"Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" ~ Mary Oliver

Tag: integrity

“Focus and CROP!” to get to one’s inner truth . . .

"focused and cropped" . . .

“focused and cropped” . . .

Yesterday at lunch, my granddaughter conveyed some advice she received from a mentor who used a photography metaphor that is apropos to life in general:

“Focus and crop!”

As a result, she decided to drop one major at school and focus on an internship that she applied for next summer.

I can really identify with that because it’s so easy to get distracted in life doing things that you don’t sincerely want to do but feel you should because “it would be nice.” I think people can tell when there’s a twinge of resentment or perhaps a lack of whole-heartedness in putting forth social niceties. So why keep doing that?

What also seems to be coming more in focus for me is that it’s not what others do or don’t do; or how they do it that’s truly meaningful. It’s how I feel towards them that’s more important for me to get a firm handle on. Otherwise, one can be flung back and forth in a morass of flotsam and jetsam depending upon what other people do – reacting rather than being still and grounded in oneself.

It seems to me that being honest with oneself is truly what matters in order to “focus and crop.” A lot of people can’t do it: be honest, that is. To me, it’s NOT someone else’s behavior and whether they might change or not that is the precursor to making important decisions in my life. Rather, it’s the quality of the emotional connection you have inside yourself towards that person that one needs to measure and ground oneself to, whatever that might be. Cropping out all the concomitant noise that can contain envy, competition, judgment or even a habit of self-punishment can make the picture much more clear – even if it’s not what we’d necessarily prefer to see in our heart of hearts.

So I guess focus and cropping are two different things. Focusing on what’s truly within (including the good, the bad and the ugly) is one thing. Cropping out all the other crap (pardon my French!) makes the picture more legible in a second step of the process.

Sometimes, we may feel initially that the emotional connections we have with people are not strong enough or have been so worn down by time and circumstance that there’s just not much there any longer. Only we ourselves know whether there is a deep reservoir or only a trickling mountain stream within. After awhile, what feels at first like a trickling stream opens up into a deep reservoir the size of the Mississippi River. I don’t think anyone can underestimate the depth of maternal love, even after a lifetime of missed opportunities. Least of all, myself.

Life doesn’t have to be that hard if we can be honest with ourselves within. That’s where the focus and cropping really helps!  Great advice! Thanks, A.!


“DIY” . . .

DSC_0415Yesterday, I went to the movies by myself and saw “Begin Again,” with Kiera Knightley, Mark Ruffalo and Adam Levine. It was full of surprises. For one thing, Adam Levine was terrific in portraying his character. Keira Knightley, looked lovely at some angles, but sometimes also has a smirky pose that appears on film that does her no favors. Mark Ruffalo seems to be visible everywhere these days in a kind of career renaissance after playing the good guy on “13 going on 30” with Jennifer Garner. In between that movie and this one feels like a couple of decades, but whatever. Most actors nowadays are standing in line to test out their pilot TV series no matter how gruesome or dumb the concepts are, e.g., “Extant” with Halle Berry.

But back to the surprises in the movie. (here are some spoilers): Ruffalo and Knightley work together on a project that serves them both well professionally but they don’t end up in bed (or even kissing) each other although they do look longingly at each other every once in awhile. Adam Levine’s character craps on his relationship with Knightley although he is sorry afterwards and he wants her back: she longs for integrity of her songs more than she wants him back. In the end, you realize, dear viewer, that the whole movie is about how compromised a creative work (e.g., original song) can be when people (bad marketing and money-mongers) want to make lots of money off of other people’s creativity. It turns out that the creator of a song or a writer of a book receives ONE DOLLAR out of the TEN dollars per unit spent on marketing, publicity and production/distribution.

So what is the moral of the story? Stay true to yourself. Don’t compromise. Keep being creative about your own work. Protect the integrity of your own work from money mongers and parasites who hook onto your creation and then steal it to make it “more marketable.” That goes for lovers and ex-lovers who take your song in order to make it “bigger.”

Surprisingly, some of the songs Kiera Knightley’s character supposedly composes and then sings are not all that bad. They have a kind of poignantly musical tonal space that is appealing a lot of the time. What I liked best was the actress who played the classical cellist who mouthed the words of the song during each of the gigs. And her brother was funny too, the prodigy violinist, each working for no upfront money but for a cut of the proceeds on the back end should there be any.

Which brings me full circle to the moral of this little film. Instead of handing over her project of songs performed all over NYC to a big-name record company, Knightley’s character decides to upload it online and SELL IT FOR ONE DOLLAR. It doesn’t hurt that they get a big record honcho who is a friend of Ruffalo’s character to publicize it online in a Twitter post.

So, it takes off, right? 10,000 purchases on the first day? At a dollar a pop, (which is all they would have received anyhow by letting record producers “remix a couple of tunes” etc.,) this is Do-It-Yourself (DIY) to the MAX! And the proceeds are PURE. The big-bad-middlemen are cut out of the picture altogether and the proceeds are shared by all the musicians who worked for nothing just to be playing music and participating in this project.

I drove home thinking I should just write what I want to write, stop worrying about publishing or who might or might not want to read it; and sell it (whatever it turns out to be) for a dollar online.

BINGO, now that was worth the price of admission.

true grit . . .

Last night, G. and I watched the Coen brothers’ production of “True Grit.” Nominated for ten Academy Awards, it seemed like the movie might be interesting to watch. It was a bit slow, we thought, and the script language a mite stilted. I was struck by how tall the fourteen year old girl was who played the heroine–and how reliant her character seemed to be on the threat of legal action whenever she found herself in trouble. Was this in the original 1968 novel or a Coen brothers overlay?

Life can be like that too, don’t you think? When sometimes you feel you have to stand up for justice, as Mattie did in avenging the killing of her father. She, Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges) and a guy named LaBoeuf (Matt Damon) track down the villain, Tom Chaney, played by Josh Brolin.

In the final scenes, Mattie shoots Chaney, the recoil of the gun sending her down into a pit of vipers (literally!) where she is bitten by a rattlesnake. Cogburn races to bring her back to the Medicine Man who amputates her arm. Much is sacrificed in this story–the valiant horse that Cogburn rides to exhaustion and death; Mattie’s lost arm and life as a spinster. Twenty-five years later, Mattie misses a reconciliation with Cogburn by three days, taking his body back to bury on a hill nearby her home.

I was thinking about this plot later on. And I can recall times when standing up for what you believe in, no matter the onus or personal cost it extracts at the time, is still the right thing to do. There’s usually collateral damage along the way. Loss of family. Loss of a limb. Like Mattie, not knowing what the outcome might be, there’s no choice except to prevail. True Grit.