Sunday, August 21, 2011

Reggae Colors = STOP, LOOK, GO @ the Bowl

The crowd of fifteen thousand was on its 30,000 feet and singing along with the performers to a song that was a hit forty years ago.  Looking around you could see 70ish couples and newlywed twenty somethings with their infant.  In my row, a group of apparent Polynesian ancestry had two full ice chests of beer and across the walk way was a stylishly dressed woman in her 60s who was caring for and dancing with a man in a wheel chair.  After nearly three hours, the crowd roared as one for the encore by the band whose origin was in the 1960s and included son of reggae icon Bob Marley and his mother Rita Marley.  It was a transcendent moment that expressed Marley’s vision of one love, one heart, one people.   Here in the nearly one hundred year old amphitheater, it felt like the walls of our social categories  were thrown down and life was exposed in its core.  Separation by ethnicity, age, class were all left at the turnstiles and we were together.  Drawn together by a music that proclaims freedom from ‘isms’ and schisms, we were together and free again.  When Marley was alive you would never see this wildly heterogeneous crowd.  Back in the 70s it was nearly all young, long haired white kids. 

This joyous celebration highlighted an important aspect of successful reinvention:  Be willing to adjust to changed circumstances.  I used to be a regular summertime fan of the Hollywood Bowl and then in recent years traffic congestion and parking frustration had risen to a breaking point and I quit.  Crossing the Bowl off my list of venues and I passed on many good shows because it wasn’t easy like back in the day.  Enticed out of my lassitude and negative attitude by a once in a lifetime pairing of Ziggy Marley and the I-Threes by my close friend Ras Herm, I took a chance.   We opted for a different approach.  Instead of fighting the transportation issues, we surrendered and took the shuttle bus with a few other friends.  No stress either coming or going.  Get on the bus with your ice chest and lunch, chit chat en route, and relax into the irie spirit. 
I Threes @ Hollywood Bowl
The show was an absolute treat from start to finish.  MC’d by Ziggy, it began promptly on time, ended on time and included massive video screen and powerful acoustics.  Ras Michael, the Wailing Souls, the Mighty Diamonds and played their classic and anthemic songs so that by the time the I-Threes arrived we were primed.  Each note was perfect as their solos and harmonies soared on classic Bob Marley songs and their personal hits.  By the time Ziggy came on, the crowd was on its feet, moving as one body to the beat and living up to his lyric of “Look Whose Dancing Now.”  As great as the music was even greater was the camaraderie of the 15K brothers and sisters.  As if to confirm this feeling, I ran into four persons who I did not expect to see.   Somehow releasing my judgments and attitudes opened the channels of synchronicity and facilitated the connection with those acquaintances. 

Musing on this splendid evening, I realized how my old concepts of doing the Bowl limited my potential for pleasure.  Breaking out of that cage and adjusting to the changed conditions allowed me to have a transcendent evening with my tribe.  This is one of those downsides from age and experience, sometimes we think we have it figured out and act accordingly.  Additionally, we may think that since something is different it no longer serves us.  It could be in our friendships, jobs, homes, sports, you name it.  Giving it a break, looking for a different approach, and taking a chance could open the door to a reborn experience.  Just as the reggae colors of red, gold, and green suggest:  Stop, Look, Go and forward your life.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Achievement For the Fun of It

Non-corporate office workers @ 212 Pier
At my local, non-chain coffee house, there is a man in his sixties who reports to ‘work’ every day, yes every day, Monday through Sunday and intently scribbles equations with pencil and calculator.  His preferred seat is a table near the window because the light is better.  He arrives every morning around 8 am, goes home for lunch, and returns for the afternoon shift.  The ultimate meaning and connection of everything in the universe is the topic of his project.  Preparing for publication in academic journals, his focus is consistent.  After he completes the calculations, he enters it into digital form at home.  Even though he does not have a PhD, he is intent on achieving his goal of publishing this paper in a respected scientific journal.  He does not seek fame, he has no academic credentials to burnish, and he doesn’t expect any financial return on the effort.  The sole purpose of his work is the work itself or pure achievement.  In our many long discussions about his calculations and theory, I have learned that he has had this calling since high school days and now he has the time to pursue it.

Another friend and former colleague retired to a small town in eastern Virginia, after completing a career as a math teacher in the Los Angeles school district.  He took a part time job at a gym and chauffeured his kids around bucolic hill country.  But eventually he got bored and with the help of a local political scientist started an on line journal ( After making friends with other academics in his area, he gave a few talks on his theories in graduate classes.  Emboldened and encouraged, he has now written a 200 hundred page book entitled What Can I Do? expounding on meaning and responsibility in the human community.  Before retiring, this fellow was only been motivated by the bottom line creed, ‘what’s in it for me?’  He never worked after school, if he wasn’t getting paid.  Now, he works diligently to research, write, and publish a highly esoteric book.  His motive?  He wants to achieve a lifelong goal of developing a program for social-political change.  His book will be published in a few weeks by Rhino publications.

After ‘retiring’, a new life begins.  Some individuals look at this time as a well deserved rest, after years of laboring.  For many of us there is likely to be thirty plus years of this rest. For others it is the grand opportunity;  50-60 per week to fill in with exciting, intrinsically rewarding experiences.    How can we make the most of this time while we still have health and energy?  Martin Seligman of Penn State has recently published a book called Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being.  Seligman, the renowned founder of positive psychology, develops his new theory of well-being in which he extends and corrects some ideas originally published in Authentic Happiness.  He sees well being consisting of five prongs; 1) positive relationships, 2) pleasant emotions, 3) engagement in our activities, 4) meaning, and 5)  achievement.  Each dimension has profound application to the Boomeranger.  A flourishing individual experiences all of the five aspects but not necessarily from the same activity.  The first two are well traveled paths in the retirement literature and are typically the only preparation most retirees make at gold watch time.  (In my case, no gold watch just a plaque saluting years of indentured service).  There was no preparation for these other dimensions of life either by the institution nor my union, just a review of my pension pay out.   Not even an exit interview, just turn in your keys and badge and good luck.  I didn’t care, thank god my time was up and I was a free man again.  This time with a monthly stipend.   The missing elements of my new life slowly emerged and thus began my inquiry.

Building a new life at age 57 or 60 is kind of like graduating college:  What am I gonna do with the rest of my life?  Our culture blares its version of the good life in commercials on TV;  consume and seek pleasure, whether it is a fancy car, trophy mate, or tropical vacation.  Achievement is to be left behind at the office and after retirement one should simply float downstream to the mouth of the river where we all join the ocean of the departed.  With my two friends mentioned above, they have bumped onto an important facet of a retired life of well being:  Achievement for its own sake.  For me, I am planning to learn guitar, start a business, and climb many metaphoric mountains.  In following blogs the other elements of flourishing will be discussed and how to turn on the starter for this new refired life.