Saturday, 31 July 2010

noble friends

Chelsea Clinton should have whatever kind of wedding she wants.  Adolescence is hard enough without growing up in the White House in front of a whole world.  College is hard enough without Secret Service people following you everywhere you go.  Whether she wanted to or not, she was drafted into the service of her country at a very young age, giving up her right to privacy and to her own parents.

If she wants a $3 million wedding for 500 people, she should have it.

Then this little part of me starts saying $3 million?  That's a lot of money.  That money could be sent out to do good works in the world, to help with the oil spill or Haiti or...

But maybe that's just "lack talking" as they say in L.A, or "poverty mind."  Certainly the Clintons have done more than their share of world-changing and good works.  Surely if they drop that kind of money on a wedding, their charitable giving is considerable.  Yes - the sky is falling and the world is going to pieces, but can we still celebrate sometimes when things go right?  Maybe abundance knows that $3 million spent on a wedding regenerates itself in love.

If age ain't nothing but a number, then could the same be true of money?

I know first-hand how the counter for the amount of time you have been on this earth often does not relate to who you are, how you look, or your wisdom.

So maybe $3 million is not a lot of money.  Maybe it is as relative as time and space -- after all $3 million could buy you one Chelsea Clinton wedding, or one house, or 3 houses, or ten houses, depending on where you wanted your house, or it could finance one low-budget movie.

$3 million dollars has no meaning at all if you don't have it, and multiple meanings if you do.

Money - the last solid universal truth - is perhaps neither solid, nor universal.  Perhaps it has the same Rashomon-like qualities as the truth between humans.

I didn't mind Mel Gibson being called out for misogyny and abusiveness in addition to his other well-known bad habits.  Casey Affleck, though, is an actor I think of as tremendously skilled, talented, and with an unbelievable range of work to come.

Harassment is a daily truth if you are working in the film industry.  There are a lot of anger-holics out there.  A lot of power abusers.  For a woman, it is even harder, because sexual harassment is on the table each morning with the bagels, and it is as accepted as a director screaming at the crew or an actor screaming at a DP.  We are meant to brush it off.  We are meant to feel it is all just the seepage of passion boiling over in these ultimately talented creatures.  Nod and smile.  Keep working.

Do I believe the women accusing him?  Yes.  Because this kind of thing happens all the time. We gypsies of moviemaking have funny boundaries, and each mini-tribe's boundaries are different -- actors have a different sets of strengths and rules than crew than producers.  Do I want to make excuses for Affleck allegedly getting into bed with a crew member while she was asleep and possibly compromising her?  No.  But do I think that many many people don't understand that they are in positions of power when they are because of the informality of the industry?  Yes.  Do I think these people don't always know when they are exhibiting coercive or threatening behaviour?  Yes.

Each job is a line on your resume and a rent check or two or three or more.  Each job has its ups and downs.  My friend says you take a gig for one of these three reasons:  money, love, resume.  If you get a gig that gives you two of those, you're golden.  Three -- you're thrilled.  But there's always a down side.

Everyone starts with happy expectations and gets so close and friendly and stuff happens.  The lines get blurred and then crossed.  Unfriendly behaviour finds its way onto the set.  It's a horrible feeling.

I quit a job because a cocaine- and alcohol-addicted producer singled me out for daily verbal abuse sessions.  They were actually several times a day.  I loved the director, the crew and the project.  I went to the line producer when it first happened and was told it would be dealt with, but it got worse.  Turns out, the line producer was that producer's "guy" and I should have probably gone to someone else.  The "nice" producers had basically vanished from set after about the 3rd day of shooting.  My boundaries were clear and I knew I had to leave, as difficult and financially damaging as it was.

Affleck could be a nut case, a total jerk or just another insecure actor who wanted some quick intimacy.  He could have forgotten that he was the producer and that that kind of thing might fly when you're an actor on a set but not when you're trying to diddle the hired help.  He could have an open marriage, or a troubled one.  Or he could have had true ill-intent.  In a sense it's not what he allegedly did that's as awful as what he did after.  She could be a terrible DP - I don't know - but then the option would be to fire her.  Not to make life so awful for her that she is forced to quit.  Had he apologized and moved on, she probably would not have had an issue at all.

I've been stealing books from Alfie's bookshelf (shhh -- don't tell her) and pulled out Caroline Myss' Sacred Contracts.  So far, I find it a bit over-written and over-long.  It's also amazing how "New Age" books wear so poorly - once a certain concept has seeped into the culture, these books don't have as much to offer.

However, critiques aside, every 5 or 6 pages of skimmed reading produces an interesting reference or A-ha moment.  I loved coming across the Buddhist concept of "kalyana-mitra" or "noble friend."  She says she found this in John O'Donohue's book Anam Cara.  I've been meaning to read O'Donohue's work for a long time and this was another cue.  Okay - I'm quoting her and she's quoting O'Donohue here:

Your noble friend, he says, "will not accept pretension but will gently and very firmly confront you with your own blindness.  No one can see life totally.  As there is a blind spot in the retina of the human eye, there is also in the soul a blind side where you are not able to see.  Therefore you must depend on the one you love to see for you what you cannot see yourself."
Yet I think this noble friendship is the concept I've been searching for to explain the certain closeness I have with some people, even though I am not strongly linked to them, or may not see them often.  To me it represents a true communion of souls.  It is part addictive, part exposing.  It is very real, often born from discomfort, but requires comfort to aid and abet it.

I have been blessed with a lot of noble friends.  Artists often are.  Our friendships look different, and in fact, often feel different from other people's.  We reserve places in ourselves that truly commune with others in very intimate ways.  Poet to poet conversations can take on other-worldly aspects and find you sitting in a still-running car at 3am.  Intimacy does not have to mean anything sexual.  Sometimes it does.  Sometimes it does for one person and not for another.  Sometimes romantic relationships are born from this intimacy.  Sometimes they last.

Noble friendships can be misconstrued by outsiders as inappropriate.  They can go awry.  But when properly honoured, they are one of the things that makes life excellent.

I have some small hope that women are stepping up to the place of being true noble friends to men.  That we are learning our boundaries in better ways and enforcing them when necessary.  Misogyny, sexual harassment, and worse seem to be coming to light daily.  Speaking truth to power takes courageous women.  Women who truly want men to change and who believe men are better creatures who do not need to lead lives of coercion and abuse.

That little girl in the White House is all grown up.  Her dapper dandy of a daddy has handed over power and her much-maligned multi-faceted mommy has taken reins firmly in hand.

Listen, we are talking to you.  We are saying we know our minds and we know our power and we are very ready to take it.  We are whispering play fair, but we are prepared to scream it if necessary.

What is quiet Chelsea Clinton saying with her secret, yet high-profile wedding?  I deserve this.  I deserve this day, this focus, this send-off into happiness, this celebration, and I believe in the future I am creating.

I can't argue with that.  Can you?

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