Wednesday, February 25, 2015

What is Power Worth to You?

As the kids say, I slept on Damages.

I didn't realize how intriguing the cable television series was until my husband and I stumbled across it on Netflix. We have been not-so-patiently awaiting the next season of House of Cards and needed our 'fix' of another series.

We are on a roll! We watched Boss. That series, also on Netflix, takes you deep into the Chicago Machine and it's ruthless and corrupt political dealings (not unlike what is currently in the works). Damages takes you into the ruthless and corrupt business of law. It is a toss-up which was more disturbing.

Why do we all like to watch these types of 'crime' shows and even root for the bad guy? Why is it so appealing for actors to play the 'bad guy'? They seem to always win accolades and awards for the roles. What makes it so fascinating to us?

I wonder if it isn't that we may have that unconfessed desire for the power these characters seem to wield so smoothly and expertly. I believe we want to, on some level, be able to 'get away' with what they do. It isn't that we want to commit crimes, necessarily. One would have to admit that it would be satisfying to be able to get what we want, when we want it, from whom we want it, without consequences.

I suppose that's human nature.

But, there are consequences. The characters in the shows and films may or may not get what's coming to them or be found out and get their comeuppance.  That's up to the writer.

Ah! The writer. The God of the page. The conscience behind the story. Now, there is the power.

The writer can build the intrigue. The writer can kill off a character without blame. The writer can make the good guy lose and the bad guy win. The writer can make you pity one who is evil and despise one who means well. A writer can lead you to hate the ability to forgive in a character and see it as a weakness and admire the strength of the one with the 'no matter what or who gets hurt' mentality. Or the writer can follow the old norm and resolve with a moral that no good comes from bad. Or not. It's all in the writer's mind. That has to be a curious room to visit. I can see now that there is no black and white but more than 50 shades of gray (pun intended). In order to 'humanize' the characters, it seems it's now mandatory to show no one is either all good or all bad. This is true but there is definitely one side that is winning within in each of us.

As I learned to read and enjoyed it so much growing up, I began to see a pattern with stories. Agatha Christie had a definite pattern and the antagonist was always caught and the reason for crime was money or power. Fairy tales by the Grimm Brothers had a happy ending because that's how we all want life to be, especially for young minds. Even Scooby-Doo and Shaggy always caught Old Mr. Wilson in his mask causing all the mischief and he paid his debt for his misdeeds done in his haunted lighthouse.

In an effort to turn literary works on their ears, it's now become 'fashionable', dare I call it, to let the bad guy get away. Why would that be?

It's cool to see the corrupt corporate magnate ride off on his yacht after fooling the protagonist into thinking he was going to do the right thing. It's gripping to see the last shot of the crooked mayor, still behind his desk, grinning, feet upon his desk, because no one can trace anything to him and he remains in power. It's uplifting to see the con men (or women!) get away with all the money stolen from the big bad casino because they did it in a 'cool' way...and they needed it.

What does this tell us about ourselves and how we view what justice and truth are now? Does it say that everyone has a price? Yes, that's one of my mottos. I'd like for more people to prove me wrong. Does it mean that we've turned a blind eye to what we grew up knowing as right and wrong? Have we forgotten because of all the mixed messages? Would we keep the bag of money that falls off of the truck or the purse left at the bus stop by the old lady? Let's simplify it even further. Would we give back the wrong change we receive at the store?

Sure, Victor Hugo had a good reason for Jean Valjean in Les Miserables for trying to steal a loaf of bread and had what's normally a good guy being the bad guy chasing him for years. That was my first experience with the switch in my reading. I accepted it without question. Someone said, What we tolerate now, we accept later. I guess that was the first step. But I still won't jump in with all my clothes on.

As I mentioned in an older post, I told my daughter at a young age to consider the consequences of everything she did in life, hoping this would lead her to be a good and caring adult.  Sesame Street had a cartoon at the time with a little girl on a skateboard, holding a balloon, and, I think, an ice cream cone (I'm old, OK!). Anyway, a little boy comes up quietly behind her and considers popping the balloon but realized if he did, she'd be startled, slip on the skateboard, and, if there was an ice cream, it would fall to the ground and she could be hurt. He chose not to do it. I think she shared the ice cream with him. I DON'T REMEMBER but that would be a nice ending, eh?

Today, my loving husband of 14 years as of yesterday, was on a chair changing a light bulb in the kitchen. I stood by for safety then thought, "What if I were to yank on his shorts right now? Pants him! That'd be funny!" I'm old but immature, OK? I rethought that action and all is well in our house. He's safe and we're not headed for divorce proceedings. You get my drift.

There's no judgment. That's not my job. I'm only asking questions we could all stand to ask ourselves. What's it worth to you? Does anyone care about consequences or just results?

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Get Engaged in 2015!

I'm the type of person others may describe as an extrovert. But, I hate labels, so lets continue.

Life happens in certain places that many people miss. There are gatherings of a certain sort that show what my husband calls, "the Human Gambit". It's a place that offers chances to speak to a stranger and they may or may not respond.

One of the places is a Motor Vehicle Department. People arrive expecting to be in a confrontation and are not in the best of moods.

Another place is an Emergency Room, where people arrive fearful of their health or of an injury and they approach with trepidation.

Yesterday, we visited such a place and got to practice the Human Gambit.

We arrived at the Social Security Administration office and we were fine. We knew what we were there for and what to do. We knew the routine, basically. So, we entered. And we sat. And we waited. And we waited. And we watched numbers.

More importantly, we watched people.

We saw young, old, rich, poorer, English and non-English speakers, Caregivers with their wards, mothers with babies, the vain and the humble, men and women with canes, with walkers, with wheelchairs, all races and nationalities and languages. In this environment, all are welcome!

The scariest thing was that everyone entering had to empty their pockets, let a guard peek through their bags, and walk through a metal detector. This is the world we live in now, Folks. Meanwhile, some knew the drill, many were confused about the directions, a couple were indignant about it, and one man turned around and left. The guards' personalities went from friendly to strictly business to rudely abrupt to obnoxious just in the time we sat there. I guess it's a job that can easily cause "burn-out" and no Customer Service Awards are coming their way, ever.

As with situations like airport delays, breakdowns of computers, power failures or long lines, there are those with a belief that they are 'above' such things and decide to, as it's said, 'pitch a fit'. One expensively dressed woman was threatened with being tossed out if she continued. She shut up.

I've developed a patience for waiting that would qualify me as a statue. I've simply accepted it as part of the process and use the time for other thoughts, tasks, and activities that do NOT include a 'smart' phone. Like the ad says, "The world is round. We'll get there!".

It's as easy as engaging with another with knowing smiles about what we just witnessed at the Security Desk or entrance. I amuse myself and share it with others. I've never claimed to be normal. Unfortunately, this is a trait I've passed on to my daughter. We've been known to be alone in a crowd and laugh out loud at something funny.

I am the crazy lady who will play Peek-a-Boo with the nearest baby until Mama takes it away. I'm the one enthusiastically turning around to face him as the man behind me tells me his story of being in the military. (Fit me for my halo now!) I'm the one who offers my seat when someone looks like they need it more than I do that day. I wasn't worried about whether, or if, the clerk would or could help us with our question. I did, however, realize there were those who may have been fearful of what would happen when their number was called. You could see it on their faces. Seeing the numbers on the board and hearing that female voice call and repeat, then call and repeat in Spanish, can cause anxiety. They check and recheck their ticket number. What if you don't hear her call? What if you stepped outside or went to the restroom and missed it? You've been there 2 hours, already. Will they make you start over? What if you don't have everything they need? What if there's something wrong and you are not eligible?

This is REAL life happening in these places. It's real situations that can affect real lives.

It isn't that all of us don't have lives. We do and we are consumed by them. It's that we, rarely, get to experience exposure to others' real lives and truly observe.

We are exposed to our own cars or a commuter bus or train with everyone doing the same thing. We see our coworkers, our friends, the lunch counter lady, and, likely, the same commuters going home. We enter our homes and we see our families.

But, what strangers did we speak to that weren't serving us in some way? With whom did we engage?

Opportunities like yesterday's come up infrequently.

These places I look to as opportunities to realize we are human and have very similar experiences, if not daily lives. We are able to connect psychically. We are able to connect and engage on a more personal level if we allow ourselves to. It's a great practice, actually. It humanizes each individual we encounter. It levels our emotions to one of trust and caring. This is translated by others and reflected back to us. Again, it can be as simple as a sincere smile.

Yes, you may try to engage with the one person who isn't in the mood, that day. But, guess what? It didn't kill you. And, it gave the other person something to think about.

Challenge? Reboot your encounters with the rest of humanity that you aren't close to, personally. In a waiting room somewhere? Observe. Smile. Chat. Show a genuine curiosity. Do it this year. Connect. SEE and speak to your fellow Earthly inhabitants! Engage!

Then go home and pray for that person. Pray for them and thank God for your problems which may not seem so large afterwards.

Get it?