November 24, 2015
The last week of November, 2015 – Thanksgiving holiday time.
Wet and breezy in town –
Marine forecast on Puget Sound: wind at 20 knots – waves from 3-5 feet.
In the Cascade Mountains, snow has been falling all night.
Yesterday, I was in Stockholm, Sweden, for most of the afternoon.
It’s dark there this time of year – snow on the ground – below freezing.
The outdoor Christmas markets are already open in the city squares.
Hot mulled wine and apple cider are on offer to fend off the cold.
While I visited, I was listening to Mozart, with introductions to the music in lilting Swedish by a lady announcer.
This morning, as I write, I’m in Berne, Switzerland.
It’s 29 degrees and snowing – Christmas markets are open there, too.
The music on the radio is German folk – oompah bands.
Tonight I’ll be in Buenos Aires for an evening of nuevo tango music.
Once I was there at this time of year – it’s summer – and I remember . . .
It’s 75 degrees and sunny.
This is web-traveling.
Radio stations from every country on earth are available streaming on-line.
The current weather is available, likewise.
If I want visual images, Google Earth will take me there.
And in most places, live web cams are in operation, making the cities visually accessible in real time.
Thanks to technology, you can be there from your arm chair.
There are news breaks on the radio stations from time to time - of course -but in languages I don’t speak or understand – Swedish, German, French, Italian, and Spanish – languages I like to listen to.
Though if I do want local news in English, almost every city has an English language newspaper available on-line.
Usually I stick to music.
Though sometimes I do listen to comedy programs in foreign languages – I don’t understand the jokes, but I understand the laughter from the audience and often find myself laughing along, not knowing why, but not caring.
This is how I get away from the usual news of the American day, which is obsessively focused on violence and death.
I don’t need to begin my day with a litany of shootings, bus wrecks, explosions, and the awful side of human experience.
I know about all that.
Most of it’s not my fault – nothing I can do about it.
Evil and the devil are always at work in the world.
I know, I know, I know . . .
So I step aside for a day or two – get away – thanks to the web and my imagination and memories.
One is not required to be a captive audience of radio and TV.
They both have “off” switches.
One is not required to be caught up in the media murder-and-mayhem frenzy.
One does not need to be a death-toll junkie.
The lead stories about sensationalized violence – horrible ways to die – injustice – crime – corruption – are only a part of the news of the day.
There’s no-news, and there’s good news.
But you have to choose to go and look for it and notice it and make room in your brain and spirit for delight and peace.
You may choose to do that.
And I do.
All week I’ve been asked this question:
“What will you be doing for Thanksgiving?”
Answer: having lunch with an old and cherished friend who needs company and a chance to get away from the usual news of the day.
He’s not only my friend, he’s my Congressman.
The woes of the world weigh heavy on him these days.
I asked him where he’d like to be on Thursday – never mind how – and he said “Portugal.”
So, I’ll take him.
We’ll listen to Radio Portugal – some fine fado music – look at some images and maps and videos of Lisbon – where it’s 65 degrees and sunny.
And drink some fine Port wine
We won’t be gone long.
But long enough to get away, to reframe and rebalance our minds.
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November 22, 2015
The last week of November, 2015
Cold and clear
Whenever obligations necessitate my unmooring the slow-moving barge of my daily life into the mainstream of travel, my mind seems equally unmoored and free to go with the flow – sometimes caught by the current, sometimes eddied up along the banks of the river of life.
Ports of call in the last 10 days include Salt Lake City, Utah – Seattle, Washington, Vancouver, B.C., Canada – and St. Cloud’s restaurant on a night when the Rolling Blackouts were playing foot-stomping music.
Being there is an existential place – a state of mind.
So - what follows are pieces of the flotsam and jetsam picked up at random while I was in motion for the last few days.
* * *
Outstanding storm roared into Seattle early in the week – not the usual amateur team of breeze-and-drizzle, but a major league invasion of muscle-bound wind driving waterfall rain. Gusts to 50 mph, 4 inches of sheeted water.
And I got out in it – being a storm lover – and also liking being on the streets with the hardy soldiers of humanity who are not intimidated by heavy weather – those who defy or enjoy Mother Nature in her reckless moods.
But not everybody was clued in to what’s happening outside.
Watched a lady walk out of a store and open her umbrella without thinking.
I wanted to shout, “Don’t do it, lady,” but too late.
She comically struggled in combat with her umbrella until the wind turned it inside out and tossed it in front of a bus. She watched in dismay as the umbrella got stuck under the bus and was scraped away up the street.
“No, No, NO!” she screamed into the wind.
A young man gleefully collected the battered umbrella wreckage that log-jammed up against a row of newspaper vending containers. (He seemed pleased with himself and his bounty – but what will he do with them?)
Stormy days are good for shopping – the stores are empty of customers and the salespeople are eager to help you.
And I came home with new shoes – two pairs – bought because I stopped in for shelter from the wind in front of a store I had never been in before.
New shoes – a surprise gift from the storm.
(see my Facebook page for photos https://www.facebook.com/robertleefulghum)
* * *
Taking temporary refuge from the rain in a coffee house, I browsed through the accumulated magazines left behind by the caffeinated crowd.
In a Consumer’s Report I noted that the average American uses 20,800 sheets of toilet paper per year – the length of 23 football fields.
The same issue had information about The Annual Toilet Paper Wedding Dress Contest. (I am not making this up – I checked it out online – take a look:
The winner got $10,000.
What a world!
Reminds me of the story I read about the bride who caught her groom and maid of honor having sex in a storage closet during the rehearsal dinner.
The bride took her wedding dress to the church the next morning, wadded it up out in the yard, poured kerosene on it, and set it on fire.
Probably not a toilet paper dress.
(There’s a website for wedding dress fires by the way – if that interests you. https://goo.gl/irRGNs)
* * *
Overheard in a cafe where I had lunch:
“How about a hot turkey sandwich as a run-up to Thanksgiving?”
“I hate turkey. I could go for a hot swan sandwich – something with a little class.”
* * *
The birth of a 5 pound baby girl isn’t big-time news.
Unless it is a gorilla.
Nadiri, the lady gorilla at Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo, brought forth her infant right on time this week – much to the delight of her keepers, those who are gorilla aficionados, and all the elementary school kids for miles around.
The mother, who was also born at the zoo, didn’t quite know what to make of what happened. She touched it in curiosity, and then retreated to the far side of her cage to stare at it in confused wonder.
Not unlike the feelings some human mothers have, I suppose.
“What have I done? And what do I do now?”
Out of respect for Nadiri’s dismay, the zoo keepers will take charge and care for it, as they once did for her. Being a creature of captivity, the mother has no examples to base her responsibilities on. Showing her a video won’t help, either.
The gorilla birth does take one’s mind off the usual news of the day.
There will be a big hoo-ha contest to name the gorilla child.
I wonder if the mother has a name for her infant – or herself.
* * *
A little boy in a playground in a park in Vancouver, Canada.
Brown skin, dark eyes – a Sikh, Punjabi, Chinese?
He is alone – no parents or other children in sight.
He is also alone on a see-saw – sitting at one end, down on the ground – with no playmate to set the see-saw in motion.
A sad and lonely sight.
It takes two to see-saw – a metaphor for being human, I suppose.
The little boy seemed pleased that the man noticed him – which is what we all need – just someone to notice us from time to time.
The video continues:
The man walks over to the see-saw and smiles.
The little boy smiles back.
The man is too big to sit on the other end of the see-saw to set it in motion.
So he begins gently pushing down his end, while the little boy rides up-and-down,
They do not speak.
They have a common language – they understand see-saw.
(check out “images for see-saws – at Google on the web. https://goo.gl/AeKyrK)
* * *
Just came in from standing out in the cold dark night staring at my environment.
My motivation for meditation is a new book about the topography of Seattle.
“Too High & Too Steep” by David B. Williams.
Factoids: 17,400 years ago, the Puget lobe of the North American Ice Sheet covered where I live with 3,000 feet of ice.
The ice melted away1,000 years later.
The ice will be back . . .
The Seattle Earthquake Fault runs underneath my apartment – the last action was 1,100 years ago – magnitude 7 - but a new quake is way overdue.
Mt. Rainier, the nearby volcano blew its top 5,600 years ago, poured lava, and hot rivers of muddy debris down into my neighborhood.
It’s also overdue – because the tectonic plate it sits on the edge of is on the move.
And when it snaps, next comes the tsunami . . .
It’s dangerous as hell to live where I live.
Maybe tonight’s the night . . .
* * *
Factoid: You are 27 times more likely to be killed by a cow as by a shark.
True, I suppose – but cows can’t swim and at least there are none loose nearby.
At least I won’t worry about that when I tuck into bed tonight.
* * *
I pledge allegiance to the flagging hope that this is not the day my world ends.
* * *
If you and I had been out for a walk-and-talk today in the late afternoon early winter sunshine, I would give you a small gift in parting – until we meet again.
“Hold out your hand,” I would say.
And you would do that.
And I would put an ordinary paper clip in your hand, and tell you this:
“During World War II, when the Nazi Germans occupied Norway, the Norwegians adopted paperclips as a secret sign of their solidarity and resistance.
An ordinary piece of bent wire that signified a determination to hold on and stick together, in spite of all the odds against.
The Nazis never noticed or knew.
I give you this paperclip as a memento of our solidarity as friends.
Whatever happens – until it does – in the meantime, treasure the paper clip.
Pass it on.”
Imagine that . . .
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November 10, 2015
The third week of November, 2015
A friend is leaving a marriage to launch herself out there into the world to find her life’s true companion. She hasn’t met him yet – she just thinks he must be out there - a better deal must be available. So she’s getting off the bus she’s on to go stand at the bus stop and wait.
Here some thoughts for her on the subject – from my novel, THIRD WISH.
THE ONE AND ONLY
It is a credible statistical possibility that somewhere among the billions of human beings on Earth there is one person more compatible as a life companion for each one of us than any other.
A statistical possibility.
Reasonable men and women would not argue.
“Right,” we say, “So where’s mine? My soul-mate? My one and only?”
There’s a tsunami of activity on the social media where people are seeking a solution to that longing. “Where are you? Are you out there?”
About 2,400 years ago Plato wrote The Symposium as a rational exploration of love. In his account of a banquet held in honor of Eros, Plato has Aristophanes relate the fable about Zeus dividing the first human beings in half because he was threatened by their power.
Forever after, Aristophanes asserts, each person has longed to be reunited with that missing half in order to feel whole again.
This yearning for completion is called love.
Even Socrates, who was present at the banquet, could not poke enough holes in the idea to sink it.
And so, as fairy tales say, it has been to this very day.
However. The odds against any one person finding their perfectly matched exact companion is so statistically improbable that to build one’s hopes on that is like expecting that you will meet Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in the supermarket this afternoon.
Even less likely is the possibility that Snow White would be expecting you. Or that her Prince would be in the next aisle over.
Or that the Dwarfs would fit into your plans.
Yet the Romantic Fallacy that one will win Destiny’s Lottery is so powerful that the Coast of Love is littered with the wrecks of the starry-eyed mariners who steer their ships onto its rocks, lured by the siren-song of the One and Only. “Here I am. Come and get it,” they sing.
The shallow shoals of the Romantic Fallacy become the deep seas of Romantic Fatalism.
A good way to drown in despair.
The hollow longing of those whose experience finally convinces them that they have not and will not ever find the Right One is filled with the sweet sorrow of feeling that they have missed a safe landing on Paradise Island by the smallest miscalculation; a vexing kink in the Thread of Chance.
“If only . . .” are the first and last words of this lament.
He or She may have been on the next bus; on a previous train; five minutes late; three rows down; in an accident on the way; delayed by rain; or home with the flu that night of the party.
These relentless-but-unfulfilled yearnings shrink our minds to raisins.
We wait. Wait. Wait for the one bearing the Fed-X package of true love.
Most poignant are the “I Saw You” columns. Asking, “Did you see me?” The Girl who glanced at me getting off the ferry.
The Man in the red pickup truck at the traffic light.
The wrong number phone call that sounded so promising.
Somebody else’s blind date.
The woman sorting through tomatoes in the salad-bar of the supermarket. The guy leaving the coffee shop last Friday.
The distant figure at the rail of a passing ship.
Pulse pounding from the provocative possibility, we implore:
“Did you see me?”
No. No. Because they weren’t looking for you.
But the game goes on - Hide and seek and hide and seek and hide and seek. .
If waiting does not pay off, and searching does not pay off, What . . . ?
We make do.
Take the pick of the litter available.
Concede and compromise.
Her or him as well as another.
In a mood of Now-or-Never, and determined to turn Better-Than-Nothing into As-Good-As-Can-Be-Expected, we act with gritty determination to make acceptable what is only an inadequate substitute for the Man or Woman of Our Dreams.
Sometimes it actually works out pretty well. Sometimes.
But even the best the statistical odds on failure are 50-50.
That’s the divorce/failure rate. Heads or tails. Call it.
Still, it’s a chance we take because we believe in a Love that can overcome anything, despite repeated and ongoing evidence to the contrary.
But suppose. Just suppose . . .
That once in a lifetime the person most suitable for you appears.
How will you know? How will they know? What’s the secret sign?
And what if it happens on a bad day, when you are hung over or have a cold or they went out of their house in their shabbiest clothes just to get milk? Will you still know, no matter what?
Or will you have missed your chance?
Would a committee of ten thousand wise elders, psychologists, marriage counselors, and frenzied family and friends be any help?
Or is Destiny strong enough to overcome any and all obstacles?
Even more important is this consideration:
Would you expect to recognize the One instantly? Love at first sight?
Or would you know only after a life-long companionship?
Is Big Love made in Heaven or lived into on Earth?
And since living with another person is always a tidal matter of the ebb and flow of good and bad, workable and unworkable, seasons and times and weather, age and chance, who can ever say for certain, at the beginning, the end, or in the middle: This was the One?
This is a vexing conundrum – even if one does not believe in the One and Only, the shadow of the possibility always falls across the pages of the novel one is writing out of one’s life.
If not the One, is the One-for-the-time-being all that can be obtained?
Or is it that one is looking for the wrong thing in the wrong place – that it’s a matter of attitude rather than opportunity.
Were the hippies right? “If you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with?”
The author of THIRD WISH is a character in the novel.
He dedicates his book to his idea of The One And Only in this way:
AN AUTHOR’S DEDICATION:
“This book is for you, the one I missed;
You, whose path I never crossed;
You, who never arrived in my life;
Still, this book is for you,
Because you must be there.
Many times have I altered my Way
To be where you might be:
On a great ship, crossing to England;
On the night train to Barcelona;
On the pilgrim route around Shikoku.
In Monet’s garden in Giverny,
In Oxford at Blackwell’s Books,
In the art museums of Vienna,
In Amsterdam at the Golden Tulip,
In Rouen in the Cathedral.
Were you in Santa Fe last Christmas?
I looked for you there.
On the island of Crete last spring?
I looked for you there.
Where are you?
Will I ever find you?
Have you looked for me?
Come to me. Find me.
This book will tell you where I am.
This book is for you.”
And so what happened, you asked.
Well, she came and found him.
And was she The One?
Yes. For a while.
And it was magnificent – for a while.
And then, life went on, as it always does.
* * *
When I re-read what I’ve written, I wonder if it sounds cynical to readers, when in fact, in my eyes, it’s realistic.
Getting what you think you want is always problematical.
Satisfaction involves continual readjustment and open-ness to change and reality and circumstance.
The key to making hide and seek work is knowing that you and The One are forever in process and wanting what’s becoming is workable, while demanding that what is stand still without change is not.
link to this story
November 09, 2015
Pack Creek Ranch – San Juan County, Utah
The second week of November, 2015
Clear skies, windy weather – cold at night – 14 degrees – ice on the pond - but warming during the days – and heavy snow on the mountains that will last until spring. Winter cometh . . .
Here’s an essay written 14 years ago – reprinted by request:
Brains are strange things.
If you have one, you know what I mean.
For three nights in a row I dreamed my brain was picking up Mexican radio stations playing mariachi music. Clear reception, too.
I couldn’t quite understand the news and ads.
But I did like the music.
The volume was a problem.
Woke me up.
So I lay there in the darkness - thinking about thinking . . .
EPOKHE – (Greek for “I suspend judgment)
Stephen Hawking once slept in my bed here at Pack Creek.
It’s true. Several years ago.
I wasn’t in the bed or even in Moab at the time, so I didn’t meet him.
He had been in Salt Lake taking part in an astronomy conference, and wanted to visit the red-rock canyon-lands country.
My house provided the accessibility he needed.
Neighbors handled the arrangements.
And so Stephen Hawking slept in my bed - for two nights.
I would have guessed that he had a special bed to fit his special needs.
But, no, I was told that he actually slept in my bed.
I don’t know if he used my sheets and blankets and pillows, but the mattress is the same – and I’m still sleeping on it.
Hoping invisible vibrations of intelligence emanate upward into me.
In a way, it’s a kind of special responsibility to sleep where Stephen Hawking once slept, don’t you think?
Sometimes I go to sleep wondering what Stephen thought about in my bed.
Thinking is about all he can do, so he thinks a lot.
When I try to deliberately think in bed I always fall asleep.
Most of my thinking takes place while a lot of other things are going on.
My thinking is always like throwing a lot of mis-matched clothes in the washing machine at the same time and hoping for the best.
But deep thinking is what Stephen Hawking does most of the time.
And so, last night I lay awake for a long time.
Trying hard to think deeply, like Stephen.
Where should I begin?
Assume the validity of the Big Bang Theory of the universe.
About 14 billion years ago - KABOOM!
What lit the fuse?
What happened in the first trillion, trillion, trillionth of a second?
In the first three minutes?
Consider that if something has a finite beginning, it has a finite ending – based on the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics and the notion of entropy.
Even if it’s still expanding, sooner or later the universe will contract and end.
What will happen in the last three minutes of the universe?
The last trillion, trillion, trillionth of a second?
Will there be a sudden humongous sucking sound, like when the toilet in the bathroom is flushed out?
And then . . . what?
And then what? And then what? And then what?
I suppose Stephen could easily stay awake and keep thinking at that point.
(I wonder if his brain ever picks up Mexican radio stations?)
Me, I fell asleep.
Not to worry - things on my mind often clear up overnight.
But this morning?
Right back where I was.
Big questions – no answers – not even reasonable speculation.
But Stephen considered these issues and kept thinking.
His most recent book is called “The Grand Design” and I read it.
It’s like walking along in a clearing and suddenly coming upon a deep, dark, forest, and you’re not sure you can or should go on.
But Stephen Hawking and his mind kept going, and he stayed awake.
I’ll quote the first paragraph of the book:
“We each exist for but a short time, and in that time explore but a small part of the whole universe. But humans are a curious species. We wonder, we seek answers. Living in this vast world that is by turns kind and cruel, and gazing at the immense heavens above, people have always asked a multitude of questions: How can we understand the world in which we find ourselves? How does the universe behave? What is the nature of reality? Where did all this come from? Did the universe need a creator? Most of us do not spend most of our time worrying about these questions, but almost all of us worry about them some of the time.”
That’s the clearing just before you come to the forest.
And he does come out in another clearing at the end.
With something called “M-theory” – the theory of everything.
Read the book. At least try to get as far into the forest as you dare.
Be patient with your brain while reading.
Less daunting opportunities for deep thought have come up recently.
Here’s a fairly accurate account of a conversation with friends around the fire on a cold night.
First, whatever your religious convictions or affiliations may be, justg assume for the sake of conversation the truth of Christianity regarding Heaven – start there.
What questions come to mind?
Whatever . . . no boundaries.
Will we recognize each other in heaven?
What age will we be? The one when we die or an earlier, better age?
How will we be dressed?
Will we be together with our friends and families?
How shall we meet up?
One person said that she and her father had worked this problem.
They will be together, but will have to look for each other first.
So they have an agreement.
When they got to the pearly gates, turn left and move up as high as possible.
“Left and up.”
What will we do in heaven?
Will we know what’s going on back on earth?
Will other people of good faith be there – no matter that they had a different set of metaphors for heaven? The Muslims, Mormons, Navajos . . .
Will we be disappointed if our version was bogus?
I won’t give tell you how people answered – you’re on your own.
It’s enough to say that the conversation got pretty goofy.
But speculation about the afterlife is legal, moral, and entertaining.
And tells you a lot about the creative imaginations of your companions.
When we started wondering about the secret relationships between Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, and if we would meet them in heaven, we called it a night. And went away laughing . . .
This deep thinking episode led me to look up an old companion.
Michel de Montaigne.
His book, “Essays” is a reliable resource for deep thinking.
He wrote in a very personal way, as if the reader was a friend.
He didn’t have answers to the big questions, but he had a great attitude.
One of his favorite concepts was taken from the Greek word epokhe which means “I suspend judgment.”
Montaigne was not afraid to think about anything, large or small, public or private. From the meaning of life to the cause of his flatulence.
He wanted to stretch his mind as far as it would go. When he reached the limits of his understanding or comprehension, he avoided a conclusion.
Epokhe defined his position. Pending further thought and better information, he suspended judgment. And he accepted the idea that some matters did not have to be decided. Life can and does go on without deciding.
Are the number of grains of sand in the desert an odd or even number?
Is there life on other planets? Is your child as smart as mine?
As to an afterlife, epokhe.
As to the ultimate beginning and ending of the universe – epokhe.
As to living this day as well as possible? Now we’re getting real.
Whatever the topic, it is clear that epokhe does not apply to memorable, long winter evenings spent in lively, open, free-wheeling discussion with dear companions who laugh in the face of the incomprehensible.
On that I do not suspend judgment.
By the way, my only request of Stephen Hawking was that he tell me what he was thinking about when he slept in my bed - so that I might try thinking about the same topic.
His wife left behind a note with one word on it:
Certainly within my mental range.
link to this story
November 03, 2015
Pack Creek Ranch – San Juan County, Utah
The first week of November, 2015
Unseasonably warm – 72 degrees at mid-day -
Unusually windy – gusts to 40 mph. at dusk – as a new storm arrived
And now, rain – with snow is promised in the mountains overnight.
Most of what’s written about All Hallows Eve appears before the celebration.
“Here it comes- get your candy, your costume, your pumpkin and go for it.”
Then suddenly it’s all over until next year – because Thanksgiving is the next seasonal truck to run over us.
The pumpkin is trashed - the Time Of the Turkey is nigh.
But a quick glance back over my shoulder brings this line of thought to mind:
COSTUMES FOR THE STAGE
A misanthropic friend of mine confessed that he suffers from Halloween phobia.
An existential kink in his spirit.
He hates the trick-or-treat routine of the greedy little kids so much that he spent last Saturday night cowering in the back room of his darkened and unwelcoming house – shades drawn – drinking bourbon – and muttering to himself.
He even put a BEWARE OF THE DOG sign in his yard.
(He doesn’t have a dog.)
But it’s the costume thing that really bugs him.
He thinks costumes reveal more about people than he wants to know.
He doesn’t want to be exposed to the evil, ghoulish side of the human race.
Or the silly, stupid, foolish facets either.
(He really is a curmudgeon - at times.)
So. He hid in the back of his house, thinking ill of his fellow homo sapiens.
He said, “You’ll never catch me in a costume – never!”
And I replied, “Horse manure – you wear costumes every day.”
“No, I don’t.”
“Yes, you do.”
As a base for dialogue, let’s start with the famous lines from Shakespeare’s play, As You Like It, Act II, Scene VII, spoken by the melancholy traveller, Jacques:
“All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
And one man in his time plays many parts.”
Jacques goes on to list the seven ages of man, and though he doesn’t elaborate,
he suggests that different costumes are worn in each of those turns on stage.
Real life is theater – we are actors – and it’s a costume event.
And there’s a Halloween dimension to daily dress.
Check your mirror.
We all have multiple personalities, and we dress to signal which role we are acting on any given day.
For example, my melancholy friend dresses as a ghost every night – because he is a radio personality – a voice of an unseen presence - so he goes to work in a bland, grubby, grey sweat suit.
Nobody can see him, so he wears the costume of a disembodied voice.
But last week he dressed in a suit-and-tie to visit his mother-in-law.
And wore a sports-coat-and-tie to church on Sunday morning.
On Sunday afternoon, he put on his camouflage hunting clothes to clomp around in the mountains looking for deer antlers.
And Sunday night he sat with his buddies in his man-cave watching football – wearing his Denver Bronco sweatshirt and baseball cap.
This morning he lounged around in his ancient bathrobe and rundown slippers - The shabby, ratty, baggy, homeless look.
All costumes – his costumes - for acts in the drama of his life.
Some of them a little scary – some a little weird – some comic.
Many people dress to make themselves invisible – so nobody notices – so they don’t stand out on the street or at school or in the office
They don’t want to attract attention – just blend into the background.
It’s the android look – the costume of the masses – it says “ignore me.”
The purpose of costumes is to declare ourselves to the world – it’s a short-hand message to the observers – a clue how we wish to be thought of – or not.
And then there are the “look-at-me” outfits - the costumes we wear to have dinner out or attend a cocktail party or a wedding or a funeral.
Dress to impress.
The looking-seriously-good disguise.
Nice dress or suit-and-tie - decent shoes – high heels for women.
A little make-up, some jewelry, or a shave and a haircut - and There you are – in the costume of high class and good taste.
There are more costumes to be seen out there onstage:
The ones worn to athletic games – or to visit our mothers – or to apply for jobs - or to play sports.
Bicyclists seem ready for Halloween all the time they pedal around – looking as wild and fast and strong and thin and as Martian as possible.
We wear costumes for gardening - and costumes for shopping - and costumes for meeting our children’s teachers - and costumes for church (as if God cared.)
I admire the costumes worn by little girls on either side of six years old.
Ballerina skirts, princess dresses, fairy outfits – wild colors and sparkly glitter.
It’s interesting to consider that their mothers provide those outfits, while the mothers themselves look like they get dressed at the Good Will.
The moms are playing dolls with their daughters – their daughters are glad to play.
I used to think that young women dressed to attract young men, but a young woman explained to me that young women dress to impress each other.
The costume is worn to identify with their group and to be fashionable.
I also especially like the costumes of the independent-minded old.
Bright plaids – oddball shoes and hats – and sweatshirts with in-your-face slogans. An old geezer I saw this morning had a shirt on that proclaimed, “The Over-The-Hill Gang Kicks Ass.”
I told him I liked his motto. He said that he spent too many years of his life worrying about what other people thought, and then he finally realized he could never know what other people thought, that it was what he thought that was in the way of him being just who he always wanted to be.
And who was that, I asked. “Me,” he replied, “just me.”
That’s his costume now.
It proclaims to the world “This is me – take it or leave it.”
My wife and I have a serious costume conflict.
I dress to please her – because she has to look at me, I don’t.
If she doesn’t like my outfit, I’ll gladly change it.
Nobody else’s impression of me is as important as hers.
I want her to glance at me across a room and think “Yes! He’s my man!”
But she is concerned about what “they” think – and it doesn’t do any good to say that she can’t know unless she asks them – and she won’t.
So, say I, why not just dress for me, dear?
I’ll say, “Yes! you look lovely.”
Unfortunately, my argument is too rational.
“You just don’t understand.”
And I don’t.
There’s the heart of the matter, right?
We’re not usually conscious of the costumes we wear or why.
We spend so much of our life worrying about what other people think of us when all we can ever know is what we think of us – and the occasional spouse and family member. (You’re not really going out the door dressed like that, are you?).
The very old and the very young seem to be clear on this subject.
It’s all those in the middle who accept the need to dress with respect to the opinions of others and their role in the theatrical performance of dailiness.
The difference, by the way, between a costume and a disguise is that with a disguise one usually wears a mask.
Maybe the line ought to be: “If you’re going out the door dressed like that, at least wear a mask.”
And you can and do wear a mask – makeup or the way you hold your face.
And nobody knows who you are. Except you.
And even you are not so sure much of the time.
Life is theater – we play many parts in many productions – and we might as well enjoy the costume opportunities and not take the outfit too seriously.
In a subtle way, it’s Halloween 365 days a year.
As long as you’re always onstage, be sure to give an impeccable performance.
A last word from The Bard of Avon.
When it was founded in 1599, Shakespeare’s own theater, The Globe, used the motto: Totus mundus agit histrionem.
Meaning: All the world plays the actor.
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