Friday, March 23, 2012

Animation Design – Rejections From the "Nice" Pile...

Sometimes even the nicest designs can get the boot, like these two friendly, slightly euro-UPA style salespeople (as value roughs), and the soft pastel world (with their replacements) I was hoping they would live in...

...the soft pastel world with it's graphic bubbles didn't make it either.

Monday, March 19, 2012

What I Learned From "Dying," Part 1: My Three Destinations

It isn't often that you hear someone describe what it's like to die – that's an experience rarely reported; but I have the dubious qualification of having survived three distinctly different "Near Death Experiences," and I'd like to pass on what I learned from them in hopes that you'll never find the need to try this at home. They weren't much fun, but they were very informative.

We most often think of Evolution with a capital E, as in the theory or transitioning movement of successive generations, species adapting across expanses of Time, and so it is. My experiences lead me to consider it as a personal process, largely because of realizing the importance of the Eternal Moment (in which everything alive is always living), and because the evolution of the whole spreads out from the evolution of each individual. As that phenomenon of personal experience, my life's evolution is more directly related to my NDEs than to all but a few of my "conscious" life lessons. It's like peeking behind the curtain...

So here, preceded by brief circumstantial descriptions, are the lessons I learned, set down short and sweet as possible:

I was in a serious single car accident (I'd like to say through no fault of my own, but it wouldn't be true) and instantly found myself suspended in mid-air over the crash site, observing the wreckage, my body, and the ministrations of people who rushed to my aid (God bless 'em). A while into all the hub-bub, I was gently shepherded off by a kind entity that remained out of view into what I can only describe as a soft, warm, cotton-wool cloud, to a place of great ease and comfort where I was sat down in a congenial but serious conversation regarding the true nature of things, and my position within it.

The space was idyllic, like a very nice summer's cafe. There was no sense of Time or of gravity, and certainly not of any want or necessity.Thought operated in a non-sequential, undemanding way all at once easily, rather than in any urgent, serial way – like after a good meditation. Here's what I learned:

We are avatars living spiritually within these physical bodies, very much like driving around in a car (...I wish I could afford a new one). Of course, our bodies are us, here in this place we call The World; but they aren't really us – they're the means to experience this sensory experience, "good" and "bad," and to gain as much from it as we can in the service or our own, and our greater collective Self's evolution. That's the job, should you choose to accept it, Mr. Phelps.

"The fundamental, simple, and great mystical realization is that by which you identify yourself with consciousness, rather than with the vehicle of consciousness. Your body is a vehicle of consciousness."
Joseph Campbell

There is a much greater, very different but also infinitely rich realm of conscious experience, very closely connected to the one we experience here and now, that we transition into seamlessly and effortlessly when we die; like walking from one room to another. It is a world of experiencing here and now as well – The Eternal Moment we will always be alive within.

In a fairly unconscious earlier stage of my life, as the result of living in a riotously self-destructive way, I just "keeled over" one night, from one or another of the awful things I was doing to myself (what Dr. Jung would call "a low-level search for God") – or more likely, from all of them. I was paralyzed on the floor, breathless and unresponsive to the efforts to revive me. The world as we witness it disappeared from view, filled-in by a dense bright white cloud – again all easy and comfortable. My invisible host beckoned me watch a "screen" that opened up from the center of my vision and began showing me not the most auspicious highlights of my life so far, but instead some moments of profound (suppressed) significance – injuries I'd committed; opportunities I'd missed. Here's what I learned:

Our lives are woven together with moments that may already be known in this invisible, timeless dimension that enfolds our present world of experience. These moments, these lessons serve to inform and define the quality of our spiritual evolution, and transfer from Life to Life throughout our existence within what's been called "The Akashic Field." Our role is to surmount this human form's inherent obstructions and bring conscious awareness sufficient to learn from these moments, as we can only experience them through our remarkable sensory vehicles – our "selves" in this material dimension. Joy, pain, pride, desire, struggle, surrender, tenderness, realization – these are learning moments within the larger medium of Love that carries us from life to Life.

"Though it is hidden in all things, the Self shines not forth."
Katha Upanishad, 3.12

Kind of heavy stuff, right? ...but amazing and fun. If you think it all sounds rather crazy, may I remind you that we are all on a planet in outer space.

In my last NDE (I hope...), I was attacked by a gang of "skinheads" away out west, who mistook me for a hated homosexual (to them), knocked me out from behind (again the left side of my head), and kicked and stomped me "to death" for almost one hour. I'm sure they had their reasons, God bless 'em (It's possible I gave them some, unconsciously). I was propelled into a much darker place that, while safe, was nonetheless scarier than where I had been in my two previous experiences. I wasn't quite free of my physical struggle, and although I vigorously protested and did not want to return to the "world of hurt," a number of loving entities gently forced me back into this (pretty messed-up) being. I awoke with a team of EMTs working on me. Here's what I learned:

We are on a kind of mission. We are here for a reason, not just for "ourselves," but for ourself – our greater collective being. This life is not easy. It's not supposed to be easy, we're here to learn some of our harder lessons, and can't just quit because we feel like it. "Not feeling like it" is something we're meant to learn to master. Service to ourselves – to one another and to our living world – is our means to evolutionary progress. Discovering compassion and Love as the medium in which the Eternal Moment exists is our goal. Recognizing, overcoming, and transmuting the obstructions of sensory self-obsession (the evils of Ego) is a necessary path to growth – an appropriate "divine" calling, in fact. It's a propriety defined by Love and the act of loving all Life, and is sometimes called "dying to one's self."

So I give this to you because being here ain't easy (though it sure can be a lot of fun); and because I want you to know as much joy and as little pain as possible, even though I know I can't do that for you...and I'm not supposed to.

But I would like to meet you there – here if I can... my sisters and brothers:

"Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing
There is a field. I'll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass, the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase "each other" doesn't make any sense."

Jalal al-Din Rumi

The latest book: How to Get to Heaven (Without Really Dying), Wisdom From a Near-Death Survivor from Llewellyn Worldwide can be ordered direct or online; and the first book: How to Survive Life (and Death), A Guide To Happiness In This World and Beyond is available the same ways – but ask for them it at your local bookstore!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Bass Angling, Animation Design Style (Fishing in the Weeds...)

This recent color-keyed flow chart is an homage to the Saul Bass, Mirisch, David DePatie/Friz Freleng schools of those wonderfully graphic show titles...and not to forget Jay Ward! This particular pitch didn't catch on, but it was a nice angle anyways...(to the tune of Malvina Reynolds "Little Boxes")

How to Occupy the Tea Party – Cognitive Dissonance, The Stockholm Syndrome, and the Challenge to Cultural Evolution

Well, it's 2012 already, and if everyone's going to be looking for a big unveiling by Christmastime, we have to get busy right away. The biggest problem we face isn't just with the one percent we rarely see, it's with the twenty-seven percent we often know quite well. In fact, some may be family members we get to spend the holidays with.

It's pretty clear that the obstacles preventing cultural equanimity and responsible stewardship of our country and our planet are generated by multinational corporations, whose financial power is based on perpetuating destructively anachronistic systems of resource management and social division. That's quite a mouthful, isn't it? Toppling the entrenched power structure would be a lot to bite off all at once, and couldn't be done quickly without making a real mess, so what's the most expedient way to go about it?

Saying that it starts with you and me may sound silly, since we probably all started changing a long time ago. The real problem we have is in convincing all those people that don't agree with us. People who for some crazy reason seem to think fascism and environmental destruction are good ideas. Let's start with some awareness about what we're up against, namely certain difficulties that are part of human nature.

Cognitive Dissonance is the official name given to that sad tendency of people to join in efforts and opinions that are actually harmful to their own circumstances, usually to allow them to avoid uncomfortable truths. It's kind of a volatile [and dependable] character glitch, and as such is often exploited. Patriotism, religion, racism, xenophobia, financial and sexual insecurities are all activators of Cognitive Dissonance. So you see Washington think-tanks and Wall Street ad agencies using them aggressively, and very effectively.

"Ignoring one's...self-interest may seem a suicidal move to you and me, but viewed in a different way it is...a sacrifice to a holier cause."
Thomas Frank, What's Wrong With Kansas?

At it's worst, in terms of the political divisions in our country, Cognitive Dissonance can engender "The Stockholm Syndrome" – the pathological identification of a victim with their tormentors. A 2007 FBI database study indicated that in 73% of abduction and kidnap cases the victims did not develop Stockholm Syndrome, which leaves a very substantial 27% subject to the irrational, self-destructive tendency to side with those who would use and abuse them. Not coincidentally, that's quite close to the number of people who identify themselves as Republicans. If you don't, you are part of the substantial 73% majority. 

But what can we do we do to change those minds? You know that when you try to convince someone they're wrong about something obvious, their Cognitive Dissonance kicks in, they git their back up, and there's little chance of moving them an inch. In fact, they feel even more strongly that they are right, and though you may be sincerely trying to help, they become even more convinced that your intentions are subversive and threatening. Unfortunately, a lot of human beings operate from that fearful dynamic. It's a glitch we haven't quite figured out yet...(but Roger Ailes, head of Fox News, certainly has.)

So we've got to take a careful, even therapeutic approach – a healing approach; and as healing is a spiritual activity, when we talk about "cultural evolution" we're really talking about our mutual spiritual evolution, which is the source of all the solutions to our deepest challenges. That's where it does start – with just you and me. In short, we use Love, and Time.

Even though a friend or family member has identified with destructive, irrational influences, we do still share mostly common ground with them. Kindly, calmly stand your ground – but never engage in the energy of confrontation. Let them be right if they need to be, and often in that quiet moment of hollow "victory," the folly of their delusion resonates uncomfortably, and gives them a chance to realize the power of your point – that the fault really comes from a manipulative third party that they don't have nearly as much in common with as they have with you. But it all takes time – we can't rush it.

Practice restraint and let things go; but be reliable – Show up for family commitments, remember special occasions, be available to help – expecting nothing in return. Sincerely be there for them (without ever being patronizing), as though it were for a person you were helping recover from a painful injury. Make your arguments subtly, by personally demonstrating that your point of view reflects good character in every other facet of your life, aside from your politics or philosophy.

Caring, consistent, and compassionate action will support any point you want to make much more effectively than a documented factoid or a raised voice. If you can be an example of reason and sanity, then the 99% of what you have in common will solidify in their experience. When we're not trying to win, the calm understanding and honest, fact-based considerations we occupy carry the profound power of a more truthful engagement in life, on every level. The real insanity becomes much more obvious, in comparison to the sanity grounded in spiritual principles.

"Occupy" life, so to speak, and soon you may be surprised to find that generosity of spirit has occupied the heart and mind of the very person who was at one time so vehemently set against you. With that we might occupy the Red States, the less fortunate, the middle class, the upper middle class, the Independents, the "moderate" Re-publicans (are there any out there?) We might even occupy the Tea Party and the 1%... After all – we are all the same thing.

"Spiritual power moulds physical and material conditions, but spiritual power is never in a hurry.
White Eagle, The Quiet Mind