Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Fear and Power

The wickedly funny David Sedaris confided to People magazine recently that he'd been "here" for almost fifty years and was still afraid of everyone and everything.

An earlier People profile had suggested that he'd gotten over his fears. "An anxious child, he found an outlet for his energies in high school theater and art programs. 'I thought he'd be a normal kid eventually,' his father observes. It took a while."

In fact, Sedaris has made a career and a splendid body of work out of his anxious responses to the world. (See him on Letterman on YouTube.) Instead of wasting energy fighting himself, he uses his peculiarities, his fears as rocket fuel.

It's a strategy that came to my mind once in an unexpected way. Years ago, I found that night after night when I meditated, Gandhi would show up in my mind and say, "Play Chinese checkers." He didn't respond to questions about why.

Then one afternoon in my office I was in a terrible mood. Employing one of my standard perk-up devices, I left to wander for a bit in a nearby antiques mall. There I saw hanging on the side of a booth an old Chinese checker board, with all the dents for the marbles. A voice in my head said: "Use the obstacles to get where you're going."

At that point I remembered how the game is played. In order to move your marbles to their destination, you have to have an opponent in front of you to leapfrog over. You have to "use the obstacles to get where you're going."

And that's what Sedaris has so brilliantly done.

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billie said...

Peggy, what an astounding episode of synchronicity in action!

Did you buy the board?

Peggy Payne said...

Interesting question, Billie. I didn't buy the board, or even think of it.

In fact, it might be a good idea for me to really play a game of Chinese checkers. Maybe there's more to learn from that.

billie said...

Peggy, I've just awarded your Boldness Blog with the Brillante Award - you can pick it up over at camera-obscura.

Mojo said...

Reading this I couldn't help but be reminded of the movie Lage Raho Munna Bhai with Sanjay Dutt and Arshad Warsi. Technically it's a comedy, but there's much to learn from it as well. You'd probably like it a lot.

Peggy Payne said...

Thanks, Mojo. You could write the Westerner's guide to Bollywood movies.