Thursday, May 8, 2008

RulesStructure911


I have been trying to institute a 12:00 a.m. bedtime for myself over the last month. As an actor who usually doesn't have to go to work until about 7:00 p.m., it is sometimes difficult for me to discipline myself about bedtimes, reasonable wake up times, and productive activities that extend beyond eating and working out. Most actors in touring productions go to bed from 3-4am, wake up around 12-1pm, go find food, get some coffee, maybe do a little email etc., maybe go to the gym or a class, and then it is time for work. When I first started working as an actor, I completely denied myself any attachment to what my best friend Don calls, "actor schedule."

My first out of town job was an incredible travel/learning opportunity for me: 42nd Street in Moscow, Russia. Seeing that this was a great opportunity for me to learn a language and to fully experience another culture for more than the usual week or two-week vacation, I fixed myself on a "missionary schedule" more than actor schedule. Usually our show in Moscow would end about 10:30 pm-- I would rush home, not pass go, not collect 200 dollars, and go directly to bed. I would then wake up at approx. 7:30 am, put some tea on the stove and proceed to study Russian language for about 3 hours. Then I would look in a guide book, pick a museum or interesting local spot, and go there. Along the way I would speak as much Russian as I could with anyone who would talk to me. By the end of our 4 months in Russia (which was supposed to be 10 months but the production closed early because of that terrorist attack on a nearby Moscow theater in November 2002-- another story indeed), I was speaking quite a lot of Russian while most of my cast mates were only able to say vodka, hello, goodbye, and some expletives. After this experience I vowed to stay off actor schedule for as long as I was an actor.

Cut to me last year, me living and working in Las Vegas, NV. I was there for nearly all of 2007, and for nearly all of 2007 I was on actor schedule. Oh it just didn't seem as important anymore to study languages, read history books, visit interesting sites, or go to bed at a reasonable hour. Somehow I let go of that structure that had served me so well in my recent past. I thought that productivity and intelligence were mine to enjoy without any rules and structure to support their longevity and continued presence in my life.

All I can say to sum up 2007 is this: I was so tired all the time! Isn't that ironic?

Cut now to last night. It was midnight and I was crawling into bed in strict observance of my newly reinstated bedtime, and I made a tactical error: I turned on the TV. I landed on an hour-long episode of Nanny 911. I was transfixed. The story was about this woman who had 4 children. While their dad was home, the children behaved perfectly, went to timeout when they were told and did not move until they were allowed to. But the minute the father left for work, the household would literally turn upside down. The children would go crazy. They had no respect for anything, not their toys, not their homes, not even the nanny's hat which they threw over the banister and basically "maria von trapp'd" if you get my reference. Worst of all they had absolutely no respect for their mother. When she would put them into timeout they would just walk away. When she would try to get them to listen they would scream and yell. They would spit in her face, hit her, and do anything they could to thwart her power in the home. Eventually she would just take the smaller ones and force them into a timeout by physically restraining them. When she did that, they would go berserk, bite her, spit on her, and head-butt her as hard as they could. I was so perplexed. What could be done? How are such children to be worked on?

As the days went on in the house the Nanny began to see that the children behave this way because there are literally no rules in the house. There is no consistency with time-outs, there are no talks about behavior and accountability, and there is no real cohesive discipline methodology. As nanny tries to create some rules about time-out, buying these timers that manage the time outs so the children have some structure associated with this disciplinary action, she finds that the mother still continues to try to do time-outs without the timers and without the rules in place. The other thing that the Nanny realizes is that the children behave for their father because they are afraid of him. The oldest child confesses to Nanny that the dad sometimes brings a belt into their rooms and slaps the leather against itself. This is why they behave so well for him, and this is why they are angry and insane when dad is gone. At one point the dad takes the mom out into the front yard and won't let cameras follow, and basically rips her a new one about what a bad parent she is. She comes back in crying and Nanny eventually confronts dad about ruling his house with fear. He is very upset, but eventually agrees to back up mom's authority, and help his children fear him less by spending more time with them. Mom starts to follow the rules herself, causing her children to feel more inclined to do so as well. Pretty soon the structure and the rules that have been created allow the home to operate more harmoniously.

I felt so enlightened by this episode. I began to think about structure in my relationship with my boyfriend, and about my life in general. The default setting of the world is entropy. Scientifically things are always proceeding toward disorder. Does this mean we are doomed to a life of chaos? Of course we are not. We get to choose how we want our lives to go. Most of us borrow structure from our upbringing. We borrow the structure of "truth" which presents us with a set of rights and wrongs by which to govern our lives. We borrow the structure of our religious culture which teaches us how to treat others, and in mormonism that structure teaches us that service and selflessness are the apex of human life. We borrow structure from our social world. Some eco-social worlds have more structure in place than others. But what happens to someone like me when the "truth" that I believed so fiercely in is no longer the truth for me. The reasons for respecting and observing that structure are no longer so important to me, because I no longer believe in their absolute truth. Interestingly enough, I have seen many people walk away from the church and have their lives fall apart. Some members of the church might say, well of course. Wickedness never was happiness. He left the church and God punished him. I personally don't think its that simple.


Rules and structure are important on so many levels. So much of structure is imposed on us by government, religion, tradition, families, and other factors that have come into play in our lives. Growing up is difficult because you suddenly realize that 8:00 bedtime is not a law of the universe. You will not burst into flames if you say a swear word. As we grow up we have to either accept that disorder is a fact of life and do our best with the chaos that is real. OR we can choose to continue to make structures in which to reside in more orderly ways. No one is going to give me a bedtime. No one is going to force me to think of others before I think of myself. No one is going to make me treat my body in a respectful and compassionate way. If our only structure in life is based on the laws of the land, then I think we are missing out on some important growth opportunities. Like those kids on Nanny 911, I think we need structure. I think we need rules. Rules we create are flexible and subject to change. Because in making rules, in a way we are playing the role of God in our own life. We are saying this is allowed and this is not allowed. But we are not God. We are however gods of our own lives, and keepers of this great gift called a soul.

I particularly want to address this post to anyone who is in the process of questioning the church they were raised in. Accepting that the church you were raised in is not the only true church on the face of the earth can really throw for a loop the structure you have trusted and used as a safe environment in which to become productive. As you feel that foundation begin to quiver under your feet-- you may suddenly realize that the only person who was ever holding it in place was YOU. Does this mean that all of it was bad for you? I can't answer that for you. Does this mean it was all good for you? I can't answer that for you either. But what I can say is this- life without rules is chaos. Chaos is not a place where a person can safely thrive. That is my opinion. It is my belief that it is our obligation to look ourselves in the very soul and say: who am I? What do I need to grow, thrive, and fulfill my purpose in this life? Then it is our job to structure accordingly. No one else can make rules for you as effectively as you can make rules for yourself, but it takes courage and fortitude. Maybe it's not easy for me to deny myself "actor schedule." But I don't make the rules so they will be easy for me to follow. I make the rules with my own objective happiness in mind. We won't be perfect, even at our own rules. But we will be trying, and our sincere efforts will be sustained. That I know.

9 comments:

Parallel Mormon said...

Ну, Кларк, ты наверно нарочно приманил меня ответить на твой постинг забросив наживку русского языка. Ну ладно! Я буду говорить по-английски после этого...Церковь Иисуса Христа святых последних дней единственная истинная во всём мире.

Well, and if your Russkiy's rusty, you can only imagine what I had to say there!

Actually, buddy, I seem to be on your wavelength lately. My work hours have been crazy as of late, and I find myself coming in late (1-3 AM), and then still reading. There is so much I want to read (my German NT 1830, Finnish Bible 1927, Ladino Isaiah 1904, Spanish Book of Mormon, Hebrew Book of Mormon) not to mention my staples (Russian Book of Mormon, English D&C 1904, Lectures on Faith, Pearl of Great Price, Ladino Genesis, German Apocrypha, Bosnian Kur'an). Okay, I'm indulging in what I like the most. Forgive me if I seem to boast--believe me, I'm no party favorite, more like pleasant, nerdy, predictably interesting in a trivia-type way. I'm quaint--you're interesting, you're the divo, and I make no such pretense for me.

My point is, that I agree with you that we need some structure. My life right now has its struggles, and I have my shortcomings, so I have no judgment to pass on anyone because that faculty's too busy working on making me a truly good person instead of a seemingly good person (presumptive, aren't I). Still, I'm not tearing myself down either.

Clark, you mention a fascinating point that I've given some thought to in analogous contexts--might there be some ideas or conclusions that, although singular, may induce someone to draw sweeping decions about an entire entity, even to the point that the person in question would scrap the entire entity in question?

For the longest time I personally had a love/hate (mostly hate) relationship with the Bible and authority figures. Finally I was recently able to accept that my mistrust of both came about because growing up the Bible was used by authority figures around me to justify their own unjust behavior and instill fear and self-loathing into me. It took decades for me to forgive them, and in the void of anger and offense quietly the Spirit united me with that beautiful tome (Bible) I now adore.

I know you "lost your testimony" so to say, but I do not believe losing a testimony or even living outside the bounds of certain Gospel behaviors necessarily makes anyone a bad person any more than claiming a testimony and observing the rites and rituals obligatorily makes of anyone a compassionate, Christ-like person, though I hope to be able to do both (no pretense for the present, though I'm working on it).

One reason why I like your posts is because you do so strive to be compassionate and Christ-like, whether you would describe it this way or not. You are genuine in a way "faithful" LDS sometimes seem unable to do, and not just LDS, but so many others when they try to live a religion faithfully. I think this happens because the religious sometimes lose focus on what really matters--people--sometimes, but not always. This is human frailty, not an inherent demerit on religion.

I wonder if you're working out some greater wisdom for yourself, namely, that much of what Clark as a faithful Latter-day Saint did by directive of the Church was true and good independent of what Clark now thinks of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In your case, reaching the conclusion that the Church is *not* true may not ultimately invalidate much if not most of what we actually do and teach.

So if you won't have it all, take most. Or if you won't have most of it, take some.

James, Parallel Mormon

Clark said...

James-- I haven't downloaded the capability to write back with Cyrillic characters, but believe me I know you know that the church is the only true church on the whole earth. Yeah.. I gathered that lol. How are you? Thanks for your response. In spite of appearances, I have always felt like most of what I was taught as a mormon was actually vital to me being the good person I feel I am. In my moments of pointing out that I feel church doctrines about gender and sexuality are exclusive, incomplete and unacceptably homophobic, I have always marveled at the same time at all the good the church has managed to give its constituents by way of structure. Maybe the structure is a little heavy handed at times, but I for one feel that it is almost all good. The messages about service, generosity, tithing, the physical body's well being, productivity, industry, etc. are all truly amazing ideas with which I was blessed to grow up. I feel that so many men and women throw out all the church's influence sometimes on leaving the church because they feel angry and want to make a clean sweep also to avoid the continued attachment which can be painful. In my experience its painful too because there is still some serious guilt about not being able to fulfill the family's and the church's tacit expectations. I guess I just want to say that the structure is important and good, even if the doctrine doesn't 100% work in my soul, there is much I feel blessed to borrow from the structures created by mormonism.. and I appreciate your support my friend!

You are way more hard core about languages than I am. I would never EVER want to tackle Finnish with its 20something cases. You definitely have me beat there. I'm studying Greek and Turkish right now-- because I'm going to Greece and Turkey at the end of the summer. Um, yeah I am really really excited!

One of So Many said...

Such a relevant post for me.

Growing up I had an abusive father that ruled with a belt, and a wire hanger (That hurt the worst, would sting for hours after). I FEARED authority figures for a long time (like late 20s), religious, business, and social ones.

Only recently has that fear literally just disappeared and now I'm left with looking at the value of the church, my marriage, and other aspects of my life. My "structure of fear" is gone and I'm looking at what's there that I really want.

I realize after reading your post that I definately need some structure and discipline in my life. I've never been very good with it but definately good idea. Thanks for the post!

Parallel Mormon said...

Кларк, нет у меня никакого русского шрифта. Надо просто так делать: "вырежь и введи" (cut & paste), мой друг.

I so envy you--I would love to learn Turkish. I work with (and learn) Bosnian up here in the northern Great Lakes region, and it has a lot of Turkish influence, all of which whets my appetite for learning Turkish.

This is like totally cool! It's like we have so much in common! Pity we didn't meet in college, because I am a BYU alumnus, though I'm a good dozen years your senior. Oh, well. :-) We met now in cyber space.

One of So Many, you're in the loop too. For me while growing up, the "tools" of choice were (a) the belt, (b) the hand, and (c) calling me stupid with a rich range of angry tones and pitches.

My little baby girl knows no such infliction on her, and never will personally. She told her mommy "isi ei suttis emmalle" (I no doubt wrote it wrong), 'Daddy doesn't get mad at Emma.' She loves me and, at the tender age of 4, tries eagerly to emulate me in ways, and one is Russian. She tries to speak it and is starting to succeed. By age 4 I was already, sadly, on my path to dissimulation from my dad. What a loss for both of us! Well, he and I are closer now than ever before, though not that "close"--he was then and is now an enigma, but each year softens up more and more.

I could tell (I feel)Emma that daddy's gay, but I could never talk about that with my father. Not yet at least, unless I wanted to say it and then hang up on him. Then I'd have to call my sister and have her visit him at the ER where he would be having a panic attack. That's no joke, however funny it actually is.

My dad is a good man in so many ways. It has taken decades for me to really see that and understand the loss we suffered due to the traditions he allowed himself to buy into.

I'm glad I "did like a hippy and dumped the traditions." But, I must say, if it comes from the Testimony of the Spirit, then it's a keeper.

For Clarky, I feel bad that you had such a hard time in the Church. I can only imagine the hurt you must sometimes deal with. You know me enough now to know that I firmly believe that the Church is right (in its official writs, not loose-cannon commentaries)on its stance on homosexuality.

And so how does this play out in practice? It plays out like this: I like you so much as a friend, I welcome you, would welcome you in my home *with* your significant other, and would want very much for him to feel the love of my family and the fellowship of the Saints. The Lord judge between me and you, him and me, and I know enough about myself to know that I am truly no better than you all, so mercy for you is mercy for me. The Lord loves us all, kind of like I love Emma, only way more, like I love K, only way more.

Yes, I reject the tradition that a stance on principle should lead to unkindness and towards our brothers and sisters. If it sounds crazy, embrace Gays with full, genuine love along with believing that personally I must learn to live differently because my Heavenly Father wants me to. But heck, I am nothing if not a bag of seeming contradictions! If not nuts, though, I simply have a testimony, both to believe as I do, and to act as I do. And I'm glad, because I do like you so much. You're such a cool person!

So, give your love my love, and One of So Many--you, too, made it through the dark, rainy night--you and I are fellow survivors--so cheers to you, hang in there, and be my buddy, too. Hugs and kisses to your beautiful family--they are our "purpose" in life.

Clark said...

Parallel and One of So many-- you are both awesome in my book. I appreciate your comments and I think I would really like to know you in real life. Maybe someday we can get that chance! But I suppose until then our cyber-conversations will have to suffice. But I am happy I had this moment to remember these important lessons about rules and about boundaries. I'm applying myself to more appropriate structure for my life and it is really empowering.

One of So Many said...

You're far awesomer Clark. i love your candor and sincerity. So refreshing in this day and age.

Parallel Mormon said...

Clark,

Keep your itinerary posted. If you make your way to my neck of the woods, in particular to my home, you'll be our invited guest. T'would indeed be nice! Till then, Cyber will have to do.

PM

elbow said...

"...and her butt was bleeding."

Clark, we can't even life our lives...but "at the same time" we can and we will. I Love this post and I LOVE YOU!

Thank you for this post. The bottom line here is that what is the point of developing a testimony in prophets and doctrine when there's no love to back it up...emptiness.

You are not empty...you are full of love and trust and that's why you are a bearer of light.

..."and ain't nobody gonna take that joy away from me!"

Forester said...

Clark, I don't know why, but I've been thinking about you recently. I so enjoyed meeting you a few months ago - year ago - has it really been that long? I'm glad to see you are doing well.