Sunday, February 05, 2006

Past and Future

This is what I’m trying to do. I’m trying really, really hard to be in the moment. It’s almost impossible. It’s like our brains aren’t designed for it. Hey, maybe that’s even true. Maybe there’s some evolutionary advantage to us for our brain’s to be constantly planning or remembering.

Maybe it’s because the present minute is too intense. Being in the moment is so real, so overpowering in its mundane authenticity. Maybe that’s why people feel the most “alive” when some raging emotion makes them stop and slow down time. The ecstasy of infatuation, the adrenaline rush of danger, these are feelings that make people feel very in the moment. But what I want to be is present for all the moments: when it isn’t life or death, or I’m not feeling the rush of competition or I’m not intoxicated with the hormones of romantic love. It’s very hard to not spend all my time thinking either about the future or reliving the past. Just being here now – it never gets easier!

Maybe that’s why I like acting on stage. You simply cannot be anywhere but right there. It’s really pleasurable at the moment to be performing my show once or twice a week. The perfect amount. I don’t know my show well enough to allow for shopping lists to be created in my mind while I’m on stage. So there I am, right there, remembering it all, saying it all. It’s great. I love it.

This week’s New Scientist has an article about how our brains process time. I guess we have some sort of ticker in our brain that creates a perception of time. We can control it, we can slow down our brains and teach our monkey minds to take in more. The way to do this is nothing new: meditation, t’ai chi, practicing focus & concentration, etc. What is interesting is that there are parts of our brain that scientists are now just beginning to identify that keeps an internal check on time. It’s called the pacemaker-accumulator or something. Also, it turns out that dopamine controls how our brains keep track of our subjective internal clock. Schizophrenics feel the world is just “crazy” and “accelerating beyond their control” and if the dopamine is regulated or brought down they see the world more accurately. Okay, maybe less accurately, but more conducive to civilization! Caffeine affects our dopamine levels, so does Valium.

We are watching the Super Bowl right now as I type. Mulan, at six years old, is actually into football. Frances, our babysitter, has gotten Mulan hooked. It’s hilarious to me because I could care less. I would never watch this game if it were just me at home, alone. I used to watch games with my dad because he loved sports. He’d even been a sportscaster before he was a lawyer. I grew up with some kind of game on the television, usually on the little black & white we used to have in the kitchen. My dad would have dishrag in his hand, in the middle of washing the dishes, and he’d be bent over the counter concentrating on the television screen and he’d yell, “Oh” “God!” like he’d been stabbed or something. I always thought watching him watch football was much more interesting than simply watching football.

And now I’ve got Mulan begging me to watch the game with her. She’s sitting at her little kids table, which is set up in the living room, and she’s totally engrossed. Of course we’re rooting for Seattle. She just yelled, “Touchdown!” See – now I have someone new to watch, watching football. We called up to my brother Jim and he’s having a Superbowl party in Seattle. How I wish I were there. I like being around people watching a game. I could read, do the dishes, be with my own thoughts and have people nearby engrossed in some activity. That’s heaven. Maybe someday. See – now I’m in the future and the past again! Damnit!

We spent the whole weekend cooking, pretty much. We made vegetable soup last night. It took us both about three hours to do the whole thing, and we soaked the beans overnight (garbanzo, white & kidney) and added them to the soup this morning. Then today we made a chocolate cake – a traditional old-fashioned chocolate layer cake. In a minute we are going to have a bowl of soup and split a piece of cake.

Robert came over this morning and we listened to the final, final, final cut of the “Letting Go Of God” for the cd. It’s really pretty good. I am proud of it and I’m never proud of anything. He did an amazing job. You can’t hear any background music in it. This was my big stumbling block, getting the rights to music. But you can’t hear any of it. Tomorrow we meet with the company that’s going to press the cds and design the artwork. I have all the elements together, finally!! The photo, the credits, the transcript, etc. I had a moment today when it occurred to me that it was all truly going to happen – I was going to get this CD out! Jeez. It’s taken way, way too long. I’m so embarrassed it’s taken so long. On the getting things done front, I finished a version of the “Letting Go Of God” screenplay this week. So it was a very, very productive week. This week I begin assembling the book. One step in front of the next. That’s my mantra for the week. Also, it’s a helpful mantra for the treadmill, I find. And one I’m more likely to follow.

I had a day this week where I considered changing the title of my show (AGAIN!) to “Are You There God? It’s Me, Julia.” My friend Julia J. had suggested it and it really makes me laugh. But I can’t change it to that. It feels like I’m stealing someone’s title. But I do wish I had a title that didn’t keep people away. Maybe I’ll think of something this week. I explained this whole dilemma to my friend Brannon this week and he suggested I call my show “God’s Vagina.” Which made both of us laugh for a long time. It would be funny to you too if you knew how we were talking about “The Vagina Monologues” beforehand. Ooops, I guess you need that set up before it’s funny. See Julia Sweeney in God's Vagina.

What about “Me & God: Breaking Up Is Hard To Do.” Huh? Huh? I have two more days to decide. Damn, I wish I could just think of something better than “Letting Go Of God.”

On a sad note: Kent Hirohama, who I worked with at the Groundlings, died yesterday of colon cancer. I’m very sad about it. He did the lighting and sound for me on “In The Family Way” when I did a run at the Groundlings, two years ago now.

At the time, I was having friends come and open for me before I started my show. One week, I didn’t have anyone. And I convinced Kent to play drums. He was part of a Japanese style drumming group – Taiko drumming I think it’s called. Anyway, one week he came and set up his drums and did a demonstration – a performance before my show. It was mesmerizing. His body flew across the stage in these precise movements. It was unexpected, somehow, this military precision coming from Kent. But then it all made sense too – this determined quiet soul who didn’t do anything carelessly. The audience thundered with applause. We had many nights together before the show hanging out backstage. I was so sad when he was diagnosed with cancer. I spoke to him only a couple months ago. I am just really, really sad about his death. He was such a sweet, dear, loving, observant, funny, sly person. Even when I heard his kidneys had failed, a week or so ago, I refused to let myself think that death was inevitable. God, life is so fucking short. I can’t get over it. Suddenly all those moments I spent with him are golden and then, fleeting from my mind even as I try to re-grasp them with deeper detail. Life is going too fast. I can’t process everything, everyone, or even every idea. I feel that moments, people, situations are ripped away and even when I try to be present and conscious my memory starts doing it’s dirty, prejudiced work – mixing in this and that.

I’m going to take a picture of this cake before we cut into it. Mulan just ran in and said, “The other team won! We lost.” Only the way she said it was not upset, more like she’s happy for the other team. See, it’s all a win for her. Just, maybe…not technically.


Anonymous said...

still title dabbling, eh?

How about
My New Age of Reason

I still like "Letting Go of God"
--there's something simple in the title, shocking at first--but yet gentle enough to convey that it was not an easy journey etc

Brent Rasmussen said...

Hi Julia,

I agree with Marky. I like the "Letting Go Of God" title myself. I mean, let's face it - those who will be scared away by it are going to be scared away by any title on your show. This title has name recognition now. Best to stick with it.

Anonymous said...

I like "Letting go of God" is the best. Sure, there will be some put off by the title but people like me will convince the people who would be put off (but really should hear it anyway) to hear it anyway.


Anonymous said...

Or how about "Julia's Letting Go". No matter what the title, it will only be a big seller if we all get behind it. And when we talk about it, it's not in a preachey way. But a way to opening one's self. Of "Letting go of the Metaphor". Speaking and thinking with a "Natural Language" that knows the difference between literal and metaphoric interpretation. "God is a metaphor for that which trancends all levels of intellectual thought. It's as simple as that".
Joseph Campbell

Anonymous said...

I think your fan base is comfortable with "Letting Go of God".

I also think "Waking Up" would be very appropriate.

or for a larger audience:

"Are You There God? It's Pat"

Diane said...

I am so excited that your CD is almost finished. I've listened to your piece on This American Life at least 4 times, maybe more. I love the title "Are you there God?, it's me Julia", but I guess you'd have to check with "Margaret". "Letting Go of God" is great, too, of course, but I do agree that some will discount it immediately because of the title. At least here in the Bible Belt!! (South Georgia)

yoo hoo said...

The title "Letting Go of God" set's you apart and states the purpose right up front, which I sense is the type of person you are. All relationships, past or present have transitions, your title implies there had been a "relationship" with God, but time and that conscious effort of being in the moment graduated to more concise changing of your life. I stay stick with it. I can’t wait to read or listen.

Justin Kreutzmann said...

time is a funny thing.

muebles said...

Thank you for the article, very useful piece of writing.