Charlie Chaplin (1889-1977) was an English comic actor and filmmaker who became one of the most famous and recognizable people in the world during the era of the silent film. Born into hardship and poverty, Charlie began working at a young age to help support his mother, performing variety shows in English music halls at a young age, then eventually graduated to acting in theaters, where he gradually developed a theatrical persona known as "The Little Tramp" who wore the signature mustache, ill-fitting suit and black derby hat that Charlie came to be identified with for the rest of his life.
Perhaps because he had to overcome so much adversity in order to succeed, he felt a strong need to control all aspects of his work. He created his own film company, United Artists, to distribute his movies, which he wrote, directed, produced, edited and composed the music for, casting himself as the lead actor. His silent films developed a large populist following throughout the world, in part because they weren't limited by language, but mostly because they featured the
Little Tramp's struggles against rich people, bureaucracy, hypocrisy and bad luck. Employing his unique blend of hilarious slapstick and deep pathos played out against a background of universal political and social themes, his fictional on-screen character was clearly fleshed out by his own, hard-won personal battles.
At the height of his fame, during the Great Depression, there were several Charlie Chaplin Look-alike Contests, where people would compete for cash prizes by growing mustaches, dressing and walking like him. One day, the story goes, Chaplin found himself at a county fair where one such contest was being held, and entered anonymously, just for the fun of it. Imagine his surprise when he came in third place!
The story may be true, or it may be apocryphal, but it serves to remind us that it's seldom easy to be ourselves, much less get recognized for who we really are. And apparently, back then, just as now, it can be mighty hard to live up to our own self image, much less the image(s) that others may have of us. All the more reason to invest whatever time, energy and experiences it requires to learn how to identify who we truly are from the inside out, rather than relying on reports from the outer world to validate us...
At least, that's the role I've chosen to play - and I'm sticking to it.
With blessings on your path of Be-coming,
Monday, February 16, 2015
In October of 1979, I was a twenty-seven-year-old, singer-songwriter whose life was sputtering, personally and professionally. In a few short months I'd lost my recording contract in London, moved back to San Antonio feeling defeated, divorced my high-school sweetheart, and gone through some semi-serious binging on "sex, drugs and rock-n-roll." Broke, sad and scared, I knew I'd hit bottom and that it was time to try a different approach to life, although I had no idea what that might look like.
Earning enough to eat and pay the next month's rent was definitely a priority, so when Craig Pennel, a fan of my music, offered to hire me to paint houses with his company, it seemed worth a try, even though I'd never painted professionally before.
But when I showed up at the jobsite the next day at a stately, two-story Victorian home in the historic King William neighborhood, Craig took one look at the thick, leather gloves I was wearing to protect my guitar-playing fingers, accurately assessed my level of inexperience and ordered me to brush a primer coat on an unobtrusive rear wall of the second floor. He assured me that it was a safe space to practice my technique, with only one caveat: "Whatever you do, don't spill any paint on that antique cedar-shingle roof," he said, gesturing to the porch beneath me.
Sure enough, within a few minutes, a whole quart of paint had slipped through my awkward, gloved hands and landed on the shingles with a loud splat that brought the crew leader scrambling up the ladder, lickety-split. She could easily have fired me on the spot, but instead she graciously offered to help me clean up the mess and remained friendly throughout the process of doing so, even though it took us the whole morning to get all the paint off.
When noon finally arrived, it only seemed fair to buy her lunch at El Mirador, a restaurant around the corner. Zet was so calm, friendly and easy to be with that before the meal was over she and I had become good friends; within two months we'd become constant companions and business partners, too. We got married on the Summer Solstice in 1981 and have enjoyed a wonderful relationship ever since.
Thirty-five years later, I can still recall the look on her face as she came up that ladder, as clearly as if it had happened last week. Her immediate response to my messy mistake was so kind, so caring and non-judgmental, that it represented a major shift from how I'd experienced myself and the world up till then. There was no shame, no blame, no games; just possibilities for making new choices. In retrospect, I can see that the light shining out of her eyes in that moment was my introduction to a whole new way of life, one based on feeling unconditionally loved and loving; being compassionate toward myself and others; seeing life as a series of opportunities to practice being as loving as possible, whenever possible. What a wonderful teacher she was, and is, to this day.
Of course, it hasn't been all peaches and cream; Zet and I have certainly encountered our share of personal and professional challenges in our relationship. And sometimes I still feel so small and unloving that it scares me. But time and again, whenever difficulties arise, I remember what Zet and a number of other powerful teachers have helped me learn since that pivotal moment: that my true purpose in this lifetime is to experience, explore and express the free flow of Love. Period. Everything else is just details.
So this year, as we prepare to celebrate Valentines Day, I pause once again to send a silent, heartfelt "thank you" to the memory of our Cupid: the late, much-missed, Craig Pennel. To feel gratitude for the gift of Zet in my life, as my wife, teacher, partner and best friend. But I also chose to stop and remember that, in the larger sense, every day is Valentines Day - an opportunity to be loving, kind and caring to ourselves, to each other and to every sister and brother we encounter along the way. That's my choice, and I'm sticking to it.
Wishing you love on Valentine's Day and every day,
Saturday, February 7, 2015
If you were to turn on your TV and tune into almost any newscast, you'd be greeted with lots of graphic evidence that the world is in terrible shape, wracked by war, greed and environmental devastation.
But instead of doing that, I invite you to spend the next nine minutes with me, co-creating your own "broadcast" - simply by seeing the world with the eyes of your heart, listening to new possibilities emerging in the space between your thoughts and broadcasting them into the world using your incredibly powerful gift of Imagination.
What follows is a beautiful song, "See Myself in You" ** along with a brief guided meditation on compassion, both of which were performed and recorded with the Circle Band last Sunday morning. It seemed like such a wonderful experience for everyone present, that I wanted to extend it to you here.
This process is part of our participation in the 18th Annual Season for Nonviolence (SNV), which began on January 30th and is being celebrated by spiritual communities and organizations in 900 cities and 67 nations across the globe, including Celebration Circle. Sponsored by the Association for Global New Thought (AGNT.org), the SNV is an educational, media and grassroots awareness campaign spanning from , memorializing the deaths of Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., with the aim of fostering peace through a wide variety of nonviolent actions and attitudes.
Won't you please click on the link at the end of this paragraph and join me in envisioning a world of peace and compassion for a few minutes? Granted, it's not a particularly high-quality recording, nor was my voice in very good shape that day and, for that matter, right now probably isn't the best time for you to pause and meditate with me for nine minutes, either. But... why wait for the perfect time, the perfect place, the perfect words before taking action?
Co-creating a new, world-wide culture of peace is a huge undertaking that requires many people embracing a variety of efforts in a many different places. But who, if not you? And when, if not now?
So, if you're willing, you're invited to take a deep, calming breath now and click below to begin...
Whether you've already opened that link or are waiting until later, thank you for considering the possibility of co-creating a new vision of peace, compassion and Oneness for ourselves and each other. You make a difference!