Posts Tagged ‘inspiration’

Death of a Popular Poet

November 15, 2017

Working as an MBA candidate comes with a remarkable series of challenges and responsibilities. Most recently, one of my professors, who clearly was passionate about motivating his students, shared some deep and meaningful insights. He sent me an email in reply to mine in which he shared with me that the pessimist states death and taxes are the only two immovable objects that are a guaranteed certainty.
He then went on to share with me an optimist looks at change and time as certainties. I think he wanted to make certain that I understood the depth and value of both, and that how we launch our perception impacts the way we look at the world.

Yet my perception of the world has recently become a little hazy. Recently I have been forced to reckon with the mortal enemy that is death. In the past two weeks I have had to say goodbye to two people. The first one had given up a long time ago and tip what some might say was a brave choice and taking his own life. But the other, well he was a fighter. But even his optimism was not enough to Conquer Cancer.
Let me tell you a little bit about AJ.
I first met AJ years ago when I showed up for an interview on a radio show that he was one part of a partnership. He and Ernie, a mutual friend, invited me to come talk about a book that had just been released titled Confessions of a Transylvanian. This book, written by an old and dear friend and myself, detailed the experience of being part of a Rocky Horror Picture Show shadowcast.
The very first thing I noticed about AJ was his energy. He possessed this smile and a genuine eagerness to laugh and share.
We laughed a lot during that interview and at the end of that hour I knew I had made another friend.
But it wasn’t until I started working at Epcot with the entertainment team that he and I really started to connect. Everywhere I would have to track him down he was always on the go, eager to chat.

It was during one of these conversations that we both discovered one of our most favorite mutually appreciated holidays, Halloween, offered us no shortage of creative Outlets. I shared with him some of the things I had done when I designed haunted houses, many decidedly low, low Tech, and he shared with me Cutting Edge high-tech things that were either of his creation or off the shelf.
We talked repeatedly about combining forces to create a haunted experience like no other on a ranch for another mutual friend, Dave.

And when, in the process of producing a fairly sizable event, it came time for a DJ, I asked him for recommendations. Instead of a recommendation he suggested he do it.
I learned about AJ that almost like a good book, every few pages there was some new and incredible facet or skill he possessed. I was always learning something new with him.
At the event venue, we took the elevator. He gestured to the walls and said “velvet. ”
He sounded like an old crotchety guy, commenting on the quality of an inferior product. And the two times we were there, for the tech scout and the event, every damn time we rode the elevator, we’d both say, “velvet.” After a while we’d just randomly say “it’s velvet,” and it carried to EPCOT where it stood proxy for a normal greeting.
But that made sense. AJ was not normal. He transcended it.
He was a class all his own, always a pleasure to be around.

I used to bleed alone, keeping my grief and pain to myself. That ended the day I lost my brother, five years ago, and was clear and present when I lost my dad a year ago.
With AJ I have no regrets. I had the good fortune of seeing him damn near every day that I was at work, if you could call what we did work. And he always had time for me and I always made time for him and I am glad for that. Because I have regrets when it comes to my brother and I have regrets when it comes to my dad.
Maybe that’s the thing to take stock of now. If there someone in your life you’ve been meaning to reach out to, don’t wait. Regret is a deceptively heavy burden to shoulder.

I feel like I’ve been kicked in the stomach. No matter how hard I try, I just can’t seem to catch my breath.
It is a callous thing to say, but I can think of a few people who are probably past their expiration date on planet Earth.
AJ was not one of them. He was one heck of an individual with a lot of light, love, and life still to give.
The world is little quieter today.

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Speaking Well of Others Speaks Well of Ourselves

June 17, 2017
Be careful how you speak of others.
That sounds like the start of a stern lecture, so let me word that another way. Take care to think through what you say when you speak of others.
It doesn’t matter whether they are living or dead. The more negatively you speak of others, the more negative the reflection on you.
This stuff is called dirt for a reason.
I’ve always marveled at the interest of others have of drama not on the stage. Soap Operas, Reality TV, and a host of other things suck people in. This in addition to the drama we find ourselves facing on a daily basis. Speaking poorly of others only feeds that beast. How much is enough?
If you wish to speak of someone in a way that might warn others about their behavior, then consider the trust but verify approach. It carries more weight than muckraking.  An example I’ll share involves a referral. I was asked by a stunt coordinator about an individual she wanted to hire. The stunt side of the Film and Live Show entertainment business is different from the acting side. Where actors have to audition, stunt performers typically get their work through relationships and referrals. I was honest with her. I told her this particular performer had presented performance challenges on a previous project, and that I had to chase her for several weeks to get her info for a production I was coordinating, which ultimately opted not to hire her. It would have been easy to say, “the kid is lazy, immature, and unreliable” but there was a better way.
Find the better way.
A word when spoken is a bird taking wing for flight forever. The things you say you cannot undo, you cannot change, and you cannot take back.
This past week found me remembering my brother’s birthday, gone five years, and marking the passing of two people close to me. That qualifies as a pretty crappy trifecta in my book.
Neither who jumped ship this week was perfect, but both were worthy of stories that make us smile. In the one case, an old friend from my Rocky Horror days in the 80’s (and part of the then-famous Wild and Untamed Things) passed away after a lengthy battle with mental and physical health issues. At the memorial, my dear friend Jack and I both determined that stories to make people laugh was the order of the day. The Matriarch from my mother’s side of the family also shuffled her mortal coil. Her story to share (since I was and am still not ready to grieve openly) involved her walking up besides me, in the midst of a group of people we both knew, and rubbed my belly…as she looked at me and said, “Say it, honey. Lower and faster.” and then she walked away, laughing hysterically. In a rare case, I was left speechless.

When we are saddened by loss, someone more callous might observe and say, “boo hoo, people die.” That is not in the least bit mature, and we should not be those people. Nor should we pay any attention to those who demonstrate such ignorant temerity.

Speak well of others, living or dead, no matter how much the temptation to do otherwise. It’s better to be the better person than to live with regret because you said something in haste. Similarly, look for every opportunity to speak well and positively of those you know and those you love. Finding and extolling the good in others brings out the good in ourselves.
That’s how we should immortalize others; this, no doubt, is how we ourselves would want to be remembered.
Speaking of remembering, remember to call someone you love and remind them of how important they are to you.
Do it now. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

How We Change The Past

March 24, 2017
We Don’t. We can’t change the past.
I learned a great deal in the presence of my mom recently. Dad died a few months ago and she has managed to summon the strength necessary to move forward through the fog that besieged us all.
I mention we can’t change the past because I have spent so much of the recent past woefully lamenting how horrible a son, brother, or friend I have been I’ve managed to miss a few opportunities to do my level best in a situation.
There are several layers of danger in looking back. The obvious is you’re not looking forward. That’s bad because you don’t see what’s coming, and can’t prepare in the event something whacks, trips, or otherwise reaches out to influence your forwardly locomotion. It’s also not good because you are distracted. You’re so focused on the thing that already happened, and the “what-ifs” that surround it, you are fairly well insulated from anything happening in real time.
Many do this unintentionally. You’ll know it’s happening with someone else when you are sharing a story or insight and you get a “what’s that?” Or they nod absent-mindedly, and offer some form of affirmative answer in the hopes it is the correct one. Usually they’re thinking about something else, sometimes trying to connect the dots with a thought you just shared. Other times their mind is simply wandering.
But it is that other looking back, the one where you’ve lost the ability to move forward, breathe, or achieve on your own. That form of looking back can become a false comfort, providing a seductive darkness.
We miss out on opportunity when we continue to look back. We turn our back on the chance to experience in real time when we look back. People who live their entire holiday, or another event, through the lense of a camera suffer this fate.
An old friend hastened to advise me, with my love for photography, to try enjoying moments as they happened, and not through the view-finder. Another old dear friend, long passed, questioned why people couldn’t just enjoy the memories as they happened, since it was impossible to duplicate in a photo.
I have spent much time pondering how I was not the friend I should have been, that I was never truly there for those few who would have thrown themselves on the blade for me. My brother pointed out, years ago, it wasn’t possible for me to be an active participant in the ‘group thing’ because I was like Hans Solo in my Millenium Falcon (a 1972 Mach I with a 351 Cleveland, 4bblcarbs, and the destinct ability to both turn heads and cause whiplash). He told me I was running solo and had to because that was where I was in my life. It was a sort of Buddhist assessment. But it was also right.
My brother has also long sinced passed; at that moment death became a callous creature that reminded me of all the things we’d never get to do or share again, and of missed opportunities.
With my family the lament was similar. Holiday get-togethers. Phone calls. But it’s all in the past…
We can only influence the future.
Another wonderful and wise person told me the only reason you should look to the past is to see how far you’ve come, and hopefully, what you’ve learned. She’s right. We have to see where we’ve been to know where we’re going. The plus is we can change our behavor at any time.
In that case I think I’m doing ok. I just returned from a week in the mountains of Western North Carolina followed by a week in the coastal lowlands of South Carolina. Both places, rich in history, have residents whose sensibility is entrenched in the here-and-now. I worked hard to enjoy the moments as they came, and found myself living most of them. I spent much of my time around mom, doing work in and around the house, and simply being there without being suffocating. We scattered dad’s ashes in relative silence, hung his plaque, and did a bit of work around the area without somber reserve. Mom said to me, as we walked up the path from the garden, “I can’t imagine anyone else I would rather have done this with.” I didn’t take it as a commentary on how I was the favorite child: I am not; I viewed it instead couched in the context I believe it was meant: even if I devalued my own contributions to the family as a unit, I was appreciated in full and my value should not be be questioned.
Not looking back with regret will be tough, but I’ll keep you posted on my progress.
Perhaps you can do the same, and check in from time to time with your own procedural?

People. People Who Need People.

March 21, 2016

If we’re lucky, I mean truly lucky, every so often someone will come along and offer you the kind of unsolicited advice that amounts to a life talk. It might happen when you’re a captive audience, or it might be something tossed into play from the periphery of a fleeting moment in your day.
That advice? Well, it might come in the form of a sentence or two.
It might also take the form of a full-fledged conversation. Or, if you’re fortunate, it might be a series of conversations than span decades.

I can remember those significant moments now 30 and 40 years later.

The first time was when I was in Boy Scouts. I was at a weekend event and did something really impressive. Once accomplished I proceeded to strut about like a male peacock displaying his full regalia. I’m certain this deed was not nearly as impressive to those around me, but I was a teenager (which really ought to explain a lot). In the midst of this, one man, my best friend’s father, waited for me to finish then pulled me aside. “Ron,” he began, “whenever you do or accomplish something worthy of recognition let other people notice without bringing it to their attention.”

You know, that’s pretty heady stuff for a 12 or 13 year old. Lee Widner was one of those people who just did that sort of thing. While growing up he was, in some ways, sort of a surrogate father. He often encouraged me with expert subtlety to get those Merit Badges and seriously focus enough on getting my Eagle Scout, which I completed all the requirements for, but moved out of the state and territory before I was awarded this honor. (To make matters more complicated, when I settled and located another troop and scout master, Richard Brown he did the research and could find no information I’d completed the process. I learned of two stories later, though had no way of confirming either. One said the troop disbanded. The other story suggested a massive vacuum created by several assistant scout masters leaving because the scout master left. I’ll never know. And I digress). Point is, Lee took the time to provide me doses of attention ordinarily reserved for his son Brad. I have little doubt, in reflection, that he didn’t provide such doses of guidance to others. It was his nature, and no doubt sewn into his DNA.

The second person that saw something in me worthy enough to garner his attention was my history professor, Ralph Clark. Mr. Clark was the kind of professor for whom people took classes they didn’t need nor would apply towards their curriculum credits. In many ways I was reminded of him the first time I ever watched Dead Poets Society. You see, Mr. Clark took the time to talk about history and went so much further. He loved teaching as much as he loved history, and he loved history. After a series of lectures and facilitation in Honors Western European History he set up a road trip. Destination? Vizcaya (if you’ve never heard of this place, look it up).

I went to college in South Florida, getting both my Associate’s degree and Bachelor’s degree from institutions of Higher Learning. The Chateau Vizcaya was an hour away from school. I signed up and was glad I did. I love history and always have. But what Mr. Clark did transcended anything I’d ever Learned. We walked through the rooms and then went outside and walked the grounds, studying the architecture. Mr. Clark would point out an architectural nuance or an element that had been talked about in class and then quietly step back and watch us engage each other. That keen sense of awareness, of how history would resonate because we were not only exposed to it but we were talking and living it. He was no fool. He knew we’d retain more than he taught.

Last class of the last semester of my Associates degree with Mr. Clark. I was halfway through the room when Mr. Clark said, “Ron take a seat for a moment.” So I did. After the room cleared he came over and sat down next to me. “Ron? You’re about to go into the big leagues. I mean sure, you may have a professor that cares enough for you to get to know your name but in most of your classes your grades are going to be determined by a Midterm and a Final. Extra credit will be a thing of the past.”

He took the time to explain to me what I was getting into. Honestly I had no idea and simply justified his conversation as the rattlings of an old man. But he cared enough to take time out of a day no less busy than any other to talk to me. When he finished he simply said, “Well, that’s all Uncle Ralph has to say.” He retired and went to live in the Shenandoah Valley, a place rich in history. With his departure went a era.

Another advocate was Dr. Peter Roundy. Fifteen minutes into my first class I knew I had to take others. And I did. Much of my  electorate requirements were populated with courses taken where Dr. Roundy was professor. Our relationship developed into a genuine friendship. He travelled the world, gone for six to nine months at a time, teaching English in Thailand or some other fantastic locale. In a turnabout for memorable experiences, he told me once, over lunch, I was one of the only students that wrote him every time he travelled. I liked him and couldn’t help myself. His method for dispensing advice was simple: a few words here and there, doled out like chocolate sprinkles on a double dark chocolate cupcake. It was as if he’d see you starting to slip off the path and he’d turn you right again. Of course, if you were me you chose to bulldoze your way through life, only reflecting later on something said and remarking to yourself, “Oh. That’s what he meant.”

And then there was Christopher Burns. I have written much on the man that became my brother with a bond that could not be broken by words or actions. Every living creature should be so fortunate as to have someone in their life so generous. He was a general in my army, champion to my action, and quiet observer to my missteps. He was wise enough, as any oracle, to let me stumble.

An idea man, he often studied and dissected things (including me), looking for a way to make it better. I was fortunate to be the recipient of those talks, even if the ideas might take years to stick.

I still reflect on those conversations and wish I had the chance, especially with Christopher, to sit and simply talk, letting that wisdom pour over me like a comforting breeze. Those talks never truly resonated with me at the time. But that’s the thing with really insightful advice: sometimes it requires time to germinate, to find purchase in the rich soil of the mind. Many take heed and respond to the call quickly. Others like yours truly sometimes miss the opportunity to give such advice the chance to help us change direction. As a result, when it does seat, we’ve already moved on.

I guess my message is this to you, my dear reader. We need people like that in our lives. They give us contextual insight through objective eyes. They are sometimes our reset button. If someone comes along and gives you the sort of unsolicited advice that peels itself like a Foxtail Palm or an artichoke and reveals more every time you glance its way, here’s what you do: if you can’t actually listen, retain and immediately apply that information, at least try to remember the critical piece of it. Give that advice a chance, just as that person who cared gave you. In time, you’ll not only be applying some of those helpful hints and life coach adjustments, but just as good, you’ll discover someone who might just need a little bit of the same.

It’s another way of making the world better one deed at a time.

How to Live the Relevant Life

January 4, 2016

Take a look around. What do you see?
Seriously – When you drive to work, what do you see? When you drive to school, what do you see? When you’re running errands, going to the supermarket, or going to meet friends, what do you notice about your surroundings?

Are you taking in the beauty of everyday things? Are you taking delight in the little things?
If you live in a rural agricultural area, have you noticed new animals in a rancher’s field? If you live in a suburban area, have you counted the number of playgrounds?
If you live in a dense urban area, have you noticed the architecture that surrounds you with its evocative expressions and mood?

What about the people you encounter?

Look at the people in your life. Look at the ones who bring value, love, compassion, and respect. Are you reciprocating? You should be.

Take the time to look around… And this isn’t about texting and driving (although that certainly is a worthy topic for discussion, but maybe another time).

This isn’t about unnecessary distractions. It’s about life. It’s about the beauty in everyday things. It’s about noticing something for the first time. It’s about appreciating things that you’ve seen before. It’s about setting your mind, and your emotions up for the kind of supreme awareness that makes you sympathetic & empathetic to your world, to the people, and creatures of all kinds. To the plants and even the stones.

Let everyone in your life, everyone who matters, know they matter. Show them. Tell them. Share with them. Because life isn’t about how we start things, it is about how we sustain and polish things.
Take a look around.
Take the time to make your life one where quality lives in the present moment.
Do it now.

Thoughts on the Reason for the Season

December 24, 2015

The reason for the season.

What is it exactly? If you ask 10 people you’ll get 10 different answers. Similar to my experience as an actor and stuntman, every time I went for a new headshot session I would go through the photos and pick the top 10 I felt best represented me as me and not someone else. And I would seek out the council of my experienced actor friends and ask them their opinion. After, I would talk to a couple of casting directors and ask them theirs. Finally, I would go to my agent and let her have a look see. Would it surprise you to know that some folks like the same photo but in almost every instance every individual picked another, different picture. I would make notes who likes what and why, and then I would compare that to my own notes of what I liked. That’s how I chose my new headshot pictures. Ultimately, it had to be an honest representation Of Ron. If this somehow conflicted with my agent’s choice I never told her. And she never said word one to me when I submitted new head shots for her file.

My choice of headshots is a variation of reflectively deciding which path or fork in the road to take, ultimately making the mindful choice of what best serves you and your sphere.

So, you may be wondering how I started on the topic of holiday interpretation and got to a monologue about headshots. While it is critically important to respect the belief and values of others, it is equally important to identify your own values and be willing, through self awareness, to stand for them.
Our belief system is always evolving. As we get older we develop stronger feelings on certain subjects and in many instances abandon beliefs and sentiments we held in our youth. sometimes we make slight modifications and other times we engage in wholesale changes.

What does this mean for you? I can tell you what it means for me. I may not believe in your belief system but I’m willing to listen and learn, & adopt those rudiments as they apply to my vslue system.
Christmas is about the spirit of giving, of family, and of compassion. Hanukkah is about storytelling, light, hope, and faith that all things are possible when you believe. Ramadan is about family, religious observation, and self-reflection. Yule is about acknowledging the cycle and circle of life, and remembering why connecting with nature and each other is so important. And so it goes. See the trend in similarities? Truth is, each of these holds within its bosom a commitment to celebration, remembering, and self-reflection.

Every major religion, including many not considered “major,” celebrate the new year at a time that contradicts the Gregorian calendar. This doesn’t make one more “right,” anymore than local cultural norms that dictate you dine on the floor and eat sans utensils, or sit at a long linen-bedecked table, waiting for the next course to be served.

Here’s the thing. every one of these tenants listed is something that any single individual can get behind and adopt. In that way it’s kind of like getting advice or seeking counsel. Take what works for you, apply it, and discard the rest. Don’t forget the rest because there’s a good possibility somewhere down the road you’ll look through that pile of discards and realize, Hey that thing there just might work.

So that’s the thing to think about not just for the season, but every single day of your life. Remain true to who you are, and be open to the sort of change that is personally fulfilling and socially enriching. You’ll notice a positive change in yourself. Your ever growing circle of friends and family as well as sphere of influence will reflect this. All you have to do is be willing to share and participate.
That sense of self realized connectiveness, the concept of individual wholeness bringing value to the community?
That’s the payoff.

Yes … There IS a Santa

December 4, 2009

I have family in town this week.  The good kind.  The kind that if you had the room you’d want them and their brood to stay with you.  The kind you don’t get to spend enough time with.  That sort.  Anyway, we went to one of the holiday offerings in Orlando at one of the Theme Parks that has a special ticketed event that serves all the cookies, hot chocolate, apple juice and pre-packaged apple slices one can possibly consume, as well as parades, decor, and offerings unique to the season.  Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party.  This is a winter wonderland for kids of all ages.  Unlimited cookies?  What gets better than that.  And the brilliant logic as a parent is to let your child consume as many as possible and then flame out in a brilliant buzz of sugar-induced energy which ultimately results in a good night’s sleep for all.  Sometimes.

Anyway, back on point.  We had to leave early to pick up more family arriving at the airport.  On the way to the pass-through under the train station I noticed a small crowd gathered and walked over to glance past the toy soldiers.  Just beyond, seated on a plush crushed red velvet sofa-looking bench, was a guy dressed as Santa.  Something inside me said “I want to meet Santa,” even as another voice countered with, “it’s just a guy in a red suit.”  But we did.  We waited a few minutes, not long at all, until it was our turn.  The cast members were just delightful and filled with the spirit of the season.  It had cooled off to the point where, in the mid-sixties and with a slight breeze, it felt like the holiday season was upon us.  One of the cast members handed us little candy canes and admonished us not to eat them until after we met Santa.  The sticky candy gets in his beard and on his robe and had to be cleaned off and all that.  The child in me just wanted to get on with meeting Santa.  I still wasn’t really feeling it until it was our turn and we walked up to Santa.  He smiled at the two of us and patted his knees.

“Oh no,” I protested.  “I’ll sit next to you.”

He shook his head and patted his knees again as he looked at both of us.  “You’ll be fine.”  It was clear, in Santa’s domain, he was calling the shots.  He was the comforting patriarch and we were the children.

As I got closer and sat down and we both got comfortable on his knees the magic transported us.  I was a child taken back to a time that was measured in experiences and moments of joy.  I studied him carefully for a few moments as we spoke to him.  Real beard? Check.  Real mustache? Check.  His face had just the right windburned texture and even his eyelashes had a hint of white.  But his eyes.  There was delight in those eyes.  A joyful magical spark in them as he spoke to us.  Naturally he had the laugh, and the rich, basso profundo voice.  But it was the eyes.  And if the eyes are truly a window to the soul, as many a poet has declared, I saw in Santa’s eyes the hope and belief of a little magic in a sometimes-weary world.  We weren’t rushed away.  He smiled as he talked to us and I thought this must be who Santa is.  I wore a big smile the rest of the evening.

And some of you who have followed these articles know this has been an interesting year.  A year of loss, of unplanned charity of the forced kind, of the opportunity to stumble and not fall, but to recover and move forward.  I have often spoke of how we are measured by our ability to rise and overcome.  But I am beginning to believe we are also measured by our strength and faith.  It is one thing to speak of these things, but another to perform in action admirably.

If you make it out there, and I hope you do, make some time for yourself and your loved ones.  Do yourself a favor and visit Santa.  There is an infectious energy in the power to believe.  He made me believe.  There IS a Santa.  And when you visit him please tell him I said hi, and thanks.  And Merry Christmas.

Passion and what it means

October 29, 2009

Passion.
Think about the word for just a moment.
In this age of instant access and immediete fulfillment we lose sight of the importance of passion as we pursue in epic effort all things that might be side bars but are not germane to our necessary objectives.
For some, passion is like love. Fleeting and elusive, it appears both tangible and wispy at the same time, a haze that at first blush looks like a wall but remains little more than a reasonable facsimile.
For others, passion is all consuming and choking, with no room for nuance or interpretation.
Somewhere in the middle is where I’m aiming. As the co-architect of our destiny, we ought to find this standard and define it for our own purpose.
I’m a late bloomer. Torn between the absolutism of looking over my shoulder at what might have been, and looking forward to all the great things that can be, I strive every day to choose the latter, though admittedly it might be easier to frame my life based on the choices I’ve already made.
We should direct our pursuits. We should find our passions and define them. Primary among them is:
how does this help me and improve my world?
If the answer involves casualties, I recommend exploring other options. Choices exist.
Find your passion and embrace it. Welcome others into your plan and they will embrace it with you, and nothing is better than the support of family and friends when it comes to lofty efforts.
Our passions, like every other choice, can be rendered for good or bad. That choice remains our dominion.
My passion and energies in years past have been sometimes misdirected.
But introspection and analysis do much to offer insight and guidance. What we do with these life lessons influences our impact on ourselves and our world.
Find your passion. Nurture it. Make it a part of your life and a force for good. Whether it is a passion to perform, to do good deeds, to create, your offerings will offer peace, inspiration, and solid footing in a sometimes perplexing world.
This world needs passionate people, people dedicated to making the world a better place.
Let your passion be your legacy. Let it triumph your accomplishments. If your aim is true, others will take up the banner and cause.
Find your passion. Evolve. Change yourself. Change the world.
Your passion CAN make the world a better place.