It's that time of year again--I'm typing this wearing long underwear, sweatpants, two shirts, a sweater, a cozy bathrobe, fuzzy slippers and fingerless gloves. The approximate temp in the house is a toasty 52 degrees. If I put on the space heater and try to use the printer at the same time, I blow a fuse. It's the time of the bear, of hibernation, the electric blanket, four afghans, and all that.
I read a piece in The Sunday Times about the Obamas' best friends. They have been part of the same close-knit group of ambitious mostly black young professionals with kids since college. I have been thinking how much I don't really like self-help books (despite the fact that I have two at my bedside right now, The Gift of Fear by Gavin deBecker, about trusting your gut when it comes to staying out of danger, and The Gift of Compulsions, by Mary O'Malley, which I'm hoping will help me break my complusive web sudoku habit. She advocates cultivating comapssion and curiosity about one's compusions, by the way. Wow, that's a lot of C's.)
I have several friends who have done diligent inner work and come out with some wisdom and want to write about it--How to Live Better, basically. I support their ambitions, but hope I never ever ever succumb to that impulse. For one thing, if you've been blessed with a visit from the creative angel, I think it's more fun to make art. But the main reason is I believe that living better, being better, having a better, healthier etc life, has something to do with your inner work and everything to do with the company you keep.
I guess that's un-American. It's not pull-yourself-up-by-your-own-bootstraps, meditate yourself into Nirvana, get up at 5 and swim laps till yoiur body is as hard as iron, that's for sure. I don't believe that life improvement is a do-it-yourself job, an inside job, as everyone else says. I think it's all about community. The article about the Obamas and their friendships says that to me. The Obamas would not be where they are today were it not for their family ties, and this very high-powered, focused and determined group of friends who took time off work, and offered real companionship and solid support along the way. For years.
I think that's how things happen. I think that's how greatness is achieved. Not by everyone writing and buying these self-help books and tapes and DVDs and working so hard to improve themselves, but by being there for each other. That's not very lucrative. You can't sell a million copies of "Create Community" the way you can "Learn to Pull Your Own Strings," but it is what I believe.
Sunday Carla and I went into the city to see Natta and Meyra perform devotional dances at the Buddhist temple in the Mission. It was gray, cold, and rainy, and Carla's new wheelchair is stiffer and more difficult to handle than the old one. And it doesn't like rain. Still, it was worth all the effort to see those beautiful young women, so pure in their devotion and their art, dancing their hearts out with so little in the way of material resources to back them up, but only the fire of their love.
After the performance, Carla wept and wept. She has the gift of extreme vulnerability now; the smallest things touch her heart so deeply. Afterwards we ate at Cafe Gratitude and joked about dragging the boys there--C and Gerry. I can just imagine them rolling their eyes and snorting as the server comes up and enthusiastically affirms to them, "You are abundance! You are beautiful! You are delicious!"