Am Misbehaving

Teri Gross, interviewing a young female actor/writer/director tonight on Fresh Air, had an uncomfortable dialog concerning male role-models that have now been revealed as sexual predators. The discussion focused on the challenges of not saying “the wrong thing,” with “the wrong thing” never being elucidated. Presumably it would be something that could be interpreted as hateful of men in general, or dismissive of the human depth and value of the work of some of the men involved, or offensive to men that they might want to work with on future projects.

So they preferred to say nothing.

This contrasted with the All Things Considered interview of women from lineage of three generations that have worked in Hollywood since 1960. They spoke frankly about the problem of sexual harassment and what it takes to avoid degradation. They had direct experience, and so had a specific human story to tell.

In both contexts, their attraction to Hollywood was explained as a reaching for the opportunity to create dreams. Remember that these are successful creators, so they have not hit the wall that causes most workers to hate their jobs after they turn forty. That wall is the gate that narrows when the cost of providing opportunities to all qualified people exceeds the available resources. When opportunities for professional growth thin out, what characterizes those that stay the course?

I would hazard that it’s not just the opportunity to create dreams for others, it’s the link between their work and the expression of their own fantasies. The more powerful those fantasies are, the greater the commitment to their craft.

Perhaps the most disturbing experience I have had in church is being told by a pastor that I was not welcome because when I meditated on the cross, everybody in the congregation felt that they were being sexually harassed. To love someone is to affirm their personality – and if they find more joy in sex than in compassion, they will channel the energy that way.

Couple this to the desire of a director or producer to associate and control beautiful people – the people that we love to watch on the screen – and the adoration that we tender to our media figures is going to amplify their worst habits. The more we adore them, the worse their conduct will become.

The problem is related to the problem Jesus faced with his disciples. The disciples believed that they needed Jesus to tell them what to do, just as consumers of entertainment believe that they need someone to give them dreams. Jesus complained of the “little faith” of his followers because they didn’t believe in themselves. He died, was buried, rose and ascended to convince them that they should cast off their doubts and love others.

Rather than fixing our gaze on that story – the true and heroic testimony of the redeeming power available to all that choose to love – we choose to fill our dreams with fantasies that can’t possibly be made true. In seeking to entertain, Hollywood doesn’t create dreams, it creates illusions. Those that suckle on its teat shouldn’t be surprised when those illusions are pierced, unmasking the self-serving motives of all those that peddle illusion – and exemplified by those that have clawed their way to the top.

Our government is also riven by corruption – politicians don’t have the power to solve our problems, so they peddle illusions. And we are disappointed in our relationships, because we operate under the illusion that someone else can change our soul when that is work that only we can do in collaboration with God.

We’re not going to end exploitation by shaming people, or throwing them in jail. There will always  be replacements.  We’re only going to solve the problem by recognizing illusionists when they appear in our lives, and putting them off with “That’s all very nice, Donald, but I need to pray for a friend before I go visit them.”

Let’s Talk Science and Theology

My friend Jamie Wozny told me, during a career coaching session, that I should “try to keep it simple.” As I drove down Wilshire away from LACMA considering the forty years spent studying physics and religion, I whined to myself, “But it all seems simple to me.”

To bridge that gap is why I dance. At the last nightclub that I frequented, the manager came up to me one night and said “You know, I’m noticing that wherever you are, that’s where the people tend to gather.” A Persian woman came up to me one night to say “You don’t know how good you make us all feel.” Just this weekend my friend Mary Margaret, as we lay all akimbo after rolling around on the floor together for ten minutes, admonished me about viewing myself as an old man, “You really should love yourself more. Others would benefit from the experience of your joy.”

The problem is that most people take the energy that comes out of the heart and direct it downwards to the sacral chakra, the focus of passion and pleasure. I try my best to be disciplined, because otherwise I would just be a slut, but the people that come to LA Ecstatic Dance and the Full-Contact Improv Jam do love to touch and be touched. For many, it’s an opportunity to mix masculine and feminine energy without the complications of a relationship. I’ve benefited from that willingness as I try to figure out how to unlock the feminine graces, but I still find it difficult to withstand the impulse to rest my hand over a woman’s womb as she arches backwards with her hips resting on my thigh. Nobody has slapped me yet, so I surmise that I’m giving in to what they want.

I attempt to patch things up afterwards, just consistently raising energy from the fourth chakra – the heart – up to the sixth chakra. While the latter is associated with the pineal gland and known as the “seat of intuition,” physically it rests right over our cerebral cortex which is the part of the brain devoted to higher reasoning.

Realizing that somebody was peeking into my childhood, I woke up at 3 A.M. with a sinus headache. It’s drying out here in Southern California, and the grass is disintegrating. I eventually dragged myself out of bed to rinse my sinuses with Alkylol.

After crawling back under the covers, it occurred to me that the sinuses sit between the sixth and fifth chakras, the latter being the throat chakra that focuses communication and creativity. I always struggle to engage others in conversation regarding the matters that demand so much of my attention – sometimes to the degree of a painful burning in my throat as emotion wells up from my chest.

In considering Dante, Santayana elaborates Dante’s metaphor of theology as his lost love Beatrice, their happiness frustrated in part by his flirtation with philosophy. This matches my own experience: theology does seem to rise from the heart, while science – the most mature expression of philosophy – rests in the mind.  In the modern era the two camps of heart and mind have chosen to dispute with each other.

Between them we have the voice that wisdom teaches us to reserve for the truth. I have spent my life on this problem – the reconciliation of those two warring camps, each holding half of the truth. If anybody knows of an opportunity to engage with others in dialog on those problems, let me know. I’m willing to travel.