Daily Joys and Simple Pleasures

Daily Joys and Simple Pleasures

“Dance Is the Way the BODY Spells” m.a. radmacher

My friends, Paul David Leopoulos and his wife, Linda, created the THEA Foundation after their lovely teen age daughter was killed by a drunk driver.  Thea’s academic and whole high school experience had been enlivened by her introduction to and participation in The Arts.  Paul David and Linda wanted to honor Thea’s memory by offering that same artful expansion to other students in their home state of Arkansas. I’ve seen the profound impact of their arts programs on their state.  As I try to describe the many ways that ART WORKS…I assess that “dance is the way the body spells.”  People have observed for decades that my proprietary lettering style appears to “dance across a page.”  Yep.  That’s right.  Dance was the inspiration for my lettering.  The characters dance in a line across the page.  Just the way a body spells a sentiment using its own form and the floor.

You may have read (or may not!) or heard that five people were arrested over the Memorial Day week end for dancing in the Jefferson Memorial  They were protesting the same such arrest that occurred in 2008 in which folks were arrested for dancing in the Memorial while listening to music on headphones.  That arrest occurred near midnight with no public eye.  The demonstration of quiet dance, staged at the Memorial this week end, was intended to be caught on film and be placed in the public eye.  As an objection.  A demonstration against an injustice.

I have observed that in any cultural oppression, spanning the centuries, the first expression to be taken away from a culture/society is its artistic, artful expression.  This Jefferson Memorial episode may seem like a small event to you but it’s indicative of a larger, and more concerning issue.

Art saves lives.  Art enlivens.  Art defines a community, a tribe, a culture.  When we look to understand ancient civilizations one of the first measures to consider (and the measure that consistently survives) is the art of that society.  How we articulate our cultural identity through  art, of all forms, is a defining characteristic of our country.  ANY country.
It is ironic that these arrests took place in the Memorial honoring the  champion of personal freedom and the President known to have said, “A little rebellion now and then is a good thing.”

I am known by my friends to be given to fits of unanticipated dance – just about any where.  Is it even conceivable that I could be arrested for that genuine, authentic expression of my joy?  Last week I would have found it unlikely that such a thing would occur in my country.  And today, I am saddened to acknowledge that it has.   These individuals were not just spontaneously dancing as a personal expression.  They were dancing in the Jefferson Memorial to make a larger statement.

Pinochet’s cruel rule over Chile comes to mind.  And the women whose husbands, sons and fathers just “disappeared,” from their lives stood in the only way they could.  Silently.  With dance.  They could not speak but they allowed their physical frame to cry out against the injustice they experienced.  They danced.  And danced.  They danced to stave their loss and to speak for justice.  And finally, the world noticed.

Will the world notice five people who were arrested in Washington, D.C. for dancing? Will they note the harsh and violent way the arrests were conducted?  The more important question I want to ask is, “Have you?”

A Day of Remembering

My friend, Donna, woke up early today, thinking about her Mom’s brothers and their service to their country.  She has always wondered why a movie was never done about the Butler Boys from a dry land farm in SW Colorado.  She graciously agreed to let me share her recollections with you.  She remembers their story this way:

 

When WWII began, so did their service.  It is hard to imagine the pride but also the fear only a mother could know as Mary Magdeline Butler said farewell to her sons, Harry, Paul, David, Morris, Wilbur, and John. Six sons off the fight for their country. One never to return, two so damaged from their time in prisoner camps they never spoke of the war again, and the remainder who took the experiences with tenacity and etched out very successful lives.

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> Harry, the oldest was a Navy pilot. He was stationed in England but along with the British Fly Boys, they were responsible for ferrying and dropping bombs on the German Army. One winter morning, before de-icing the planes was known, Harry and his crew crashed into a rural field shortly after take off.  All were killed. My nephew, Mark, a Naval officer, has the flag that draped Harry’s casket.

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> Paul and Morris were captured and spent over two years in prison camps. The torture and abuse they received was never spoke about once they came home. Both had severe cases of PTSD, unknown in their day. They etched out quiet solitude lives.

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> David and Wilbur were Navy all the way. David was assigned to a ship under the command of an alcoholic, spending most of his time in a drunken stupor. David was asked by the men on the ship to take over leadership. He was often seen in the mechanic room helping repair the ship or sewing on many of the items for men and for the ship (a skill he learned from his Mother). He was an inventor, creating the first machine (in his garage at age 52) that mass produced plastic bags for stores, plastic hospital gowns and gloves.  He often traveled for business to the very areas he had fought in during the war. He became a millionaire.  Wilbur helped build many of the on the ground camps, driving heavy machinery.  He was a very successful businessman owning his own heavy equipment and excavating company, skills perfected in the army.

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> John, the youngest of the sons, was wounded and sent home shortly after the war began. He lied about his age, entering the army at age 16.  He was a Godsend to the family as his Dad was sent to a T.B. Clinic far away from their home for two years.  The operation of the farm and orchards became young John’s job, one he stuck with throughout his life. At age 80, he still has a small farm and orchard 15 miles from me.

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> There was tremendous pride in the small community for the six Butler Boys who served their country. Stories were written in the local paper honoring them.  I remember as a small child, watching a 4th of July parade in which the five sons were the Parade Marshalls. all decked out in their uniforms of their past and behind them, a lone horse with boots draped over the saddle in memory of the brother that did not come home.

Remembering, with Heart

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I have prepared this piece for you, as a gift.

Memorial Day is the opportunity to remember the sacrifices that others have made on behalf of our country and our freedom.

If you would like to open this heart piece – I’ve made it available here as a download.  I have not signed it so that it can be very personal to you and your family.  Perhaps you will want to add a photo of the military person or persons you are remembering.  Perhaps you will take it to a grave side ceremony and leave it with flowers.  In any case, you may do with it, for any non-commercial use, that you may wish.  If you are inclined to share how you used it or what you did with it, feel free to comment.

A Model of Courage

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I hope you have the time to see this sweet and somewhat historic snapshot.

This week end I spoke at length with a client.  She is aspiring to a more artful, creative life.  She feels restricted by her limited education.  She loves learning.  She adores adding new words to her vocabulary but is embarrassed when she pronounces them and has someone correct her.

She was (at first) surprised to learn that President Bill Clinton mispronounces words all the time. He, in fact, invited the press corps to correct him.  “It’s how I expand my vocabularly.”  I explained to her that President Clinton understands that the smartest people are willing to make mistakes for the sake of learning.  They are willing to allow others to correct them, actually INVITE others to correct them, for the sake of becoming better, smarter and stronger.  I shared that the capacity to do something that is new or uncomfortable – and be willing to not do it perfectly  in order to learn and honor the experience – is a model of courage that President Clinton provides for her.

Learning this about someone as smart as Bill Clinton empowered this young woman.

Imagine being a guest at an event to honor someone.  Thousands of people are gathered.  And YOU are surprised to be asked, in front of the entire group, to come up to the stage and sing a song with a popular singer and a choir.  You don’t know what song.  You are not a professional singer…and this is something you had absolutey NO IDEA would be asked of you.

THAT is exactly what happened to Bill Clinton at Shimon Peres’s 80 birthday fete in Israel.  Did Bill Clinton object?  Did he qualify the moment?  Did he explain that he’s a competent musician, but not a singer?   No, he did not.  He rose up.  He walked tall. Yes, he did express visual discomfort.  Wouldn’t you?  This elder statesmen of the world put his hands to his face at what was being asked of him.  But HE DID IT.  In front of a choir made up of 40 Israeli children and 40 Arab children, he joined a pop star named Liel singing IMAGINE by John Lennon.

IMAGINE.  He picked up steam as the song progressed.  As he left his embarrassment behind him and understood the significance and power of the moment, he accepted a microphone and found his voice.  And he sang it out strong.  HE DID IT.

The same animating, courageous principle that allows Bill Clinton to have his vocabulary corrected, that enables him to rise up and sing in front of thousands, is available to me.  To you.  The motivation is that the long term result is more significant, more desirable that the short term discomfort.  How might this inspiration impact the way you walk through your day? I hope you will allow it to inspire you as it has inspired me.

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