Amendments on the Ballot? Mis-direction!

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We are coming up on a Presidential election, and I encourage everyone to get out there and exercise their constitutional right to vote.

Speaking of constitution, there are also amendments on the Florida ballot to the Florida Constitution. One of the amendments, I read over and over, backward and forward, sideways and upside-down, and realized that the “legalese” language made it absolutely impossible for me to understand. I finally asked someone else. It meant the complete opposite of what I thought it meant. Apparently, a vote YES for the solar power amendment is actually against solar power since it supports the electric companies to not pay us for the solar power that we might generate back to the grid. They advised me to vote NO on Amendment 1 of the ballot. Even the Conservancy of Southwest Florida advises us to vote NO on Amendment 1. They urge us not to fall under the “tricky” language that makes this seem like an amendment for solar power. This amendment is not PRO-solar, but AGAINST solar power.

I had the sudden wish that legislation could be trusted to the legislators, but instead we have constitutional amendments to ensure that they are listening to us and not just to lobbyists. Then, I wonder, are we the people just listening to the same lobbyists.

While I might even believe in some of these proposals, it seems somehow crazy that laws on solar power should be amendments to our Florida Constitution, giving them the weight of all the other constitutional rights that we hold sacred.

Our Florida Constitution preamble: “We, the people of the State of Florida, being grateful to Almighty God for our constitutional liberty, in order to secure its benefits, perfect our government, insure domestic tranquility, maintain public order, and guarantee equal civil and political rights to all, do ordain and establish this constitution.

I don’t have a solution to the dilemmas of the political system. However, on a practical level, I tell myself:
Find information sources that you trust.
Support those who work for positive change.
Be an informed voter.

All Soul’s Day: Unseen Connections

Uncle CP is my great uncle, my grandmother’s oldest brother. At 91 years old, his wife developed stomach cancer. A couple weeks ago she went into hospice care. She passed away on Tuesday last week. On Thursday night, Uncle CP went to the hospital with chest pain and shortness of breath. He had been diagnosed with pneumonia a week prior and was on antibiotics. Early the next morning around 2am, he passed on. Perhaps to be with his wife. They had been married for 73 years.

As a medical doctor, I’ve seen the deep connection between people. There are those that seem to hold onto life until someone arrived, and then waited until everyone was out of the room before they pass on to the next realm. Death is a strange transition. There are those like Uncle CP, that seem to pass away from a broken heart.
I have a friend who hates that euphemism “passed”.
“Why don’t you just say ‘died’?” she asks.
I say, “Ok. ‘He died.’ Do you feel better?”
“Yes,” she says, and I wonder if she does.
Perhaps, I feel better with the word “passed on.” It is a word of transition, moving on to the next place. The energy that inhabited this physical form is moving on to some new place, to some new state, to something different. What is death? To say someone has died says nothing about what is to come next. It speaks to the final nature of the process. There is a definite end to something, a closing of a chapter. We honor the grief of the final loss. The end of this life. The thing we call death, dying, and dead. And then there is the part that remains alive, whether that is in the memory of those left behind, the physical mark left on the world, or perhaps the eternal soul and spirit. The energy that animated a loved one, now returns back to the Universe. Life passes on into a new state, the ever present change, a place of hope. And that transition is also captured in the word “death.” The end and the beginning connect in that eternal place.

1084_candle-lightThe generation of my grandparents has ended. I am here because of them, but they are all gone now. I have only their memories. Uncle CP has joined his wife. He now joins my grandmother and all his  brothers and sisters. Gratitude to the generations that have passed on. We are still connected. Prayers and blessings to Uncle CP and Aunt Asow. The double memorial service was yesterday, November 1st, All Saint’s Day. I light a candle to them today, All Soul’s Day. Two souls, one flame.

Muhammad Ali

53fc44a87d0058cd82af95a552959f52“Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.”

Born in Louisville, Kentucky, on January 17, 1942, with the name Cassius Clay, Muhammad Ali passed away on June 3, 2016, at the age of 74.

He lived an inspiring life in the ring as a professional boxer, and outside of the ring as a humanitarian. At his memorial service, the house was packed with friends and dignitaries.

Among the many speakers, Billy Crystal delivers this touching and comedic eulogy to the late great Muhammad Ali. You will be inspired.

 

A young Billy Crystal in 1979 performs a tribute to his friend, Muhammad Ali. See Ali’s reactions in the clip entitled “15 Rounds.”

StorySLAM at Sugden Theatre: A Huge Success!

On Monday, April 4th, I produced a show with the help of Storytellers of the Round Table and Naples Advanced Toastmasters. It was a huge success! We sold 78 of 85 tickets for Tobye Hall at the Sugden Theatre (home of the Naples Players) in downtown Naples on Fifth Avenue. There is nothing more electric for a performer than an excited full house. Our ten storyteller-performers delighted the audience. “I haven’t laughed so hard in years.” “I haven’t had such an enjoyable evening in a long time.” “This is so much more than I expected.” “It was captivating.” “When is the next one?”

P1030641Beginning with the goal to promote the range and power of storytelling as a performance art and oral tradition, the StorySlam venue came to life in Naples. The first free event was at my office on August 4, 2015, followed by December 4, 2015 and March 4, 2016. We collected the best stories for our theatre production on Monday, April 4, 2016. Our non-profit sponsor Naples Advanced Toastmasters paid the theatre deposit up front. Storytellers of the Round Table paid the advertising. This allowed us to charge $15 with the hope of breaking even to re-pay the theatre and advertising costs. Natural Awakenings magazine promoted our event in a News Brief. The Florida Weekly newspaper promoted our event with an article on the Thursday before the event, and most tickets sold the weekend prior to the event. I am grateful to all the participants and performers who donated their time for the love of storytelling. We have created a revival of this art form here in Naples.

“Storytelling” is a word used in many different contexts. It is often applied to anyone who tells a story: novelists, essayists, playwrights, movie directors. However, the context that I am using is the storyteller as a performer — one person (often on a stage) telling a story to an audience — interacting, connecting and captivating the audience. The venue can be as small as a family sitting together at home listening to grandparents, friends sitting around a campfire, or tents that holds over five hundred people at the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, Tennessee. In this age of multimedia, it is often hard to image how captivating one person can be as they interact and connect with the audience in a way that television, movies, and YouTube cannot. Storytellers evoke emotion, create community, and activate an ancient part of our psyche. The range of storytelling includes personal stories, folk tales, fairy tales, fractured tales, tall tales, historical stories, and much more.

The power of the storyteller can be described, of course, in a story (recently told to me by Carmen Agra Deedy).

There was an anthropologist studying a remote village in the jungle. After more than a year, he had completed his research. As he was leaving, the elders wanted to know more about the outside world. While he did not want to influence the culture, the elders insisted on a television. After much debate with the elders, the anthropologist decided to leave them a television and generator. He showed them how to use it.

A year later, he returns. The children are excited to see him again. He goes to the place of the television and generator, which is now covered in vines and already taken back by the jungle.

“What happened?” he says.

 “It was great for awhile, but then we remembered that we have a Storyteller,” says one of the children.

 “But this television knows thousands and thousands of stories. It knows more than your Storyteller,” says the confused anthropologist.

“Yes, but our Storyteller knows us.”

In the oral tradition of storytelling, the teller and audience are intimately connected. The teller weaves a world and invites the audience to not just watch, but to be a part of the story. This is the power of listening ,empathy, and human connection.

What makes a good story? A story is not just a narrative of events. A story has setting, characters, a plot that builds tension with internal or external conflict, and a resolution. While stories must make sense to our logical mind, more importantly they also evoke emotions. The best public speakers use stories as well as logical facts and statistics. Every story has a message or central theme – implicit or explicit. Most stories have universal themes that create meaning in the context of the listener’s experiences. Different people may get different messages from a story. The best stories show us what happens, rather than just tell us. Effective stories often use humor to connect the audience and ease tension. Storytellers engage the audience. They do not read or recite from rote memorization. They use language written for the “ear” – to be heard rather than read. Storytellers use body language, gestures, facial expressions, and vocal variety to communicate on a level beyond just the words. At its best, storytelling captivates, connects, and inspires.

In case you missed the last StorySlam, we are planning a repeat performance in Fort Myers at Alliance for the Arts on Wednesday, January 25th, 2017.

Visit pictures from the April 4th, 2016, event online:
https://goo.gl/photos/PWn26bQSrmbiqccH9

Email Storytellers of the Round Table at storytellersRT@gmail.com

Stay tuned for other storytelling events.
Join the Naples Storytelling mailing list.

John Cleese: On Creativity

John Cleese is a writer, comedic genius, and co-creator of Monty Python (the comedy troupe). He tells us that creativity is elusive because it comes from the unconscious mind. While the conscious mind will “prime the pump” as you contemplate a problem, it is the unconscious mind that comes up with creative solutions. It is not a talent that only some people have, but a way of operating.

Here is a summary of some of his tips. The obvious is often the most profound.
1) Sleep on it. Let your unconscious mind work on the problem overnight. Or just allow it to percolate in your unconscious mind while you do other things before returning to it.
2) Create boundaries of space and time for your creativity. Interruptions can kill the creative flow.
3) Playfulness. Child-like play touches the unconscious mind more easily and allows creative ideas to flow.
4) The unconscious mind “thinks” in images and can leave you feeling “confused” because you don’t know where it is going. Tolerate the confusion, give the unconscious time to solve the problem and dissipate the “confusion” before the conscious mind comes in to organize and clean up.

For more on creativity by John Cleese, visit online or watch the video below.

Gratitude

In this season of Love and Gratitude, thank you to all of you out there that are a part of my life. May the New Year bring many new blessings, many new smiles, and many new HUGS!

Brambles Tea House Storytelling Event & More

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“High Tea” Tray of Food at Brambles Tea House

This coming Thursday, December 10, 6pm – 8pm, Storytellers of the Round Table and Brambles Tea House in Naples, Florida, present Tea & Tales with a holiday theme. Dinner will be served at 6:30pm, stories from 7pm – 8pm. Last month was the first event in the series, and it was a spectacular success! We felt like English royalty as we enjoyed an array of aromatic teas and fantastic food for “High Tea.” And then, the storytelling began in the perfect tearoom setting.

Visit website for more information. RSVP required. Set menu is on the website.

“Storytellers of the Round Table” is a local group of storytellers in Southwest Florida. We are dedicated to the art of storytelling, crafting new stories, and keeping old stories alive. Stories are for all ages. As Terrence Gargiulo once said: “A story is the shortest distance between two people.” Join us as we perform tales that captivate, entertain, and inspire.

Last night, the second annual “StorySlam Naples: An Evening of Storytelling” was a huge success at my office. Over 40 people came to enjoy the tales of nine tellers who covered the range of genres and demonstrated the power of storytelling to connect intimately with the audience. With humor and universal themes, the audience was spellbound by folk tales, a tall tale about “Some Frog,” an adaptation of the literary tale “The Little Match Girl”, historical tales about Christmas in WWI, how a “A Christmas Carol” came to be written, and many other personal stories – ranging from humorous to emotional. Thank you to all that came out in support of this fantastic event.

Please mark your calendars. Monday, April 4th, 2016, 7pm, StorySlamNaples comes to the Sugden Theatre/Toybe Hall on Fifth Avenue! Yes, we will have an official venue. Tickets sales will begin in the next 2 months. Also, stay tuned, for the next StorySlamNaples auditions next year prior to this event.

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