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J. J. Brown, Wordslinger

"I Sling Words As I Go Along."

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change

So, history keeps repeating itself……

…….and the theory behind the repetition of events and actions is this – until you learn the lesson, you will continually find yourself inside it.  This is speaking directly to one’s personal life, of course – relationships that don’t work out, jobs that don’t suit, etc.  But until you identify and change one small thing, you will continue to find yourself in those very situations that you rail against and want to break free of.

And it’s not easy – it requires conscious decision making and discipline to carry it through.  This applies to your own life as well as to the collective world at large.  Change is hard, to begin with, but we are constantly changing from the time we are born.  Surely, conscious change can not only be incorporated into one’s life, but embraced as a positive.

I am thinking of bigger issues than relationships, of course, but they are so huge, I’m not sure I could fit it into one blog post.  It could take up several.  And there so many issues to tackle, that I’m even less sure of where to begin.  And change is frightening to a lot of people – so much so, that they’d rather stagnate than make any real positive efforts to experience something that is outside their comfort zone.

And there it is – comfort zones and change don’t mix.  In order to get out of the comfort zone, you have to open up and change – a perspective, a piece of knowledge, a diet.  Regardless of how concrete the action to change is, the end result is a relative unknown.  The unknown can be acceptance or rejection, whether it’s an idea, a person or a philosophy.  It’s not so much the end result that incites fear – it’s the unknown reaction to that result.

From personal decisions to global ones, the unknown result from an act of change (no matter how positive or good that change can be) is fear.  Where do we belong?  Do we belong?  Am I not a part of this world?  What can I do to be relevant to others?  How can I be a better human being in this world?  What can I bring to the table?

It’s questions like that which define us.  It’s how we answer them that will either elevate or condemn us.

Something to think about.

 

“Some people think the future means the end of history.  Well…We haven’t run out of history quite yet.  Your father called the future…the undiscovered country.  People can be very frightened of change.”
Captain James T. Kirk, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country

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So, I’ve seen Beauty & the Beast (2017) twice now…..

……..and I loved it both times.  I also cried at the sheer beauty (pun not intended) of feelings it evoked in me, regarding the characters and the story.  This is not a review, only my response to a number of reviews about the film and its flaws.

The most common theme in all of the reviews I’ve read is how it’s Belle who bends and changes first, that it’s her responsibility to change the man, rather than the man doing it of his own volition.

I heartily disagree with that assessment.

I’m not excusing the Beast’s behavior (he’s a jerk and needs to learn about boundaries), but it’s his poor behavior that’s the catalyst.  It’s the reason Belle flees the castle in the first place – he’s rude, he’s being an asshole and he scares her over something that she does not realize has significant importance, not just to the Beast, but to his servants, as well. [1]

After scaring her out of his castle, the Beast realizes his error and almost becomes paralyzed with despair.  He knows he blew it, he knows he’s probably ruined the only hope to undo the curse that he and the castle are under and he wallows.  In many ways, his behavior is of someone who has given up all hope, who does not even dare to acknowledge that there is hope.

I understand that feeling.  I’ve been in that black pit of despair.  I did not treat my nearest and dearest well during that time.  Would anyone?

But what does the Beast do then?

For reasons never explained in the animated film or (presumably) the Broadway production or even in the 2017 version, the Beast goes after Belle.

Why?

What would be the point?  If he’s such a misogynistic, self-centered asshole, why would he do that?   Was he obligated to go after her?  No, he was not.  Was he obligated to save her life?  No.  The Beast CHOSE to go after Belle (to apologize, presumably, but, as observed earlier, it’s not made clear), and he ends up SAVING her life.  Was he obligated to that, too?  No, he was not.  He chose to do it because it was the right thing to do.

The Beast changed first.

It was his selfless act of saving her from the wolves that allows her to change her mind.

And yet, no one sees that. No one sees that he recognized his error (self-awareness) and went after her, to apologize (again, there’s no reason stated for why he went after her) and ends up risking his life for her.

All they see is that she changes her mind about him.

Belle didn’t reassess her opinion of the Beast out of nowhere. There was a motivating factor.

He saved her life, at great risk to himself, of his own free will.

She could have let him die and you see her move to leave him again, while he’s wounded and too weak to follow.  But she doesn’t – she recognized that he saved her life.  He chose to bend first, not Belle.

My argument here is that it was not Belle who initiated the change in their dynamic first.  She didn’t in the animated version nor in this version (and not in the Broadway production, either, I’m assuming).  I’ve read many reviews of this movie, and no one, NO ONE, remembers that Beast risked his life to save Belle BEFORE Belle decides to reassess her opinion of Beast.

Nothing happens in a vacuum.

Belle bends, but the Beast did it first.

*****

[1]  As for his relationship with the servants and why they couldn’t help Beast change his abusive and rude behavior?  Their relationship dynamics are in an already established hierarchy (master and servants).  As anyone in a family knows, effecting change in someone’s behavior is difficult enough as it is.  To effect it in someone you know is even more so.  Sometimes, it takes a stranger, someone from outside, to hold a mirror up to you before you can see it.

So, I’ve been pondering the word ‘can’t’……

…….and it is the most limiting thing to say, either to yourself or to someone else. ‘Can’t’ implies that you are not capable – of changing a tire, of getting a degree, of looking at situations in a different light. ‘Can’t’ implies that you are stuck forever in whatever circumstance you find yourself in. ‘Can’t’ implies that you are victim not of your own making and absolves you of the responsibility for changing it.

One can certainly say, “I can’t practice medicine because I don’t have the required education or degrees” or “I can’t inspect buildings to make sure they’re built to code because I’m not licensed to do so”. Fair enough. Those are legitimate ‘can’ts’ and can apply to areas that require one to be licensed or have a degree in order to find work in those fields.

So then the phrase becomes “I want to….” not, “I can’t do….”.

Let’s take masonry inspector, for example. I actually studied this for awhile and still have the books. I wasn’t particularly interested in becoming a masonry inspector, but it sounded like something I could do and since I didn’t have any real drive to pursue anything else, I chose to explore this as a possible career choice.

I didn’t fare so well – the architectural plan reading wasn’t easy and that’s an important part of being an inspector. You need to be able to decipher the lines on those plans – where the pipes are, what type of re-bar goes where, etc., otherwise, you end up with a building that’s not only lopsided, but unsafe and frankly, I want every building or structure that people live or work in to be safe.

It was a good lesson to learn, taking that class and paying for the books. Yes, it cost me the tuition fees and the books, but I feel that the investment was worth it, regardless of the outcome. Sometimes, that’s how it works – you invest some time and effort to see if it’s what you want for yourself. That’s always the best reason to do anything – exploring possible paths to better yourself, your circumstances, your life, your mind.

However, the only way to take that first step of exploration – of any positive change – is to say to yourself “I can do that.” Curiosity, desire, that insatiable want to see beyond the curve in the path, is what keeps you pushing forward.

“I can’t…..” locks you into a treadmill of fear and insecurity.

“I can…..” opens you up to every possibility.

As Henry Ford (1863-1937) once said, “Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re probably right.”

Wouldn’t you rather be right knowing you can?

 

Recommended*:
My Life and Work by Henry Ford
How to Stop Worrying & Start Living by Dale Carnegie
Around the World in 72 Days & Other Writings by Nellie Bly

*to be updated with related material.

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So, it’s Henry the Gray’s tenth birthday today…..

……and in the eight years that I’ve known him, he’s mellowed into a mildly sociable and funny personality.

Henry the Gray is my cat. This is him, trying to convince me that I want to give him my dinner.

Henry the Gray using mind control.
Henry the Gray using mind control.

Henry the Gray was not the most congenial of cats when I met him. At two, he was angry, aggressive and spoiled by his owner, who felt guilty for not spending time with him. Because Henry’s previous owner was moving and could not take him to the new place, she turned to me. I took him in. I couldn’t not take him in. If I didn’t, he would go to the pound or a shelter and aggressive animals don’t last long there.

After we established that I was his boss, Henry the Gray relaxed and took on the role of my watcher. He enjoyed surfing the internet with me (although I suspect it was the cursor on the computer screen that had his interest more than anything else). I would leave the local jazz station on when I left my apartment for the day and found him relaxed or sleeping when I came home.

Henry the Gray sleeping.
Henry the Gray sleeping.

When I decided to move back to my home town, Henry the Gray came with me. He loves to explore the garage and the back yard and has an on-going negotiation with another cat that has decided to make its home with us.

Henry the Gray (left) and Otis the Orange (right).
Henry the Gray (left) and Otis the Orange (right).

As a cat, Henry the Gray takes his duties very seriously. Whenever the kitchen waste-basket trash talks him, Henry the Gray takes it upon himself to establish who is boss.

Henry the Gray displays fierce hunting skills and asserts dominance.
Henry the Gray displays fierce hunting skills and asserts dominance.

Because I am concerned for his safety, Henry the Gray is not allowed outside on Halloween or the Fourth of July.

He does not approve of these rules.

Henry the Gray sulking because he is not allowed outside due to his safety.
Henry the Gray sulking because he is not allowed outside due to his safety.

It is amazing to me that he has grown to be such a funny and curious cat in the time I’ve become his human. His personal growth touches me and reminds me that we are all capable of such change, given patience, love, guidance and consistency.

Many Happy Returns of the Day, Henry the Gray.

Henry the Gray relaxing after a full day.
Henry the Gray relaxing after a full day.

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