They say “absence makes the heart grow fonder,” and they also say “out of sight out of mind”—so which is it? I’ve taken a hiatus from the weekly Three Questions and Something Else blog because we have been so busy—traveling to Nashville, Chicago and New York and then back to Chicago and New York as well as producing an incredible Fresh Ink. I’ve been writing my questions and making observations, but decided to take a summer break. Now I’m back. Let me know what you think.

Something Else:

I imagine we have all had a teen-angst moment when we were obsessed with a song or poet and wore the same shirt every day or wrote reams of our own poetry. Well, I did the summer I was 12. We had recently moved, and my grandmother had recently passed away (may she rest in peace). I would sit in the corner of our basement rec room and play Sounds of Silence over and over again—feeling that I was that rock and no one understood me.  Fortunately for me—and my family—this lasted only a few weeks before I became insanely busy doing something else.

The importance of Simon and Garfunkel and that song never left me.

Fast forward to being a college freshman in West Texas (don’t ask—that’s another story I’ll tell you some day). Not only did I feel so alone, but I was stuck in a place more foreign to me than any of the foreign lands I ever visited. So I joined the leadership council at the student union and managed to get myself in charge of booking acts. Yes, you can see this one coming—I was able to book Simon and Garfunkel because they had a date free between two bigger venues in bigger towns. It was somewhat of a coup because the school’s tastes ran more in the line with country or heavy metal, but I prevailed and was able to meet them for two seconds back stage before I introduced them.

Just before I heard my cue, Art leaned over and asked me if I had a favorite song—and yes, you know I did—so I told him. He smiled as if to say “What else would you choose?” Then I was on, and then they were on. When they came to “Sound of Silence,” he introduced the song by saying something cryptic like “This is for someone out there who knows why.” It was a sweet pleasure to come full circle from the 12-year-old in the basement to standing back stage watching the concert.

I know you all have a memory of some song that got you through a 12-or 13-year-old moment. This one is mine.

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Do Americans have a sense of humor? Some days I think not… or if we do, it’s about at the level of a 10-year-old boy.

Is there a comedian today that can match what Lenny Bruce was doing when he was alive?

Is everything so fractured and specific (gay humor, black humor, fat humor, schlub humor, looser humor, mean humor, woman humor, etc.) that it’s impossible to have a national sense of anything?

Something else:

Do people need to have an enemy to get their competitive juices going? If we don’t have a real enemy, do we invent our villains? And if we can’t find or create someone to fight against, is that when we turn inside and create an enemy within? (I’m not talking about those ‘5os movies about all-American-looking guys being brainwashed to be communist agents.)

Something Else:

Is there such a thing as a public self and a private self? And when we hear that topic come up, what do we really think is meant by “public”? Outside your own room? At the grocery store? I have a friend who thought that when the nuns told her God was watching and she should always be good, she imagined some heavenly film maker was following her around 24/7 filming everything she did and recording everything she said or thought so God could watch and judge. Little did she know that for some people this is true; only it’s not a heavenly camera watching, but TMZ. Are kids growing up thinking that whatever they do will be worthy of watching and commenting — and is this a good thing? I can see it now in some future media world (as in 2012) there will be an app that takes “Kids Say the Darnedest Things” and turn it into “Future Celebrities Do the Stupidest Things While Still in Diapers.”

Something Else:   Roger Hargreaves was born on this day in 1935. He was a British author and illustrator of children’s books, notably the Mr. Men and Little Miss series.

With all the current talk about debt and getting back to a time when we were great and all was going in the right direction, have you ever wondered if there ever really were “better” times? And if you believe this, then for whom were they better?

And then there’s the “simpler times theory” that everything is “just so much more complicated” and “if we could only go back.” Go back to when and to what?

Of course, we don’t seem to have much of a memory as Americans and the idea of learning from our mistakes is kind of a joke—but is this need to have to always be going forward — always looking to the future the best way to run a life? A country?

Something Else:  
“The oil and natural gas we rely on for 75 percent of our energy are running out. In spite of increased effort, domestic production has been dropping steadily at about six percent a year. Imports have doubled in the last five years. Our nation’s independence of economic and political action is becoming increasingly constrained. Unless profound changes are made to lower oil consumption, we now believe that early in the 1980s the world will be demanding more oil that it can produce.”
– President Jimmy Carter in his speech on  Proposed Energy Policy April 18, 1977

Do we ever debate anything anymore? I think we used to have reasoned debate among elected officials (i.e., different philosophies trying to solve the same problem), but now it seems they only hurl insults at each other and argue (i.e., trying to convince another your point of view is right!) with no intention of changing their own position.

When was the last time you persuaded someone to change his or her position or consider a new idea? How’d you do it?

Something Else:  The reviews for Three Viewings are in, and they’re great. Come form your own opinion about this fascinating play running at Illusion now through May 14. (And see if you can persuade a friend to join you.) For tickets, call 612-339-4944 or click here.

Are we loosing our sense of humor (assuming we ever had one)?
Has our over sensitivity to political correctness crippled our ability to laugh at ourselves?
Is satire a useful form of commentary anymore? What was the last satiric moment you laughed at? Are irony and sarcasm the replacement for satire?

Something Else: “Laughter and tears are both responses to frustration and exhaustion.  I myself prefer to laugh, since there is less cleaning up to do afterward.”  ~Kurt Vonnegut

Is there life after death? One reference in the Judea-Christian world comes from the book of Daniel:

“Many of those that sleep in the dust of the earth will awake, some to eternal life, other to reproaches, to everlasting abhorrence.”  Daniel 12:2

Other philosophies talk about reincarnation, which is believed to occur when, after the death of the body, the soul or spirit comes back to life in a newborn body. It’s a central tenet within the majority of Indian religious traditions (Hinduism, Sikhism; Buddhism) The idea was also fundamental to some Greek philosophers and their religions as well as other world religions, such as Druidism. It is also found in many small-scale societies around the world, in places such as Siberia, West Africa, North America, and Australia.

So, this idea of something after death and our impulse to put beliefs and rituals in place around it has been a part of being human for a long, long time.

Do you believe in any of these concepts? Does it even occur to you to think about it? And what does the instinct tell us about our fight or flight responses? Is one more wired into us than the other?

Something else:
Three Viewings opens Friday night at Illusion and is set in a funeral home at three different services. When you see the play, you’ll see it is essentially about love—another one of those primal human emotions or states of being. Three Viewings is very funny and touching and filled with observations that we can all connect with.  I think it is wonderfully clever of the playwright, Jeff Hatcher, to use the funeral home as the venue for three stories about different kinds of love.  It got me thinking about how stories and memories and moments of love happen in the oddest places. Please come check out the play and let me know what you think not only about the play, but also about the connections it makes and about what it says about the question: Is there life after death?

Why do we cry? Do we cry for joy or for sorrow? Is there a difference in the kind of tears? I heard that there are some people (mostly men, I think) who cry at funny things — kind of the “I laughed so hard I cried”  kind of cry except that they skip the “I laughed so hard” part and go right to the crying.  Do you cry for joy or for sorrow?

Something Else:  Some observations on tears
Heaven knows we need never be ashamed of our tears, for they are rain upon the blinding dust of earth, overlying our hard hearts.  ~ Charles Dickens, Great Expectations
To weep is to make less the depth of grief.  ~William Shakespeare, King Henry the Sixth
What soap is for the body, tears are for the soul.  ~Jewish Proverb

Is there really such a thing as luck?  And do we think that when something bad happens it’s bad luck, and if something good happens we deserve it?  Is luck the same thing as fate?

Something else

“Each player must accept the cards life deals him or her. But once they are in hand, he or she alone must decide how to play the cards in order to win the game.” -Voltaire