Category Archives: liberation

The Year My Mother Became My Auntie Mame

  • A Mother’s Day reflection

The Year My Mother Became My Auntie Mame

A Mother’s Day Reflection

“…get the message of my book. Live, that’s the message!”

– Auntie Mame (Patrick Dennis- author)

When my mother turned forty, her hair turned red and that was it; she was off to the races. She became a liberated woman. The local theater troupe gained an invaluable actress as well as a director. The local nudist colony had a valued new resident. The local Science of Mind Temple got a new congregant.

This sudden revolution in our nuclear unit did not take place without resistance. We were a conservative Jewish family. For my mom to break out of the confines of the home was one thing but to go outside of the circle of the religion?  My dad is an honorable man, who really didn’t know how to handle the situation, and that train had left the station. Even the silent treatment he gave her as a last resort, was no match for my mom’s resolve.  After a week of giving her the cold shoulder, he realized there was nothing to put his foot down on.  The foundation of our lives had shifted. It was no longer where it had been at all. I used to joke that we would soon be hosting a Martian convention.

I remember standing outside of the laundry room a few years prior, listening to my mom quietly cry. I asked what was wrong and she said, “It’s nothing.” I longed to be able to do something for her in that moment. Her lament was not about her family. It was about innately knowing there was a universe inside her expanding and not knowing how to expand with it. The plight of the fifties’ housewife was something with which she was not prepared to be content. What she was yearning for was wholesale liberation.

Once she made up her mind, she never looked back. Even Science of Mind was just the first station on her spiritual trek up a mountain that is, still to this day, rising.

I got swept up in her revolution, joining her in theatrical productions, at the nudist colony, at Science of Mind meetings, at a matinee of the controversial French romantic film Cousin Cousine.

Mom didn’t abandon the house. We still had our meals together, my sister and I made it to school on time, we still had clean clothes.  My mom’s clothes, when she wore them, were brighter, still classy, always classy, but with more of a theatrical flair. Overall, after a few months, there was just a lot more leivity, as if there was an extra breeze that hadn’t been there before.  Our house became filled with the laughter of wild thespians, authentically larger than life characters. Late night parties ensued, complete with group singing, around our upright piano.

My mom had really just taken me along on her adventures but I loved the whole thing. It was a grand opening that never stopped. It was as if I had popped into the novel Auntie Mame. The book inspired both the play and movie and was about a boy, his eccentric aunt, and their bohemian, outrageous adventures. “Life,” as Mame would say, was indeed “a banquet,” and not only was my cup overflowing, I was able to pour some out to those around me as well.  I had friends at school and had made my classmates laugh but my new extended theater family were really my people.  My mother became a portal for us, to not escape into, but to be transported fully into who we were meant to be.

The fact that I became an actor, a musician and someone who aspires to inspire peace and connection between faiths, communities and colorful lifestyles, all bloomed the year my mother came out to her fabulousness. I never heard her cry behind a closed door again.

My mom- Sally Levin as Sweet Charity

Sally Lee Levin has become a dedicated fountain of life, a river of positive affirmation and a healing presence for those within the rippling circumference of her heart.

My dad was not only a good sport but rose to the occasion of my mom’s transformation with award-winning valor. He still rolls his eyes at some of my mom’s beliefs, but acknowledges that she is very powerful. He is grateful for her and their invaluable, intertwining partnership.

My sister aimee, (She spells her name with a lower-case ‘a’.) was a teenager and was essentially doing her own thing during mom’s emancipation. Still, I believe it sent a message to her that she could be strong within herself and become what she was drawn to be. My sister is a doctor of audiology with a thriving practice and has two wonderful children of her own.

So, here’s to unconventional, strong moms and how they model life for us inside and outside the circle of our expectation and understanding.

Happy Mother’s Day!

The Equal Justice Get Down

“I believe that many of you understand that the moral arc of the universe is long, but it bends toward justice. That we cannot be full evolved human beings until we care about human rights and basic dignity. That all of our survival is tied to the survival of everyone. That our visions of technology and design and entertainment and creativity have to be married with visions of humanity, compassion and justice. And more than anything, for those of you who share that, I’ve simply come to tell you to keep your eyes on the prize, hold on.” – Bryan Stevenson

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On Labor Day, Julia and I had a gig that was cancelled. We considered ourselves fortunate to be able to sit outside and catch up on back issues of The New Yorker.  One of the articles was about Bryan Stevenson.  What caught my eye was that Bryan was helping to build a national lynching memorial museum called the Memorial to Peace and Justice.  Bryan is a lawyer from Delaware who moved down to Alabama without family, friends or any support.  Recognizing the correlation between the lynching mentality that was established in the South and the mass incarceration and excessive use of the death penalty for citizens of color, Bryan founded the Equal Justice Initiative .  This organization guarantees legal representation to each of Alabama’s death row inmates. Bryan points out in his TED talk that the US is the only country in the world that will jail children for life.  Some of Bryan’s clients are thirteen and fourteen years old.  He believes that “each of us is more than the worst thing we’ve ever done. I believe that for every person on the planet. I think if somebody tells a lie, they’re not just a liar. I think if somebody takes something that doesn’t belong to them, they’re not just a thief. I think even if you kill someone, you’re not just a killer. And because of that there’s this basic human dignity that must be respected by law.” Bryan’s desire to build the museum in Montgomery, Alabama is to challenge each county where lynching took place to own up to it. This is not to shame them but to urge them to acknowledge the wound so that it can begin to heal.

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Later in the day, Julia and I binged through the rest of season one of Baz Luhrmann’s The Get Down. This, highly addictive and amazing show, was a natural extension to reading about the Equal Justice Initiative.  Set in the South Bronx in 1977, The Get Down shows how racism and poverty create a boiling pot of crime that is a necropolis for many but which cannot extinguish the creative spirit that must express itself.  With hues of a superhero genre, the show emphasizes that the real success that is achieved stems from love, friendship and the synchronicity of bonded effort across community lines.

The show illustrates how we have demonized creativity that arises out of poverty such as graphitti and hip-hop.  One of hip hop’s pioneers, Grand Master Flash is a character on the show. When interviewed he said that Hip hop’s message was simple, “We matter. We stand for something.”  His character on the show instructs a talented aspiring DJ who is slipping into graft, “It’s about music. It will move you forward and open up doors that everybody says are shut. It will give you the whole world for free if you just hold back nothing. Ah… do you hear that? It’s life and destiny, that is the Get Down!”

The-Get-Down

“We love innovation. We love technology. We love creativity. We love entertainment. But ultimately, those realities are shadowed by suffering, abuse, degradation, marginalization. And for me, it becomes necessary to integrate the two. Because ultimately we are talking about a need to be more hopeful, more committed, more dedicated to the basic challenges of living in a complex world. And for me that means spending time thinking and talking about the poor, the disadvantaged…thinking about them in a way that is integrated in our own lives.”- Bryan Stevenson

There are those who inspire tirelessly and selflessly like Bryan.  They are superheroes.  They are here to reflect the spark in the rest of us. For me, there is a difference between identifying ourselves as victims and committing in whatever way we can to being the expression of love that helps us rise up to a greater freedom within and without. Thank you for what you do and who you are.  You are that expression.

 

A different 1% – Expanding our perspective

Here is a talk worth viewing:
Best Explanation Ever! To A Fascinatingly Disturbing Thought! Dr. Neil DeGrasse Tyson  
https://youtu.be/aTZyVZBtP70 
 
Dr. Neil breaks down the thought that we are composed of the same elements as we see in the night sky, that we are not separate from what we see all around us.  He makes the point that we share 99% of the same DNA  as a chimpanzee.  The one percent difference is what allows us to compose symphonies and launch the Hubble Telescope into space. Talk about the 1%!  What if we were to meet beings who had one percent higher than us?  Their children would have an explanation of the string theory magnetized on their refrigerators.  We think we are so special but it is all relative.
“A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”-  Albert Einstein

Child in Space
 
We are all part of – a child in space.
One body, one mind, one race.
           
We are all atoms dancing  face to face
and the bond that we can’t see between us-
keeps us in this place.
 
While the left hand wrestles with the right,
belly goes hungry, eyes shut tight.
If i could reach accross the great divide,
our tears would become nurishment to heal us from inside.
  
And the darkness would fade.  If I could hasten the day.
We are all part of – a child in space.
One body, one mind, one race.
We are all atoms dancing  face to face
and the bond that we can’t see between us-
keeps us in this place.
One body, one mind, one race. 
– The Levins

We may overcome our need to strive to be part of the socio-economic one percent and collectively reach out to touch the next percent in our understanding.