Sunday, December 24, 2006
(As usual, Mr. Sondheim is way ahead of us.)
As I thought about facing the holidays and the things we all wish for, I realized that ultimately, no matter what we aspire to or what we wish to acquire, we all wish to fit in, to connect with our fellow beings. Even those of us who are into material things wish to lavish them upon ourselves so we will be accepted. We want to be part of the gang.
When we are part of a group, we feel accepted, hopefully welcomed. We are not alone. We matter. Somehow, this makes us feel better.
Now perhaps we should all feel we matter as a matter of course. (After all, we do.) And certainly, we should sense our own intrinsic worth, regardless of who else recognizes it. External validation is not the bandaid for all that ails us.
But feeling that we have a connection with others . . . that's the thing. (Hey, I'm from Connecticut, whaddya want?) A smile between strangers on a train can brighten a day. A hello between a regular customer and a vendor at a local shop can create a sense of home. A quick morning chat between neighbors or co-workers creates a feeling that we are exactly where we are supposed to be. And more than any monetary gift, the gift of cordiality and friendship releases more positive "vibes" than anything else we can experience--with the possible exception of an extraordiary piece of chocolate!
And so it is that this year, while I would like to contact each and every friend and let them know that I am thinking about them (and I am!), and I would like to embrace all who make me feel I do in fact belong on a planet that is at times inhospitable, I am instead merely going to send out this wish--that at this time of year (and all throughout the year) you feel connected--to your world, your life, to other people--and that you feel thereby enriched in that connection.
Medium (Wednesdays, 10 pm, NBC)
Yesterday, I got caught up with some previously recorded programs I'd been saving for when I finally got a moment to relax. Of all that is on the air, I have to admit that my personal guilty pleasure is NBC's Medium, now in its third season. Much imitated (poorly at best by CBS's Ghost Whisperer), the show is nominally about a woman with paranormal abilities--the ability to solve (or help solve) crimes because of her special sensitivities that make the unsettled dead reach out to her, or else the vibrations she gets from objects tell her things, or else her dreams lead her directly to either unsolved crimes or to situations that perhaps can be averted if she can get there in time. All wishful, super-hero kinds of stuff. But what makes this show so special is NOT all these abilities granted to Alison DuBois (who supposedly is a real-life psychic medium upon whom the show is loosely based), but rather that these "gifts" are visited upon a normal American woman with a normal American family, a normal job with a normal boss and normal co-workers who are at times wonderful and at times pains in the butt. These are very real, recognizable people in a just-slightly altered situation. Life is more problematic for the gifted, and not all visions and dreams are welcome visitors. The adjustments we make for each others' quirks are many, and when life gets THIS quirky, you have to wonder if it's worth the effort. The wit, humor, and honesty of this series, created by Glenn Gordon Caron (Moonlighting), is spectacular, as is the extraordinarily high level of naturalistic acting. Patricia Arquette is perfection as Alison, an attractive but normal-looking woman (read: she has curves like a real person, not a runway model), giving a performance of great nuance. We love Alison and her passion, her dedication to doing the right thing--even as, so often, we think she may be doing something really stupid or going about it all the wrong way. Her relationship with her husband is the sexiest (and most real) of all on American television (Jake Weber matches Arquette note-for-note), and the kids are as impossible and loveable and imperfect as you could wish. (Miguel Sandoval and David Cubitt also give excellent supporting performances in Alison's workplace.) Ultimately it is neither the investigation work nor the paranormal that makes this show click, but rather, it's humanity--that we all have our crosses to bear and our jobs to do and somehow we get through even the most horrific aspects with dignity and humor (or at least we try). After you watch an episode of Medium, regardless of the details of the episode or the structure of your own existence, you feel like saying, "There's my life. And I did the best I could today." Nice work, guys.
LETTING GO OF GOD - Julia Sweeney
Actress-comedienne-writer Julia Sweeney has been through the mill in recent years, losing a beloved brother and herself fighting off cancer as well as several existential crises. That she is able to sift through life's wreckage and come up with such wisdom and humor is wonderful, if not surprising, but what IS surprising is that she is then able to pass on those discoveries in such non-pontificating ways. She is a real person always looking on the bright side and more often than not she is disappointed, yet she keeps searching for the silver lining. Letting Go of God, an audio book based on her one-woman show, is available from her website or by download from Audible (through good ole Amazon), and it is well worth the effort to obtain. While probably enjoyable to read, Sweeney's delivery of her journey through actively seeking God and spirituality--and the enormous number and variety of speed bumps she encounters--is priceless and best heard in her own voice. This is one of our friends sharing a discovery with us, without a shred of self-aggrandizement or self-pity, and it is a wonderfully personal experience. Highly recommended.
About the picture up top . . .
That's me and Barry in one of my favorite shots from a photo booth a few years ago. It makes me smile, and if you happen to know us, I think it's a good portrait of what makes us . . . us. Happy Holidays.