FROM A HUMANIST PERSPECTIVE
By Ron Steelman
Here are 10 things I thought were worth sharing this week:
(I have stolen this opening line from the blog posts of a writer/artist whose blog I follow, Austin Kleon, author of “Steal Like An Artist.”)
1. As an actor I was trained in classic repertory theaters. I acted in over a hundred professional productions including Shakespeare, many classic plays, and numerous modern American classics. However, the comedies were my first love. You can keep the tragedies and the dramas and the histories. Which leads me to this quote from a 95-year-old comedy genius:
“Laughter adds time to your life.”
– Norman Lear
We don’t have hard proof of this, but a few years back there was an article with some anecdotal evidence about how long famous comedians lived. Their lives consisted of writing, testing and performing jokes. If they laughed, then they knew the audience would. The article is here in Psychology Today. Also, studies show people can learn to embrace the absurdity of life at any age, see Scientific American.
2. Having spent a good deal of my life as an actor, I wouldn’t encourage my children to go into the theater. I’d just have to tie them up and keep them in the attic until they came to their senses (you know I’m kidding, of course). But I saw this recently and it has something to do with being human.
3. There’s so much I didn’t know about poet Walt Whitman and his classic poem, Leaves of Grass. For example: “(the) responses to different aspects of the poem – its understanding of nature, its celebration of sexuality, its advocacy of a radical equality and democracy.” This is from a book review of Poet as Prophet: The Religious Whitman and His Disciples, by David E. Anderson. He begins with a little historical perspective: “Before the twentieth century there was a long tradition of the poet as prophet and seer, and poetry as a form of religious language.”
From Wikipedia: “Leaves of Grass is a poetry collection by the American poet Walt Whitman (1819–1892). Although the first edition was published in 1855, Whitman spent most of his professional life writing and re-writing Leaves of Grass, revising it multiple times until his death. This resulted in vastly different editions over four decades—the first, a small book of twelve poems and the last, a compilation of over 400.”
But enough of me. Read David E. Anderson’s review here.
4. From my “I Love Quotes” Department:
‘I get tired of God getting credit for all the things the human race achieves.’
– Lorraine Hansberry, “Raisin in the Sun” (words ascribed to Beneatha)
5. “The purpose of life is not to be happy – but to matter, to be productive, to be useful, to have it make some difference that you lived at all.”
– Leo Rosten, “The Myths by Which We Live”
6. Ricky Gervais – Religion Explained in Two Minutes.
We should not be pushing religion on children. That may sound shocking at first, especially if you were brought up going to religious services every week as a child. But listen to his logic.
7. The following title made no sense to me until I read this short article. Grief and mourning is something we all deal with, both the religious and the non-religious. You may have never thought about it, but we all lose family and friends and we need to find ways to deal with it.
8. “When I Think Of Death”– Maya Angelou
“When I think of death, and of late the idea has come with alarming frequency, I seem at peace with the idea that a day will dawn when I will no longer be among those living in this valley of strange humors.
I can accept the idea of my own demise, but I am unable to accept the death of anyone else.
I find it impossible to let a friend or relative go into that country of no return.
Disbelief becomes my close companion, and anger follows in its wake.
I answer the heroic question ‘Death, where is thy sting? ‘ with ‘ it is here in my heart and mind and memories.'”
9. On Being 72
Today I’m actually 72!
I grew up in Columbus, OH, and when I was 18 or so, I transcribed a track from the 1959, 33- rpm Broadway album of Hal Holbrook’s Mark Twain Tonight. I had performed in ten plays while in high school, several times playing old men. I had my old geezer voice perfected. Therefore, it did not seem out of character for me to mimic Mr. Holbrook’s version of the famous Twain speech. I made my own recording of “How to be 70” on a small reel-to-reel audio tape ( I wish I still had that recording). That was one of two audition recordings I sent to a performing arts college in San Diego, CA, hoping to get accepted. Although San Diego was way out there on the left coast, I had visited my aunt and uncle there and various relatives several times, so I was not worried about leaving Columbus at all. I loved California and surfing life. I have to admit that I never surfed myself. My cousin Mike did. I figured I’d try it if I got back out there again (and got the nerve). My bag was packed and waiting by the front door. I received the acceptance letter and I was thrilled. Then I read a little further in the letter. They offered me a “1/2” scholarship. Trouble was, my Dad had been out of work for an extended illness and my parents couldn’t afford the other “1/2.” So long Southern California, Hollywood, and the beach. So long slick new cool surf board (not). Anyway, it was heartening to learn that somebody was willing to pay me to act. Kinda. At least “1/2” worth.
I learned so much about acting from Hal Holbrook, and so much about timing. He also taught me a lot about Mark Twain.
So even though I’m two years past 70 now, I could listen to masterful Mr. Holbrook play Mark Twain any day of any year. Enjoy.
Mark Twain Tonight – How to be 70 (couldn’t find the video, but here’s the audio)
10. Here are two clips. One is from a Mark Twain Tonight performance by Hal Holbrook. The other is Michael Eisner ( the Disney guy) talking to Hal Holbrook at 90.