Tuesday Tuneup 101

Q. Where are you coming from?

A. To be honest with you, it varies from one moment to the next.   Sometimes I’m coming from a place of peace and love toward all humanity.   At other times, I’m coming from anger.

Q. Anger?

A. Well – I like to call it “righteous indignation.”

Q. Are you indignant at the moment?

A. No, not really.

Q. Are you coming from a place of peace and love toward all humanity?

A. Well, I wouldn’t say all humanity —

Q. Then where are you coming from at this moment?

Pause.

A. A very pensive place.  A place of thinking things over.

Q. Why is that?

A. I imploded the other day.  I shut down from stress.  I got to the point where the deadline, however self-imposed, was so much more important than any other thing in life — including my own self-care — that I literally shut down.   I became non-functional.  I imploded.

Q. Did anybody witness the implosion?  Or was it completely internal?

A. Oh, it was seen all right!   I wonder, however, if they knew the extent of it.

Q. Were you trying to hide it?

A. Yes and no.  I didn’t hide the fact that I was upset about something.  But I don’t think I conveyed the full extent of the inner implosion.

Q. Why not?

A. It would have been rude, ugly, and self-centered.

Q. So you suppressed it?

A. Well, I never exactly expressed it.

Q. What did you express?

A. Oh, some minor peeve that everybody knew I would get over in minute or two.

Q. But what was really going on?

A. Extreme insecurity.   We all implode every now and then — but me personally, I prefer to implode in private.

Q. So you were afraid that they would detect your implosion?

A. Exactly.  As I collapsed inwardly under the stress of pressure and deadline, I began to throw out smokescreens, in an effort to divert attention away from the implosion.

Q. Did it work?

A. I think so.  I think they just thought I was irritated.

Q. What exactly do you mean by “implosion?”

A. Well – it’s hard to define.   This graph, however, may be useful:

implosion

Q. Where did you get that graph?

A. Free Thesaurus.  

Q. To which of those external manifestations did your implosion lead you?

A. What do you mean?

Q. I mean – on the circle there – did you explode?  Did you go off?  Did you collapse?

A. Almost all apply.  But mostly, I think I “broke.”

Q. What did you break?

A. I broke my resolve.   I broke my code.  I broke my standard as to how I am to comport myself among the others.

Q. The others?

A. The other Artists.  The Artists who were, at that moment, in my midst.

Q. What is your code?

A. I could write books about it.

Q. Can you capsulize?

A. I’ll try.

Pause.

A. My code is not to be a people-pleaser.  Not to say or do things because I am trying to get a favorable reaction from one or more of the other Artists.   Obviously, I cannot please everybody.  And in such a small, close-knit group, such measures  — born entirely of personal insecurity — are transparent.

Q. Have you not only told me what your code is not?

A. Can you repeat that, please?

Q. I said: “Have you not only told me what your code is not?”

A. Ah, I see.  I have in fact only told you what I aspire not to do.

Q. But what do you aspire to do instead?

A. I aspire to act according to the standard.

Q. The Moral Standard?

A. Well – that goes without saying.  But it’s not the standard that is most applicable in this context.

Q. What standard is that?

A. The Aesthetic Standard.

Q. Clarify?

A. I believe in an absolute aesthetic standard.   Just as with morality — and in my view, ethics — there is a standard of Beauty for which we all must strive.

Q. How does this apply in the context of the Artists?

A. Because we’re trying to get it just right.  We’re trying to make it as beautiful as we can make it.  And if we fall short, we feel it.  It drags down the energy of the whole room.   When we come closer to it, we feel that too — and it lifts up our hearts.

Q. Wow — so, this people-pleasing of yours, it interferes with the striving for the standard?

A. Of course it does.  People-pleasing is ugly.  The standard is beautiful.  But the gist of this discussion is merely this:

As long as I stay focused on our mutual desire to reach the highest Artistic standard, I will avoid my self-centered desire to make positive impressions on the other Artists.  And then, ironically, I will probably make the best impression I can possibly ever make.   Because it will no longer be I who seeks to impress.  It will be that which I and the other Artists have mutually created.  

It is that final Artistic product that I hope — that we hope — will impress the world.

The Questioner is silent.   

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A Threefold Cord

Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their labor.
For if one falls down,
their companion can lift them up;
but pity the one who falls
without another to help them up!

Again, if two lie down together,
they will keep warm;
but how can one keep warm alone?
And though one may be overpowered,
two can resist.
Moreover, a cord of three strands
is not quickly broken.

–Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

Gratitude List 1632

(1) Though a more devastating blizzard has been foretold, thus far it’s not been a deterrent to my getting out of the house.  Peak winds have been 17 mph so far, and on each day the weather’s been conducive to a long brisk walk or jog.

(2) Having determined new functions for three of my team members, we now add to the previous roles of Cody, Richard and Zazen the duties of musical direction, orchestral direction, and stage management respectively.  This not only takes a load off of me, but also it enhances the overall team spirit, giving a couple of our Actors and one musician more of a role on the team outside of that of being a performer.  It’s all about optimizing each individual’s  contribution while gradually reducing the size of my own role.  And this is a good thing, for the overall team.

(3) Zazen reports that people have sent their schedules to her, and she’s already scheduled a big “Sirens of Hope” rehearsal tomorrow afternoon.  The delegations — and semi-delegations — appear to be working.

(4) Somebody whom I probably need not identify was there for me at my lowest moment, and I felt the love and support that’s real, that’s based on something that’s not only promising in the long run, but tangible in the here and now.   In fact, a number of supportive people then arose to encourage me, and that included most of the members of the team, and beyond.  It has been this great, unprecedented experience of massive love and respect.  Moreover, to top it all off, yesterday there was another unexpected anonymous one hundred dollar donation.

(5) In pastoral counseling this afternoon, it came about that I am to be thankful for this new sense of community that has been formed in our Eden in Babylon team.  And there’s no reason for me to deprive myself of a due experience of enjoying that community, even to the casting aside of reservations and doubts.

“Unity is strength. Where there is teamwork and collaboration, wonderful things can be achieved.”
— Mattie Stepanek

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Tuesday Tuneup 86

Q. What’s happening now?

A. Paralysis.

Q. Meaning?

A. I can’t move.

Q. Can’t?

A. Well — maybe “won’t” would be a better word.

Q. Can you tell us the difference, please?

A. “Can’t” connotes actual inability. “Won’t” only connotes unwillingness.

Q. Are you saying, therefore, that you actually can move, but only that you won’t move?

A. Actually, now that you mention it, I not only can move, but I probably will move — eventually.

Q. Eventually? What’s keeping you from moving right now?

A. I don’t know which way to move.

Q. Why is that?

A. I could move in a number of different directions. But I don’t know which is best.

Q. How can you find out which is best?

A. Obviously, by examining the nature of each different direction, and deciding which direction is the priority.

Q. Well then! What are the various directions?

A. I could work on the three columns of the five columns in the series that I have not yet turned in.

Q. Columns? Series?

A. You heard me! My editor wants to do a series of my columns, one after another I believe, with some regularity, between now and Election Day.

Q. What happens on Election Day?

A. God only knows. But the point is, I have three more columns to turn in before Election Day. And in fact, I have stated that I would get them done within the next three weeks.

Q. So – is that the top priority?

A. Not necessarily. But it’s the first thing that comes to mind.

Q. What else must you do?

A. I’m getting frightfully near the completion of a die-hard project that I began in June. Only a few short steps remain in order to complete it.

Q. What project is that?

A. It’s called the Ode Project.

Q. Ode? As in “Ode to Joy?”

A. As in “Ode to the Universe.”

Q. What is “Ode to the Universe?”

A. It’s a crazy concept I came up with about ten years ago. I had the idea to write a zany “ode” designed to be sung by anybody at anytime, anywhere around the globe, to the end that maybe we could get the entire human race together at one moment, and sing one song at one time — to the Universe.

Q. Isn’t that a bit ambitious?

A. I can do it! I truly can!

Q. Now is this really a priority on this particular morning, when you have all those columns to write?

A. No no – let me explain. So far I have nine videos of nine people performing the piece in different places and different times, accumulated over the past four months or so. I’m supposed to submit the videos to the videographer, who will then create a nice 3 by 3 set of frames, and —

Q. May I interrupt?

A. You already have.

Q. How long will this take you?

A. Well, I’m nearing the end — I have to do my video over — I think the mix of the nine performances needs to be synchronized a bit better — I can’t quite find the trumpet player’s video – and the trumpeter has not gotten back to me about it —

Q. So you don’t know how long it’s going to take, correct?

A. Correct. It may be nearing completion, but it depends on a number of unknown variables.

Q. So is there anything else you need to do today? I mean, on this very day?

A. Yes.

Q. What, may I ask?

A. I need to add three more piano tracks to this folder, so maybe my cast members will be able to listen to them before we rehearse them at 3:30 this afternoon.

Q. What time is it now?

A. About 10:30 in the morning.

Q. So you have five hours?

A. Correct.

Q. To record three songs on the piano?

A. Well, the sooner I do them, the sooner they’ll have them.

Q. How difficult will that be?

A. Not difficult at all.

Q. So what’s keeping you?

A. Nothing, anymore — now that we’ve thought it through.

Q. We?

A. Don’t you know two heads are better than one?

The Questioner is silent.

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Gratitude List 1620

1. Grateful to have gotten a good night’s sleep and to be “up and at it” on a brand new day. There was a time in my life, not too long ago, when a good night’s sleep was out of the question.

2. Grateful to be working with such a fine team of talented, dedicated young people. Particularly grateful for the new team member, who appears already to be just as great as all the other great people on the team.

3. Even though our small, close-knit artistic community has been somewhat shattered by the Pandemic, I find gratitude in the fact that we still interact positively online, and that occasional real-life gatherings have left me feeling warm inside, with a renewed sense of hope.

4. Grateful for the Black & Decker coffeemaker and for the tasty Columbian coffee I was able to obtain at low cost at the local Winko’s. There was a time in my life, not too long ago, when obtaining a morning cup of coffee was a real struggle.

5. Grateful for the gratitude that the Giver of Life imbues upon my spirit, every time I ask for help in the morning. Grateful that, despite the pandemonium of the present day, life can still be beautiful — one day at a time.

“One ought, every day at least, to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture, and, if it were possible, to speak a few reasonable words.”
     ― Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Gratitude List 1615

(1) Yesterday I finished making all the adjustments in my musical script that were deemed necessary after an intensive three week reading and critique.   Grateful for the current team, without whose insights I’d have never made it.

(2) At the end of the day, I submitted the show to some people who might have the power to produce it.  And then, right after I did, I felt a huge sense of peace.    I felt relieved, realizing that I don’t have to mess with that script anymore.  Now I can focus on the music, and on other things.  

(3) Got my iPhone working that my daughter helped me to obtain.   Nice to have a phone again, and I can see why people like this one better than the Androids.

(4) This may sound weird, but I want to say that I’m grateful to be an Introvert and also the kind of person who doesn’t really feel a need to be in a relationship or very dependent on human touch.   It’s true that I haven’t touched another human being for about six months or so.  But it’s also true that I wasn’t very attached to human touch to being with.   So I didn’t have much to lose.   

(5) About to embark on a long slow run.   Very grateful for this particular form of exercise.  I always feel kinda “cleansed” afterwards.  There’s something about running that’s like a sacrament.   I’m glad to have rediscovered it at this time in my life.  It really makes a difference – it really does.   

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Gratitude List 1600

(1) Increased exercise has been having benefits I’d not expected. For one thing, I’m sleeping more – and sleep is good. For another thing, I’m drinking more water — and water is good. The many “fringe benefits” of aerobic exercise are making themselves known. Not to mention, I’ve also lost 15 pounds; plus, my scaphoid fracture has healed, so I can do my push-ups again.

(2) The musical project is also going surprisingly well. It takes a lot of effort to prepare a full-scale musical for production. There have been many critiques and revisions. What’s happening now is a fine-tune polish. I’m grateful for the dedicated and talented people who make up the present team.

(3) In the past couple weeks, I’ve learned at least three things about myself that may prove very useful. A little surprised I didn’t see these things before. I’d elaborate, but I’ll leave them for tomorrow’s Tuesday Tuneup.

(4) I seem to have a lot more energy than I did earlier.

(5) The pandemic collides with an almost untenable national and global crisis in such a way that we have all been forced to snap out of a gigantic laxity that we probably did not even know we had been engaging. The human race has an uncanny propensity to ignore its difficulties till the very last minute — and just as uncanny a capacity to bond together at the last minute to save the day. We will weather this storm, for we are the Human Race.

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Good Cop Bad Cop

Here’s a little slice of my present-day life — a far cry from where I was three years ago, flying a sign on sidewalk in Berkeley figuring I’d be dead in a gutter any day now.

As most of you know, we are producing a concert reading of my musical about youth homelessness in America.   People in the cast have gotten a little lax about showing up, and some of their reasons remind me of things the Street Kids used to try to tell me when they were trying to convince me I owed them money.   

Police Man Thumbs Up - Down Saying Like And Dislike Stock ...

So yesterday the director and I decided to play Good Cop Bad Cop.  Below you will find my email to the cast, followed by Dave’s email about three hours later.   I told him this was great teamwork.   Hopefully, the cast will get the picture, after this:

To the Cast of Eden in Babylon:

ALL means ALL.

I expect to see ALL who have been called tomorrow at 3pm for an “Awake the Dawn” rehearsal, with the exception of Seth and Matt.

On Friday, only four people showed up. Kathy will be making 12 copies of the “Awake the Dawn” score, so that each of you will have his/her own hard copy part.

Come on. No more sudden excuses, no more last minute bail-outs. Michael* has been fired; his behavior and attitude have been completely unprofessional and unacceptable. If you want to be in Eden in Babylon, please prioritize this important project from here on in. If you need to miss a rehearsal, please give me notice. I have received too many texts either immediately before the rehearsal or, in some cases, during the rehearsal, for my comfort. Not to mention, some of the “reasons” why people need to miss rehearsal have been, frankly, implausible.

All that said, I would like to extend a very special thank you to Zach, Alexi, Liz and Vincent for your excellent work on Friday.

I will see you ALL — except for the two exceptions cited, tomorrow at three.

Andy

*The person who has been dismissed is not actually named Michael.  All right — so here’s Dave’s version:

 

Team,

First, thanks for your work on this so far. Every rehearsal I’ve been able to make has shown heart and musicianship and forward momentum. Let’s keep it going.

We’ve got a lot of time until our performance, but we also have some work to do. Andy is working hard to get all of you comfortable with the music so we can put the best possible product on stage in a couple of months. To do this, we all need to work together. Please help us – particularly Andy at this point – by respecting everyone’s time and effort. If you’re having trouble accessing or understanding the calendar, let us know. Everyone should have access. Please look at it a week in advance and plan your schedule accordingly. Let Andy know – well ahead of time – if you can’t make a rehearsal. It may seem like a small thing to miss a rehearsal right now, but it all adds up. It’s also very hard to have a productive rehearsal when we don’t know who is going to be there. Please respect your collaborators and the process.

With all that said, we’ll continue to try to improve the communication process as well. We’re trying to find a stage manager to help with this. We’ll keep you posted.

Thanks again for your work. See you soon.

Dave Harlan
Director – Eden in Babylon
Artistic Director, Moscow Art Theatre (Too)

Obviously, I’m lucky to have a guy like Dave.  I’m lucky to be alive – let alone working on a project like this.   And who knows?   Maybe next time I’ll get to be the “good cop.”

 

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A little bit goes a long, long way.