Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Lost Keys

Not long ago, I was convinced I had lost my keys. I searched high and low throughout my belongings, even using a spare car key for a short while. Just to discover they were somehow in my purse the entire time, never lost at all. As my significant other Bryan and I had searched, shaken and emptied my purse multiple times, Interdimensional socks...we joked afterwards that maybe they fell out of space and time, perhaps to that interdimensional place lost socks like to live, just to return when I was ready. Or perhaps that new semi-designer purse I was so happy to snag at TJ Maxx is of the magical "Mary Poppins-style" variety. If all the lost socks return next, I'll need more drawer space!

My lost keys represented a lesson I needed to hear. And for a time, I contemplated the many things I had "lost", including a great deal of writing from my youth, something I had tried to preserve, yet had somehow mysteriously vanished years ago.

Or the box that apparently fell off the truck during my last move, containing more writing still and all my precious piano books with the songs I actually know how to play. Anyone who once played the piano, yet fell out of practice, knows of what I speak.

A beloved possession
Or the backpack of my son's precious things stolen from my car a few years ago, including what was arguably one of the most beloved possessions in our entire home - the stuffed animal from his childhood. In a fire, I would have said it was the possession in the house I would have rescued first, right after the people and the pets. Yet one day it was gone, along with every single item my son held dear enough to transport from house to house, lending the consistency children of divorce often require. What a lesson THAT was for both of us, and imagine the challenge I had later that day sharing the news.

So what lessons are these seemingly trivial losses of possessions teaching me? Yes, I could venture into exploring even greater losses and grief, but this particular lesson starts with attachment to things, as well as finding peace in the present moment, no matter what surface-level annoyance attempts to cause a stir.

Attachment is often about fear of change. When we cling to the things in unhealthy ways, what we really fear is the disruption of change. Sentimental and familiar items anchor us with a sense of security, and there is nothing wrong with sentimentality, but the key to peacefully co-existing with such things is to know that we can be at peace even when they are gone.

Even lost keys can shine the light!Society can be sentimental too, clinging not only to things but to ideas, even preserving particular ways of doing things which may no longer serve us well. As I have said many times, the Earth is experiencing a quantum shift. I happen to believe that many of the things we have grown accustomed to are in for radical change.

If we "lose" aspects of our way of life that no longer support our evolutionary growth, do we view it as a tragedy? Or do we celebrate the possibilities? It's our choice.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Oscar showing his age...

Despite the touted improvements in the ceremony this year to improve ratings, if THIS was the promised facelift for Oscar we heard people talking about prior to the ceremony, maybe it's time to find a new surgeon!
Antiquated Oscar
I found that watching Twitter was far more entertaining than watching the ceremony alone, including a running humorous commentary from many in the this choice oft-repeated comment at the end from Tina Dupuy: "The Academy Awards should not hand out Oscars for editing until they learn how to edit the Academy Awards."

I discovered this nice sampling of Oscar-related tweets, after being alerted to one of my own being included in the list.

And if you looked closely at the continuously updating tweet stream with the #oscars tag, you may have even discovered live comments from bonafide Jane Fonda: "It IS moving to see sandra win. And she made a great speech. I am weeping #oscars" or "I love jeff honoring his parents. I have felt that way when I won. #oscars".

But when it comes to the actual production, it's obviously time for far more than a facelift. Maybe a complete reincarnation is in order.

First, it was a mistake to eliminate the performances of "Best Original Song" and instead include breakdancing to the "Avatar" theme (I kid you not, if you missed it). Although I know "Dancing with the Stars" is hot, so maybe people think these big dance production numbers on the small screen still entertain (no, they really don't), it is far more entertaining to see the original artists perform the best songs.

As for the big dance numbers, back in the 1960's and early 1970's, people were regularly entertained by an endless array of such dance productions on their tiny television sets. But that just doesn't work anymore in 2010. Unless you are actually sitting in the theater, all those feathery costumes lose a great deal in translation.

Maybe it's time for Oscar to give social media a try - perhaps include live polls (like "who is wearing the best dress") or display the most entertaining live Oscar-related tweets on-screen during the broadcast, kind of like CNN and the other news networks, even from certified celebrities watching from home.

Now THAT would increase ratings! I laughed far more at the Twitterverse last night than most of the lame pre-canned jokes of Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin. A few struck gold, but not very many. And where was the spontaneity? The best hosts of all are the ones who do it on the fly (or manage to make it SEEM like they're doing it on the fly). Faking on the fly falls flat very fast.

And what was going on with the production itself? Did anyone else notice all the little "glitches"? The missed cues? The awkward pauses? The odd way the John Hughes presentation ended (with apparent disarray and chatter being caught by the mics)? And the more-than-usual confusion at times getting award-winners on stage?

I know they cut the time limit on the acceptance speeches this year, and apparently Tom Hanks felt pressed for time (an understatement), but it's the speeches that actually carry the unpredictability which have added spice to Oscars past. Unpredictability isn't sanctioned much these days. And the joke segment at the beginning was FAR too long, excruciatingly awkward, and not in a good way.

I personally think it's time for something completely new, some truly adventurous, out of the box innovation. Think "Avatar". A paradigm shift. Yes, the Oscars are a tradition, no doubt about it, but it's 2010. We don't need to keep pretending it's 1950 for nostalgia's sake. Recast the nostalgia in an ENTERTAINING way, and add some high-tech, up-to-date flair to the broadcast. The more I think about it, the Twitter feed is not such a bad idea!

And focus on the MOVIES themselves, not poorly written jokes and obtuse production numbers. Maybe even find a way to make the whole thing SHORTER, but BETTER, without sacrificing the parts that matter most.

Don't get me wrong. As a long-time movie buff, I LOVE the Oscars. But Oscar is ready to be reborn.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Shifting from Fear-Based Authority to Love-Based Respect

Lately I have been contemplating how our historical societal beliefs in a strict, judgmental authoritarian God have influenced just about every aspect of our lives, from marriage, to parenting, to schools, to the workplace, to government itself.

When you view the Creator of the Universe as a gentle Loving partner and guide, as something truly inseparable from us all, that is a paradigm shift with profound effects on how we view relationships and leadership in general.

In marriage, some may be surprised to know that there are still many people who believe the husband should be in a leadership role, based on their beliefs, although how they interpret their beliefs does indeed influence how much of a partnership exists in marriage, as opposed to the husband taking on a strict authoritarian role. I have explored this topic online in the past, with interesting responses on all sides. In fact, it was one of the most popular posts I ever created on the Oprah forum, with almost 23,000 views and over 200 replies (Let's Discuss What the Bible Says About Women ). I learned a lot from that thread regarding how marriage is gradually evolving towards more of a respectful partnership, even very subtly in conservative circles (though many women still disempower themselves daily). There are some who are attempting to re-assert the authority of men in marriage, but I believe such attempts will ultimately fail, as more and more women claim their truly equal status in marriage and in society.

As a parent, when a child behaves inappropriately, it is easier to lay down the law in an strict, authoritarian way, than to act as a gentle guide. Yes, younger children require more direct intervention, if they are about to run into the street, for example - however, HOW you go about this is very important. James Dobson and "Focus on the Family" still advocate authoritarian methods of parenting, even physical punishment. However, many parents are now evolving towards a different model altogether, as indicated by the popularity of "Love and Logic" parenting classes.

A strict authoritarian approach does not truly teach a child. All it does is instill fear of punishment, just like strict, authoritarian depictions of God. Fear may be a motivator, but it's not a truly productive one, and ultimately this is why children choose to rebel. And directing anger or physical correction towards a child only tells a child that reacting in anger, or even worse, with physical violence, is perfectly ok. When you view parenting as a partnership, particularly as children become old enough to understand, when you use your creativity to lead via influence, not authority, when you gently guide a child towards appropriate behavior in innovative ways, THAT's when lifelong lessons are truly learned. Threats and punishment may have a short-term effect, but the lasting effect is more harmful than good.

School districts which deploy "zero tolerance" approaches are essentially modeling the behavior of a strict, authoritarian leadership structure, indeed subtly modeled on the concept of a "zero tolerance" God, though we may not realize this is so. Such approaches are based on fear, not on reason. Children are punished severely, even when there is no intent to commit an offense. I believe all such approaches in school administration will ultimately fail and be replaced. In the old days, even corporal punishment in public schools was allowed. Now it is almost universally frowned upon. Society has evolved, and society will continue to evolve towards a model which treats children with the loving respect they deserve, while still creatively guiding children to appropriate behavior. This is NOT the easy path - it is much easier to lay down the law in a strict authoritarian way, but we are capable of creatively devising the solutions to make it happen. And the result will be children who actually listen and become the balanced, loving citizens of Planet Earth we seek to create.

And now we come to the workplace. Authoritarian structures run rampant in just about every workplace environment today. We all know the difference between a good boss and a bad boss, and generally the bad bosses are the ones who do not know how to treat their employees with the respect they deserve, who choose not to listen to those they lead, who have forgotten that a true team is a partnership, not a dictatorship. Where did we ever get the idea that it is ok to yell at employees in the workplace? Yet such highly disrespectful, disempowering scenarios occur daily, with many workplace environments resembling abusive parenting households more than true teams. We must have the courage in business to lead with gentle influence, to take the road less traveled, to innovatively find ways to motivate those we lead, and to treat even the people on the lowest rung of the corporate ladder with the respect they deserve. People with good bosses already know why this works. Indeed the term "boss" itself has authoritarian implications. A true leader is not a "boss" at all.

And then we come to the ultimate authority structure of all: government. Our criminal justice system is failing us. That's because it is based on punitive, often unreasonable, vengeance-based, fear-based foundations, not on the intent to truly understand and seek to rehabilitate those who fall into its clutches. We see our impulse for vengeance in the punishment of accidental crimes, or of the mentally ill, or in punishing offenses based on the results, not the intent. Even when clear intent exists, we would rather slam the door shut and throw away the key, rather than seek to heal what caused the crime to begin with. Once again, our impulse in society to follow the strict, punitive path is based on age-old beliefs in an authoritarian God who does much the same.

Embracing a new form of enforcing the laws of society will require a huge paradigm shift, and it is not the easy path. Yet we will begin to treat people with the respect they deserve. And when it comes to leadership in government, we are finally evolving as a civilization beyond the kingship/emperorship/dictatorship model. Many of us are beginning to realize that government cannot rule with an iron fist, even if that's the apparently easy path (not really, since it ultimately leads to strife and dissolution). But still, we have a long way to go before we figure out how to define the government of a society based on true respect and influence, rather than authority.

There is an ultimate solution. It is evolution. The old fear-based approaches are based on survival-level existence, where fear is inevitable, where God is something to be feared, not simply Loved, where authority appears required just to survive. I truly believe our quantum leap to a new level of Consciousness holds the lasting key. And that is once again where peace not only becomes possible on Earth, but in every aspect of society.