My Third Novel's Conclusion, My Heartbreak

My heart begins to break when I think about completing this particular book -- because this narrative has sustained me like no other story I've known. It's both more personal and more universal than my other works. But beyond memory and archetype, it's a cri-de-coeur about needing to become the person one is destined to be. And in the writing, I have met my own life's work, my own fated journey -- having the sense all the while that the pages are suffused with a resonance, an energy, an electrified field that defies explanation. Writers hope and pray to be overtaken by a work in this way -- to be conscripted into passionate service of a profound story. To experience it even once in a lifetime seems a great privilege. I still have several months before this novel is complete, and this constitutes my reprieve. Because I'm not ready for the beauty to end.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

The Infinity Pool

"To be able under all circumstances to practice five things constitutes perfect virtue; these five things are gravity, generosity of soul, sincerity, earnestness and kindness." -- Confucius

I'm spending the weekend with friends at Post Ranch in Big Sur -- and the setting is otherworldly.  In the infinity pool at right, you feel as though you're flying above the Pacific, which sings in its rhythmic cadence hundreds of feet below.  This is a paradise for those who love to meditate -- and I count myself among them.  So, I'm contemplating Confucius and his thoughts on perfect virtue.  Assuming gravity does not preclude an abiding sense of humor, my friends tell me I do quite well with this list.  Evidently, I have chosen wisely, because my friends possess all these qualities in abundance. (In addition, they're witty, adventuresome, brilliant, loyal, passionate, erudite . . . I could go on.)

My favorite virtue is generosity of soul -- such an inexplicable and necessary thing in leading a joyful life.  Just as the infinity pool overflows its brim, so too does my love for this world pour past its edges.

Can we maintain the five virtues under all circumstances, as Confucius specifies?  Can we be generous in the face of dishonesty, or kind in response to an action that is intentionally misleading? These represent complex spiritual challenges even for the most evolved among us -- and the answers require more than a weekend of enlightenment.

In the meantime, here in Big Sur, we've met new friends from Paris, London, Chicago and Los Angeles -- a fascinating array of corporate tycoons, innovative artists and groundbreaking entrepreneurs among them.  Life is a bountiful adventure, in all its natural wonders, with all its opportunities for artistic and spiritual growth.  My cup runneth over.

Friday, January 19, 2018

The Lantern Within

"We see the world not as it is, but as we are." – Talmud

As a fiction writer, this quote says it all.  Characters in fiction, just like the people we encounter in life, constantly see themselves reflected in the world around them.  Those who are fearful or angry typically see a frightening landscape, filled with imposters and enemies.  Think of King Lear, beset with paranoia, confusion, the sense of victimization.  Those who are joyful and at peace, by contrast, usually see a landscape of friends, adventure, and imminent discovery.  Think of Hardy’s Tess of the d’Urbevilles, whose appreciation for beauty is undiminished by anyone.  Tess is “brimful of poetry – actualized poetry . . .She lives what paper-poets only write.”

I don’t know to what extent our subjective experience is a choice.  But I do know I find it a privilege to embrace a joyful life – one replete with close friends, adoring family, transcendent literature and music, transformative travel, adventure, constant learning – and beauty – so much beauty that it reaches life’s brim and overflows it every day.

For those who know what I mean, I include a poem here from William Carlos Williams:

The Red Wheelbarrow

so much depends

a red wheel

glazed with rain

beside the white

Williams is seeing an “objective” reality ostensibly – and yet, “so much depends” upon the beauty he finds there – his joy, his sense of the day’s meaning, his entire experience of life.  Of course, Williams’ appreciation of the world is a reflection of the resonant beauty of his own spirit, which invests all he looks upon with its reflected light.  The poet is the poem in this sense. 

We who witness illumination carry our own lanterns within. 

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

The Music of Film

My favorite film composers are Thomas Newman and James Newton Howard, alongside my friend Keith Power, whom I wrote about under Visions in Cinema.  My picks from among their compositions seem exquisitely oblique, resonantly expectant.  They are somehow conscious of the evanescence of life -- the heartbreaking temporality of our days --the inevitable destiny within them -- and the bittersweet knowledge that every experience we have is both a greeting and a farewell.

All of these tracks are available on Spotify.  Enjoy!

  • "Road to Chicago" -- from Road to Perdition by Thomas Newman (available on Spotify under the album, The Essential Thomas Newman.)  I love the sense of freighted expectation within the melodic line.  Time insists on passing by, even though what appears next may change life forever.

  • "That's the Deal" -- from the Green Mile by Thomas Newman.  Catch the segment from :47 to 1:07.  There's an exquisite tension within this progression -- just the right level of discord and resolution.

  • "Weehawken Ferry" -- from Cinderella Man by Thomas Newman.  Listen to how fantastically fated the strings segments sound here.

  • "The Wreck" -- from Unbreakable by James Newton Howard.  Such fateful resonance within this piece.  The hidden man is going to find his place in the world -- and we are assured of that by the sense of emergent and requisite identity within this work.

Friday, January 12, 2018

The Viennese Ball

"Great dancers aren't great because of their technique;  they're great because of their passion." -- Martha Graham

Ordinarily, I'm dancing to rock, EDM, rap, retro, etc.  But on Friday, February 9th, I'll be attending Stanford's Viennese Ball -- an extraordinarily beautiful event -- one that feels like stepping through a portal in time to an elegant, transportive, fairy-tale-made-real.  Martha Graham describes dance as "a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening."  And what I know is that, when I'm spinning to the Viennese Waltz, the sense of speed, freedom, beauty, and exhilaration is indescribable.  It's simply a magical flight.  My feet no longer make contact with the floor, and I seem to fly in the arms of my partner -- weightless, spellbound.

All of which is to say, if you live in the Bay Area, please come join in on February 9th.  Tickets always sell out -- but you can still purchase them at this moment.  If you haven't waltzed before -- or you need a refresher -- attend Friday Night Waltz in Palo Alto. Waltzing is very, very easy to learn.  In one evening of practice, (quite a bit less if you're athletically inclined) you will be ready for the main event!

Does anyone remember the waltz between Natasha and Andrei in War and Peace or the dance between Anna and Vronsky in Anna Karenina?  Because the beauty of this evening is on a par with the romantic elevation of these masterpieces.  Say hello to me if you attend -- and save a waltz for me among the many.  It multiplies the joy to dance among friends.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Visions in Cinema

Here's a clip from a short film I directed a couple of years ago.  This piece is related to my novel-in-progress.  (A big shout-out to composer Keith Power -- an enormous talent and a terrific person.  We recorded with a 47-piece orchestra at Capitol Studios in L.A.  Looking forward to working with you again, Keith!).

Happily, three Oscar-winning producers (two based in New York, one in London) have signed on to help realize this project as a feature film -- an auspicious beginning for my dual literary and cinematic passions.  I feel very fortunate that this talented cohort is as excited about bringing this narrative to life as I am.  A tremendous adventure awaits!

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

The Wellspring

"There is nothing I would not do for those who are really my friends.  I have no notion of loving people by halves.  It is not my nature." -- Jane Austen

People, places, literature, life -- I've lost the ability to love all of these by halves -- by measure or reason or restraint.  I woke up one day about six months ago -- and where I'd had blood running through my veins the day before, I now had a kind of river of life, electrified in its own way, a map of the world and what coursed through it as pure energy.  And, having spent my life as an introvert, treasuring as much invisibility as I could claim -- I became something else entirely.  I met people easily, effortlessly -- waiting in line at the coffee shop, the airport, the movie theater -- and they all wanted to tell me their life's stories -- their secrets -- their most pressing worries -- their greatest regrets -- the events that changed them forever -- the realizations that broke them or granted them wisdom -- the ways in which they fell in love.  I'd tapped into something elemental -- a wellspring of being -- that overflowed with profound compassion.  And it felt ageless, boundless, transformative, eternal.

My friends noticed.  Pragmatic scientists accused me of having an "aura" -- bohemians suggested I had somehow reversed time -- and my family members began to say "use your powers for good" each time I walked out the front door.  Friends whom I'd known for years told me they had fallen in love -- and strangers wanted to touch my arms, hold my hands, stroke my hair.

And the mystery is ongoing -- with no reasonable explanation anyone can locate -- except to say, "you've changed."  It's true.  The dress rehearsal of my life seems to have ended, suddenly and without warning or reference to the hour.  And the real adventure of life has begun -- where I cannot measure the intensity of my connection to everyone I meet.  I cannot love my friends by halves, nor parcel out the joy that overruns me.

The poet Dylan Thomas wrote, "The force that through the green fuse drives the flower/ Drives my green age."

It's a mysterious force, indeed -- and I hope it never leaves me.