Roots: An Essential Story

An image of the Kunta Kinte Alex Haley Memorial in Annapolis.

“It is impossible to kill an enemy. You may end a man’s life, but his son become your new enemy. A warrior respects another warrior, even he is his enemy. A warrior kills only to protect his family, or to keep from becoming a slave. We believe not in death, but in life, and there is no object more valuable than a man’s life. The way of the Mandinka is not easy but it is best.” ~ Kintango to Kunte Kinte in Roots

“My fondest hope is that ‘Roots’ may start black, white, brown, red, yellow people digging back for their own roots. Man, that would make me feel 90 feet tall.” ~ Alex Haley

I vowed when I went to college that I was not going to watch any television because I was a TV addict. So there are lots of TV series that started during those years that I never watched, but I broke my vow when Roots was broadcast in 1977. It was a television event. Almost all the households in the nation were tuned into the series which was based on the book of the same name by Alex Haley. I vaguely remember lots of young women huddled around the TV in the dorm lounge. The series was the topic of lots of discussions in classrooms, the student union, and the commons at meal times. We needed that discussion then, and we need it now.

It’s hard to talk about how deeply I was affected by that series. My heart was wrenched and broken during many of the episodes. I didn’t understand how whites could think it was okay to enslave blacks and treat them with such cruelty. And yet, through the seven generations of Kunte Kinte’s descendant’s story, there was hope, perseverance, and dignity in the face of the most horrific situations. One of the things I got out of both the book and the series was that freedom is a state of mind. Many of the characters in Haley’s story discover this. They pass this down through the generations of their family and in the end they are able to prosper.

I loved the series so much that I bought and read the 729 page paperback version of the book. Reading it was at times harder than watching the series because of the descriptions, especially the sections on the ship. How anyone could survive the lack of food, clean water, the filth and laying packed so tightly one prisoner to another in the hold with very little fresh air and exercise, comes down to the human will to survive. But the book is about human tragedy. It shows not only how slavery affected the slaves, but their masters too. The masters were not exempt from the tragedy of slavery because the book shows how their humanity was eroded as they ignored the worth of those they were torturing and enslaving.

Slavery and the way we continue to treat blacks, and people of ethnic groups other than white, is something we need to acknowledge and examine not once, but over and over again until we learn that every human being is worth being treated with dignity and respect. The 1977 version of the Roots series was one point in history when we faced a wound in our county’s history that needed to be healed. But after the hubbub died down, we forgot and went back to our comfortable corners. I was happy that another version of the series was produced in 2016 for a new generation and the self-examination started all over again.

Even though both series were great and generated lots of viewers and discussion, I think reading the book is a must. The way Alex Haley wrote it put me into the minds of the characters, particularly the black characters, and made me feel what they were experiencing. A book that can do that, changes the perspective of the reader. It certainly did mine. Years later I was teaching special ed. English, and I decided to read Roots to the students near the end of the school year. I wept again as I read the chapters that took place on the passage to America. The students were just as affected as I, and some even wept with me. That confirmed my conviction that anything that can help us see the world from someone else’s point of view is good.

If you haven’t read Roots, or seen either of the series, I suggest you do, because we’re at another one of those seminal moments in our country’s history, when we need to take a step back to do more self-examination and healing.

Thanks for reading. I appreciate your likes and comments.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2018

Lucinda is the author of The Space Between Time, an award finalist in the “Fiction: Fantasy” category of the 2017 Best Book Awards. It’s a historical, time-travel, magical realism, women’s novel, and is available in all ebook formats at Smashwords, or you can find the ebook at iBooks or Barnes and Noble. I you prefer a physical copy, you can find a print-on-demand version at Amazon. To join her email list, click here. She will never sell the names on her list.

Will It Matter in a Hundred Years?

Dad’s Birthday

“Life is 10% of what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.” ~ Charles R. Swindoll

“Lighten up, just enjoy life, smile more, laugh more, and don’t get so worked up about things.” ~ Kenneth Branagh

I had no ideas about what to write today so I asked for help from the writing muses and what kept coming to mind was something my father used to say when I would get upset about something trivial. “Will it matter in a hundred years?”

It invariably happened when I was younger, I’d get caught up in some silly drama and I’d chew on it and make it my mantra. Now I’m not so prone to getting upset. If I do it takes me a much shorter time to get a better perspective. From what I read on social media, there are plenty of people who have not learned that lesson yet.

Yesterday I was looking at Facebook and there was a discussion on the TCM (Turner Classic Movies) group about whether or not The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, which was shown on the station, was a classic movie. It’s amazing how heated these discussions can get over something I consider to be trivial.

Sometimes arguments happen and insults are traded over things that are not so trivial. But here’s what I think my father was trying to get me to see. Our emotions have vibrations. When we get upset and lash out in anger, those feelings don’t stop with the person we’re attacking. Oh, no. They are like ripples in the water. They keep spreading out bashing into other people and affecting them. Have you ever walked into a room where two people have been fighting? Most likely, even if you’re not highly sensitive, you can feel the tension.

Another point my father was trying to make was that I needed to pick my battles. Some situations need to be challenged because in a hundred years we want that situation to have changed for the better.

When something happens that gets us all riled up, we have to take a good look and decide if getting angry, or standing up for ourselves will make a lasting difference or is of no consequence at all.

I just read Earthsea: A Wizard of Earthsea the first in a series by Ursula Le Guin. (I’m giving you fair warning of a big spoiler here in case you haven’t read it yet.) In the book a young wizard, trying to impress a rival at his wizard school, unleashes a deadly dark shadow. He must find a way to vanquish it to save all of Earthsea. To do this he must name it so he can bind it and send it back where it belongs. In the end, after first running from the shadow, then chasing it, he confronts it and calls it by his own name which reunites him with his shadow. He emerges a much wiser young man.

We all have shadows. If we try to deny them, or get rid of them by spewing them all over other people, we help neither ourselves nor others.

This is what I’ve learned from all the lessons my father taught me, it may be difficult to do, but in the end it’s worth it to take a step back to examine whether or not some ripple in the current of our lives is important enough to swim against. Clearly there are situations where going against the stream will eventually change the flow of the water. But often an argument is not worth the effort and in a hundred years, or even next week, no on will remember what the fight was about, nor will it have made the world a better place.

Now I’ve got to go see Earthsea the mini-series so I can write about it in more detail. I will, of course be reading the rest of the series so more to come.

Thanks for reading, liking and commenting.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2018

Lucinda is the author of The Space Between Time, an award finalist in the “Fiction: Fantasy” category of the 2017 Best Book Awards. It’s a historical, time-travel, magical realism, women’s novel, and is available in all ebook formats at Smashwords, or you can find the ebook at iBooks or Barnes and Noble. I you prefer a physical copy, you can find a print-on-demand version at Amazon. To join her email list, click here. She will never sell the names on her list.

I Want to be Like Pollyanna

“When you look for the bad in mankind, expecting to find it, you surely will.” Pollyanna reading a quote by Abraham Lincoln from her locket in Pollyanna

“We looked for the good in them, and we found it, didn’t we?” Reverend Paul Ford in Pollyanna

Since my play is finished and the semester is nearing an end, I want to resume my series on movie/book connections. I’m choosing an old movie from my childhood because it was only a few years ago that I read the book that the movie was based upon, and it’s sequel. I’m in love with Pollyanna’s outlook on life even more since reading the books.

The movie Pollyanna (1960) made by Disney, came out when I was a child. It takes place at the turn of the 20th century. I fell in love with Pollyanna and all the characters she encounters. In a way it was odd to watch Hayley Mill’s movies because lots of people told me that I looked like her. I didn’t believe them, but I liked being compared to her because I was a Disney fan.

In those days Disney movies were mostly about family situations, lab experiments gone wrong, and cars with minds of their own. Many of them seem outdated now but not Pollyanna. In fact, I think we need more Pollyanna’s now more than ever.

What I loved about the movie as a girl, was that even though Pollyanna’s parents had died, she carried on their teachings to find the good in every situation and to show kindness and respect to everyone she encountered. Those two principles, taught by my own parents, helped me through several moves, lots of challenging situations, and meeting lots of new people.

Some might say this Disney movie is dated too, but I disagree. When Pollyanna arrives at her aunt’s hometown, it’s a pretty dismal place. Her aunt is cold and not happy about being saddled with her niece. She’s the richest woman in town but she’s unhappy and everyone is affected by her need to control everything. By contrast, Pollyanna is poor. She wears hand-me-down clothes because her father was a missionary. She has no outward reason to be joyful, but it’s what she learned. We never see her grieving for her parents. That may be one fault of the movie, but perhaps her determination to see the good in every situation is her way of coping with their deaths. And she spreads her joy, love and positive outlook on life wherever she goes transforming the town and eventually her aunt.

I can’t remember what it was that made me pick up the first book a few years ago. It certainly wasn’t seeing the movie again. It’s rarely played anywhere any more. It may have popped up as a free book on one of my e-book apps. In any case, I was delighted to find that there are two books. I promptly read them both. As always some details of the movie script were changed from the book, but essentially the characters are the same. Pollyanna faces some tough challenges, like the accident that nearly takes the use of her legs, but she manages to face her fears and remain positive throughout the two books. In the end, she finds love and fulfillment by helping others change their outlook on life. And isn’t that what most of us would like, to leave a positive legacy?

These past weeks I’ve found it hard at times to maintain a positive attitude. Maybe that’s why memories of Pollyanna flitted through my mind as I was trying to decide what movie/book connection to write about next. I don’t know why I, and so many people I know, fall into negative thought patterns. It’s not a happy place to live and a hard habit to break. But it can be done one little rainbow maker, one moment appreciating the beauty all around us, and one attempt to help someone else at a time.

So many of the spiritual teachers I follow say that every minute of every day we get a chance to start over. That’s what Pollyanna says too. Find something to be glad about in every situation. Thank you Eleanor H. Porter for writing such a lovable character who reminds us that we are in control of one major thing, how we perceive the world. And that makes all the difference.

Thanks for reading, liking and commenting. Make today a happy one.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2018

Lucinda is the author of The Space Between Time, an award finalist in the “Fiction: Fantasy” category of the 2017 Best Book Awards. It’s a historical, time-travel, magical realism, women’s novel, and is available in all ebook formats at Smashwords, or you can find the ebook at iBooks or Barnes and Noble. I you prefer a physical copy, you can find a print-on-demand version at Amazon. To join her email list, click here. She will never sell the names on her list.

The Value of the Arts

The Duke and Isabel from a production of Measure for Measure.

“Eleanor was right. She never looked nice. She looked like art, and art wasn’t supposed to look nice; it was supposed to make you feel something.” ~ Rainbow Rowell, Eleanor & Park

“A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable, but more useful than a life spent doing nothing.” ~ George Bernard Shaw

“Arts education is a big part of building a 21st century creative mind, and I think that we have let way too many kids lose their way by not drawing in their young minds with music, dance, painting and the other various ways we can express those things we do not have words for.” ~ Heather Watts

So a couple of things are happening in Arizona and to me personally this week that I’ve been doing lots of thinking about.

First, Arizona teachers started a walk out yesterday all over the state. I support them because I was a public school teacher and I know their frustrations not only about pay, but funding for supplies, books, technology, repairs to facilities, pay for support staff and the list goes on.

One of the first things to get cut when the state government decides they need to cut education funding, is the arts. I have always opposed this, but what can one do when the mentality is that other programs, like sports, are more important.

This week my theatre workshop class was doing dress rehearsals and performances for Measure for Measure, the play I’ve been directing. One night I had a rather nasty encounter with someone who said to me, “Your play is not that important compared to other things going on in the world.” Here’s what I have to say about just how wrong that person was.

People who are involved in the performing arts learn extremely important life skills that can help solve many of the world’s problems.

Discipline. To put together any kind of performance takes many, many hours of rehearsal. Everyone involved needs to put in the work required of them or the performance suffers.

Team work. I have always contended that the performing arts teach better team work skills than sports, because the end result is a win-win situation. The performing arts must use cooperation rather than competition to create their finished product. The actors, dancers, musicians win, and so does the audience. But, as I pointed out above, if some members of the team don’t hold up their end of the bargain, the performance suffers and both the audience and performers lose. You only have to be in a bad production, recital, or concert once to learn the importance of each member fulfilling their role.

Communication skills. Any kind of work requires good communication skills, but the arts require more than just communicating ideas. The point of the performing arts is to convey emotions to an audience. We want the audience to feel something. So, the performers must learn to listen closely to each other, and react or respond accordingly. Scientists have proven that what we witness, we feel as if it were happening to us and that makes any kind of performing art extremely important. The audience gets involved emotionally and that changes them.

Self-discovery. I’ve seen my students blossom as they do their acting scenes, or put a play together. The work is not easy because they are required to get in touch with their emotions so they can convey them to an audience. That puts them in a vulnerable position. Some students resist this, but those who don’t, become more open, accepting, and less judgmental. They get a chance to see the world through the eyes of their characters. Getting a new perspective on life is always a good thing.

Self-confidence. This one is linked to self-discovery. When we try something new and scary, we have the opportunity to exercise new skills and talents that we never knew we had. My approach to teaching acting is that anyone can be a good actor. In fact, we are acting all the time. Acting is a matter of listening to your scene partner and then thinking about how you might react or respond in real life. The more you practice these skills, the more confidence you gain about using them in real world situations.

Using imagination. All arts teach this. In terms of theatre, an actor must imagine why their character is doing and saying the things they do in the play or scene. Actors have to use their imagination to fill in the blanks that the playwright left because there wasn’t enough time to give the entire background of a character. Using our imaginations leads us back to number 4, self-discovery. If we imagine why someone is doing what they’re doing, in the book we’re reading, the entertainment we’re watching, or in real life, we have a chance to become more compassionate and less judgmental.

I don’t know about you, but I’m always looking for ways to be more accepting, compassionate, and less judgmental. So, after my confrontation with that person who questioned the validity of doing a play, I went back to all the things I’ve learned doing theatre. There was something going on with her that made her act the way she did, and I should give her the benefit of my understanding. We all go a little crazy at times. Though the attack hurt for a while, I’m fine and glad that our play is, in the end, a success.

Thanks for reading, liking, and commenting. Have a fantastic weekend.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2018

Lucinda is the author of The Space Between Time, an award finalist in the “Fiction: Fantasy” category of the 2017 Best Book Awards. It’s a historical, time-travel, magical realism, women’s novel, and is available in all ebook formats at Smashwords, or you can find the ebook at iBooks or Barnes and Noble. I you prefer a physical copy, you can find a print-on-demand version at Amazon. To join her email list, click here. She will never sell the names on her list.

Dehumanization in A Tale of Two Cities

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times …” ~ Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

“It’s a far, far better thing I do than I have ever done. It’s a far, far better rest I go to than I have ever known.” ~ Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

“A deep sense of love and belonging is an irreducible need of all people. We are biologically, cognitively, physically, and spiritually wired to love, to be loved, and to belong. When those needs are not met, we don’t function as we were meant to. We break. We fall apart. We numb. We ache. We hurt others. We get sick.” ~ Brené Brown

I can’t stop thinking of that interview Marie Forleo did with Brené Brown about her book Braving the Wilderness. When Brené was talking about the process by which we dehumanize other human beings, I thought of A Tale of Two Cities. There are many examples of how this process happens both in literature and in history, but the thing that Dickens does in his book is to make the process personal and devastating.

This story is so timeless that there are four film versions of it. My favorite is the 1938 version with Ronald Coleman, but every version I’ve seen is compelling.

The story takes place during the French Revolution. At the beginning of the story, Dr. Manette has been in prison for many years. He was imprisoned by aristocrats because he wouldn’t pledge to keep a secret they wanted buried. Since much of his work was with the poor of Paris, the De Farges, who had worked for Dr. Manette, try to get him released. In fact, that’s how the book begins, with Dr. Manette’s release. His wife and daughter had fled to England when he was taken, and now his grown daughter meets her father for the first time in many years. He’s a broken man.

Meanwhile, back in Paris, the De Farge’s are prominent members of the festering discontent that leads to the revolution. A single incident shows the callousness of the French aristocrats and sets the stage for the blood bath that is to follow. The Marquis St. Evrémonde, orders his coachman to speed through the poor part of the city. A child is crushed under the wheels of his carriage and he doesn’t care. Meanwhile St. Evrémonde’s nephew is packing to leave his title and his uncle behind. He can’t stand to see the way the people in his class are so callous toward the poor. And that’s the crux of the story. First the aristocrats devalue the lives of the poor, then the poor, having gained power, do the same to the aristocrats and those who work for them. Many innocent people end up dying at the guillotine.

The thing that has stuck with me since I first read the book when I was in high school was how quickly noble causes can be changed to bloody rampages. The De Farge’s have a just cause, but as they gain power they are seduced by blood lust. Their desire to right the wrongs their class has suffered turns against Dr. Manette and his family. Lucy Manette has married Charles Darnay, St. Evrémond’s nephew and the De Farge’s want to kill every last member of the family as if that would bring back the child who got trampled so many years before. It’s shocking how blind the De Farge’s and their cohorts become to the suffering they are causing.

My father used to say that wounded people, wound other people thinking it will ease their own pain. Pain, of course, is never eased by harming someone else. The only way to ease our pain is to forgive ourselves and others.

Sometimes life throws curve balls at us. Directing this play has been one of those situations for me. I have at times been sucked into the drama of situations with students, but getting upset and angry doesn’t help anything. I’ve had to take a step back and look at why I’ve drawn this into my life. The answer is, I have more guck to clear out so that I can be free of anger and blame.

It seems to me that stories like A Tale of Two Cities are examples of how tragic things can become if we fail to heal our own wounds. Trying to control things on the outside never makes us feel better. All the work must be done on the inside, in our own minds and hearts.

Thanks for reading, liking and commenting. I hope the rest of your week is lovely.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2018

Lucinda is the author of The Space Between Time, an award finalist in the “Fiction: Fantasy” category of the 2017 Best Book Awards. It’s a historical, time-travel, magical realism, women’s novel, and is available in all ebook formats at Smashwords, or you can find the ebook at iBooks or Barnes and Noble. I you prefer a physical copy, you can find a print-on-demand version at Amazon. To join her email list, click here. She will never sell the names on her list.

My Wilderness

“People are hard to hate close up. Move in. Speak truth to bullshit. Be civil. Hold hands. With strangers. Strong back. Soft front. Wild heart.” ~ Brené Brown, Braving the Wilderness

“The paradox is one of our most valuable spiritual possessions … only the paradox comes anywhere near to comprehending the fullness of life.” ~ Carl Jung

I’m directing a play this semester in addition to teaching two other classes. It’s my first time directing a Shakespeare play, which was a scary prospect, but the message in Measure for Measure called to me and I couldn’t stop thinking about doing it. I told Divine Oneness that if things fell into place, I’d go forward with the project. There have been many hurdles to jump over which I will not bore you with here. Let’s just say everything seemed to be falling into place. Students were excited about the play, as were other college instructors. I met a professional actor who had done the play seven times and gave me a shortened script, and there were so many other positive signs that I decided to move forward with the production.

We’re a week from our first performance and during the last few rehearsals everything has begun to fall apart. Last night I was so discouraged I cried all the way home and cried while telling Barry about all the obstacles that have been cropping up, ranging from college events that have kicked us out of our performance space two nights during our last week of rehearsals, to students who have to work when we’re supposed to be polishing the play. I was so distraught that I didn’t sleep well.

This morning I’m still feeling discouraged, which is not like me at all. But, yesterday I watched an episode of MarieTV that popped up on my YouTube feed when I opened it to access my meditation video. Marie Forleo is one of my favorite young women leaders. She supports women entrepreneurs. The video was from a few months ago when she was interviewing Brené Brown about her new book Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone. Brené Brown is another one of my favorite women authors and teachers. I’ve read almost all of her books and had recently finished Wilderness. She studies the effects of shame and how vulnerability can help us live an authentic life. Marie brought up something that also touched me when I read the book.

Brené writes that if we are going to be authentic, we have to be careful how we talk to and about other people. If we are going to respond to people calling us, or the people we support, names by engaging in name calling in return, then we are perpetuating negativity. We’re contributing to the dehumanization process. We are making our fellow human beings, something not worthy of respect. If we want a loving, peaceful world, we need to stop demonizing the people who have different political, religious, or moral views than we do. Often our first reaction to being attacked is to attack back, to give evil for evil. Doing that is not going to make the world a better place in which to live. Maybe, giving love, for evil is what Jesus meant when he said to turn the other cheek.

So what does this have to do with what’s happening in my life right now. Well, I certainly would like to, (and I have) yell and curse, when the latest bombshell goes off exploding my plans for the play. I haven’t done it in front of the students until last night’s rehearsal. One of my students said, “I can’t believe you haven’t done that before now.” I realized that I have been stuffing my feelings and trying to protect my students. That’s not good for me or them. So, I’ve decided that I’m going to tell them that I cried all the way home because I failed to convey to them how important it is to be there for each other. That each member of our production is important and that we owe ourselves and the audience the very best performance we can give.

And one other thing occurred to me. I’ve been living a kind of double life these last nine years. I’ve been trying to balance teaching, which includes directing, with my writing life. I’m taking this experience as a sign that maybe I should give up teaching theatre all together and concentrate on writing. I have very much regretted that I have had so little time to work on my novel this semester. I need to go spend some time with myself and Divine Oneness in the wilderness and see what my next steps should be.

Thanks for reading, liking and commenting. I appreciate it very much.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2018

Lucinda is the author of The Space Between Time, an award finalist in the “Fiction: Fantasy” category of the 2017 Best Book Awards. It’s a historical, time-travel, magical realism, women’s novel, and is available in all ebook formats at Smashwords, or you can find the ebook at iBooks or Barnes and Noble. I you prefer a physical copy, you can find a print-on-demand version at Amazon. To join her email list, click here. She will never sell the names on her list.

Taking Stock

Dad and me on Easter Sunday

“Have you ever stopped for a moment and looked at yourself through the eyes of the ultimate observer?” ~ Ramtha, What the Bleep do We (K)now!?

“No one is dumb who is curious. The people who don’t ask questions remain clueless throughout their lives.” ~ Neal deGrasse Tyson

“If we lose love and self respect for each other, this is how we finally die.” ~ Maya Angelou

I’m one of those people who is always asking questions, always seeking deeper meaning from outside and inside myself. I guess I’m a perpetual student. I come by it naturally, I learned it from my father. He wanted to know everything there was to know and so do I. I understand that won’t be possible while I’m alive in this physical body. Though, I’m pretty certain that once I pass into the next dimension, I’ll be immersed in the true reality.

Having written that, I want to stop a moment and take stock of what I’ve learned so far. I’ll be turning sixty-five at the end of this month so it seems like a great time for reflection.

I started this blog five years ago to be an electronic journal. I’ve been keeping one since I was twenty-four years old. I do still hand write in a paper journal occasionally, but I like the speed at which my ideas come out onto the screen as I type. That led me to create Sage Woman Chronicles. It’s my way of taking my ideas and experiences out and examining them.

A life long passion of mine has been to understand the relationship between Divine Oneness and human beings. That’s what led me to study religion in college, then theatre, then to become a teacher, to travel, to read extensively, to write. And it all started when, at eight years old, I felt the presence of Divine Oneness on the day I was confirmed. That connection has rarely been broken. When it was I was the one who broke it.

You might be surprised to know that one of the ways I reconnect with the Divine is by reading and watching movies and TV. I’m picky about what I watch. A healthy dose of PBS, Natgeo, the Science and Learning channels are part of my viewing fare. But I’m also always on the lookout for good story telling in a variety of genres. It may seem odd that I seek spiritual enlightenment from those sources, because we think of them as pure entertainment. Some people use entertainment as a drug to numb their stress, or pain. But I don’t think that’s true for everyone.

Here’s one small piece of evidence to support my premise. Every week I listen to a podcast titled “What Do I Read Next” hosted by Anne Bogel. Her format is to have one guest on and they talk books. At one point she asks the guest to talk about three books they love and one they hate. This is a version of what many of them say about the book they hate, “I just didn’t connect with it.” Many of the guests talk about how they read to get a new perspective on life, or to learn something about a different culture or country. Reading isn’t just entertainment to them, though it’s that too, but it’s a way to expand and grow. At the end, Anne recommends three books for them to read and she always wants to hear back about what they thought of the books she recommends. She and the guest have made a connection.

To me, art is a profound attempt by the artist to make a connection with their audience. I teach theatre classes. One thing I’ve noticed about my students, especially those who take acting because they need a fine art credit, is that they are surprised to learn that theatre is all about the examination of human behavior. It teaches methods for getting to motivations, why people do what they do. And that’s a skill we can use in all aspects of life. Because that’s true, plays, movies, and episodic TV shows can do the same thing. And now that I’m a novelist, I find that the fiction writer must show the character’s thoughts and feelings so their readers get a glimpse into their motivations and hopefully gain a deeper understanding.

This semester I’m directing the Shakespeare play Measure for Measure. It’s not one of his more well known plays but what happens in the play is so contemporary. The main event that the play revolves around an incident of severe sexual harassment. One of my students said, “This play is so full of unanswered questions.” And I agreed with him. As I examined the script, I came to understand that Angelo, the abuser, has cut himself off from other people by cultivating an image of the pure, faultless human being, while all the time seething underneath with self-doubts, suppressed passions, and dark emotions that he doesn’t want to face. The Duke of Vienna goes undercover into the city for reasons which are not clear, and leaves Angelo in charge of cleaning up the moral degradation that has occurred throughout the city. The first thing Angelo does is arrest one of the most prominent citizens for getting his fiancé pregnant. His downfall begins when the man’s sister comes to beg for her brother’s life. Angelo is smitten with her and offers to save her brother if she will “give me love.”

I’ve seen two versions of this play. Both directors chose to take a dark view of Angelo and people like him. I found something different in the play. At the end, the character Mariana, who was abandoned by Angelo, says, “They say, best men are moulded out of faults;/ And, for the most, become much more the better/For being a little bad: so may my husband.” It’s this idea that we have chosen to emphasize in our production. We all make mistakes and if we learn from them we can become more understanding, less judgmental, and more loving. Measure for Measure, and all of Shakespeare, have layers upon layers of themes for us to examine. All good literature and movies do. They are a doorway into the human soul and that’s what I find fascinating about them.

As I was writing this post, it went in a little bit different direction than I was originally intending. That’s okay, I’ve got another post on Saturday, when I may write more about the connections between seemingly disparate media that I’ve been making lately. I’ll leave you with this quote from my A Course in Miracles lesson for today. It struck me as profoundly comforting and perhaps it’s an idea that you need too. “Try to remember when there was a time, perhaps a minute, maybe even less when nothing came to interrupt your peace; when you were certain you were loved and safe. Then try to picture what it would be like to have that moment be extended to the end of time and to eternity.” Maybe that’s what we seek when we pray, meditate, read, watch content, talk to our friends and family, to find those moments of profound peace and extend them for as long as we can.

Thanks for reading, liking and commenting. I appreciate it very much. I hope you have moments of peace today.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2018

Lucinda is the author of The Space Between Time, an award finalist in the “Fiction: Fantasy” category of the 2017 Best Book Awards. It’s a historical, time-travel, magical realism, women’s novel, and is available in all ebook formats at Smashwords, or you can find the ebook at iBooks or Barnes and Noble. I you prefer a physical copy, you can find a print-on-demand version at Amazon. To join her email list, click here. She will never sell the names on her list.

Shōgun

“How beautiful life is and how sad! How fleeting, with no past and no future, only a limitless now.” ~ James Clavell, Shōgun

“First the priests arrive. Then the conquistadores.” ~ James Clavell, Shōgun

“it’s a saying they have, that a man has a false heart in his mouth for the world to see, another in his breast to show to his special friends and family, and the real one, the secret one, which is never known to anyone except to himself alone, hidden only God knows.” ~ James Clavell, Shōgun

Shōgun is a story of clashing cultures. It takes place in the early 17th century Japan.

The mini-series came out in 1980 with production values that were very high. It was the era of the big budget retellings of best selling and classic books. The cinematography of these mini-series was spectacular, the stories compelling as well as educational. Richard Chamberlain was the king of a succession of them. Every few months, audiences got to travel to exotic places, and learn something about different cultures and/or time periods. One of my favorites of this golden age the mini-series was the story of John Blackthorne played to perfection, in my estimation, by Chamberlain. The series also uses the talents of many famous and accomplished Japanese actors, the great Toshirō Mifune among them. You may have seen him in Seven Samurai, which was the inspiration for the western, The Magnificent Seven.

The kinds of stories that attract me the most are ones in which the main character goes on an awakening journey. The character of Blackthorne is based on the historical figure Sir William Adams, who surprisingly, even to this day has a neighborhood somewhere in Japan, named after him.

In the fictional story, Blackthorne is the English Pilot-Major of the Dutch ship Erasmus. It’s the first Dutch ship to breach the secrets of the Straits of Magellan. They have pirated Spanish navigational charts, which can get them killed if that’s discovered. Their goal is to get to Asia to take part in plundering the previously unknown lands that have made the Spanish and Portuguese so wealthy. It’s a dangerous mission, not only crossing so much ocean, but if and when they reach “The Japans”, they have no idea if they will be able to get around the Portuguese to negotiate with the inhabitants.

Unfortunately, they are shipwrecked on the the Japanese coast. Many crew members are killed, and their Captain-General is gravely ill. Blackthorne must become their spokesperson. But the Portuguese priests have a foothold and Blackthorne is protestant. He does not trust the Catholic priests to translate his words accurately. This complicates matters, as does the fact that the Japanese are not interested in the rivalries of these intruders. Even though the Portuguese have a foothold, it is a precarious one. After some painful lessons Blackthorne must endure about what the Japanese consider polite behavior, he is tentatively taken under the wing of the powerful, Lord Toranaga.

Both the book and the series do a great job of juxtaposing the European cultures with the Japanese. Each group have fundamentally different ways of viewing the world. This is even true for the Portuguese and Blackthorne. But what makes him different from all the other Europeans is that he’s willing to not only learn about Japanese culture and customs but he begins to embrace their way of life.

After months of separation, he is reunited with his shipmates and how much his world view has changed becomes painfully apparent to them both. He can barely stand to be near them. He’s become used to bathing every day, while his European associates stand by their fear of bathing as unhealthy. Blackthorne’s palate has changed as well, he can no longer tolerate the food and drink he used to enjoy, and he finds that his life philosophy has also been substantially changed. For one thing, each person in Japanese society has a specific purpose. For the most part, the Japanese people don’t question this. To play one’s role is to support one’s family honor, and the honor of their Lord. Doing something for individual gain is a foreign concept to the Japanese. Lord Toranaga may be in a power struggle with Lord Ishido, but he is not doing it for personal gain, at least not on the surface. He’s struggling to protect the Emperor, who is just a child, from the unscrupulous Ishido. And that is a much more noble purpose than the power struggle between the Portuguese and Dutch.

Shōgun is one of only a very few books I have read more than once. There is something I find appealing about the Japanese philosophy: There is only now, to give one’s life for others is the highest gift one can give, and to be content with one’s place in the grand scheme of things makes life simpler. It’s not that the Japanese characters don’t suffer, they do. Some are even ambitious for personal power. And to our Western way of thinking, some of their interactions were barbaric. But I love the fact that we get a chance to compare the Eastern and Western way of operating in the world. In the end the Western drive for conquest and riches is much less appealing than the harmony in all things sought by the Japanese characters. At least I found it so.

In the last few decades, we Westerners have begun to embrace many Eastern spiritual practices. I think this is a good thing since their goal is to achieve inner peace. I know I can use a lot more peace and much less hectic rushing around in my own life. Watching and reading Shōgun was my introduction to Eastern philosophy leading me to read the Tao Te Ching, and other such books. In my case, James Clavell, a writer of fiction, wove such a compelling story that I researched his source material and began a new tangent of spiritual exploration. I hope to be as accomplished a writer one day and influence some reader’s thinking in such a profound way.

Thanks for reading, liking and commenting. Have a restful weekend.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2018

Lucinda is the author of The Space Between Time, an award finalist in the “Fiction: Fantasy” category of the 2017 Best Book Awards. It’s a historical, time-travel, magical realism, women’s novel, and is available in all ebook formats at Smashwords, or you can find the ebook at iBooks or Barnes and Noble. I you prefer a physical copy, you can find a print-on-demand version at Amazon. To join her email list, click here. She will never sell the names on her list.

Pride and Prejudice

Elizabeth and Darcy’s first dance.

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” ~ Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

“For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbors, and laugh at them in our turn?” ~ Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

“He is a gentleman, and I am a gentleman’s daughter. So far we are equal.” ~ Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

The mini-series, Pride and Prejudice with Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle produced in 1995, was my introduction to Jane Austen. Since I was not an English major in college, I was not required to read any of her work, nor had I read any in high school. In fact, I was only vaguely aware of how famous and even controversial her work was. From the first episode, I was hooked on Jane Austen and vowed to read all her work. From the first moments of the series, the story was full of interesting characters, and situations.

The plot is, like most Jane Austen’s stories, about the hazards her main characters face in trying to find suitable husbands when they have little or no dowry to attract wealthy gentlemen. Since gentlewomen had very few options for finding work to support themselves, marriage was the best way to secure a comfortable future. But in each of Austen’s books, and certainly in Pride and Prejudice, the question becomes, “Do I want to marry for love, or for comfort”? Modern audiences and readers might not understand how making a good match was such an important thing for people in Jane’s era. The mini-series helps the audience understand this and other important themes of the story.

One of the first obstacles to Elizabeth, the heroine, and her sisters finding suitable husbands is their relatively lower social status. Even though Mr. Bennet is a gentleman, he’s not a very wealthy one and to Bingley’s sisters, that and the fact that the girl’s mother is the daughter of a trade’s man, makes them ineligible for their brother. Even so, Bingley falls deeply in love with Jane, the eldest of the sisters. Of course, he is advised by his sisters and Darcy, his best friend, to make another, more suitable, (profitable) choice. The ironic thing is that Darcy has fallen for Elizabeth, which he considers to be a flaw in his character.

We know at the beginning when Darcy and Elizabeth clash, that we’re in for an interesting romantic ride. He’s wealthy and proud, though we see as the story goes along, first impressions are not always accurate. Elizabeth is intelligent and witty, while at the same time, she seems to care deeply about her family and friends. She exudes independence, something rather unusual for a woman of her era. She’s a bit prejudiced against Darcy for his pride, and maybe even his wealth. We discover later, it is these qualities that attracts Darcy to her. Elizabeth is not like any other woman he knows. She is not inclined to following the behavior that is strictly enforced by class conventions.

Even though Pride and Prejudice is a romance, there are other elements that I find attractive about the book. Elizabeth has a particularly close relationship with her father. Darcy’s aunt, Lady Catherine de Bourgh, finds this unusual. They meet when Elizabeth is visiting with her best friend Charlotte Lucas who has married her cousin, Mr. Collins, a clergyman Lady Catherine has taken under her controlling wing. Elizabeth says her father needs her at home. Lady Catherine says, “Daughters are nothing to fathers.” But she is wrong about Elizabeth and Mr. Bennet. It seems to me that Elizabeth, of all the family, is the only person Mr. Bennet can be his true self with. I could relate to Elizabeth’s relationship with her father because I had a close relationship with my own father. Mr. Bennet, unlike my father, teases his girls calling them rather silly, “Well, Jane and Elizabeth have some sense,” he says. But, he is, in the end, benevolent to his family. They want for nothing. I also loved him because like my father, he seems to be interested in what goes on with the people of the town, and he’s a great reader. Mr. Bennet is one of my favorite characters in both versions of the story.

Elizabeth also has a close relationship with her sister Jane. And though she loves her other sisters and mother, they can be quite annoying at times. So, in the end, Mr. Bennet, Elizabeth and Jane are a comfort to each other when, Mrs. Bennet, Lydia and Kitty get too silly. Poor Mary, the middle sister, is mostly left to her own devices which, fortunately, she doesn’t seem to mind.

The story takes an interesting turn when the militia comes to town. Not long ago, I read a fascinating book titled: Jane Austen, the Secret Radical by Helena Kelly. In the chapter on Pride and Prejudice, she points out that the arrival of the militia is not necessarily a good thing, though Lydia and Kitty don’t seem to understand the dangers to the young women of the town. The representative character in this case is George Wickham, who we discover, grew up with Darcy. Wickham was the son of Darcy’s father’s steward, or may perhaps be Darcy’s half brother, that is unclear. Wickham takes advantage of Darcy’s reluctance to reveal their history and tell’s Elizabeth that Darcy went against his father’s will and denied him the living he was to have. This sets Elizabeth’s mind even more against Darcy. But when Darcy surprises Elizabeth with a proposal of marriage, she tells him she wouldn’t marry him if he were the last man on earth. When he asks her why, one of the charges she brings against him is his treatment of Wickham.

I love that Jane, as the movie, The Jane Austen Book Club points out, allows the gentleman their say. Darcy writes Elizabeth a long letter. It’s a great literary device. We find out more about Darcy and Wickham’s history, but we also begin to see Darcy in a new light. He prevented Wickham from ruining his most beloved sister, Georgiana’s, reputation. He further explains that he did not reveal what Wickham had done not only to protect Georgiana, but in hopes that Wickham might learn from the incident and change. His hopes, of course, are not realized.

It’s through Wickham that we see that many of the militia officers are social climbers, or take the opportunity to “sew their oats” in more ways than one. They are supposed to be defending the country from possible French invasion – the story takes place during the French Revolution – instead, merchant daughters are meddled with, debts go unpaid, gambling and drinking are common past-times. Every community that houses the militia must pick up the pieces once they leave.

Of course, Elizabeth and Darcy, and Jane and Bingley marry in the end. But getting to that point is not an easy journey for either couple, nor does the future promise that sisters will be fully accepted into the highest echelons of society. We get the feeling that social status matters little to the happy couples. It seems to me that in all her books, Jane is more concerned with her characters having loving, stable relationships rather than what society in her time period would consider advantageous matches. Since she never married herself, that might be something she was only able to enjoy through her characters.

Thanks for reading, liking and commenting. Have a fantastic end to your week.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2018

Lucinda is the author of The Space Between Time, an award finalist in the “Fiction: Fantasy” category of the 2017 Best Book Awards. It’s a historical, time-travel, magical realism, women’s novel, and is available in all ebook formats at Smashwords, or you can find the ebook at iBooks or Barnes and Noble. I you prefer a physical copy, you can find a print-on-demand version at Amazon. To join her email list, click here. She will never sell the names on her list.

Now Voyager – A Relevant Classic

Bette Davis, Paul Henreid in Now Voyager

“Because one is content with oneself, one doesn’t need other’s approval. Because one accepts oneself, the whole world accepts him or her.” ~ Lao Tzu

“Dr. Jacquith says that tyranny is sometimes expression of the maternal instinct. If that’s a mother’s love, I want no part of it.” ~ Charlotte Vale in Now Voyager

One of the universal issues, in my opinion, that almost every human being must deal with is self-love and acceptance. It’s sad that we’re not taught to love ourselves. But then neither were our parents or theirs before them, so perhaps that situation is not so unexpected after all. Learning to love myself has been one of the most profound things I’ve undertaken in my life. And I’m not finished yet. So, when I first saw the movie, Now Voyager on Turner Classic Movies some years back, I could completely relate to Charlotte, played by Bette Davis, in her quest to not only learn to love herself, but deal with her extremely difficult mother.

Charlotte Vale’s story is nothing new, except that she comes from a old wealthy Boston family. So often we think that the rich have no problems whatsoever. This story shows that’s not always true. Charlotte has had no chance to become independent of her mother’s control or family ridicule, which results in profound self-loathing. At the beginning of the story, she has a nervous breakdown, as it was called in the 1941, and must go to Cascade, a sanitarium to heal from years of emotional abuse.

Dr. Jacquith, played by Claude Rains, the founder of Cascade, is a pioneer in the field of psychiatry. He and his staff give practical advice about how to deal with almost any situation, and with difficult people. In general Charlotte and her fellow patients socialize with each other, so they can see that they are not the only ones in pain. This gives them an opportunity to practice their skills and gives them confidence in being with other people. The book gives more details than the movie about what Charlotte learns and her tentative steps in using the techniques Dr. Jacquith teaches.

Once Charlotte has been pronounced well, her family ally, sister-in-law Lisa, and Dr. Jacquith send her on a long ocean cruise so she can practice her new interpersonal skills. On the voyage, Charlotte meets J. D. Durrance, played by Paul Henreid, a married man who is going to South America (France in the book) on business. They form a friendship and later fall in love, though their demonstrations of love never go past kissing and hugging. J. D., or Jerry as Charlotte calls him, is an honorable man. He has a demanding, shrewish wife and three daughters which puts a great strain on him. The youngest of his daughters, Tina, is showing the same kinds of symptoms Charlotte had before her breakdown. These facts are additional ties that bind Charlotte and Jerry together. When Jerry leaves the ship for his business meetings, he and Charlotte vow never to see each other again, even though they are deeply in love.

When Charlotte gets home after many months of being away from her mother, she is extremely apprehensive. However, Jerry has sent her a corsage of camellias, a nickname he gave her on the voyage. She knows he’s thinking of her and that fact gives her the courage to assert her independence when her mother begins making demands.

After that first evening, Charlotte and her mother form an unspoken truce. Over the next months, Charlotte walks a fine line between open rebellion and compliance to her mother’s demands, until one day when Charlotte breaks under her mother’s belittling. They have an argument and her mother has a heart attack and dies leaving Charlotte a wealthy heiress.

That’s when the story takes an interesting turn. Charlotte, thinking she killed her mother, goes to Cascade, where she finds Tina, Jerry’s daughter. At eleven years old, Tina is in bad shape. She’s thin, sullen, and a loner. Charlotte understands Tina better than anyone at Cascade and undertakes to be her friend. This friendship is beneficial to them both.

Charlotte’s journey is unusual for a story written in the 1940s. Though Charlotte becomes engaged at one point, when that relationship dies a natural death, she says she will remain resolutely single. After meeting Tina she devotes herself to not only helping her, but opening her home to her nieces and nephews. She also donates money to expansion at Cascade where Dr. Jacquith puts her on the board. At the end of the book, there is no indication that she and Jerry will resume their previous romantic relationship. However, Jerry agrees to allow Tina to continue living with Charlotte and the couple make a pact to work together to help her grow into a happy, independent, accomplished woman.

The movie is very much like the book, with few changes. It uses dialogue just as Olive Higgins Prouty wrote it. This is one of those classic stories I feel lots of people can relate to, and even gain some techniques for dealing with some of life’s more difficult situations. I highly recommend it.

Thanks for reading, liking and commenting. I appreciate it.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2018

Lucinda is the author of The Space Between Time, an award finalist in the “Fiction: Fantasy” category of the 2017 Best Book Awards. It’s a historical, time-travel, magical realism, women’s novel, and is available in all ebook formats at Smashwords, or you can find the ebook at iBooks or Barnes and Noble. I you prefer a physical copy, you can find a print-on-demand version at Amazon. To join her email list, click here. She will never sell the names on her list.