When I was a boy, I listened to the big, epic stories read from the King James Version of the Bible with awe and curiosity. Further fueling this fire, my drive, my father was also a vice/ homicide detective. So what I heard three times a week (twice on Sundays and once Wednesday night) seemed to resonate the patterns I picked up from my father’s vibe (we had a strong Jungian feed) I picked up from him and the tune the locals were singing around us between church services in the Missouri Ozarks of the 1960’s into the 1970’s.
By today’s standards for our children in ideal, well to do settings, we’d not recommend exposure to these realities before more maturity. I recall asking the Sunday school teacher what “fornication” meant in a Bible study class. It made the lady teaching the class, as well as my peers around me very uncomfortable. The real issue may have not been so much about sex as it was that someone was paying attention, not just nodding their head and giving rote answers to quizzes and such.
They had me memorize and recite these stories and long twisted, complicated phrases that held premises of how things in life operate and everything around me was structured – all this Old English language unfamiliar to my understanding of everyday survival in Springfield. Nobody around me spoke like that, fortunately I suppose. It provides an even greater contrast for my investigation.
But with vigor and pride for my mother and grandmother, I belted out chapters of the “good book” carrying the “good news”. In that era, it seems these powerful forces in my life were driven to make us young boys be presentable to society in some preselected form of doctor, banker, lawyer, engineer, athlete, etc.
Although I was too young to believe any of these words, sentences, paragraphs, points of views or stories that came out of my mouth, I said them, nonetheless. Convincingly from myself to appease and impress, I now confess. And I’d probably said much the same even in those days in my own bizarre way of walking a dichotomy. Probably setting the stage for more complete understanding to evolve experientially into a deeper understanding. These confusing and often contrasting statements in language not well understood by me or anyone else it seemed – were seeds to be reconciled, because I did pick up the vibe, the contrast between what was said and felt, the behaviors that defied the moment of the great efforts to live in the intellect.
I was encouraged to deliver these memory verses (chapters usually) without emotion. It was, as I later learned, “rote memorization”. Years later when I learned advanced acting preparation methods, I was naturally well prepared for the Meisner approach of learning all the lines of a character in a film, TV or theater play without any judgement or bias or emotion. Learning only your character’s lines – then letting them fly out in organic response to your scene partner’s delivery – to produce a heightened sense of truth and reality. It’s a very bold way to act. It’s also challenging to live. Say what you feel or comes up – somehow trusting the character you’ve prepared has honor and values aligned with your destiny, to be true and accepting to yourself.
A lot of performers run away from this approach today – everything is a little easier to fake it and with the technology and speed, we wire the drama’s we construct around it. It’s easier to be popular, follow the external formula, be a “professional”, and it may even be supported by a following and celebrity. But the fact is that you can’t wire around being yourself and at some point, you will be faced with it. Someday things are going to look like they really have fallen apart.
And falling apart is part of life, I was to learn. Part of my life. Nothing seemed as holy as it seemed around church and family and school in those early days. Those things seemed as if they were iron clad, just as that persona built around that vigor of my mother and grandmother back in those early days of my life – which kind of flew in the face of mine and my father’s penchant for excitement as detectives.
Now I’ve often (still wonder) if these stories created self-fulling prophecies, outcomes that might not have otherwise occurred. So much of our society has been reading, talking about, debating, debunking, defending – since the printing press, now the Internet, have exponentially densified tension in the medium we live. But from the ruins around us and the geology deep into the Earth, as well as the story we’re deciphering in the sky, we see that everything does fall apart. It doesn’t seem to matter what people were doing or thinking. But for some reason we do find the pattern of people trying again, civilizations, in fact, giving it another try.
I was in my 40’s when I realized how many times my life had fallen apart, how many times I’d picked things up to recover and go on. A man who was technically my boss at the time was falling apart to function as competently as he had in the early stages of forming a small company. He’d been raised by an alcoholic mother. No father. Athletics and engineering helped him escape the future he had running the local bowling alley (you get my drift). Let’s call him Ted, for convenience. That’s not really his name, but he was a teddy bear in a way, looking for safety and security in back-stabbing world of big money and guys who took a lot of pride in sticking it to the other guy. He learned a fixed way of playing the game and profiting from it.
So Ted was all about building something sustainable and had no tolerance for the trial and error necessary to bridge the growing pains of moving from small to medium sized business. Like me, he fled the training ground of a multi-national corporate environment to thrive in a less collective niche. He’s been telling five people what to do for a few years. That’s when I slipped into this scene, this story – into Ted’s world. Little known to him, I was finding a way to get off the street and would end up making him and his running buddies a large fortune.
With the success that Ted and “his running buddies” were finding, everything was changing. Now it was a lot different orchestrating the patterns of a larger staff (pushing over 100 professionals at this moment I’m now accounting) of super-smart, competent, and aspiring engineers, geologists, financial analysts, paralegals, and a supporting computing team that was attracting business from around the world to our bustling office in north Houston, Texas. I found a role here in picking up patterns and apportioning resources to get projects, to get work done without really believing or identifying all too much with this process. I occupied myself with this process as my own life had fallen apart, had been shattered. I never asked for promotions or raises – just seemed to look Ted’s running buddies in the eye and tell them how things needed to be. I didn’t have time for their hunting, fishing, golfing, upscale life, etc. I’d been trying to do my best for my own three kids who been swept away to another city as well as a new set of “loved” ones who’d come up around me where I was making a go of it.
So back to the falling apart? In the chaos of the moment, if you really allow yourself, do you really know if you’re going up or down? Does up or down really exist – or do we make them up for reference point to park our fears? Hold on the railing?
So … I remember the morning Ted, who was a physically dominant person near my stature, gets in my face fuming his terror at me. I’d been guiding the workflows and patterns of the group he originally brought together to “scale up” (as the private equity and investment bankers say) the operation.
But I found myself near tears. These tears I was holding back weren’t over the confrontation. They were about Ted. What I picked up on was almost a conversation I imagine could have occurred with his mother – ‘nothing is safe, nothing is right, and it shouldn’t be this way!’
Ted’s face was bright red! Eyes bulging. I even noticed his fists at his side. He was quite intimidating at an inch taller and 50 pounds heavier than I. I even got a psychic glimpse of the white freezer where Ted’s mother kept the vodka – she couldn’t get up and was yelling at him to get it for her.
I stepped back and I don’t think Ted had ever encountered the move I was about to make. I’d picked it up in a session with my great mentor in life who’d also worked closely with Raul Julia & Armond Assante (to name a few). Not intending to boast here, but rather to say somehow, I picked up some moves in life totally outside my own formative bubble. The bubble in which I’d begun my own life – that behavior would have run over Ted, rather than embrace him. I’d learned to breath into the pain, into the crevasses of my psyche, walk into these dark alleys rather than drink and conform.
So Ted looked even more shocked as I refused to meet his emotional state or mirror or defend myself or join his terror. I wasn’t going to replay his “get the vodka for me scene with his mother.” Even in the face or in spite his looking at me like I was a looser! Which I most certainly was in his world. In his terms. In the world he was thriving.
Ted accused me of being in a middle-aged crisis. That pushed me out of my silence, the reserve I became well known for in my career in oil and gas.
The words just began spilling from my mouth. I have a beautiful memory of the sun gleaming through the window aside Ted’s face just as I’d known in my childhood at some special moments in my life around my connection to some divinity, which happened to involve stain glass windows later to be covered with cinder blocks – but that’s a whole other chapter ….
“Ted”, I said in some sadness. “My whole life has been a crisis! Don’t you get that! There’s nothing new going on here for me. The work is getting done and some of the women who have had your ear, are just as uncomfortable as you. But everything is going to be okay. You’re still in charge and I respect you. Look here is this stack of completed evaluations …” The stack of work output was about 40-50 times as high it they had been. Everyone also knew the quality of the evaluations had risen to a new level.
Ted eyes darted over to the hard evidence, the comfort I was offering to him. Then they raged back to me. Ted was still far from convinced. Maybe my move of not engaging or mirroring him was strange to he and his running buddies. Maybe my motive was foreign to him. I was confessing being so out of control.
“Look, Ted. I’m just now seeing it myself, but I was sleeping in my car when I took this contract position. None of this stuff is all that new to me. I really don’t want to be here but I am. I’m just doing what needs to be done to get through the day. You guys built something that’s really working. It’s attractive. It’s growing and at the same time everything you’ve built for on the smaller scale is falling apart. That old way of operating just won’t work anymore if you want to meet the demand for the services that’s evolved here.”
Today we’re seeing a lot of change. There’s lots of tension in the air, I like to say. Maybe I take some satisfaction in the idea that everyone else is finally going to understand me now, just a little better. These conditions are not my creation but for whatever reason as I’ve been operating in whatever roles have been proclaimed for me in my life here in Texas today, around the globe and back into the Ozarks, can confidently say to others that if I can do it, so can you.
If I can survive the shocks of life, there’s probably a way for you to figure it out for yourself, in your own way, with the tools and resources around you. Whether it’s health, family, money, sex, death or even a newborn life (literally or figuratively) there’s a period of developing a new perspective for the new way ahead.
When you realize this, that for example, you’ve been aspiring all this time and leaving some old patterns behind as you’ve been climbing. Your attention has been on the accomplishments that seemed to have fit your idea of safety or comfort. Maybe you have been creating a self-fulfilling prophecy in your own way.
But at some point, most of us face that place where the future looks unknown, we really see how alone we are, how vulnerable we are … maybe even how desperately we’ve been clinging to our vices or even appeasing our lies by holding to our fantasies. It may look like things are falling apart. It feels like things have been shattered. Things have been falling apart without our noticing, our attention, worry or concern.
So you do possibly have the choice to see the practical patterns that are accessible to you to leap into the unknown rather than cling to the old. The latter pattern seems the predominant theme in history. So it may be in your nature or not, to find a new move, to surprise yourself or a loved one with a genuine, perhaps comforting gesture or even a smile rather than an all so predictable tissue for their tears. Such is the great mystery of our time – to gain this awareness of our potential and freedom of movement, independent of the trends and momentum around us. We can ride this tension as it penetrates our laws, institutions, cultural norms, and rules for ourselves, for others and such – because when that awakened realization, that vibe shatters and strikes this point in your own life, your timeline, when it does become very personal, that’s the point when you have the chance to really see who you are – and that could be a beautiful moment!
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