Monday, September 22, 2008

Life Is a Verb: The Mini-Series

On Saturday evening, my wife and I went downtown to our iconic independent bookstore, Malaprops, to hear my friend Patti Digh read from her new book, Life Is a verb: 37 Days to Wake Up, Be Mindful, and Live Intentionally. We had never been to a reading at Malaprops, nor a book reading anywhere else for that matter, and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. We had a cup of great coffee, settled at a little table, and listened as Patti read portions of her wonderful book.

As some of you know, I am currently in rehearsal for my production of Psycho Beach Party, which opens October 1st, and this weekend was my last days off until October 11th. So would I have been sitting at Malaprops Saturday night if I didn't know Patti, and if I didn't know that she was hoping my wife and I would be there? Hell no. I would have been lying on my couch with a cat on my lap reading a book and snoozing intermittently while my wife knits. But because I knew Patti, I went, and afterwards I was glad I did, and having done so once, I will be more likely to go to Malaprops for another reading. Which is, of course, the theatre moral of the story: there are few things more powerful than a personal invitation from somebody you actually know.

While I was waiting for the reading to begin, I opened the book randomly to p 77, which read as follows:

"How are you doing?" she asked as I entered her office.

"I'm okay," I said.

She sat, quietly, looking at me.

"Okay, I'm a little stressed out, I guess." My accupuncturist, Hanna, invokes truth by silence better than anyone else I know.

I was in a situation at the time that was maddening -- and in which I knew I was right. So, I held forth. She listened. And listened some more. "Let's get you on the table and we can continue this conversation," she said.

Then I was prone, under a sheet, and she was holding my hand, taking my pulses. She paused.

"Patti, why do you yhink you are so attached to being right about this situation?" she asked.


Why am I so attached to being right? Oh, I don't know, this is just a wild stab, but maybe --


"Because it's so clear I'm right," I said. "Can't you see I'm right? There's just no way I'm not right!"

"Why is being right about this so important to you?"


"And doesn't everyone have their own version of right?" she asked.


"I wonder what would happen if you gave up your need to be right?"

Damn. She can do more in four quiet questions than I can do in a lifetime.

I closed the book, took a deep breath, drank some more coffee. My wife was knitting, and at one point she was quiet while she concentrated on some fine point, so I took the pause to open up the book at random again.

Page 77. Again.

Then the reading started. Patti came out, charming and whimsically funny, and she explained the background of the book, how she originally started her 37 Days blog to after her stepfather passed away 37 days after being diagnosed with cancer, and how she wanted to write something for her young daughters to serve as a guidebook. It was a gift for them. Then she started dipping in to read a few sections. She read a beautiful section called "Write to Remember," about a relative with Alzheimer's. And then she started a new section:

"How are you doing?" she asked as I entered her office.

"I'm okay," I said.

She sat, quietly, looking at me.

"Okay, I'm a little stressed out, I guess." My accupuncturist, Hanna, invokes truth by silence better than anyone else I know.

Page 77. Again.

After the reading was over, I asked my wife to open her copy of the book randomly. She looked at me like I was nuts, but did. I wanted to see whether there was something in the binding of this book that made all the copies automatically open to page 77. Nope -- she turned to another page entirely.

Now, believe it or not, I have a certain mystical orientation. (I know, I know -- I come across as a total left-brain zealot.) So when the universe is trying to tell me something, I try to pay attention. So I read further. Page 78:

"As the poet Rumi wrote, somewhere between right and wrong is a place we can meet and talk. Shouting across the expanse of that field only makes us hoarse -- what if we each walk toward the center instead? Even when we are right -- when someone is using racial slurs, for example -- we need to find better ways of bringing others along rather than alienating them. Most of all, differences of opinion are opportunities for learning."

And page 79:

"Choose with integrity: Speak up, yet detach from 'rightness.' Stand tall, yet bend to meet others. Move from Why aren't they doing more? to Why aren't we doing more? to Why am I not doing more? Do something. Extend yourself."

That evening, I started reading the book from the beginning. Each page seemed for me. Page 7:

"No revolution in outer things is possible without prior revolutions in one's inner way of being. Whatever change you aspire to...must be preceded by a change in heart"
    -- I Ching hexagram 49

I haven't really mentioned it, but last week was a little stressful. Without going into great detail, I had a little health issue that had me thinking it might be the c-word. A hurried trip to the doctor seems to be leading in another direction, one that some antibiotics will take care of. But for a couple days, in the midst of teaching and rehearsing, I looked my life in the face fairly directly.

Then this reading.

For quite a while, I have used this blog as place to discuss things "out there" -- the theatre, the culture, artists. And despite the recent controversy I provoked, I think I need to take this blog inward for a while. Use it to do some reflection, take some stock. And I think I'll do it by following Patti Digh's book. So far, I think she's written it for me. But you might want to read it, too. It's awfully good.

Anyway, if you like the outwardly focused Theatre Ideas, you'll probably need to ignore me for a while -- probably about a month, or 37 days to be exact. For those of you who will be embarrassed to listen while a middle-aged man gets introspective, I totally understand. And who knows, I may get impatient myself.

Nevertheless, I think I'm going to take an inward turn for a while.
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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Scott says hello to your navel. Navel say hello to your Scott.