Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Gray Swan...

NOTE: I cannot recommend anyone seeing this movie, ever.  It is highly disturbing and may actively offend you on many levels.  With that being said:
I saw this movie called "The Black Swan" while stuck playing on the road. It was late, there was a laud of icy snow coating the ground, hardly anyone was downtown or in the theater and my husband and young child were hundreds of miles away. I was quickly warped back to my college days when I would wait until my practice egg timer for the week had rung and treat myself to a solo movie.

My thoughts were so moved that it made me want to share them:
Song for this post:
1. This movie accurately represents the intensity of a really affective artistic process.
2. Nina, the main character, is incredibly unstable, undeveloped, ignorant, sheltered and entirely too identifiable.
3. The creative side of the mind is stubborn and powerful and should be honored with patience and reverence.
4. It took a hallucinating suicidal abuse victim to accurately represent the feeling I have when I am doing my job correctly.
There is a verse from the fifth chapter of Matthew in the Bible that says,
“Be ye perfect as I am perfect.”
The context of this verse speaks of loving others, befriending those who attempt to harm you, and there is a beautiful quote from verse 45 that says, “Making your sun to rise on both the evil and the good.” I think of this often, while playing and while living.

My musings after the movie went back to being 19 and seeing my teacher’s as heroes. Musicians that I heard were still undiscovered by me and as I listened to them, I sat in awe of the way their musical investments and sound artistry made my mind wander. I thought of the curiosity I felt when my body responded to their sound – how? why? is this a predictable reaction? are other people around me feeling this too?
I learned at those concerts: The spectrum of human emotions and experience as seen and heard in works of art is directly illuminated by the reflections of the people that are observing. (Make your sun rise on both the evil and the good.) Be it the artist or the audience, we must open ourselves up to the realities that we wish to understand and imitate, but be warned! This may come at great personal expense. In the movie, Nina didn’t have to become the black swan to dance the black swan, and she wasn’t really the white swan. She had just not yet discovered her gray. At the moment that we shared with her in this film, she was spoiled by entitlement and affirmation, imprisoned by the validation of others and she accidentally built her life around a singular, undefined goal, mostly because no one warned her not to. And the underbelly of that selfish ambition turned out to be something much more dangerous than success. Something none of her heroes wished for her:

No life at all.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The road less taken...

I know you are all familiar with this poem by Robert Frost.  I just read it again and it felt like it was for the first time.
TWO roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;        5
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,        10
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.        15
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Make a list of things that influence which path you choose to take in life.  Here is my list:

Priority Changes based on life experience, observations and the new perspectives those things bring.

Relationships in business and with old friends.

Marriage, Children and other family matters.

Mentor influence from people that I have a natural or developed respect for.

My passions and the things that I have a lot of experience doing.

Success and Confidence vs. Failure and Insecurities

Feelings of spiritual enlightenment or personal darkness. 

I feel like my life has already had so many twists and turns, but some things have stayed the same.  Instead of two paths that I am looking down, I feel like it is a lamp that shines around my feet and dims the further I gaze ahead. I can only see the path when I turn around it seems.  I like that Robert Frost could peer down one path and try to see what lay there, but the reality is that his first stride was a step of faith.  I certainly attempt to see the future implications of my decisions, but rarely can I see very far.  At some point all of my commitments will influence me and at some point I became ok with that.

This has not been an easily adopted philosophy...I always felt very upset by the oppressive chains of other's opinions until I started to think of them differently.  They are not chains, they are ropes. Ropes that support me as I climb this mountain called life.  I can rely on these ropes, I can rest on these ropes and I can move more confidently up my mountain knowing that there are knots holding things in place.  Forgive my inaccurate or shallow analogy - I am not a mountain climber by trade or hobby, but I hope you get the idea.  These are the things that I can count on.  I think of these ropes as unchanging commitments that occupy most of my time, I listed them in a general sense up above.  This is how my time is divided, these are the trees on the wooded path that I should expect my future plans to evolve and wind through.

Psalm 119:105 is a frequently quoted scripture that is rarely set in context.  It says:
"Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path."
The context is really, really important.  The 119th Psalm is an exercise for the Psalmist.  He writes 8 verses for each letter of the Hebrew alphabet and every verse starts with the letter that is being studied.  The Psalmist is forcing himself into extreme discipline and trying to discover creative worship by doing so.  He has made a great commitment in this challenge and by the time we get to verse 105, he is already entrenched in the experience of this discipline.  If it was me, I would be getting tired of the exercise and wishing that I had NOT decided to do it.

The previous letter, "Mem," sets up the first verse of "Nun" which is the letter for verse 105 (think L-M-N-O-P).  The Psalmist starts "Mem" with "Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long." - I have to wonder if he is saying this because it is giving him true joy or because he is trying to convince himself that his investment is valuable to him.  Both are extremely important things, but it is important to know the difference between the two.

He continues later, "How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!" in verse 103.  I think that he says this because he is consumed by words and their usages at this moment, it is good to deeply invest yourself into things because you see attributes that you cannot see from the surface.  When I am not looking for those hidden mysteries within the mundane, I become ignorant and sometimes critical about their very existence.  For example, when I play long tones, I sound better.  When I pull out my tuner and my metronome and play quarter note, quarter rest, quarter note, quarter rest, quarter note, quarter rest, etc. I create more depth, confidence and maturity in every aspect of my playing.  But yet, I have the most intense aversion to playing long tones.  I hate getting started.  I feel like someone has slapped those chains on me again. I have to repeat to myself, "Oh, how I LOVE long tones! I (WILL) do them all day long. (I WILL, I really, really Will).

Verse 104: I gain understanding from your precepts; therefore I hate every wrong path.
Verse 105: Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.

I know most people say "hating every wrong path" isn't very open minded! But the reality of walking in one direction is leaving another behind.  If I keep looking over my shoulder at what I am not choosing to do, I will never realize the beautiful surroundings of the path I am on.  This is the hardest to believe when I have to make BIG life changes, I keep reminding myself that the wonder in the world does not come from circumstance or even self validation in relationships or the work place.  The wonder comes from established commitments, more specifically, the wonder comes from investing and actively trying to be amazed.

"Your WORD is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path" (to study the word was the Psalmist's choice, to realize that it has guided him into enlightenment is just a really important observation)
vs. 106: "I have taken an oath and confirmed it, that I will follow your righteous laws.  (107) I have suffered much; preserve my life, O Lord, according to your word." Every time something works we are that much more likely to try it again in a similar situation in the future.  I would say verse 106 like this: "I was in a tight spot.  I thought of an idea and invested my heart, mind, time and soul into it.  I learned some really valuable things and because of that experience, I will follow the same thought process the next time I need a good idea." and verse 107, "sometimes I felt really frustrated by these decisions, please God don't let me be an idiot for believing in these investments. I trust you, you are my priority. Show me the goodness and wonder that is to be found in my life."

It is hard to prayerfully and mindfully choose to go in a direction that seems wrong to others.  The path less taken is a trail of deep self discovery, not out of joy, but out of necessity.  The road that is grassy and wanted wear may not be the most desirable, the easiest, it may not be the path with the most beauty or goodness on the surface, it may be full of frustration, discipline, compromise and struggle, but if I make each choice deliberately and consult my investors, I will make valuable and memorable discoveries along that way.

I too, say this with a sigh...I cannot take two paths. But today, I am on the road less traveled and it IS making all the difference.  I hope this brings you hope and encourages you to invest and observe.

Happy New Year.