“Whatever we do or whatever we do not do, we are practicing mudras, so it only makes sense to understand what is it we are doing.

–Indu Arora

So, about that job interview…

…You know, the one I wrote about in my last post?

…You know, the one with all the gravitas and questions that made me ponder how I do the work?

Well, I was offered the position! And I accepted it!

And I took all the unicorn smarts and BIG IDEAS (!) to someone else’s office,

where I sat at a computer

with all the e-mail,

and all the systems,

and all the passwords,

and all the plans,

and all deadlines,

and all the importance, day after day,

after day,

after, day,

afterday,

afterdayafterdayafterdayafterday

…like any normal person might!

(I really, really wanted “normal person” to work for me in this instance.)

And that went on for 11 weeks until I realized:

No!

and also:

whycoloured worlds of because 
do not stand against 
 YES
which is built by
 forever & sunsmell

(thank you e.e. Cummings)

…and then I quit.

Nearly everything.

All at once.

I recently went on a job interview that was conducted with a considerable degree of gravitas. It was an affair that required metered parking, a conference room, and an entire assembled committee present to ask questions. This is exactly the sort of thing I have been doing my best to avoid for the last decade of my work life. Yet, there we all were sitting at the table with all the questions. One of the questions posed in the interview was an unexpected delight:

How do you do the work?

That’s it.

That’s the whole vague and fantastic question.

At the time it was posed, I was confounded. I had never given voice to my process. How I do the work has been a very long and winding road across time and country, over the river, and through the woods. While the answer I gave summarized that journey, there is something about that question that has been revving and honking (with a Klaxon-like “AHOOGA!” sound) at me ever since it was posed. That question feels like a tiny clown car that I could get inside with twenty friends, and we could go anywhere in it.

So today I am here still mulling over that question with the intent to share some thoughts and scenes from my everyday work life that may help shed additional light on the answer as it continues to unfold. As Rainer Maria Rilke has written,

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves…the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”

How do I do the work?

First off, there is a generous supply of silliness in my work, and that is by design. I have to do quite a bit of work on myself on a regular basis to get my mind-set right. That work begins with Shakti-building exercises and intentional goal-setting to keep me a happy, healthy human. I guess other people would probably call this “planning” or maybe “self-care.” Anyway, the way I do it looks like this:

Big plans

Having the right mind-set prepares me to deal constructively with the obstacles and menacing hindrances that inevitably present themselves as I’m going about the work, whatever that work may be…

Laundry Day Impediment

When working through problems and I get stuck, allowing time for conscious play, or blending the lines between work and play does wonders for unsticking the stuck.

The Building Blocks exhibit at the National Building Museum

A lot of the work I do is setting the stage with the right props and providing the space, time, and encouragement necessary for other people to play and learn and express whatever it is they want to say. Serving as a witness for this self-discovery is one of my favorite things about my work.

there were so many story starters in this little friend’s mind

It isn’t all fun and games. Yesterday morning’s work was a frenzied internal battle to get idea from brain to paper. When the dust settled this was the scene that remained:

Shrapnel from the War of Art

There have been times I have been crushed by the work and fellow passengers pulled me from the wreckage. Other times, Good Samaritans have come along to fluff me back up when I’ve gotten deflated. Never underestimate those singing spirits of the world who hide right out in the open.

~*~

How do YOU do the work?

What questions are you loving and living?

“The star that gives us light has been gone awhile, but it’s not an illusion…”

~ U2, Iris ~

Last weekend I left my house and went to an actual theater to see a movie. It felt like a bold and daring move, bordering on reckless debauchery. This is what the world has come to. The movie was Aaron Sorkin’s Being the Ricardos, and it was so significant that a week later I’m still thinking about it. I’m not sure why it stuck with me all week, but like the title says, I got some ‘splainin’ to do, mostly to myself, so I can figure it out and move on with my life. There will likely be spoilers in this post; consider yourself forewarned and prepare accordingly.

Much of the action in Being the Ricardos takes place over the course of a tense week in the personal and professional lives of Lucille Ball (Nicole Kidman) and Desi Arnez (Javier Bardem) on the set of I Love Lucy. Deviations from the production week timeline occur via monologue from the writers Madelyn Pugh and Bob Carroll, and producer Jess Oppenheimer (played by Linda Lavin, Ronny Cox and John Rubinstein, respectively). Serving collectively as a narrator, each one reminisces from a vantage point decades later, about the off-screen drama. Thus, they set the stage for pivotal moments, like when Desi and Lucille first meet on the set of the movie Too Many Girls. They also provide details about the couple’s relationship, with quips like, “They were either tearing each other’s heads off or tearing each other’s clothes off,” which is followed by a scene in which the couple does both simultaneously. The story weaves back and forth through time creating a patchwork effect.

Nicole Kidman’s portrayal of the smart and savvy businesswoman behind the character of Lucy Ricardo was brilliant. Javier Bardem’s performance was equally as awesome — he dances, he sings, he acts! The whole cast was just fabulous. I was so lost in the story I couldn’t even tell you if the black-and-white scenes were the original footage or remade by the present-day actors. And I don’t even care. So there.

It was fascinating to see how Lucille and Desi persistently pressed the establishment to accommodate their personal lives and to expand the broadcast of basic human life to the public. In their day, of course, married couples did not share beds on TV and children were apparently brought into the world by stork. Yet they eventually convinced the network to televise a pregnant Lucille/Lucy on national TV at a time when such things were considered much too risqué for general public consumption.

The story was structured in such a way to explore the dynamic tension between fantasy and reality, practice and performance, public politics and private life. These tensions are as relevant today as they were then. The individual parts were jumbled, but recursive. By the end, the pieces came together to create a unified quilt-like whole, even as the couple was being torn asunder.

The linguistic nerd in me was gratified by all the dialogue surrounding the concept of “communism,” which demonstrated how abstract ideas come to have vastly different meanings depending on one’s personal experiences. The treatment of communism reminded me of Trumbo, another interesting movie set around the same era when all the cool intellectuals who hadn’t actually experienced the particulars and practice of communism were being accused of thinking it was such a great idea.

I wonder whether the movie would have been as salient if I had not seen it in a theater. Could it be the need to sustain attention for two hours straight that kept the movie with me for a week? Or maybe there is just something special about the ancient ritual of sitting in the dark experiencing a shared story with other people.

purr, purr, purr

There is a “study” by a big tech’s advertising department that claims the human attention span has dropped below that of a goldfish — to mere seconds!

How dare they infer that our attention span is a problem because we don’t salivate around their hook.

Cephalanthus occidentalis

That little skipper…

When I look in her eyes she goes with me to a blossom world…I’m pickin’ up good vibrations….what elation…what a sensation…”

–Good Vibrations, The Beach Boys

[This post was inspired by Kathy at Lake Superior Spirit who is playing a fun game of “Photo Shorts.” Tag. You’re it!]

Back on the topic of blinding projections and receptivity, when I looked out over this scene, I saw a spectrogram. A spectrogram is a visual representation of signal strength over time at a waveform’s various frequencies. In other words, it’s a picture of sound. Spectrograms can be used for vibrational analysis in a changing environment…if you’re into that sort of thing.

[This post was inspired by Kathy at Lake Superior Spirit who is playing a fun game of “Photo Shorts.” Tag. You’re it!]

I don’t know the name of the tree or the bug, but the sky that day was a Salvador Dali. It was exactly the sort of wholly cloudless sky he recommended for long, philosophical gazing. The azure held that luminous transparency of spirit, that “precious substance which eludes…rational faculties.” When you fall into that disconcerting blue it literally blinds you with your own projections because it is “constituted of nothing but infinite layers of superposed transparent air” (p. 21).

Dali, S. (1948). 50 Secrets of Magic Craftsmanship. Translated by Haakon M. Chevalier. New York: The Dial Press.

[This post was inspired by Kathy at Lake Superior Spirit who is playing a fun game of “Photo Shorts.” Tag. You’re it!]

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