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May 2009

In Search of the Perfect Moment

    I had forgotten about Spalding Gray until last year when a friend reminded me how memorable his live performances were, especially Swimming to Cambodia. Gray was the consummate storyteller. Known for his insightful personal monologues, Spalding Gray built each rendition of his narrative from the memory of the last performance. With each successive presentation, he would refine and perfect them. Swimming to Cambodia was one of these unique theatre pieces on which Gray spent two years developing.

    Swimming to Cambodia was written in 1985, based on Gray’s trip to Southeast Asia, and in this YouTube excerpt he talks about searching for “the perfect moment.” Spalding Gray was constantly searching for one, and believed as I once did, that they could only happen at an unexpected time and place. But, in the past year, “I have experienced more perfect moments than I can count,” which I now believe can be attained whenever we want. The “perfect moment” is where time seems to stand still; it is when we become fully “present.” As Eckhart Tolle puts it in The Power of Now, it is when we mentally are able to be neither in the past, nor the future, but in the “NOW.” Usually, I get glimpses of these moments, which last for a few brief seconds or minutes, but I have known these moments to sometimes last for hours. They can happen anywhere at any time, and I can be doing almost anything. I have had perfect moments when I’ve been in the company of family and friends, at a birthday celebration, in a meeting at work, a quiet lunch, and even when I’ve been alone driving in the car.

    If I’ve made it sound like I can turn these moments on and off like a light switch, well, I can’t. I am not at a place spiritually where I can do that yet. To be present continues to be a struggle. I still worry about my family and friends, agonize over finances, have bouts with depression, and experience emotional pain that is almost palpable, but in time, I hope to reach a level of enlightenment where perfect moments become the norm. If I understand Jill Bolte Taylor, Ph.D. of My Stroke of Insight correctly, it’s allowing my “right brain” to be more in balance with my “left brain.” For now, I do my best to be aware of my “mind chatter” (left brain) watch it, observe without judging it (right brain), and as a result, be present and in the moment. To be in the moment and present, I’ve come to believe, is always perfect and should be cherished, even if it’s for only for a second.

Fall Roundup

Can You Relate?

    True to form, and much to their credit, the writers of the Simpsons have squared off against one of today’s prevailing social crises, education in our public schools. In this episode, Marg, desperately in need of a restroom, uses one at the local school. By chance, and to her chagrin, she observes overcrowded classrooms, apathetic teachers, and deteriorating facilities. However, another Simpson adventure ensues when Marg and Homer discover that to ameliorate their situation, they must acquire the “proper” address for Bart and Lisa to attend a better school in the district.

    Many of the situations depicted in this episode ring true with me. Albeit exaggerated, they are for the most part accurate. For example, random visitations, called “bed check,” do take place in some districts.  At the beginning of every school year, a school official, not quite like Javier Bardem in No Country for Old Men, makes random house visits to confirm that your child lives in the district. I know this to be true because we had such a visit one evening four years ago. My family moved to South Pasadena, CA six years ago to have access to good public schools. We didn’t rent a 10’ x 10’ apartment as Homer did, but moved from a home we loved, to be in a town that takes pride in its schools, and where our children could grow up, be well, and thrive. So, the satirical representation of public schools in “Waverly Hills 9021-D’oh” isn’t a stretch for many middle and lower middle income families for whom private schools is not an option.

    Parents with school-aged children, or anyone who values the importance of a quality public school system, will appreciate this snapshot of our present-day culture. Enjoy!

p.s., comments from my reader(s) is (are) appreciated.