Thursday, February 11, 2010

Strength, Vulnerability, and Beauty

A couple of snowstorms ago I had the chance to go see the Alvin Ailey Dance Company perform at the Kennedy Center, which I posted a video for a few posts ago.  But as wonderful as a video is, it doesn't describe the feelings I had while experiencing the performance.  True, it lets you formulate your own thoughts and feelings, but until you see them perform in person, I don't know if you truly experience the performance.

The dancing was unlike anything I had ever seen before.  It showcased the human body in all of its intended glory - muscular and strong with control over every single movement.  And each movement was the epitome of both grace and beauty.  From traditional ballet moves to yoga-like poses, all incorporated into one piece, the body moving with a fluidity that was awe-inspiring and truly beyond words.

And then there came a moment within the performance in which it reached out, broke the fourth wall, and offered me and the audience, a piece of the dancer himself - a piece of his heart, open and vulnerable, out there on a stage, for everyone to experience and see and touch.  It was during a dance to spoken word, and the words combined with the movements broke through to me, directly into my heart.

It could have been interpreted as one of the corniest moments of the show, but it was one of the most vulnerable.  Because it takes strength to be that vulnerable.  To open and share your heart, your passion, a piece of your identity in such a broad and beautiful way - that takes incredible strength.

There was also the beauty in seeing the human body in all of its intended glory.  Saint Iraneus said that "The glory of God is man fully alive" and each Alvin Ailey dancer showcased this truth.  Their dancing was a true echo of God, showcasing His glory.  They were fully alive in beauty, in strength, in vulnerability and they gave me a gift in being able to experience that joy.

Sad Day for Crab Fishing

Yesterday saw the passing of Captain Phil Harris, the captain of the Cornelia Marie, one of the stalwart and largest crab fishing boats on one of my favorite shows, Deadliest Catch.  Captain Phil was a rough, tough, crude, chain-smoking, hard-working man who guided his boat to success through both the king-crab and opilio-crab fishing seasons in some of the worst working conditions imaginable.   
Just a season ago, he was on his boat in the middle of the opilio season when he had a blood clot pass through his heart and survived it. Then a few weeks ago, again in the middle of the opilio crab season, Captain Phil suffered a stroke during an offload run, his body finally giving out after all the years of pushing it through the unbelievable stress of captaining a crab boat.  He held on for a few more weeks, even giving signs of recovery, but unfortunately, he passed away yesterday.

His love for his sons and crew is probably one of the things I remember most about him.  His two sons, Josh and Jake Harris both became crew members on the Cornelia Marie and their dad made them work for every penny and gave them no slack just because they were his sons.  But even so, in all the conversations that he had with his sons that they showed to viewers were couched with affection and love for his two goofball sons.  I feel so sad for them, knowing how much they loved him.

Probably one of the more distinct memories from the show that I have of him is on the very first episode of Deadliest Catch, when the derby-style of fishing was still employed, a crab boat went down in the first few hours of the season opening.  And the Cornelia Marie and her partner boat, Maverick searched through the night with the Coast Guard for survivors, scanning the Bering Sea for any possible signs of life, forgetting about the fishing in order to possibly save lives.  It was heart-wrenching and riveting, all at the same time.  And showed the character and camaraderie of the captains as well.

It's weird - it's not like I knew Captain Phil personally, but by being willing to have his life taped on one of the reality shows that I love watching, he became "known" in a way to me.  And so I feel genuine sadness at his passing.

I'll miss ya Captain Phil - praying that you are enjoying clear sunny skies and calm seas.

Some links on Captain Phil's passing:

Monday, February 8, 2010

Book Review: Linchpin

Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? by Seth Godin

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
How do I begin to sort out my thoughts for this book? I feel like to do it justice I should be writing a 5 page, double-spaced book review for a class in college - except I think Godin would take offense to that!

I would say that there are three, maybe four major points that I took away from this book - The Resistance/Lizard Brain, You are an Artist, Generously Give Gifts/Invest in Emotional Labor, and Ship. What Godin loves most to do is to turn everything upside down on its head, and when you read his words, they just make sense. He says the things that need to be said in today's economy and delights in going against the crowd, "the resistance" or what he also calls your "lizard brain" - that primal sense of fear and anxiety that is coded into everyone's brain, but that can hinder us from doing our best work.

And doing our best work is the essence of what Godin is after here. Different from his other books for companies and marketers, Godin is speaking directly to us, the reader, the proletariat caught in the capitalistic system of having to work to make a living. But he challenges the reader to think about what kind of work are you doing - what kind of economic system are you supporting? Are you supporting an economic system that is based upon a factory and an assembly line, where you just show up to push a button all day long - or are you part of an economic system that is pushing you to do more, that is asking you to do more, that the time of the factory and the assembly line is essentially dead, and do you really want to live your life pushing a button day in and day out?

While I know many people who do want that kind of job, I don't. I want to bring more to the table and I want to live what Godin expresses - bringing passion and emotional labor to my job than trying to search for the job that is going to match my passion - because I may never find that. What I can do is be an artist at my job, because I do have a unique gift to bring to the table - both to my boss, my coworkers, and my customers. When I invest myself into my job, giving a piece of myself without expecting anything in return, I am doing my best work. And when you do your best work, the money follows - eventually. Granted, it takes time, and not everyone will probably be a raving fan, but you will get enough raving fans to keep investing yourself in your job and make yourself stand out from the rest of the button pushers.

What most deters me from being an artist at my job, from giving generously of my gifts, is my lizard brain that puts me into procrastination or hide-out mode. I don't want to be exposed, I don't want to make the wrong decision, say the wrong thing, make a mistake and so I don't end up "shipping" - which is a key principle of Godin's thesis. All artists need to ship - because if you never ship, then what are you creating? Nothing. If you don't ship, what are you sharing with the world? Nothing. And the lizard brain, the amygdala that seeks to keep me rooted in my anxieties and away from my possibilities, wins out if I don't ship.

Looking at the book from a writer's point of view, most of Godin's writing reads much like his daily blog. Some thoughts are long, others very short, but you can see each section in each chapter being a blog post (which I bet some of them actually are). Nothing wrong with that style of writing, as it is clearly effective for Godin (and probably for his audience of business people, who let's face it, have very short attention spans in general).

All in all, I greatly enjoyed it. There are other points to the book, like his thoughts on the education system in America that I found really fascinating and enlightening (and makes me wonder, if I am ever able to have kids, if I want them to go through the traditional education system). It has inspired me and I am still ruminating, two days later, over the lessons learned and found myself thinking of his principles often as I was making my way through the book. The fact that they have stuck around in my head that long, makes me realize that this has the hallmarks of being a very good book indeed.

View all my reviews >>

Thursday, February 4, 2010


Last night I got to experience the beauty of ballet as interpreted by the Alvin Ailey Dance Company.  Every year they come to the Kennedy Center for a week's worth of performances, and it sells out every year.  You can tell why from the video below, which is just a small sampling from their repertoire.

I have much more to say about this later...but enjoy its beauty for now.