Listening to: This new group out of Texas; the lead singer has a rockin' good voice -- wait (literally) a minute and see what she can do! (And don't you love their name?)
Bliss: Today is the anniversary of Sylvia Plath's birth; she would have been 76. Read some of her poems -- in the right order (see the most accurate version of her final manuscript) -- and celebrate this woman artist's struggle to live her life in the way she needed to for her art.
I love ass-kicking films.
But be clear, it is a specific sort of ass-kicking that I enjoy. I do not watch movies that contain violence for violence sake. No. Most of the films that I watch in this kicking sort of genre are practically bloodless and certainly contain no gore.
The important point of these films is the triumph of good over evil. Yes, I admit it, I like my film world to be more definitively, black-and-white-moral than the world outside my window tends to be.
Some of my favorites are this, this, this, and this. My favorite television also tends to be about the same themes of justice and honor, like this, this, and this.
You can imagine, then, that I might be attracted to martial arts. Though I have never studied a martial art, it is something that I would like to do one day, as I respect the underlying codes and philosophical systems. There is a reality to them -- they do not deny the violence of the world around them -- and there is an idealism -- they try not to add to it but they are prepared to deal with it as a last resort.
I got to thinking over the weekend about the code of the Samurai, or Bushido, and how it might apply to us as artists and people trying to live lives of honor and compassion in this world. Specifically, how it might help us to kick SlothChick to the curb.
Let me emphasize that SlothChick is not the same as being sick and needing to rest. No, that is definitely BlissChick attitude -- the whole honoring your body thing. SlothChick is not the need to lay on the couch and read all weekend. Again that is Blisschick, honoring your need to put something in your creative mind to make up for all the taking out.
SlothChick is invasive and malignant. She wants you to say NO to all that is important. She wants you to be an audience member rather than a player. She wants you to feel horribly and act horribly and live a wasted life. She is bad. Period. Remember, some of the greatest mystics have perceived sloth as a danger to the soul. That is not light language.
A tolerance for SlothChick (as opposed to a BlissChick who wants you to care for yourself) is spiritual and intellectual negligence. It is giving up. We will not be doing that.
When we sense her presence, we must take action.
This can be hard. But a life that is fully lived was never guaranteed to be easy. A life of the spirit is not new-age-simple but rather a life of constant vigilance and rigor.
With that in mind, we will take up our stance and bow to our enemy. Then we will remember all of the traits that bring us to this place on a daily basis -- this place where we are able to look the enemy in the eye and flip it on its pathetic, ugly back.
Courage. I put this at number one in this list, because it is the thing that most often needs to be called upon. When our whole entire body and mind (otherwise known as our ego) is screaming at us that it would be so much easier to not do yoga or to not face that difficult chapter we were intending to write, when we feel ourselves caving into the "noonday demon," we must call upon our hearts and the courage contained within and just do it all anyway! Everyday, we must call upon this courage muscle and everyday it will get stronger.
Loyalty. Be clear about the things that matter to you and then be loyal to them. Whether it be people, places, concepts, or goals, being clear is the first important step, yes, but even more important is reviewing those things and making your decisions about your time and energy based upon them.
Integrity. Adhering to our convictions can be hard in a world of such fluid morality. But that does not mean that we have to be fluid. Walking the talk is not only important for you as an individual but it is vital for you as a community member, as someone whom other people may be looking to for their examples in life.
Honor. As I get older and turn more and more into an old, grouchy man (ha), I find myself using this word more than I could have ever imagined. But I find that the concept of honor becomes increasingly absent from our everyday world. In general, our culture is comprised of flippant flounderers, bouncing from place to place, person to person, with no regard for the larger picture, so desperate to outrun our fear of death, thinking the answer lies in running. We degrade and disgrace ourselves all too easily.
Veracity. Truthfulness. I cannot begin to count how many times in my life I have had people tell me that the thing they love most about me is my truthfulness. That if they want an honest answer or honest advice, they come to me even though it can be startling. I find it hard to take that people are so lacking other honest people around them that I stick out like this. If we are not truthful, we have nothing.
Compassion. Love above all else, almost every major religious system tells us this. God is love; love is God. We would do well to extend ourselves in some way to some person everyday. Not to someone we know and not to someone we like. This can be easy. Standing in line? Don't be impatient.
Respect. The samurai did not just run around killing people because they were good with swords. Martial arts practitioners learn to protect themselves so that they don't have to. These groups of people are taught to respect life above all. And this includes your own; do not squander the time you have but respect it. Do not deny your gifts because you don't find them noble enough...use them, whatever they are.
Upon waking, remember that everyday is a series of physical, mental, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual challenges. Regard them with the heart and eye and mind of a Samurai and you will find each challenge adding to your arsenal rather than defeating you.