys, opened the door and ran into Sam.

“Hi Babe.”

Jenna’s stomach clenched, “Sam. What in the hell are you doing here?”

Leaning on the door jamb so she couldn’t get out of the house, he said. “You hung up on me, Babe. I needed a chance to explain,” Jenna wasn’t fooled by the look of mock contrition on his face.

“About what? That you were cheating on me? And don’t call me Babe.” She pushed him out of the way. Then shut and locked the door. She brushed past him starting for her car wishing this encounter would soon end. But Sam’s car was parked behind hers. She’d have to deal with him.

Knowing he’d trapped her, he smirked. “I always call you Babe.”

Jenna turned, walked back to him and put her face close to his. “I’ve told you time and again I don’t like it when you call me that.”

Surprisingly he took a step back. “I don’t remember that.”

“Of course not, because you never listen,” Jenna said through clenched teeth.

“Now, Babe,” The look on Jenna’s face made him amend his approach. “I mean Jenna, aren’t you gonna let me talk to you?”

Oh, if only he’d go away. Keeping her eyes on his face and putting her hands on her hips, she said, “What for? You said it yourself. Neither one of us was happy, so it’s over.”

Pulling himself taller to pretend confidence, he said, “I know I said that, but, I’ve been thinking. I might’ve been wrong.” He had that I’m-innocent-of-whatever-you-think-I’ve-done look on his face she’d learned to hate long before the break-up.

She looked at him, trying to formulate the response that would make him leave. The moments slowed. For the first time she noticed muddy waves emanating from and surrounding his body. Her instinct was to back away from the unwanted onslaught of his murky energy, but before she could do so, it touched her own energy field. She nearly fell over as dark feelings of self-doubt swept over her. The image of a wounded wolf flashed through her mind. Somehow she knew exactly what had happened that brought him to her doorstep. “Ah, what happened, Sam? Did she leave you? I know you hate to be alone.”

The dark energy was sucked into Sam’s body and he stuttered “I – I don’t k-know what you’re talking about. There’s never been anybody but you.”

“Oh? But, you know I heard her in the background when we talked on the phone!” She faced him square on, “Now, please get in your car and go back to L.A.”

Suddenly Sam took Jenna by the arm, and clamped down hard, “It was a one night stand thing. I was hurt that we broke up.” Dark gray and brown energy shot out at her again. This time she thought to shield herself and her own aura in red, orange, and yellow shot out to block what was coming from him.

Gasping from the pain, she tried to get her arm free. “You were hurt? Oh, yeah, I see that now. You’ve been wounded from the very beginning, but I was too dazzled by the bling to notice. Now let me go!” They struggled. Sam grabbed for Jenna’s other arm. She tried to back away, and slid on a mossy patch on the sidewalk forcing her to sit on a porch step.

Just then an unmarked police car drove up. Sam’s back was to it as Detective Spade got out of the car, putting his hand on his gun.

Walking toward the struggling pair, Detective Spade said, “Let go of her, Sir!”

Sam turned around, still holding onto Jenna’s arm. “Who are you to interfere in a private matter? She’s my fiancée,” Sam said as Jenna continued to struggle to get her arm free.

Advancing on Sam with his hand still on his gun, Detective Spade said, “That’s not what I heard, Sir. Now back away from her.”

Sam puffed up like a rooster in the ring, but he let go of her arm. Jenna moved away. Sam turned toward Detective Spade saying, “What you gonna do, shoot me?” Jenna heard the fear underneath the bluster for the first time. With a snarl, Sam said, “We’re having a private conversation. That’s all.”

Detective Spade had stopped a few feet from Sam. “It didn’t look that way to me, Sir. Is that true Miss Holden?”

“Miss Holden? So, you’ve met before. Who is this? Your new boyfriend? You didn’t waste any time,” Sam said with a sneer.

Detective Spade was surrounded by a clear yellow and green aura. He was relaxed, though cautious. Jenna knew she could trust him, but Sam was getting angry. She saw the wounded wolf image surrounded by dark gray and muddy brown fog emanating from him again, and knew if she didn’t do something he’d become dangerous. She saw that Detective Spade knew it too.

She took a few steps closer to him. “Sam, are you drunk or something? He’s a police officer, and he’s got a gun. Do you want to get arrested? What’ll that do to your precious career?” Sam’s countenance changed, and the swirls of muddy energy retreated close to his body.

Now that she looked more closely at him, Sam did look a little unsteady on his feet. She hadn’t smelled alcohol on him, though, so it must be drugs.

Taking a deep breath, Sam said. “I’ve been on the road for twenty hours with not much sleep before that. I guess I’m crashing from the wake-up pills,” he said as he sat abruptly onto a porch step.

Taking his hand away from his gun, Detective Spade gently took a hold of Jenna’s arm and moved her behind him. “I’ll need to see those pills, Sir. Are they in your car?”

“Yeah, go ahead. You won’t find any drugs. They’re the over the counter kind,” Sam said as he ran his hands through his hair, then deflated like a balloon and rested his head on his arms.

“Sir, is the car unlocked?”

“Yeah,” came the muffled reply.

Detective Spade looked over at Jenna and indicated with the jerk of his head to follow him as he went to Sam’s car. He kept his eyes on Sam. She opened the driver’s door and moved back so Detective Spade could investigate. He’d put on latex gloves, pulled the trunk release, then examined the open briefcase that sat on the passenger seat. The pills were in the briefcase. After searching the car and trunk, he approached Sam. “You’re telling the truth, at least. Did you read the instructions, you’ve got to be careful not to take too many of these things. How many did you take?”

Not lifting his head, Sam said, “I don’t know, one or two whenever I got tired.”

“Just as a precaution, I’m going to take you to emergency to get you checked out.” Detective Spade took Sam by the arm and led him to the police car. Miraculously, Sam didn’t object. Putting Sam in the front seat, he turned to Jenna. “Is it okay if we leave his car here?”

“Sure, I’ll move it. I was on my way out. Does he have his wallet?”

“I got the wallet out of his briefcase. The keys are in the ignition. Do you want me to make sure he doesn’t bother you when he comes back for his car?”

The adrenaline was beginning to wear off and Jenna was feeling shaky. She tried to lighten the atmosphere by saying, “Feeling protective, Detective?”

“It’s my job, Ma’am,” His handsome face lit up in a big smile.

Smiling back, Jenna said, “I’m much obliged to you, Sir, but I think I’ll be fine.” Then breaking the spell of their moment, she said, “Say, why did you come?”

Sounding disappointed, he said, “Oh, I came by to tell you you can pick up the things we found in your mother’s car. Just come by the station anytime and sign for them.”

“Oh, I thought maybe one of the neighbors called the police.”

“No. I was in the neighborhood, and thought I’d stop by.”

The look on his face made Jenna think there was more to it than just a friendly call, but she let it go. “I see.”

Looking at his rugged face, a tingling sensation started at the top of her head and moved down. Ripples of clear lavender, yellow and green energy swirled around him. She felt safe. Even so there was an awkward moment as if they each had something they wanted to say. Sam broke the spell by yelling something incoherent. She looked over at him. Detective Spade turned toward the car with reluctance. Jenna said. “I know he’s a jerk, but thanks for taking him to the doctor. You don’t have to stay with him do you?”

“No, he hasn’t committed a crime … yet.”

Jenna laughed. “No, he’s not the type. He’s insecure, but also very ambitious. I don’t think he’d do anything to harm his precious career.”

Detective Spade looked back at Sam leaning his head back against the head rest. “He doesn’t look too tough right now.”

Laughing, Jenna said, “No, he doesn’t. Will tomorrow be okay to stop by the station? I’ve got an appointment with Jim Marshall at the paper. I could come by after that.”

Smiling, Detective Spade said, “That’d be fine. I should be there most of the day.”

“Great. I’ll see you then. And thanks for the rescue, Detective.”

“My pleasure, Ma’am.” Detective Spade tipped his nonexistent hat and got into his car and waved as he drove off with a wilted looking Sam in the front seat.

She moved Sam’’s car then left on her errand.”

There is a scene between these two segments, but for the purposes of this post I cut it.

“When Jenna got back to the house, Sam was leaning on his car. Jenna still had the keys. Her heart sank. This wasn’t over. As she got out of the car, Sam came up the drive. “What’d you do, break bail?” Jenna asked.

“You’re boyfriend got me checked out right away. There wasn’t anyone in the waiting room. All I need is some sleep. Can I crash here?” Sam put that, aren’t I irresistible, look on his face that Jenna hated so much.

“Nope. There are some nice hotels downtown, or you can find a motel out by I-5.”

He frowned. That look usually melted women. “So, I’m not yet forgiven.”

Jenna rounded on Sam and poked him in the chest as she backed him toward his car. “Not even close. But even if you were, I still wouldn’t let you stay here. You cheated on me! I’ve been doing a lot of thinking over the past couple of weeks. I let you walk all over me because I thought we loved each other, and that’s what I was supposed to do. Now I see things differently. I deserve better, someone who knows who he is and loves me just because I’m me.”

Jenna was surprised that Sam was letting her poke him without fighting back. Maybe meeting Detective Spade made him cautious. He looked around to see if any of the neighbors were watching. Jenna jabbed him three times as she said, “That’s not you. Now, get out of here.” Sam started to interrupt, but Jenna cut him off. “No! It’s over! Now I’ve got work to do, so you can just take your keys,” she put them into his hand with a slap.  “Get yourself back to L.A, and may you be happy there.”

Sam just looked at Jenna for a second, then twirling the keys, his expression changed back to his usual expression of self-absorption. “You’re a bitch! You’re blaming me for everything. I don’t know what I ever saw in you. You’re pathetic. I hope you’re happy with your sad little life and your cop boyfriend. I’m off to bigger and better things. You’d only drag me down, BABE!” He got into his car and screeched off, leaving the smell of a burned up relationship, cremated into vapor.”

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

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2015

Judgment and Forgiveness

April Morning Rose

April Morning Rose

“The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi

“Forgiveness is not always easy. At times, it feels more painful than the wound we suffered, to forgive the one that inflicted it. And yet, there is no peace without forgiveness.” ~ Marianne Williamson

“The deepest fear we have, ‘the fear beneath all fears,’ is the fear of not measuring up, the fear of judgment. It’s this fear that creates the stress and depression of everyday life.” ~ Tullian Tchividjian

“If there’s any message to my work, it is ultimately that it’s OK to be different, that it’s good to be different, that we should question ourselves before we pass judgment on someone who looks different, behaves different, talks different, is a different color.” ~ Johnny Depp

If you’ve been reading this blog this year, you may remember that I’ve been studying A Course in Miracles. Last week I was studying a chapter on judgment and how when we judge another, we’re judging ourselves because every person on this planet is part of God. We’re connected and we’re one.

Interestingly enough, just as I was studying this concept two things happened that gave me a new perspective on just how damaging judgment can be.

Saturday my husband and I turned on the TV and the movie, Judgment at Nuremberg was on. It’s about the last of the Nuremberg trials of high ranking Nazi officials of all kinds after WW II. In this case it’s about the trial of several judges who were part of the Nazi war machine. They had followed orders to condemn anyone, even if they were innocent of committing any crimes, who was not considered by the party to be a desirable citizen. So those who were Jews, Gypsies, Liberals, the mentally impaired or anyone else not pure enough to be a German citizen were condemned to sterilization or death. I have always loved this movie partly because of the extraordinary performances, but also because of the message: That we are all capable of terrible deeds and that when those deeds come to light we must stand up for what’s right.

However, when I saw the last few scenes this time, I had a shift in perception. It’s ironic that the Tribunal judges in this movie were all from the United States, a country that had dropped two atomic bombs on Japan to end the war. No one in the international community put us on trial for that. Lots of innocent people were killed when those bombs were dropped. But no one questioned our “right” to commit that horrendous deed.

In the very last scene of the movie, Ernst Janning, played by Burt Lancaster, is an internationally renowned judge and a defendant in the trial asks to see lead Judge Dan Haywood, played by Spencer Tracy. I’ve always found their exchange to be a most devastating moment.

Ernst Janning: Judge Haywood … the reason I asked you to come: those people, those millions of people … I never knew it would come to that. You must believe it, you must believe it!

Judge Dan Haywood: Herr Janning, it came to that the first time you sentenced a man to death you knew to be innocent.(Haywood and Janning look each other in the eye for several seconds then Haywood walks out leaving Janning with a devastated look on his face framed by the jail cell door.)

When I saw that scene this time I asked myself, “What would have happened if Judge Haywood had forgiven Ernst Janning? What would have happened if everyone on both sides of the war forgave each other for all the death and destruction the conflict caused? What would happen if we forgave the annoying neighbor, or the nasty teller at the bank, or our loved ones when arguments arise? What would happen to the world if forgivingness was the rule instead of judgement?

The next day after the movie Judgment at Nuremberg got me thinking, Barry and I were talking about an ongoing problem he has with his weekly chats via computer with his parents. I started to make a long drawn out correlation to the microwave dish used to connect us to the internet and our satellite dish. My point was that they may both be out of alignment. But instead of just saying that, I started to tell the whole story of how I came to that conclusion, which irritates Barry. When I do that, he interrupts with questions, that sometimes have nothing to do with where I’m going with the story to make my point. When he did that this time, I got really angry with him for not listening, for not waiting to find out what I was going to say. It’s a situation that we have faced often in our thirty-five years of marriage and it never seems to get better. We never change our modus operandi. Of course all communication between us stopped for a while. During that quiet time, I began to make a correlation between the movie situation, and my own personal situation. What would happen if I apologized for yelling at Barry and said he didn’t deserve that? What if I forgave him for what I think are his offenses against me instead of demanding that he conform to some ideal I have in my head? What if I just modify my way of communicating? And, what would happen if everyone did that on all kinds of levels?

I have to say, I’m so tempted to justify my position just like Judge Haywood did in the movie. I’m tempted to take the moral high ground and point out that I sit and listen until the end when Barry is telling me a story and then I ask my questions. I’m tempted to feel offended that he thinks I’m illogical, or not very smart, or that he doesn’t value what I have to say. But I would be wrong on all those counts. We just have different ways of communicating and of processing information.

To attack another person is to attack yourself. That’s another lesson from A Course in Miracles. So attacking Barry, or anyone else doesn’t bring peace to me personally, or to the world. It only causes more conflict. I very much want to bring peace to my home and to the greater world rather than conflict. The question I ask myself is, do I have the courage to give up having to be right? I’m working on that one.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment and connect with me on any of my social networks listed below.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2015

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What’s in a Word?

December Sunrise

December Sunrise

“The mind that opens up to a new idea never returns to its original size.” – Albert Einstein

“We don’t have to agree on anything to be kind to one another.” – Janis Ian

“If man understood that ‘what I create has nothing to do with what anybody else is creating’ then he wouldn’t be so afraid of what others are doing.” – Abraham

“People who are given whatever they want soon develop a sense of entitlement and rapidly lose their sense of proportion.” – Sarah Churchwell

I have a double major BA, Religious Studies and Theatre and Speech, and I have a MA in Theater Arts. I don’t write that to brag. I write it to let you know that I have lots of experience with the use of words and how they can be used to bend a group of people to a certain point of view.

Words are symbols for ideas. Duh, you might say, but there are two different meanings ascribed to the words we use. There is the denotative, or dictionary meaning and there is the connotative meaning, or the meaning we attach to a word. Some words set off deep emotions within us. And sometimes those emotions are used to bend us to a certain point of view. The people who are doing the bending, don’t always have our best interests at heart. In fact, most of the time they don’t.

Let me give you some examples of words that have been given a new connotative meaning through propaganda. Patriot, liberal, conservative, and entitlement. Those are words we twist in propaganda messages to attack those we don’t like or want to keep in a weakened position. I guess, in that case, we should include in the list, propaganda and persuasion. They are both very powerful ways to sway people to your way of thinking, but they use very different tactics. Look up the words patriot, liberal, conservative, and entitlement for yourself. What does the dictionary say they mean? And do they mean what you think they mean?

I would like to comment on the difference between persuasion and propaganda. When I taught English, we studied the difference between propaganda and persuasion. I wanted my students to begin to think critically about the messages they get through the media.

Persuade: 2. to induce to believe by appealing to reason or understanding; convince.

Propaganda: 1. information, ideas, or rumors deliberately spread widely to help or harm a person, group, movement, institution, nation, etc. 2. the deliberate spreading of such information, rumors, etc.

The difference between persuasion and propaganda is clear in the dictionary meanings. But it seems to me that most people don’t do the critical thinking necessary to determine whether what is said in the media, by politicians, the clergy, the business person, banker, or clerk at the grocery store is in fact using persuasion or propaganda.

And that brings me to the current unrest in the world. Accusations are hurled like swarms of bees, but is the buzz the words make true or is it manufactured? Have you bothered to investigate what’s being said? We’re at a critical time in human history where we can destroy ourselves or we can change the world for the better. Which do you hope for? If you want the world to be a peaceful, loving place in which to live, then you need to start to examine the ideas expressed in the books and articles you read, the news you listen to, and even the things your friends say. Our country was founded on debate, but it doesn’t help if you only listen to the words that make you feel comfortable, or that support the way you’ve been indoctrinated to think.

One of my favorite movies is The American President, written by Aaron Sorkin. In that movie two characters, the president, and one of his aides are arguing about whether or not the president should make counter comments to the attacks by the man who is his primary challenger for president in the next election. President Shepard says, “Lewis, we’ve had presidents who were beloved, who couldn’t find a coherent sentence with two hands and a flashlight. People don’t drink the sand because they’re thirsty. The drink the sand because they don’t know the difference.”

I urge you not to be one of the ones who doesn’t know the difference between the sand and the water. I hope you’re someone who questions everything you read and hear that have to do with the myriad of important issues we face. Examine not only the meaning behind the words people use, but their intent in using them. We can’t afford to be lazy and let things happen to us. We need to be challenging the way we think so we can create a new way of being in the world with our new thoughts.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2015

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Truth and Perception

Julia working at the wheel.

Julia working at the wheel.

“The problem is not the problem; the problem is your attitude about the problem.” –Captain Jack Sparrow

“Expecting the world to treat you fairly because you are a good person is like expecting a bull not to attack you because you are a vegetarian.” –Dennis Wholey

“Becoming yourself is really hard and confusing, and it’s a process. I was completely the eager beaver in school. I was the girl in the front of the class who was the first person to put her hand up and it’s often not cool to be the person that puts themselves out there, and I’ve often gotten teased mercilessly, but I found that ultimately if you truly pour your heart into what you believe in – even if it makes you vulnerable – amazing things can and will happen.” -Emma Watson

“Just like there’s always time for pain, there’s always time for healing.” –Jennifer Brown

Life is difficult and messy. It’s a mystery and most of the time we bump up against other humans with our set of values and what we think of as the truth and there’s friction. When that happens there are often hurt feelings.

My post last week was about something that had happened the week before within my family. I was trying to figure it all out. In the process I made the older of my sisters angry. She felt ambushed by what I wrote. I hadn’t cleared it with her. I regret that I ambushed her. That’s happened to me several times in my life and it doesn’t feel good. However, the exchange between us over the “facts” and the “truth” of the incident in question has made me do some deep thinking about what is truth and fact. I’ve also been thinking about whether or not I should apologize for speaking my truth.

I’ll write first about truth. There is one thing I know for sure about truth, there are as many versions of it as there are human beings living on this planet. And as most of us know, facts can be manipulated. So I ask, is there an ultimate truth? The way human beings determine what is truth, is by their perception of how the world works. We can’t help seeing the world in our own unique way. The factors that determine our perceptions are DNA, place of birth, order of birth in the family, gender, and on and on. So, no matter what I say, or how well I think I’ve described something, there will be people who just won’t get what I’m trying to express. This is what happened with my sister. An event happened in my family. I see it one way, my sister sees it another. Who’s right? Is there even a right or a wrong? Should I apologize for seeing a different truth than my sister? At one time I would have said yes. I would have apologized just to smooth things over so there would be peace in the family. I’m not so quick to do that now and here are the reasons why.

I have a right to my opinion about what happened. Something tells me to keep silent for a while and give everyone involved time to consider and sort out their individual feelings. This may sound bad, and you might not understand it. However, I’ve learned the most about myself from the times when I’ve been broken open by being hurt. Things were said, and misunderstandings happened in my family. Instead of whining, complaining, I immediately started asking, “What is this trying to show me?” I want to give my siblings a chance to ask the same question. I want to give us all time to calm down and get the lesson. If I take time to calm myself, I have an opportunity to understand my siblings better. I want to accept them as they are and not try to change them, because I believe we each have what Caroline Myss calls a Sacred Contract. Every single person has a purpose for being here, and it’s not my place to judge what that purpose might be. That goes for my siblings as well.

I must admit I did judge my brother and sister at first. But, I’m starting to get over that now, though I’m still not to forgiveness yet. I just keep remembering what my Dad used to say, “Once a person’s mind is made up, you can’t change it.” I may not be able to change my brother and sister’s minds. I have to be okay with that. Eventually I will be able to love and accept them as they are.

Another thing I’ve learned over the years is that being vulnerable is one of the best ways to connect with others. When someone shares their story with me, I don’t feel so alone. For most of my life, I was an observer. I didn’t share my deepest thoughts and feelings, because I was afraid of making mistakes. I didn’t want to stir the waters. I didn’t want people to be angry with me. But as I’ve gotten older, I realize, everyone makes mistakes. There is no getting away from that. I can either accept myself as I am, mistakes and all, or I can crawl into a cocoon and not have any impact on changing the world at all. When faced with the prospect of not having any effect, I can’t go down that road. Something drives me to help make the world a better place in which to live, which means over these last seven years of being a writer, I’ve come out of my shell. I’ve written about my mistakes, and things that confuse me. I’ve ranted about situations around the world that make me angry. I’ve mused about my writing process. I may have made people angry like I did my sister and all I can say is, anytime we move out of our comfort zone it’s a good thing.

Today is the last day of 2014. I don’t make New Year’s Resolutions, because I attempt to live in the moment, and who knows what lessons the next moment will bring? I’ll continue to make mistakes, which I embrace. It shows that I’m moving forward, that I’m trying to become a better person. I don’t want to go back to being that quiet observer afraid to say or do anything just in case I might cause a reaction. Growth comes from shaking up the status quo, throwing out what no longer works, and building something new out of what’s left.

So here’s to a great New Year for all of you, my readers. I hope 2015 is full of successes and mistakes and falling down and getting up for all of us. Here’s hoping your dreams come true.

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Rejoice for the Truth

Earth from the Moon

Earth from the Moon

“We can forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.” –Plato

“When negative feelings move upon you, reflect, and recognize the danger of feeding those feelings and keeping them alive.” –Bryant McGill

“Owning your own feelings, rather than blaming them on someone else, is the mark of a person who has moved from contracted to expanded awareness.” –Deepak Chopra

“Love is what we were born with. Fear is what we learn here.” –Marianne Williamson

In recent days I’ve been sick to my stomach about current events like, the decisions of the two Grand Juries made regarding the deaths of two black men, and the reports of torture that our government carried out in the years after 9/11. In fact, almost everyday there is some news story that makes my skin crawl. Maybe you feel the same way. It’s so easy to get discouraged about all the bad news. Yet, I have to rejoice. The truth is coming out!

In a way it’s like we’re doing an intervention for ourselves. A large number of people in this country are waking up to the fact that we had slid down that slippery slope toward evil with justifications that this police officer, or that official was only trying to protect the public, or the national interest. A growing number of everyday citizens aren’t buying that old excuse. They’re saying, “This isn’t right!” Other governments, regimes and groups down the ages have tried to cover up their misdeeds, all in the name of protecting the populace, or their business. We’re in a new era now, and those old shenanigans won’t work anymore.

A few days ago I finished reading I am Malala, our latest book club group selection. In my opinion it is a must read for everyone in the Western world. Most of us, and I mean mostly white people, have no idea what it’s like to live in fear for our lives every single moment, to have our freedoms restricted, and to witness terrible atrocities day after day. In the book Malala describes in compelling detail how the Taliban used insidious tactics to gain a foothold and then spread terror. While I was reading, it was almost as if I were living in her village, feeling the fear that my school would be bombed, or my friends and family killed. I dreaded reading the parts when she described walking to school and seeing the bodies of those the Taliban killed during the night piled among the rubble of bombed out buildings. We in this country haven’t had to face that amount of devastation, unless we’ve fought in a war.

While I was reading the book, it occurred to me that people who fear will go to the greatest of lengths to make themselves feel safe. And when they are steeped in the largest amount of fear, like the Taliban, or the ultra-conservatives in this country, there is no reasoning with them. Their minds and hearts are closed. They think that obstructing anything they see as threatening is going to make them feel better. Mistakenly, they think their fear comes at them from the outside so they try to make the fear go away by controlling events and people within their influence. So anyone who’s stuck in fear will do all they can to make themselves feel better. This is not a conscious decision you understand. It’s part of the fight-or-flight response.

We say that it’s human nature to react this way. But studies are showing that we can change that nature. We can change our feelings, and our ingrained patterns of thinking. People like Bruce Lipton, Nick Ortner, and organizations like the Heart Math Institute, have written about how we can turn away from fear toward love. It takes commitment and willingness to look into the dark places we’ve been avoiding. That’s why I’m grateful that the truth is coming out about the actions of corporation and our government. More and more people are willing to examine the situations that devalue human beings, and to speak up and call for accountability.

When we act out of fear, we’re not acting out of strength. Violence, external power, and the misuse of money show weakness. So how do we change the minds of those who are so gripped by fear? Their minds and ears are closed and their hearts are hardened. How do change that? We pray for them and send them love. The Dalai Lama says it better than I can. “Being concerned about other people is especially relevant in today’s world. If we consider the complex inter-connectedness of our modern lives, how we depend on others and others depend on us, our outlook will change. We’ll begin to see ‘others’ not as somehow distant from us, but as people we are in touch with, people close to us; we will no longer feel indifferent to them.” In other words, we are them, and they are us.

Today, as I write this, The Master Shift World Peace Meditation, narrated by Julian Lennon, is being launched. I hope they keep it on YouTube long enough for you to go experience this beautiful meditation. It can be the beginning of letting go of fear and realizing that we’re all connected. We can be instruments of a powerful shift from greed, hatred and terror, to peace. That’s part of my mission. To spread peace and love. Working to accept myself and find inner peace has been one of the most profound and exciting journeys of my life. Will you join me?

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2014

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