09 September 2014

Saving the rabbit

I've been thinking a lot about emotions, which, like wind and fire, really have no satisfying explanation as to where they come from. But I think the most fascinating things in life are the things that don't have explanations, and a lot of things don't, despite what scientists tell you. Some people have something in them that I could only describe as magic, you know, good magic, as cheesy as that sounds. There's a girl I know who I don't see very often but somehow always makes me happy and I'm not entirely sure why. Maybe it's because she's still kind of a kid (she just turned thirteen not long ago) maybe it's her random, offbeat humor, or the way she takes little gasps for breath when she laughs. But anyone can have random offbeat humor and take little gasps for breath when they laugh and it doesn't really have the same effect, if you know what I mean. There's some kind of spark in her eyes that I don't see in other people that's just dancing with mischief and music. Have you ever met people like that?

Speaking of music, there's another friend of mine who plays the violin in this entrancing way and I have no idea how she does it (and no, she's not Lindsey Stirling). I can watch any other violinist play some magnificent concerto flawlessly and not do so much as blink. But when she plays, it's somehow different, and the distinction is found in that subtle difference between a skilled musician and a good one. It's the same sound, of course--the same textures, the same skill level, the same frequencies, sometimes even the same song. But when I close my eyes, something more is there, something wholly above and beyond the mere sound of a violin. It makes me want to do things, to jump up and dance and write songs and stories and climb trees and tickle children. Sometimes it feels like she's not playing the violin so much as the violin is playing her, or that she's not playing at all but singing in a language that human vocal chords cannot articulate. There's some kind of fullness in the sound she makes, something that is always very solid and deep, like cedar wood or rich chocolate. It's these lovely little mysteries you find in people that I think are simply too beautiful to solve, and I like to leave them right where they are. It's what makes life interesting.

In many ways, emotions are the inverse of reason--not an enemy of reason, but an interdependent world. Reason, by nature, demands explanation, while emotions demand intuition and inherent understanding. People often speak of women being more emotional than men as if it were flaw--and this is a completely wrong way of thinking. While it can be frustrating at times, it also follows that women have better intuition, and can therefore sense when people (especially children) are upset for quicker than a man can. There's something about the very nature of emotions that crave understanding without having to be explained, without having to go through the messy language machine and popping out on the other end as clean, shiny, horribly unemotional verbs like happy or distressed. Even the more fancy words like euphoric or anguished do an emotion injustice when compared to the time when it was running wild in your veins, free and inarticulate. When an emotion is given a name, it's like dressing it up in a suit and making it camera-ready for the whole world to see. But it's just not the same emotion as it was before, like catching a tiger from the wild and putting it in a zoo. You know what I mean?

Let me give you an example. Say there's a couple--we'll call them John and Mary. John sees Mary folding the laundry with unnecessary violence and asks her what's wrong, to which she shortly replies "Nothing". John, being a simple man, takes her words at face value and shrugs it off, thinking that maybe she's just got a thing for violently folding underwear. Later John asks what's for dinner and Mary responds with an utterly incomprehensible emotional breakdown, and John makes the understandable conclusion that women make no sense at all.

But I submit (heaven forbid that I ever claim to fully understand women) that there is some rhyme and reason to Mary's mood swings, and it lies in the word "Nothing". When she says nothing is wrong, she doesn't really want you to believe her, but for some reason she can't tell you that herself. Why? Because emotions can't stand being explained. They run away when you draw near--a point I tried to make in a post a long time ago called "To tame an Idea". It's maddening, in one way, but then again, isn't that what makes a thing alive? The only time you see wild animals up close is when they're injured. Sparrows fly away when you approach them. Rabbits scurry away into their holes. Even bears and wolves avoid humans if they can help it, and will steal away when they hear you coming. Only dead things stand still--a piece of steak won't put up a fight over being stuck under a microscope, but the animal it once came from probably would. Maybe it's the same with emotions.  Maybe they're like that sparrow or rabbit, avoiding the scrutiny of humans at all costs for no other reason than because they are alive.

But did you catch that last sentence? The only time you see wild animals up close is when they're injured. Why is that? Why do they allow you to look at them? Is because they don't have a choice? Or is there another reason?

Let us now return to John and Mary. Say they have children, and one day those children go wandering into the backyard, and one boy points and shouts "Look! A rabbit!" As they approach, the other boy, who is slightly older and knows a thing or two about rabbits, says "Something's wrong with him, or he would be running away by now".  They creep closer and suddenly the rabbit breaks away frantically, and the children notice that one of his hind legs is pathetically dragging behind him, making him run in sporadic circles and trip over himself. Of course they catch him and bring him inside where he is seen by the great and terrifying Man, who discovers that the leg must be operated on in order for it to heal. Of course the last thing the poor rabbit wants is an operation, but it has to be done, or he will die--or worse yet, become diseased and kill all the other wildlife.

But the great question remains. Why didn't the rabbit run away? Why did he let the children get so close? We could break it down to the science of basic animal instinct, or we could go on a poetic tangent and imagine that maybe, just maybe, he did really want to be caught. Maybe he was waiting for them as if to say "Please, please chase me."

Now lets imagine further that one day the older boy is chatting with his father about Mom how you never really know for sure whether she's upset or not. The little boy asks him, "Why does Mom always say that nothing is wrong and not really mean it?"

John, bless his heart, has a touch of the feminine in him, as has he contemplates the question, he finally begins to understand. He tells his boy that maybe his mother has a little injured rabbit hobbling around inside of her. When she's violently folding the laundry with a scowl on her face, the rabbit inside is letting you get up close, because he really wants you to chase him, to ask what's wrong. When you ask her and she says 'nothing', that's the rabbit jumping away, even though you're trying to help him. But deep down inside the rabbit knows you're trying to help, he just doesn't want his leg operated on, because he knows it's going to hurt. He's ashamed to show that big, ugly scar, but how desperately he longs to hear you say "Hush now, just let me see it."

"That's why your mother gets frustrated when you give up on her so easily," he says. "She's trying to save the rabbit."

-The Minstrel Boy

03 September 2014

In which the Minstrel Boy constructs a puppet theatre out of miscellaneous objects in his bedroom

Been working on a project for a while with some of my insanely talented friends...coming soon!

This theatre was brought to you by: foam boards, cardboard, books, book-stops, guitar stands, felt,  discarded flagpoles, and a scarf.

Filming with In North Bend and Issaquah 

And finally, my favorite...

(Photo credit: Alex Kahler)

I love this bunch! SO FRICKIN EXCITED

-The Minstrel Boy

02 September 2014

Excellence must be earned.

"People glom onto words and stories that are often just stand-ins for real action and meaning. Advertisers look for words that imply a product's value and use that as a substitute for value itself. Companies constantly tell us about their commitment to excellence, implying that this means they make only top-shelf products. Words like quality and excellence are misapplied so relentlessly that they border on meaningless. Managers scour books and magazines looking for greater understanding but settle instead for adopting a new terminology, thinking that using fresh words will bring them closer to their goals. When someone comes up with a phrase that sticks, it becomes a meme, which migrates around even as it disconnects from its original meaning.

To ensure quality, then, excellence must be an earned word, attributed by others to us, not proclaimed by us about ourselves. It is the responsibility of good leaders to make sure that words remain attached to the meanings and ideals they represent."

This is a brilliant book.