Finally you would dream…

 

“The Dream of Life
Let’s suppose that you were able every night to dream any dream you wanted to dream, and you would naturally as you began on this adventure of dreams, you would fulfill all your wishes.
You would have every kind of pleasure, you see, and after several nights you would say, “Well that was pretty great.” But now let’s have a surprise, lets have a dream which isn’t under control. “Well something is going to happen to me that I don’t know what it’s gonna be.”
Then you would get more and more adventurous, and you would make further and further out gambles as to what you would dream, and finally you would dream where you are now.
If you awaken from this illusion, and you understand that black implies white,
self implies other, life implies death. You can feel yourself, not as a stranger in the world, not as something here on probation, not as something that has arrived here by fluke, but you can begin to feel your own existence as absolutely fundamental.
What you are basically, deep, deep down, far, far in, is simply the fabric and structure of existence itself.”
– Alan Watts

Pull Together

So, it has only been a week since I posted anything, it’s felt like longer.

Today President Trump signed an executive order the gist of which is that the Dakota Access Pipeline is going through. My opinion, I continue to think that it would be smarter to re-route the pipeline. However, here is where it’s likely time to admit that I’m a writer who is armchair quarterbacking. So, if they’re going to do it, I hope they do it right, and not just because the clean-up from a major spill would be catastrophic, but because if something were to go wrong, no one is ever going to hear the end of it. My opinion that I’d feel better about it the pipeline wasn’t in danger of potentially polluting water sources, hasn’t changed. (It has since been stated that the pipeline will be made with the highest quality American Steel.)

Thinking about this brought me to another point. I’ve been disappointed, if not disgusted, by a lot of what I’ve seen with regard to American politics over the course of the last year.  There seems an endless supply, in general, of knee-jerk reactionism backed up by emoting without thinking, a ton of hypocrisy, ignorance, and an overall lack of logic. I’m not talking about people blowing off steam, or like I’ve never been upset and shown it. I’ve seen the world seemingly turned into a place ruled by the cult of personality and popularity. I’ve seen “American Guilt” and self-loathing reach epic proportions. I think that so-called hatred of wealth or of the wealthy is patently dishonest, that people don’t hate wealth nearly as much as they hate not being wealthy themselves. What’s that quote, “If you want to know what God thinks of money, just look at who he gives it too.” ~ Dorothy Parker. What if I told you that Meryl Streep’s net worth is estimated at around sixty-five million dollars? What if I told you that some estimates put her net worth as high as seventy-five million dollars? Do we hate the rich? Or just the wealthy people whom we don’t feel sympathize with the plight of the rest of us? I’ve seen a growing disconnect between city-folk and country folk, for want of a better way to put it. I’ve seen it become not cool or okay or acceptable to say the Pledge of Allegiance because so many object to the line “Under God” because what if you don’t believe in God, and bristling at any hint of what they might deem nationalism or patriotism, while the tax dollars of Catholic taxpayers and many others who don’t believe in abortion at all, as fundamental basis of their religion and very personal relationship with God, watch their tax dollars go to fund abortions, and how is that “fair” to them? Forgetting then, on every level, we’re all in this together, that America, is the ship we are all on.

I used to like to say The Pledge of Allegiance when I was in school. I felt good about it. I bought the “School House Rock” version of the “Great American Melting Pot” and as a little kid, I felt good as I looked around my diverse classrooms, thinking about what they were teaching us then, that we were all different, and that was awesome, because look what we could learn from one another, but that we were all the same, because, we were Americans. And that was something good, and strong, something to be proud of. I understood and was taught that there is a right way and a wrong way for new citizens to enter the United States legally, not as a matter of exclusion, but as a matter of keeping our country and its people safe. Immigrants used to have to funnel in through Ellis Island. Every country has laws about immigration, every one. I liked seeing that “Made in America” tag or imprint on things, that meant quality, that someone knew that they wanted to make it good, they wanted to build it to last.  And while that little “Melting Pot” movie presented a “nice” version of things, one that didn’t mention Native Americans being here first, or slavery, or, a lot of things that we learn about when we’re allegedly mature enough to handle it without acting like idiots about a past that we cannot change, that doesn’t mean that the sentiment and the idea behind the “Melting Pot” of us citizens all being Americans, wasn’t the exactly right one.

If we’re lucky, we get to grow up. I liked that idea of America, of diversity and respect, much better than the divisiveness that I’ve seen rise over the course of the last fifteen years or so, because really, I think it started in 2001. I think that is still a difficult thing to understand and accept, but I think that event on September 11 so long ago, is really when people in this country began to look at one another differently again, after so many years of forward progress.

In the last week or so, I’ve seen things that I don’t understand. I’ve seen people who, generally, advocated kindness, and love,and change, think that it’s acceptable or allowable to make fun of or mock and innocent ten-year old kid because of who his father is, because they don’t like his father. If your father is in prison for murder or rape, is that your fault? Hopefully it isn’t necessary to be too technical about that to make the point. I don’t understand that, I think that as a human being, that is not a decent thing to do. “But his father, but his dad, but Trump said….” NO.

I don’t understand how anyone can advocate Women’s Rights, say that “slut shaming” has to stop, talk about the rights of “sex workers” and how they choose to make a living, to make their own way in this world, or that women have a right to do with their bodies whatever they choose to, and then say one word about the past of our current First Lady, Melania Trump. If she chose to model or pose nude, or whatever, make up your mind about what a free, liberated woman, is allowed, and stow the hypocrisy. If you think that she’s not liberated because you don’t like her husband, if you think she’s dumb because you don’t like her husband? Well, she speaks five languages and runs her own business, owns her own business, has a personal net worth of eleven million dollars, that is, without him. I think that it’s a terrible thing when people need to try to make themselves feel better at the expense of another human being. “Free Melania?” I think she’s probably fine. Check your hypocrisy, please.

“When they go low, we go high.” ~ Michelle Obama, former First Lady. I don’t understand the “nasty woman” phenomenon. So, a man whom you don’t like, don’t respect, whose opinion many say has no value, voices his opinion that a woman is a “nasty woman.” Why on earth would anyone give that “nasty woman” remark even five more minutes, let alone adopt it as a means of self-identification, even as a sarcastic f-you….again, to a man whose opinion you’ve asserted to be meaningless? Do you think that Hillary Clinton wasn’t tough enough to defend herself? I wouldn’t want to tangle with Hillary. But, what did she do? She held her head up and went to the inauguration. I respect that. I don’t think for a moment that she misunderstood the fight she was getting into. Did people honor the example of, “When they go low, we go high.”? Some did and have and do. I’m not going to voluntarily change the way that I self-identify because of something that any man said.

I can tell you that I think a lot of that is that our society today is sick with “HEY, LOOK AT ME!” and that a lot of people jumped on that bandwagon to get out there and get a moment for themselves and if the fact that a lot of them were already actors and celebrities is lost on you, then I think you might be a little naive. There are people whom I don’t think quite as highly of as a result of what looked to me like an opportunistic, if not exploitative and inflammatory, at some moments, grab for attention for themselves. I also think there are just as many true believers.

We are all replete with our opinions.

Do I care if our president is popular, charismatic, good-looking, liked by Hollywood? Not one bit. In fact, I think that such criteria are a lot of what is wrong with this country. I think that there isn’t much question as to the fact the our new president has often been uncouth, graceless, crude. Do you want to be like that? But what makes people nervous about it is that he seems emotional and/or unkind. But is that his job either? Okay, well, our new President is also an incredibly successful businessman, one who understands taxes, and regulations, and trade agreements, and how to make money. Who is going to understand those things better than someone who has had to deal with such things constantly, in practical application, in order to conduct his own business and run his own businesses? Do you want to listen to a farmer tell you how to build a good levee, or a politician?  I think that the 2016 presidential campaign was one of the ugliest, dirtiest, political campaigns in modern history. Think about that, we know what we saw of it, there’s a lot we didn’t see. Do you think they were fighting each other with cotton candy and compliments? I’m sure that behind the scenes, it wasn’t any prettier all the way around. I think that people are generally naive and/or unthinking as to what it really takes to be a leader of a country, it isn’t a luncheon with crumpets and you know, how lovely that the world is so beautiful! It is one gigantic real life game of RISK. Like I said, I think this divisiveness within our own country began with September 11, 2001, as it shattered not only our peace, but also our peace of mind with one another and how we keep this country secure, I think that we’ve yet to be honest about that, that it remains the elephant in the living room of the American psyche. I hope we can return to a place of pulling together instead of apart. I think that there is quite a lot that the average American takes for granted in terms of how good life here really is, and because of it they forget that no matter how nice we are, the rest of the world may not be so advanced or forward thinking, or perhaps, there are those who would like take this chunk of a continent and make it their very own, because the strength of this land that we call America is, in part, that it is self-sustainable.

I think that people are afraid, just in general, I think that they’re afraid. I think that there’s something of a “the sky is falling” mentality, and I hope that we, as a country, are able to shake loose of it and get ourselves together before we bring it down on our own heads.

When I want to know about something, I look it up for myself. I check several sources, opposing sources, until I’m satisfied that I’ve gotten the gist of the thing, and then I form my own opinion.Something that I think is completely necessary in today’s world where opinion is too often presented as fact, and I’ve seen both “sides” do that. ( Remember when there was the feeling of their being one side, that yes, there are differences but at the end of the day, we’re all Americans, and that means something?) They used to teach critical thinking in schools, how to gather and disseminate information, and the difference between fact, or ascertainable facts, and opinion. I will always be an advocate of thinking for oneself.

I’m hoping for the best for the future of this country, my country, the United States of America. I’m not sure how I feel about commentary on any of these subjects at the moment though, or going forward, because while on one hand, I think there’s a lot of bullying all the way around and that regardless of your opinion on such issues, no “side” should be harassed into silence, that’s wrong, on the other hand, it’s pretty obvious that everyone is trying to get their voice above the din, and that no one is really listening. Personally, I think I would rather focus on my own work, my writing, and the good in my life, but, obviously, I understand sometimes there’s the want to say something. So, I advocate learning to use our voices with thought, with care, with as much objectivity as possible, with as much reason and logic as heart, and to know that the two serve to balance one another.

Pull together, not apart.

TS

Dakota Access Pipeline

Meryl Streep, Net Worth, and Here

Built to Last, Made in the U.S.A.

Ellis Island

Mexico’s Immigration Laws, for example

Barron Trump

Melania Trump

“When they go low, we go high.”

Ongoing Conflicts Around the World ( note where there is no conflict or current “fighting”)

If you read this, I hope that you’ll take the time to look these things up for yourself, or to look up any such things. I’m still learning and continuously educating myself.  ~ TS

Resilience. Carrie Fisher. The New Modern. How To Be Yourself.

So, I’m uploading/importing files to Kindle Direct and, apparently, that can take a minute, unless I start typing something else, I figure, and never mind that I need to vacuum and dust, and I thought, I’ll write that post now.

Last night I watched the HBO sort of documentary, it was more personal than that, “Bright Lights,” about Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher. It was an exceptionally well done, intimate, revealing, glimpse into the lives of these two enigmatic, iconic, stars. That sounds canned.

I grew up watching old movies, was a fan of the Golden Age of Hollywood. There was the glamour of it, of course, but I was drawn to the stories behind the stories, how the “movie stars” became movie stars. In those days, the Hollywood studio system controlled every aspect of the lives of the actors and actresses under contract to them. Everything was about the canned image, the keeping up of appearances. Love affairs and scandals were kept from public view, as much as possible, and nonetheless, became the stuff of legend. Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy, Lana Turner and Johnny Stompanato, Clark Gable and Carol Lombard, Ingrid Bergman and Roberto Rosellini, Elizabeth Taylor and, well, Eddie Fisher, the husband of Debbie Reynolds, for one, among others.

I read quite a few movie star biographies because so many of them were “rags to riches” stories, the kind of thing that got so many naive young ladies to get on a bus and head out to Hollywood back in the day, however, what it was that appealed to me about those stories was that there was always a strength of character presented, presented, as in, a lot of those stories are loaded with fabrications as well, because that’s what they did, they put the best face it on it all that they could. There’s something to be said for that, there’s a lot to be said for that sometimes. Debbie Reynolds was a product of that Old Hollywood system, and that made for some tough dames. The old school, “Never let ’em see you sweat, kid.” I’ve known women like that, women who said things to me, in my youth, like, “That’s when you really know you’ve got ’em by the balls!” But, only as an aside, you’d have never in a million years heard them utter such a thing in “public” or in polite company. Stoic. There’s great strength in that.

Debbie Reynolds personified this kind of stoic strength, putting the best face on it, right to the end. In this documentary, it is so there at the surface as she’s telling Carrie how they should be seen, how they should appear to be while they are in public, as they’re going to an awards show where she will be the recipient of the SAG Life Achievement Award, even though she’s barely well enough to be there. It’s apparent after her final show appearance on stage, as she’s carting around a casino afterwards saying that you can’t let life get you down because life is hard and if you do, it’ll kill you, you’ve got to keep going. It’s there in her making light of her “bad” marriages right to the end, because it’s how she owned it and controlled it. I was reminded of why I read those old biographies, because those women had great big balls to go play in the rough and tumble world that is Hollywood, especially back in those days, they had moxie, they had independent spirit, they had intestinal fortitude, and they had backbone for days. The show must go on! I took strength from those examples, what they said to me was, Yes, life’s a total bitch sometimes. This is how you do it! And that was Debbie Reynolds, without ever saying the word “bitch,” that you know of.

Enter Carrie Fisher. The prodigal daughter of Old Hollywood, the opposite of her mother in so many ways. At the very beginning of the documentary, she’s taking a soufflé that she has made out of her own oven in her very lived in kitchen and she’s spewing the words, “Fucking criminy.” She chain drinks Coca-Cola’s like they’re going out of style, she smokes, splashes herself with glitter, has a player piano in her bathroom. The walls are green, purple, blue, red, whatever, and on them are such delights as a painting that she describes as “A very unhappy woman who looks like Kevin Spacey.” When she appeared in her first movie role in the film “Shampoo,” her mother didn’t want her to say the line, “Want to f____k?” wanting her to use the word “screw” instead. Warren Beatty went to the house to talk to Carrie Fisher’s mother about that, the f-bomb stayed. Carrie Fisher, the daughter who had to find the strength to say, “I can’t do it your way. I can’t do it the old way.” And in that, showing everyone a different kind of strength, a different kind of resilience and backbone.

It was an incredibly moving portrait to be able to understand the depth of meaning that was on display in this representation of a true changing of the guard, the transitioning from not only one generation to the next, but from one era to the next. It occurred to me that I was raised with so many of those old ways because they weren’t just the ways of Old Hollywood, they were the ways of the world, the old social mores, not just about the way that a woman or a lady should behave, but about the way that people in general should behave, like not sitting down at a table, to eat, without taking your hat off. It wasn’t a matter of being phony or fake, keeping up something of a facade for “the sake of appearances,” though some certainly used that to be fake and to hide horrible things, it was that the world was a different place, people understood things in terms of there being no point in wallowing in it or focusing on the ugly because yes, life was hard, but it went on, and best to get on with it. They also understood the great buffer that manners and a mannerly society can often provide, for everyone. BUT, I was always of a mind of, I can’t do it your way.

I understand Debbie Reynolds stoicism. I understand Carrie Fisher’s, “Fucking criminy.”I realized, that has been so much of my own struggle, and I’m sure that of many other women of my generation.

As I watched, I realized that there are a couple of generations now to whom those old ways are completely unknown, and to whom they must seem patently ridiculous, if not unfathomable, not only as ideology, but in practice. Actress Loretta Young, who was single at the time, had a child with actor Clark Gable, hid the pregnancy, gave the child up for adoption, so that she could adopt it back as her own, without the public ever knowing, in order to protect their careers as Gable was married to Maria Langham. Who now would ever think of such a thing? Or try it if they did?

I think of Carrie Fisher in “The Blues Brothers,” as the mystery woman with her arsenal, just blowing shit up.

This is how social structures are rebuilt, reformed, as though they were fashion, and in some ways, they are.

I was moved by the revelation of this relationship, enduring friendship, between mother and daughter. I thought it was wonderful to get to see inside the homes of two great stars who very obviously actually lived in their houses, that were essentially only a walkway from one another. The sterile super-mod glass, chrome, polished marbles of celebrity mansions so often presented to us these days are complete bores, totally lacking in creativity, by comparison. Debbie Reynolds went into debt collecting up old movie memorabilia in the hopes of building a museum to share and preserve it, though that never happened, her affection for, and care of, this time in movie history was completely admirable, filled with affection and sentimentality. Carrie Fisher’s home was filled with things that she loved seemingly without a moment’s thought for whether or not any of it “went together,” or what anyone might think of it, and it was amazing.

There was something so exceedingly normal here, at one moment they’re all standing around in formal wear in the driveway, Carrie, her daughter, actress Billie Lourd ( Scream Queens), Carrie’s brother Todd, his wife, actress Catherine Hickland, limousines waiting to take them all to an awards show, and they’re waiting on grandma, Debbie Reynolds. They could have all been heading to Bingo together for the fanfare involved, except that they weren’t. What struck me about it was that it was less staged, less fake, than any A-list star wafting by in their sunglasses, looking at the ground, that you’ll see anywhere today. Secure in themselves, so famous that it was normal, and they were over it. Carrie Fisher was completely over being famous, and that’s famous. But there’s a lesson in that for everyone, about how to be.

These two women, Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher, gave us two completely different examples of resilience, and strength, of backbone par excellence, they did it right. I think that Carrie Fisher personified, in so many ways, a new kind of modern which is, simply put, being and embracing oneself. Completely inspirational.

T.S.