The Zoey Blog: A New Approach to an Old Problem FINAL - COVER UNIVERSE EXPLORERS ORDER


Thursday, October 22, 2009

A New Approach to an Old Problem

Please don't ask me where this came from. I couldn't begin to explain the weird workings of my mind...not that they're any different from anyone else's but...well, maybe they are. You be the judge.

So I'm sitting in a cold office this morning, talking to kids who are struggling with all manner of said struggles -- homelessness, drugs, abuse, mental health, legal problems -- you name it and they're juggling it. It struck me in that typical Brian chronology, the kind that only looks like a connect-a-dot puzzle if I actually take the time to draw it out for you, otherwise it more closely resembles Attention Deficit Disorder.

The day started with a discussion of old school values, took a quick left at Angela Davis, and then started to orbit around Paul Newman until it landed smack dab in the middle of Konstantin Stanislavski's idea of "Method Acting," and whether or not those same principles could or should be applied to dealing with people in a helping capacity. Translation= don't work at helping others, just help them.

Dennis Hopper tells a story about how during the filming of Rebel Without a Cause he cornered James Dean and asked him what he was doing that made him so great, so head and torso above any of the other actors he had ever seen. Dean doled out healthy scoops of Lee Strasberg's Method Acting lessons in his own central Indiana interpretations.

He said, "Don't act," to a young and confused Hopper. He articulated further, "Like if you're supposed to smoke a cigarette, don't act like you're smoking a cigarette...just smoke the cigarette. That's it." Hopper left stunned and committed to learning how not to act, to rid himself of the urge to think too much.

The notion sticks in my head. Couldn't the same technique be applied to helping other people? Shouldn't it be imperative that an individual doesn't get too weighted down with the task of helping someone but rather shouldn't they just simply get busy helping them? You know, it really shouldn't be that much effort, should it? Perhaps a little more explanation is required? A personal story maybe...

In the place where I work...or perhaps I should more accurately say, the place where they pay me to go every day because it so often doesn't feel like work...but in the place where I work it's not uncommon for two people to fall into conflict. In fact, it's more often the norm rather than the exception. On one occasion a conflict between staff and student quickly turned unruly and could very well have flipped into violence. The incident stirred notions of unpreparedness and so an in-service training was quickly slapped together. A police officer came to the YMCA and the Alternative Learning Centre and did his very best to teach us how to deal with a situation that was quickly deteriorating. He lost me after three minutes.

The officer dispatched to train those staff in attendance began his presentation with the idea that your first priority in a conflict situation is to settle the situation down, and to do so we should work to make the person involved believe that we were equals, that we each deserved the same respect and consideration. If you could achieve that then you had a foundation to work on.

Now I know what the officer meant, and I understand his intentions but I excused myself from the training because I felt pretty strongly that something of that nature shouldn't require work. You either believed that you were equals or you didn't. It isn't something that should be manufactured. A person immediately fails if they don't own that undeniable truth. I didn't want to participate in the training another second. See, I believe that there is no such thing as superior or inferior on this planet, and I certainly wasn't going to pretend that I was willing to tolerate otherwise. There is an obvious element of Stanislavski's ideology in that. In figurative terms, I wasn't about to act like I was smoking a cigarette when I could just simply smoke the damn cigarette.

Does that build any better of a bridge between the two things? Probably not, but there's something to this connection and I'm going to keep digging. I have no intention of becoming a better actor, or a better person, but it might shed some light on why this kind of work seems simple for some and is hopelessly lost on others.

Today in that cold office, with those struggling kids it hit me that there isn't much to what I do. I'm just another human being privy to their worst information. The difference lies in the notion that maybe, just maybe, it's who I am and what I believe that makes me good at this job, not what I do or what I know. I don't have to try to find a place where I feel equal to these kids...I just do.

I hope that one day Zoey can say that her father didn't just try to be a good person...he simply was. He didn't try to find definition in being good to others, but rather being good to others found definition in him. I hope she'll be able to say that.

1 Comments:

Blogger John Teeter said...

Brian I am not sure if I have said this here before. Or even to you. If I have, excuse it, but it needs saying again. I am amazed at the man you've become. Danielle is too. We've both known you all the way back to when we were all bumble-headed teens, wrapped up in what teens are: themselves.

And that's not to say you were a jaggoff when we were kids. It's just that I am so proud — hell we both are — to say that we knew you then. And even more so that we know you now. We're inspired, happy, and honoured to call you friend.

You've truly become a restoring faith in humans kind of person for both of us.

I am sure Zooey is going to feel it to the roots of her DNA, but for what it's worth, you should know that you have friends, here right now that feel it already. You are a good person.

October 22, 2009 at 10:19 PM  

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