8/7/22: my stream of consciousness while watching “Lolita” (1962) #poetry

8/7/22: my stream of consciousness while watching “Lolita” (1962) #poetry

Kubrick’s declaration of independence, he starts with a “Spartacus” joke. He didn’t like the experience. His world broke apart, and he rose from the dead, born again. The opening scene is daring, surreal.

IT’S WHAT I WANT TO SAY DAMMIT, Stanley cries, NOT WHAT YOIU WANT TO HEAR.

Screenplay by Nabokov, music by Nelson Riddle with Peter Sellers and James Mason and Shelley Winters. A diverse palette.

Narrative grudgingly introduced.

A sex farce … sexual obsession presented as farce … a silly human caprice.

Shelley Winters flirts. She was quite desirable in 1962, a voluptuary. And we know this freak wants a little girl. Crazy.

“1776,” says Humbert (Mason). This movie was Kubrick’s liberation.

It’s always about the artist, sweetheart.

This isn’t about sex at all. It’s about looking at sex a different way.The opposite of Freud. Not sex sublimated in the other comings and going of life … rather the other comings and goings of life sublimated in sex.

Kubrick … and it is Kubrick, it’s not Nabokov … Kubrick read Nabokov as I watch Kubrick … he sees himself in the other man’s art … the art becomes the subject of new art … and is totally different.

Kubrick is beyond rebellion. He isn’t reacting in opposition to Hollywood romantic convention, he is transcending it naturally.

He has died to the world and come to birth from within. Film and sex have original and natural meanings for Kubrick.

His true experience, beyond argument … criticism is irrelevant. The man allows himself to sing.

Shelley Winters is willing to look clumsy and pathetic. Beautiful women are drag queens. She exposes the lie. She is perfect for Kubrick who wants to share all he sees.

The mother daughter competition is a little boring. I like the surrealism. But Kubrick is learning as he leans into his power.

I don’t need Shelley’s tears. I know she is desperate. Kubrick is still learning how good he is.

I don’t care about narrative much. I like the cluttered rooms and the ways the actors rub up against each other.

Sue Lyon is good as Lolita … a sophisticated and flirtatious — child, a contradiction. Now I’m being obvious.

The difference between love and obsession … that’s interesting …

This movie reminds me of Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Phantom Thread”. The music especially. Daniel Day Lewis’ once obsessive work flourishes with love. James Mason’s life unravels with obsession.

James Mason plays an attraction to madness. In himself and in Shelley Winters. She alludes to suicide and pulls out a gun and he likes it. It, not her. This is a sick movie. Kubrick is dancing on every edge.

Shelley Winters plays her scenes like she wants to ravage him but holds back. Humanity is ridiculous and sad, controlled by its lusts and desires in Kubrick’s world in 1962. He doesn’t want any part of it. He just wants to watch, closely.

Again … plot disinterests me. Mason contemplates “the perfect murder” of Winters. I don’t need that. I just need to see them try to touch one another for good or ill, separated by invisible walls.

Kubrick opened with the surreal.

Shelley Winters does the great dramatic scenes, well — great … but the emoting doesn’t work for me, good as it is … it seems old fashioned … we see the turmoil, we don’t need it announced …

Stanley is still making a movie … I want a Kubrick … I need a Kubrick …

I’m not a Catholic, I’m beyond that … I follow Rick-ism ..

I never was an improviser, I was The Rick

I never taught or practiced law … I was Rick at the university and Rick in the legal system …

Am I a writer? I am a Rick-er …

I am the equal to the world and the world is equal to me …

I follow no prescribed path …

neither did Stanley …

but we tried, right?

With our plots and stories and conventions …

the structures that get too small and then disappear …

Kubrick Agonistes

Rick Agonistes

Even in our free and joyful power

we struggle …

Peter Sellers is a genius … he disappears so that the real Sellers can appear … a master of self hypnosis … he accesses parts of himself of which he was otherwise unaware …

Nelson Riddle’s theme for Mason reminds me of “Phantom Thread”

His theme for Sue Lyon’s Lolita is a miss for me … it is young and playful, pulling punches for the audience … John Williams’ theme from “Jaws” would work better …

I am forgetting this show is ostensibly about sex.

Sellers reminds me it is really about an attraction to madness …

Going insane is often referred to as something feared as strongly as death itself …

But is it? Man wants to be crazy, to make up his own reality rather than accept actuality …

Is that why we need cliches in movies? How things are aren’t good enough for us?

How things are are good enough for me.

The potentials of ordinary life are infinite … I can’t even imagine searching for meaning in sexual congress with a young girl …

When Roe was overturned so many women reported, almost casually, that they had been raped when they were young …

I can’t imagine that sin …

In 1962 this movie wasn’t free to examine the disfunction of pedophilia … that destructive murderous lust that destroys lives, and thus the pedophiles remained protected …

“Lolita” has more sympathy for the devil of pedophilia than I do …

so I prefer to think of the movie as a portrait of Kubrick looking at life through a lens … because that is what it is , and he is not even thinking about sex …

he’s thinking about how he looks through his lens

I think pedophiles deserve sympathy like everyone else, but pedophilia has to be seen in full …

Humbert Humbert doesn’t seem to be motivated by dominating power …

Charlie Chaplin and Oona …

Woody Allen and Soon -Yi …

Perversions?

I don’t know … I wonder academically because the movie fails me on the substance

But Kubrick doesn’t give a shit about the substance

He’s not my teacher

He shares with me what he sees and how he sees it …

That’s what I do with you

Some of you may see me as a source of answers

But the answers, when they come, are yours

I’m waiting for the movie to end

I am losing interest

My mind wanders

I wish Peter Sellers did more serious roles

He is such a great actor, comedy is a limitation …

he was so wonderful in “Being There”

I imagine him as a mess who could visit Paradise on cue …

He gets that this piece is about madness

He lights things up

Now back to possessiveness and all the other cliches just inflected through weirdness

The drama is a drag, now James Mason is in the Shelley Winters role

The scandal is obvious

The filmmaking is on the road to sublime

The artist doesn’t know everything

he knows how to communicate what he knows

and what he misunderstands

It’s all process

One movie after another

One segment after another

One word after another

The artist charts all of life’s transformations

Write what you don’t know.

That’s where the gold is …

The movie is not through, but I am …

for the evening …

Copyright 2022 Richard Thomas

8/7/22: My Time at the UIC Business School — A Case Study of Oppositional Friendship and a Way Forward? #poetry

8/7/22: My Time at the UIC Business School — A Case Study of Oppositional Friendship and a Way Forward? #poetry

I told her my vision for my writing, teaching and life and she said, “How?” How are you going to do it?

I work my way to it, a step at a time.

I had lunch with an old friend from UIC and felt unfairly criticized. I wondered what to do. Did I just have to let go as I have so many times recently? Or do I pursue the friendship? That pursuit seemed to me a mistake. It would be mere defensiveness, and keep me trapped in a situation that I had outgrown.

I was quite agitated about all of this, and I came across some quotes from Nietzsche about opposition as true friendship, and later recalled the same sentiment from William Blake.

I decided to attempt to oppose my friend in a non-defensive way.

I know two guys. One is a good friend. The other is a good reader. I find nothing to oppose in either one of them. We are very much alike and we affirm each other.

And of course, I had to let go of false friends who weren’t friends at all.

My old friend from UIC is a different story.

Did I only have two gears for relating to other people … the true friends who were so similar, and the false friends who were actually enemies to withdraw from in acts of self preservation?

And is considering this question part of the answer to the question “how”?

I’m going to share my text correspondence with my old UIC friend without hiding the identities of any of the people I oppose as enemies or friends. I don’t see why any of this should be confidential.

I haven’t heard back from my old friend, but for our purposes, his reaction is irrelevant.

Is my approach here a necessary part of my tool kit as I try to improve the delivery of my writing and teaching to people who would benefit from them, and in ways that would benefit me and the overall world?

To protect oneself from enemies with distance and the right kind of defenses, to sustain oneself with others like me for mutual support and growth, and to oppose good people with whom I disagree and through the dialogue perhaps make things better?

To work as an artist, and to live in dignity and freedom is not an off the rack endeavor. It is much more demanding than building a career and an entertaining social life. It is also much more worthwhile.

As I write this, I wonder about some other relationships … mirroring friends, oppositional friends, enemies or just attachments without connection, people who happen to be around, but have nothing to do with my destiny … I hope that I am teaching myself some more nuance in my way of existing with the world …

How to be truly great … as an artist, and a person?

Here’s the correspondence with my old oppositional friend:

OK, processing … I came across a Nietzsche quote about friendship. He said it is more in our oppositions than our similarities.

I’ll begin by restating how happy I am with your new appointment. Nietzsche also said a friend celebrates his friend’s joy and sadness and I truly do.

I felt criticized by you in our last meeting and considered withdrawing from you.

I didn’t answer the criticisms in real time because I didn’t want to detract from the adventure that you are embarking upon.

I didn’t want it to be about me.

But now time has passed. I don’t work with you anymore and my life and work is quite separate from yours.

I have to assert myself for my own life and work while in no way denigrating yours.

You said that I was negative. I can see your point of view. But I think I was a positive presence at UIC. I was first misrepresented to related to my position and then insulted. I patiently tried to persuade and assert my case for the position that I was promised, and then I spoke out.

I was treated like shit at UIC. You have a better experience and I am happy for you.

You always recognized my work and credentialed achievement — Michael, Shanley and Sandy didn’t.

I’m happy that I was there. I closed the classroom door and developed my teaching and writing alone, but I am thrilled that it is transcended and over.

I can see how you would think that complete authenticity isn’t advantageous in the world of work but I disagree with you. I think that attitude serves bosses, but not students (and future workers), and I saw the student as the primary stakeholder.

I don’t agree with you about the Trump tolerance and kumbaya with fascists. I am a lawyer and I have watched for years a torrent of evidence of criminality associated with Trump and Trumpism — a criminality far more dangerous than the street crime that we both decry.

There is an arrogance and ignorance among Trump supporters, and they have had their asses kissed far too long … prior to Trump too … little kids gunned down in schools, babies abused at the border, women persecuted re health care … the abuses go on and on … and it is caused by the smug arrogance of the fools and assholes that you coddle …

I don’t like some of the people that you are associating with, and I would be remiss if I didn’t say as a friend that you should be cautious.

Sandy is a lousy researcher and a user, and I’d keep an eye on her. She’ll get you to click off what she needs to get ahead and won’t consider your interests for a second.

Shanley is a bitter man who perceives himself as a failure and is toxic to people around him.

Michael is very limited by being in that place for most of his adult life. I think he is fearful. My relationship with him was fraught because I was actually qualified to speak about professionalism, ethics and presence, and he didn’t have the requisite experience.

He is good at institutional politics, and that fostered the success of the program. If he would have known his limitations, and let me have a leadership role regarding substance, it would have been a far better program.

But unfortunately, he is overly impressed with rank and position, and kissed ass to get resources and expand — good — but not to raise the quality of the work — bad.

I am not a business person and that was my strength at UIC. I really knew about professionalism, presence and ethics. They didn’t have the humility to listen, but fortunately several students did to their benefit and my own. The administrators thought they knew everything, guarded their turf, and treated the students as secondary considerations.

There is a culture of condescension in that school. Their frame of reference is too narrow. I’ve worked with some great people — Sills, some fine lawyers, some great actors. They don’t act like great people.

You do act like the great ones. Don’t lose it. You are much better than me at dealing with the mediocre bullshit. But please deal with it.

Really do something there. Don’t become one of them.

That’s not just for the good of others. It’s for yourself too. They will fuck you over if they think they can get some worthless prize.

You and your work is far superior to theirs. You should know it and further your project.

I just had to answer your comments.

END OF TEXT LETTER

As I re-read the letter, I saw one thing. True friendship, oppositional or otherwise is a commitment to a mutual exploration of what is true and what is right.

My writing is my friendship with the world. Sometimes oppositional, sometimes rapturous.

Copyright 2022 Richard Thomas

8/1/22: Situations Wanted #poetry

8/1/22: Situations Wanted #poetry

I do two things. I write and I teach.

Here’s my writing. It speaks for itself.

http://www.richardsteventhomas.wordpress.com.

Here is a detailed description of my experience and approach to teaching and education in general.

https://www.richardthomasjd.com/

I am not interested in trying to fit in with people or organizations. I look to fit, not fit in.

I don’t need you. I am very happy working independently. I’m not lonely or frustrated in my work. I want closeness and community in my work.

Beyond the workplace, the relationships of my life are not co-dependent. My spouse, family and friend relationships are interdependencies. My synonym for interdependence is love. All of my relationships involve mutuality. We love each other. The relationships have differing natures of course. We play different roles in each others’ lives, but each relationship has one major thing in common. I love the other person in the coupling, and they love me.

I want that type of love in the workplace. I want to love my work colleagues and clients and the general world we reach out to and serve. And — this is equally important — I want to be loved by the people I associate with at work.

I have had individual relationships in the world of work that have been loving and interdependent, but never a job or endeavor where that was the culture of the entire collective entity.

I work alone with love. I am very happy. But I’d love to have the experience of deep camaraderie with brothers and sisters on a journey.

I don’t feel pressure to put food on the table, I have money, and I am not motivated by a need for self-justification. I don’t feel an inner emptiness that can only be filled by your recognition. I have a name already and I am proud of it.

However, I won’t work for free. A lot of work and money has gone into developing what I have to offer, and it’s only fair that I receive a return on that investment. I don’t need your recognition in terms of meaningless honorifics, but I need to be clearly seen by you, and to be well-treated with dignity, kindness and respect. Insult and abuse are deal breakers.

I will return the favor. If there is no favor to return, I will leave you.

I am an artist and a professional, and both those identifications require autonomy. A professional or an artist does not work within a hierarchy. I won’t follow anyone’s orders, or give any orders myself. It is my role to give you work product made with honest diligence. I will not be used as a tool.

I desire associations that are founded in spiritual affinity or in clear agreements made with good will. The basis of our connections must lay on the foundation of common values.

I want to do work that will serve my soul, your soul, the overall community and all clients, audience and stakeholders of our endeavors.

I see no distinction between my work and my life. I do not pursue work/life balance. I work with a work/life unity.

I engage in high minded work of a much higher ambition than the vain pursuits of money, status or fame. I am looking for elite experiences and partners, not greed, fears about survival or rat races.

As you can see, I want the best of everything, and my defintion of the best is not the most common one, but one that is shared by many people.

I will not search for these situations. I am open to them. I am confident they will come to me. They always do. It’s an abundant world. I don’t have to force anything.

I work independently and will say yes to every high quality opportunity that comes to me.

Copyright 2022 Richard Thomas

7/27/22: Better than Self-Made #poetry

7/27/22: Better than Self-Made #poetry

U. S. Grant didn’t like memoirs. He thought they were self-serving. Maybe they are, but he wrote one eventually, and it is generally considered the best book ever written by a U. S. President.

All writing is self serving. The author validates his point of view about himself and the world. Even confessional writing says, I disappointed myself because I didn’t act as great as I actually am.

I am better than self-made. I served myself with that line. It felt good, but like Grant, I think I also served you. I’m glad Grant was not so humble that he didn’t express his pride and self satisfaction in being a great man. He inspires me.

Being a great man or woman is superior to being a self-made man or woman.

The great person lives life led by their internal beacon, not motivated by external inducements or pressures.

Paradoxically the great person’s inner voice leads him or her to something far bigger than themselves.

I was listening to a biographer of Grant and Lincoln. He said that they overcame many obstacles and had great success and achievement, but they were not “self-made men”. They were driven by that something far bigger than “making it”.

I may humbly offer that I am like Grant and Lincoln in this context. I am more preoccupied in artfully doing what I do, whatever it is at the time, than I am by jockeying for position on some ladder. This has been true even when I innocently thought that I should be climbing. 

I belong with the great people, not the “winners”.

I never define my writing as existing in the stream of crap on Facebook. I’m dissatisfied with that means of delivery. It’s like hanging Picassos next to graffiti on the shit house wall. 

One thing I’ve been doing with my life and writing is retracing my steps. Improvisation and Catholicism were developmental phases. Improvisation was the embryo that grew into my mature writing. Catholicism is the socialization that has been transcended and replaced by my own values, my own spirituality and my own moral sense. I am larger than the Church.

This whole process started unconsciously and became conscious. 

A great man prepares.

I’m really sure of some next steps … not in terms of outcomes but in clarity of bliss … I know I will always write etc …

But delivery of my writing … and what else I’ll be doing with my life … I don’t have a clue … and I’m happy with it …

Grant was off to the side but his leadership was growing in him. Then the Civil War happened and he could do in the world what he was doing in his soul, what he was born to do.

Grant worked on himself and when the world needed him, he was ready.

Compare that to the machinations of the careerist … the starlet trying to flirt her way to an Emmy award, the associate attorney working eighty hours a week to impress the villains who can make him partner, the savvy academic politician manipulating the faculty lounge …

I am so much better than those people.

The great person expands humanity; the self-made person is a conniving hack … giving the crowd what it wants or demands instead of the truth.

Lincoln was martyred and made a saint. Grant died a natural death and denied his due credit by many, but never by anyone who knows the difference between was is great and what is self-made.

When I was much younger I was frustrated because I was taught to believe in the self-made man, and I bought it until I got wise, but by nature I’m a great man. We, the great, are what we are, and when given the chance, we do what we do.

The great person just works and keeps at it. Opportunities always come for him or her to save or heal or re-make or redeem the world.

Those opportunities have their satisfactions, but also bring their trials.

Sacrifice and bliss. 

The great person is humble. Self serving words embarrassed Grant. But he wrote them down. Even when he served himself, he served others.

The great are examples to many, and metaphors for all. The great live illustrations of meaningful life. We need the great. The self-made come and go without a trace.

We want more meaning than the approval of other people who also don’t have a clue as to what they are doing.

We are born with a capacity for purpose, but it doesn’t happen automatically.

We have to sense our greatness, and choose it.

Self-made people are nihilists. Some by choice, or some, more tragically, out of ignorance.

So many people who self-identify as ‘successful’ strut around crowing how important that they are, while harboring an inner insecurity, knowing that they are nothing.

Like Grant, I’m not immediately inclined to call myself great either.

Like Grant, I fiercely believe in equality.

I would never consciously condescend to you. I can’t stand condescension.

But I honestly believe that I am great … I paradoxically think that I am special in a different way than the self-made do,

and that I need to say so …

to testify to and own my greatness …

for reasons still mysterious to me.

I just know that …

I am here to make something much more important than a career.

Copyright 2022 Richard Thomas

7/25/22: Why is it Hard to Let Go? #poetry

7/25/22: Why is it Hard to Let Go? #poetry

Great actors are great practical philosophers. Their art shows you how to act — in life itself, not make believe. They create fictions that embody how a human being behaves. They show the nature of love and hate, greed and confusion, envy and generosity, ignorance and empathy … and every other possible human condition. They explore the full range of existential states that include emotion but go far beyond it.

I was watching “House of Gucci” and the actors were really good, hitting every emotional mark in furtherance of the narrative, as you would expect them to … But in one moment, the great ham, Al Pacino, went beyond ‘really good” and showed the essential nature of defeat and despair. He was like a physicist guiding us through a black hole, back to the beginning of time. In an instant we were contemplating all suffering, in our individual lives, and in all once and future collective experience. We touch eternity. When an actor does something like that, they stop you, place you in a state of suspended animation, and make you reflect on what it is to be alive. They grant us a spirit of empathy for ourselves, and everyone who has ever lived. They make us remember that we are human.

Some actors are quite articulate on the subject of life when they are not acting, some less so, but for me they are always worth listening to. Great actors think about the important things.

Sir Anthony Hopkins strikes me as simple and still. He has endured a life of great internal conflict and has now achieved calm. These are my impressions. How would I really know?

When I see Anthony Hopkins, I see a wise man who understands the world in a real and non-academic way from the perspective of its deepest levels. He has studied living and breathing people, and characters on a written page, and has even more deeply studied himself for so long — all great actors have a gallery of self-portraits in their minds. He has willed himself to genius … a genius even greater because it was less an outcome of his natural endowments and more a function of his character. He knows because he wants, and has always wanted, to know. That is courage and decency.

We know the famous adage, “the unexamined life is not worth living”. The great actor’s life, and his words about life, are worth it.

I am now going to quote Sir Anthony without looking up the quote, because the actual quote doesn’t matter. What matters is what I heard, what stuck with me. The great actors leave a trace. It is not what they bring you, it is where they bring you. They know the real performance is in your mind. They facilitate the aforementioned reflection.

The world is defined by how we look at it. The depths of our vision is directly proportional to our capacity to experience life. We puzzle and wonder and experience epiphanies, and then we and our world get a little bit bigger.

Anthony Hopkins is committed to an ever-enlarging world.

Here’s what I remember that I heard him say:

“The hardest thing to do is to let go of the people who treat you poorly, the ones who aren’t like you, the ones that keep you from feeling good and achieving your full potential. Your connection to those people is not love. It is just attachment.”

Why is it the hardest thing?

When I was young, I had a very hard time separating from my mother. She didn’t make it easy, she didn’t let go. I wasn’t equipped to launch. Anthony Hopkins is a recovering alcoholic.

We all have something to deal with. Society is based on codependency. We belong to our jobs and groups and cohorts that nurture us, and get us high and hold us back. Our destiny is never in staying stuck in these groups. They are places to develop, like a baby’s cradle, but then we must move forward.

My mother and I loved each other. We had to split apart of course, and we eventually did. That’s part of life. But my subsequent mother substitutes, the jobs and groups and cohorts, were like Anthony Hopkins toxic drinking buddies. They served a purpose and were good for a time, but then had to be transcended.

The alcoholics coaxed Sir Anthony away from his introversion. The introversion is essential to his art and who he is. He needed to observe and process the world about him. He tasted the world with the liquor.

And he needed enough extroversion to share his gifts with the rest of us.

Alcoholism gave the great actor a cross to bear. Another gift. We need to suffer. We need the struggle. We need to learn. Life is a series of initiations. We have to overcome to get to our sweet freedom. I don’t know why that is. That’s a mystery to consider on another day. It’s just the way it is.

The love substitutes are mere attachments. They are our lessons, not our destinies. We have to see the truth of who we are, and the falsity of our continuing participation in our necessary way stations. We have to leave.

And be alone.

And then we can participate in life in a different way.

We can connect with others more genuinely and productively … not in codependency … but in inter-dependency. We don’t meet each other to fulfill our needs. We independently take care of ourselves. We get involved because we want to, not out of fear or survival instinct.

I thought I loved people that I was with, but I was really doing my own thing. I thought they loved me, but they grew to dislike or even hate me because my very existence was a challenge to what they were. I suspect the smart ones knew how narrow their world was, but they didn’t have the confidence to move beyond their prisons. I held onto the illusion that they would love me as my mother did. They didn’t of course.

And I didn’t know that I had to mature to a different form of love.

I couldn’t become what I was meant to become and remain with those people.

Anthony Hopkins has a hard won and quiet self-contained joy.

A great paradox of life is that the more time we spend in our solitude, the more that we are not alone.

Codependency is nervous. Independence is empowering. Inter-dependence is calm.

After we grow up, we no longer need our attachments. Our fates are no longer tied to other people. We get everything that we need naturally.

I have been on a lucky streak for the last several years. It isn’t that I have not had any problems, but they all have been adroitly taken care of … I get everything that I need, materially and spiritually … I have none of the old arguments and frustrations … I don’t have to push back against pressures to engage in self-betrayal or compromise … I don’t spend time with people who diminish me or disrespect me …

The only cloud … the irritant to learn from … is occasionally in my thoughts. I think about past slights, and insults and injustices and I seethe …

I know, Sir Anthony. It’s just attachment. And what is attachment? It’s fear.

There are moments when my thoughts of past agonies disappear, the narrative stops in my mind, and I am left with an anxious feeling in the pit of my stomach.

That anxiety is a good thing. I get back in touch with my independence. I am in a free fall …

And life always catches me … a person, an idea, an opportunity … always shows up, without fail … not because he, she or it needs to, but because they want to …

and I realize that all of the negative ideation is like garbage in the ocean … meaningless drops in the bucket …

It’s not what we think or feel, it comes down to what we choose. Sure we have our maladies and injuries, but they are unimportant …

Our being is enormous and so is the world …

Yes it is the hardest thing to embrace all that we and the world are …

but that difficulty is trivial, compared to all we have been given.

I’ve said a lot more than Sir Anthony did, or even than what he intended to infer …

and I’d like to think that is exactly how he’d want it to be.

But if it isn’t, my words will resonate with someone else …

and that’s who I will run the river with …

Copyright 2022 Richard Thomas

7/23/22: Change or Die #poetry

7/23/22: Change or Die #poetry

We dozed watching the Ten O’Clock News and woke up to the noise of The Tonight Show.

“My God, Jimmy Fallon has changed.”

It had been years since I saw an image of Jimmy Fallon. I don’t watch The Tonight Show. I’ve read a lot and seen a lot of movies and listened to a lot of salesmen. I am not in The Tonight Show’s Target audience. That audience browses Target. I just go in and out for specific needs. I don’t need to peruse the acres of junk arranged almost neatly in rows.

We get some pertinent data on Jimmy Fallon.

Wikipedia says he is 47 years old.

Celebrity net worth clocks him at 62 million.

Jimmy Fallon has deeply changed and he hasn’t changed a bit. There he goes playing his role of the nicest guy in the world, howling with juvenile enthusiasm as he ironically competes in dumb party games. His thicker body remains fast and graceful. The studio lights shine off of his newly expanded forehead.

There is nothing obviously tired about Jimmy Fallon, but … is it my imagination … is there an existential weariness there? Is he really interested in hearing about the former starlet’s, who turned into a suburban housewife without ever acknowledging it, trip to Rome. He seems in a hurry to usher her on and off.

He seems to empathize with the young twenty year old actor who breathlessly talks about the thrill of being in green rooms. I can see in his eyes a glimmer of compassion for the boy … the actor is not a man except in the legal sense … I can see that he wants to warn him … wake up! They’ll steal your soul. Or is that my imagination too …

62 million bucks … that’s a lot of money. Jimmy Fallon sure earns it. He works so hard and it shows. 62 million to become a brand … to make a series of calculated moves … over and over again … a brand to sell brands … a life of pretending that you are nice and fun …

Jimmy’s handlers have nothing on Colonel Tom Parker. Elvis wanted to grow in his music and become a good actor according to his biopic. Colonel Tom kept him in a box. They both wound up with nothing. The money was pissed away. Elvis died before he could get older, let alone squander maturity.

It’s great to get older and change. To try new things … to follow impulses and see where they take you … to become bored with how things are and wonder if they could be different.

Sinatra controlled the means of his production, so he did become a decent actor, and he allowed his music to naturally change. Sometimes, Sinatra played his brand … making money and not art, but it was his choice … he was feeling lazy or wanted a house in Palm Springs, or wanted to retire without retiring … get all the adulation he had earned, without the hard work that was quite distinct from Jimmy Fallon’s hard work. Sinatra worked hard being himself. Fallon works hard denying what he has become.

It’s not just performers who petrify and die before their time, it can happen to anybody.

I know a guy who became a professor at UIC. He’s been there twenty years and has “achieved” tenure. He went to UIC to die. He is the same guy that I knew in college, except much fatter. He was certified as an expert, and condescends to everything … a comic figure who looks down on others with no discernible reason for the pride. He has a job and the job pays him in a moderate amount of dollars, no where near 62 million, and the illusion of status. Older professors licensed him to sneer in the faculty lounge, and he engages in the habit in the wider world, to ridiculous effect. He was that way back in the day too. If he had lived he’d be over the pathetic condition by now, and had accessed the amazing and expanding humanity within us all.

But sadly, he is afraid.

I believe in work … I love work, and I reject jobs. When you identify with a job, you become a brand. When you become a brand, you die.

No amount of money is worth that, and it’s not even the only way to get money.

What is the biggest fear in society’s petrified forest? It can’t be survival. After 62 million, you don’t need to play charades with manic and phony ecstasy. Jimmy Fallon has enough money to put food on generations of tables.

Is it a fear of disappointing Colonel Tom Parker? Or the dean of some mediocre college department?

Conservatives are cowards. They talk endlessly about freedom while they slavishly serve some real or imagined boss. They punish you if you want to think and feel for yourself. They shame you if you demonstrate individuality.

Cowards do a kabuki dance of fear, but they are as powerful as a toy gun that shoots out streams of toilet paper.

There are two tracks of life … society with all of its expectations … and art, which is not wanton self-indulgence (that’s what the fascists call it … decadent … because if you engaged in art they don’t own you, and they want to own everything … the dead bury the other dead … in possession of each other’s remains) …

Art is not just doing what you please. It’s a commitment to being who you are … it is actually staying young while not denying getting older … the opposite of what Jimmy Fallon is imprisoned by … maintaining an illusion of being young, and desperately trying to keep up with the lie.

I don’t know where my writing is going, and I don’t know where my life is going, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s interesting, and I am never stuck. I enjoy my work, and I love my life, including its trials and tribulations.

And when I die, I will lose my individuality and merge into the stream of being, having an influence on all of creation, not the influence of making a name for myself, thought that can and does happen naturally, but the influence of a life actually lived …

… and in my last moments I will have no regrets because I will know that I never sold my soul for a pat on the head, or a to get a trophy from some miserable, walking dead vampires, feasting on my blood to justify their non-existence.

Copyright 2022 Richard Thomas

7/22/22: Why Not the Best? #poetry

7/22/22: Why Not the Best? #poetry

I’ve recently been called by dear friends a reclusive author, and, in jest, a survivalist living in solitude in the woods, a pacifist Unabomber with none of the bombs, but with the rest of the attitude, a misanthrope who prefers his own company, and avoids distasteful society as much as humanly possible.

I can see why they feel that way.

I wondered if they were on to something. I always wonder who I am.

Anyone who knows him or herself, doesn’t.

I discover and rediscover myself over and over again. Each rediscovery is a variation and deepening of a theme.

My friends are both artists, and I can’t challenge their observations. They were made diligently and with love, humor and clarity.

They came to a insightful conclusion based on what I have written, recently and repeatedly.

But as I write I stand at the edge of a deep black pool. And I stare and stare. And rub my eyes and look again. Then I go to bed, and think a little more … never toss and turn … it is a calm, not agitated process, then I sleep and maybe I dream, and finally my unconscious speaks …

My personal character is like a character in a novel … not an off the rack proposition like a psychological profile … but a creation of art …

I study my thoughts and feelings and actions like a sculptor studying a block of marble … Michelangelo saw David in the grain of a large block of stone.

What animates me? Do I detest humanity and want to be alone?

No. Quite the opposite.

I want an elite experience. I want the best of everyone and everything. I know that I am more than able to reciprocate.

I want my life to be luxurious. I want everything and everyone to be nice and smart and good and true and beautiful. I want nothing second rate.

This applies to all the relationships and connections of life, large and small.

I want friendly and respectful neighbors.

I want pleasant and attentive servers in restaurants.

I like a stylish pair of sandals …

a lightweight laptop that performs well and quickly and has long battery life …

I like a nice car that appeals to me, that I purchased at a fair price …

I want inexpensive clothing that make me feel good when I wear them …

I want smart readers and other audiences with good hearts …

I want friends who aren’t trapped … friends exploring their own deep black pools, friends loathe to want to hold me back to some narrow vision of life that they cling to … in other words, brave friends …

Brave …

I want to continue to be comfortable in the dark … ever expanding my consciousness of the fathomless depths of being alive, cheerful in the knowledge that I will never know it all …

I want to be with people who want excellence for themselves and all that they do … excellence for our shared worlds and by extension the world in general …

I want love and brains and good intentions and pleasant interactions …

and I know that they exist. I know it. I have the best in so many areas of my life …

and I want it in all of the other areas too …

I want an upgrade …

a higher trim level to my life …

I want to work with others … not reclusively or in the woods of alienation …

I want to work with people who are as good as I am …

As smart

As nice

As respectful

As honest

As nurturing

As …. I want to be with people that want to lift up the world …

People who want to encourage all that is wonderful and transcend all that is small …

I want to be with people who don’t see my greatness as an indictment

The Best

Why did I even associate with the less than the best … the ones who made me wonder if I was a recluse or a seething alienated loner …

well, you have to start somewhere …

You need all of the trials …

You have to see the world …

But I’ve seen the world …

and mankind is a wide and varied collective … everything from Trump or Hitler to Einstein and Jesus and everything in between …

I’ll have a bowl of Einstein and hold the Trump …

The lousy and mediocre … I don’t need them.

I want the best …

I refuse to search. It doesn’t work. If you search you have to explore garbage that you know all too well already …

You have to leap … to follow your divine impulses …

there are no mistakes and they lead you to the best …

Nothing but the best

Here’s the biggest thing about the best …

if you refuse to accept anything less,

you get it.

I have a full life with many facets

and I want the best for each of those aspects of my body and soul

The best wife

The best family

The best friends

The best audience

The best co-workers and creative colleagues

The best health and material well being

The Rick experience is an elite experience … not elitist as often defined …

but an elite life of intelligence and kindness and creativity and commitment and love …

There is no time for anything else

No time for mean people

or the willfully ignorant

or brain numbing activities of distraction or conformity …

Here’s to the once and future Best …

Best wishes,

Rick

Copyright 2022 Richard Thomas

7/16/22: In thinking and deciding, the majority (and everyone else) is always wrong #poetry

7/16/22: In thinking and deciding, the majority (and everyone else) is always wrong #poetry

A truck driver is on the news saying that truck drivers know more about the economy than anybody else. He has had his ass kissed by politicians that want his vote, and businesses that want his money so often that he thinks he knows everything.

Maybe we should make this dummy the head of the Federal Reserve.

Bad idea, better joke and the joke needs work.

It is a joke that everybody has something to say about everything. The worst thing one can do is listen to them.

You may be thinking, “Rick, you’ve got to be kidding. You shoot your mouth off about everything. Look in the mirror. Why should we listen to you?”

I don’t tell you what to do. I sing. You listen to my song and come to your own conclusions.

I don’t pressure you.

I just think and decide and talk in public as an example of an independent person.

Churchill said that democracy is the worst of all forms of government except all of the others. He got that right.

Jefferson said democracy won’t work with an uneducated populace. That’s for sure. We’re living it.

But I’m not talking about society today. Society is always a mess. Too much influence of idiots and assholes. (Democracy is best because the scumbags spend all of their energy undercutting one another. Checks and balances. With a king or dictator, it’s just one or a few pieces of shit that do a lot more damage. When you have as many narcissistic ego maniacs like we have in contemporary America, they are easily manipulated and then you get fascist pricks masquerading as populists. The mouth breathers fall in line. The trucker ignorantly talks macroeconomics with no study or reflection or training — or even awareness that it’s a thing — that there are people who study it for their entire adult lives, and have different ideas and disagree INTELLIGENTLY, while he spends his days figuring out the fastest route for his delivery to the Macaroni Grille.) Society is hopeless, but life isn’t. I accept social problems like I accept bad weather and death. No getting around them. (I’m not saying don’t engage in social action. Please do. It helps. Vote. Please. But understand even in the best of times, society sucks.)

There is a venue a lot more important than society. It’s your mind. This is the space most vulnerable to other people telling what to think and what to decide to do. Listening to these fools and felons is the biggest mistake that you can make. They can ruin your life if you let them.

And all of these meddlers and bullies are as qualified to tell you about who you are and what you should do and how you should live as the trucker is qualified to talk about the the world economy.

Viola Spolin in her bible of Improvisational Acting, “Improvisation for the Theater” writes about “Approval/Disapproval’. It’s my favorite part of the book. It’s simple. If you really want to improvise (read ‘live out loud’), you can’t be influenced by what people think of you and what you are doing. If you get past that desire and fear you can get to your personal truth … your authentic character and personality and your destiny. (Spolin didn’t say all of that. I just did.)

Of course, since Spolin wrote her book many moons ago, real improvisation has happened only a few times and with only a few people. Most theatrical improvisers are pandering whores.

An artist goes forward in life in an unprofessional way. That’s why most of ‘improv’ … as they like to cheapen the expression … is so terrible. It’s made for the money –even if it is pathetically passing the hat in a rat hole cubbyhole theater. It is created to get the shit for brains trucker to say, “That’s good.” Improv is part (a relatively unimportant part, compared to politics or other businesses) of the social dysfunction. It teaches people that they can have discernment with no taste. It challenges no one. It is nihilistic. In lieu of teaching, it is propaganda — it shouts, THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS REALITY, ALL THAT MATTERS IS HOW YOU FEEL ABOUT IT. IT’S ALL BULLSHIT. ISN’T THAT A LAUGH. If people say that they like what they are doing, it’s good enough for the improvisers, unconcerned that the audience leaves their shows a little more ignorant and insensitive than when they first sat down. To be fair to the improvisers, most of them aren’t aware at how awful their performances are, because they are made of the same stock as the audience, what recommends the improvisers is that the audience can identify with who they are. Actor and fans are stuck, stagnating … life passes them by, they learned next to nothing and clung to it until death takes them away after they made a commotion but did’t make a mark. Human existence is the frontier of creation. We each and every one of us have the potential and opportunity to expand the world. Truckers and improvisers wallow in the shallow end, drowning in an inch deep puddle of filthy water. As Mickey Goldmill, the fight manager, said to Rocky Balboa when Rocky told him that to be a bill collector for the mob was a ‘living” … “IT’S A WASTE OF LIFE. “

Those shit faux improvisers told me that I was a ‘novice’ and “not great.’ I tell the world that I am the greatest improviser in the world which is kind of like saying that I am smarter than the truck driver. It’s not much of a contest.

I assess my own value and I make my own judgements about the nature of the things of the world, and I decide and live accordingly.

That’s what it means to live freely. The improvisers disapprove. I don’t give a shit. I don’t try to change or reform the hacks. I just resolve to do and be something else. Something true.

I have friends from Notre Dame that still think I am the guy that knew them when we were students forty-five years ago. They like me, love me even and mean well. But they criticize me in a way that they think is constructive. It isn’t. I think they see the college student that I was because they haven’t changed much.

One guy said that I go from one thing to another and that I am not very successful. I’m really happy with my life, and proud of all of the things that I have done, and I see my life as a very coherent and unified whole. My good friend doesn’t know what he is talking about. He has been on one track for many years and he has done well materially and as a human being. But he doesn’t know that there are many ways to exist on this earth. The way that I have lived and worked would not have been suitable in his milieu, but it has made me very happy and gotten me what I wanted.

Most people are pretty narrow in their view of life. It scares them to really consider what life is. I am turned on by life’s depth and breadth. To listen to a person of societal thinking is to sentence yourself to jail.

One friendly acquaintance revealed to me that he is a Trump supporter. How can I listen to him regarding any topic — least of all my life. He later cropped me out of a group photo because he didn’t think I had a proper smile. I get expelled from groups as well as group photos. It used to be painful, but now I know that each exile is a ticket to a new Paradise.

For example, I thought I wanted to reconnect with my Catholic roots. It was as if I had a stroke that wiped out all of my doubts, memories and observed and experiential knowledge about the dark side of the Church, and how it was a sanctuary for conformists, authoritarians and scoundrels, with just a sprinkling of saints and philosophers.

But that’s how I work. I wanted to see for myself what my experience of being raised as a Catholic meant at this point in my life. Just as I had done with improvisation a few years before. These were formative parts of my life, but I am something more than a Catholic or an improviser now … more consciously spiritual and engaged in much higher and more important art.

People also admire me … a lot actually, but most often they end up being disappointed. I don’t keep talking about what drew them to me. I go in my own directions.

You might think being one’s own person … following the determinations of one’s mind and the stirrings of one’s heart might be a lonely way to live. The opposite is true. Some people get you. They don’t want to tell you what to do or put you down. They don’t put you on a pedestal and adore you like a golden calf that holds the secret of their lives and life itself. They get you, they like being in your presence. They love you.

These people are your destiny.

A professor was on MSNBC selling her book. It helps her standing academically, might make her a few dollars, if they really like her they might give her a show of her own eventually.

That’s not the artist’s way. An artist doesn’t try to fit in. An artist goes where she or he fits.

There is an aspect of life that is often ignored. It has nothing to do with career or status or the approval or disapproval of others. No self-promotion required. One lives an authentic life and it resonates with other authentic lives and together people transform their minds and souls and sometimes even societies by being who they were born to be and doing what they were born to do.

And nothing can fuck things up more than listening to truck drivers.

Copyright 2022 Richard Thomas

7/13/21: Patton (1970) and The Last Days of Patton (1986) — How to Act, Live and Die #poetry

7/13/22: A strong piece from a year ago that reflects how I feel today. Themes of authenticity, power, strength, progress, mortality … I am pleased with my writing and my life, and realize how crucial it is to be so pleased. My unsolicited advice — work yourself to the true assertion: “I am a good man or woman”. Earn your own approval with your work. I often write about wounds. Wounds are necessary. Growing pains. But I spend much more of my time feeling happy and satisfied. I live an ordinary life, and an ordinary life is an abundance of riches. The joy, the struggle, the integrity … humility in the face the privilege of being alive, and the pride in making the most of it.

The Rick Blog

7/13/21: Patton (1970) and The Last Days of Patton (1986) — How to Act, Live and Die #poetry

It’s not about being right, it’s about being true. George C. Scott and George S. Patton … flawed men … one in the same … holier than saints.

“The Last Days of Patton” is a TV movie sequel to the famous Oscar winning film, sixteen years later, a professional job for the senior circuit, old hands keeping busy and squeezing a late paycheck for the first two thirds of the show, and then something miraculous happens. George C. Scott delivers a masterpiece describing what it is like to die a prolonged and painful death at the end of a life of fulfillment. Scott does not play Patton in this portion of the movie. He plays Dying Man, a universal figure … you, and me, and everyone we know, or know of, or…

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7/12/22: Beyond Hemingway’s Quote and Saving Piggy from ‘Lord of the Flies’ #poetry

7/12/22: Beyond Hemingway’s Quote and Saving Piggy from ‘Lord of the Flies’ #poetry

“The best people possess a feeling for beauty, the courage to take risks, the discipline to tell the truth, the capacity for sacrifice. Ironically, their virtues make them vulnerable; they are often wounded, sometimes destroyed.”

Ernest Hemingway

Hemingway describes, with his characteristic economy, human excellence. If people love beauty, have the guts to be something more than the requirements of social expectations, stick with their truth in resistance to all pressures to lie, and are willing to suffer rather than betray their fine values, they truly are the best people.

Their virtues do make them vulnerable, but this reality is not ironic. The greatest strength is in vulnerability. Sensitivity is the foundation of empathy. Empathy is the basis of understanding.

Hemingway has warm feelings for the best. He has compassion for their wounds. The best need to be loved like everyone else. Thank you, Mr. Hemingway.

But Hemingway can’t help but see woundedness and death as tragic states to fight in a noble but futile attempt to overcome, even with the knowledge that they always have the last word.

I accept my wounds and my inevitable death.

Peter Brook write the screenplay and directed the movie adaptation of William Golding’s novel, “The Lord of the Flies”. Schoolboys are stranded on a deserted island. A good leader who wants to preserve a connection to civilization vies with a bullying autocrat social darwinian leader who wants to implement a reign of survival of the fittest, the primacy of raw power.

Piggy is a fat, intelligent and sensitive boy that the fascist leader singles out, humiliates, dominates and, bringing matters to their logical outcome, murders.

The good leader boy, in the Hemingway role, weeps for the inevitable end of civilization.

When I was in high school I was chubby and smart and vulnerable. I was popular, but also a target for bullies. A Jesuit priest who assigned “The Lord of the Flies” as required reading in my senior year Advanced Placement English course, was caustic and charismatic. He directed the school plays. I had parts in two of them.

The Jesuit would spend time with students in social settings. He was working. Once, he was with me and two friends of mine for a weekend on one of the beautiful little lakes near my hometown, Rochester, New York.

The priest sidled next to me after I struggled with the oars of a row boat. “Forget Piggy,” he said conspiratorially. For years I didn’t understand what he meant. Was he calling me fat?

I didn’t like him much … he was alright, but I felt unrecognized by him.

Now I realize that he was similar to my father in the respect that he was tough on me because he saw himself in me. If he were casting “The Lord of the Flies” I would definitely get the part of Piggy, not that of the civilized or fascist leader.

I am Piggy. That is my role in the world. I’m one of the best people who get hurt all the time, and have to protect myself from dangers of real and metaphoric homicide.

On another occasion, years later, when I was almost thirty and had just performed Off Broadway and received good reviews, the priest gave me more insight.

“Don’t be so understanding.” That was some of the best advice that I ever heard. My life got better when I became angry at my would be tormentors and defended myself.

I was driving with the priest on the passenger side and just wandering my way to our destination as I am wont to do. Father said, “I’m not like you. I have to know where I am going.” He was admiring me as one of the courageously best people.

That Jesuit priest was now beyond Hemingway, but not as far beyond as I got to eventually.

“Forget Piggy.”

You can’t forget your wounds. They don’t go away … and that’s okay. The attacks come with the territory of being one of the best people.

The wounds are always there, but they can be compartmentalized and be made dormant. Joseph Campbell said, “Art burns out the pain.”

Yes. The commitment to living one’s authentic life and fulfilling one’s creative inspirations and impulses is the therapy which prevents one from succumbing to abuse.

But the abuse and the reality of our mortality serve creative purposes as well. The bruising fragility of life grounds the best people, gives us grit to fashion our creative lives, and the integrity and ultimately power to check the fascist social Darwinians. It wasn’t by mistake that the autocratic boy leader went after Piggy. Piggy was the biggest threat to his bully regime.

I was destroyed in and by the Second City clique for example. It has happened to me in several other similar situations as well. I still feel a wound when I think about what happened in those instances.

But so what. I continued to be me. I continued to do my work.

Nothing is won or lost. The world continues with the impulse to Piggy’s culture, civility and art, and the impulse to murderous nihilism.

I’m glad and proud that I was born on Team Piggy. The world is a beautiful and horrible place. That’s just the way it is.

My mentor priest taught high school for years, wrote books, gave talks and performed in plays and movies. He was a celebrity … flamboyant and brusque. Very late in his life, he was accused of abusing a male student decades ago.

I don’t know the facts of the matter, but from knowing him, the allegations just don’t add up to me. I think it was a similar situation as to what happened to Cardinal Bernadin in Chicago. The Cardinal was accused of molesting a boy in a distant past, and later it was determined that the torment the now adult would be victim suffered was the result of psychotic delusions.

I prefer to think that the Jesuit was one of the best people, and he suffered the wounds that attend that status.

You don’t have to forget Piggy. You have to defend him and commit to being him. Never get up.

Pain and death are parts of life. No one escapes them. Live. Take the bitter with the sweet and keep going.

My former tormentors won in the fields of their narrow realities, but I inherited the earth.

The present and future belong to the Piggys. The bullies can have the past.

The bullies play a role in all creation.

They crucify us, and then we get to see God.

You can’t lose what really belongs to you.

Piggy is a tragic figure in the novel and film, but in the actual and real world …

Piggy is victorious.

Copyright 2022 Richard Thomas