15 July 2008

Solve, don't suffer! Win, don't whine!

There are certain things we learn from others as we progress through life. We can call them life lessons, sound advice, or suggestions. Whatever we call them, they have things in common. They’re usually things we kind of, sort of, knew ourselves but it took someone else to shine the light on them to give us that aha! moment. And, they’re always so simple that we’re a bit annoyed with ourselves that we did not already think of them. Usually too, they are said at a time when we really need to hear them.

One of my favorite lessons was from my acting teacher, Cliff Osmond. It was in an intermediate class about living your character intensely and playing the scene to win. He was exhorting us to be “interesting”, to want our objective at all cost, and that no one pays to see someone whine or suffer. Then he went on to utter words so profound that ever since, I’ve tried to apply them to all my affairs, not just acting.

“Win, don’t whine. Solve, don’t suffer.”

Everyone can take this very simple advice and apply it to their life. Yeah, things get rotten sometimes. Things don’t go well. Unfairness and setbacks are lifelong clich├ęs. Tragedy, grief, and pain are part of living, and one can choose to succumb or overcome.

The heroes, the interesting ones, the ones I want on my side, are those who seek to win, and find solutions despite all the odds being against them.

Here’s another one I learned from someone else a long, long time ago. Take your hand and make that little finger pointy thing with it. You know, clutch your hand into a fist and point that index finger as though you were pointing at someone.

Got it?

Now look down and see if there are not three of your fingers pointing right back at you.

No need explaining that one, is there? Those flaws, character defects, and personality quirks we find so irritating in others probably have a well-maintained kibble and water dish right in the kitchen of our own psyche.

We all learn from others and sometimes our best counsel is not ourselves. We progressives all stand on the shoulders of those who came before and warm our hands at fires built by others. It is our job to keep the fire burning for those coming behind us. Suffering, whining, and pointing fingers will not accomplish that. We’ll do it by offering solutions, and rising above the meanness, the hate, and venality of the finger-pointers and hate-mongers, and those who would keep us fearful of each other.

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