Cinda Lawrence - Actress

                          Cinda Lawrence - Writer

Another one of the many hats I wear in this life is that of the writer.  I am tempted to say it is "in my blood," as cliche as that sounds.  It's a bit imposing to think about how many words I must have written in my life.  Apparently I have a lot to say...  When I sit down at the computer, my fingers truly have a mind of their own.  I honestly never know what will burst out of the clackety, clacking of my fingers as they race across the keyboard. 

The joy I get from writing is ultimately wrapped up in the surprise.  I am often astonished by what comes across the screen.  The experience reading back on my words is often delightful not because any of it is particularly insightful or original (necessarily), but for the sole reason that it reminds me, once again, of the infinite number of characters, moods, thoughts, emotions and ideas I have running through me at any particular moment.

(As a less-than-relevant aside, I can tell you that on occasion, people laugh at the way I hold a pen.  I hold a pen in the exact same way that I hold a fork.  If anyone should ask me why that is, I tell them that I learned to eat before I learned to write (barely).  That being the case -when it came time to learn how to hold a pen, I saw no reason to change the position of my fingers. Plus, if anyone ever decides to invent the combination fork/pen, I'll be way ahead of the game.) 

No two ways about it - I love words.  I love language.  I am continually frustrated by the limitation of language, while at the same time I am thrilled by its power when it is used responsibly and with the right balance of honesty and compassion.

So, on this final page of my website, below are a couple of the essays I've written over the years as my thoughts and ideas marched through my mind screaming to be let loose onto the page. 

                                Cinda's Essays: 

The Higher Power of Conversation 

 

I have a friend who can talk endlessly for hours and hours. She literally never gets tired of talking. It freaks me out a little to be honest (and yes, it is tiring at times.) Sometimes I wonder what her endurance limit for talking is, or if she even has one. I’m afraid to find out. I wonder if someone didn’t stop her, as they invariably do, if she would ever stop talking.

Don’t get me wrong. I can talk, too. When I’m on a roll, it could take an act of God to shut me up. As I get older, though, I do find myself growing weary of talking more quickly than I did when I was in my twenties or thirties. Like most people, after I’ve had a particularly heavy conversation, I feel an urgent need to really understand what’s been said and sometimes, more importantly, what has not been said.  If I analyze a conversation into the ground, replaying it over and over in my mind, and I still don’t understand what’s been said or find that what’s been said is causing me pain, then I find it easier not to think about it all. I’m very good at pushing the tough subjects deep down into the recesses of my brain where I think they can’t hurt me. If a conversation hurts me, I try like hell to simply not think about it at all. 

I've learned, however, that often, whatever I am most determined not to think about, someone somewhere will find a way to bring it into the conversation. That’s the thing about conversation - it so rarely stays where we want it to stay. A conversation is like an evolving organism that has a mind of its own. It is a living thing that has the potential to go in any direction regardless of the intentions of the participants.

As participants in a conversation we begin under the illusion that we are controlling the conversation. The conversation then does one of three things: it evolves into a beautiful, independent creature with infinite possibility for engendering new ideas or new, positive feelings; it becomes a monstrous, independent force of nature, a manipulative creature that wreaks havoc and cannot be contained; or it becomes just another one of billions of mundane conversations that appear to mean absolutely nothing. I fear it sometimes, this enigmatic creature - the conversation.

Life and the world are ruled almost completely by this phenomenon of the conversation. Trillions of conversations are going on right now as I type. Some of them will evolve in such a way as to strengthen the relationship of the participants over time. There are many in our lifetime with whom we will have but one single conversation and never speak again - the man in line at the registry, the woman who checked your coat at the theatre, the taxi driver, the man on the elevator.

The destructive and numerous conversations we have with people we know will multiply and disintegrate over time, stealthily, slowly damaging the relationship. A single conversation can be the catalyst that leads to the end of the relationship over a long period of time, or a conversation can destroy a relationship in an instant. 

The conversation takes control and it is so insidious specifically because it is so often not forgotten. It is insidious, a living being. Once it is has taken place — if it leaves its mark — it is not forgotten. A powerful conversation is a genie that cannot be put back in the bottle.

What is life, after all, but a never-ending series of conversations? Perhaps all the hundreds of seemingly mundane, casual conversations that appear to be meaningless individually, when viewed in their entirety over centuries, are actually the engine that powers our planet and our lives.

Conversations are the basis of every relationship on earth. A negative conversation can destroy a relationship in an instant while a positive one can validate and nurture it for a lifetime. I think of how many conversations I've had in my life so far, and it actually makes me a little sick to think about, even though I know it's an inescapable part of being a living, breathing person on this planet. Still, despite the magic and genius that have come out of so many conversations over the centuries, it is a little nauseating to think of how many conversations have taken place since human beings learned to speak.

Directly or indirectly, the sum total of all the conversations I have ever had have led me to the place I am at this moment. It’s not such a bad place, but I feel almost as if it happened beyond my control or knowledge, as if I’ve been tricked somehow. Is the conversation actually some kind of independent force that people are completely unaware of? Is there some universal force that guides the infinite number of conversations taking place every moment, century after century? When did it begin? Will the talking ever cease?

Someday when mankind is no more that will, of course, be the end of all conversation. (Go ahead, you can say it: Thank God). The planet will be silent. Imagine the planet silent - even for a moment. Imagine if there were a way to get everyone on earth to simply stop speaking simultaneously. Only some force from above could do that. I wonder if there is any event on earth that could force all human beings into silence even for a moment; not death, but simply silence. That would be a miraculous moment. I like to imagine a moment when all people everywhere simply stopped talking and listened to the silence.

Maybe that’s where the force of God comes from. Maybe conversation is God’s fuel. I wonder if we’ve gotten it all wrong up to now. I think to myself that maybe God is the force that oversees and manages the billions upon billions of conversations taking place on the earth at any one time. Is what we call "God" or a "higher power" really the sum of all conversations? What is life but a series of billions of conversations?

Millions of the conversations that take place seem to mean nothing at all. Then there are the ones that are important or remembered. What if life is just that - an endless series of trillions of conversations with each participant believing that he or she has control over each conversation when in reality, the conversation is an independent force of its own working its way around the planet?

Such a notion certainly helps to keep things in perspective. If life is nothing but an endless series of never-ending conversations, it may be the power of conversation that will determine the fate of the world and the fate of each individual.

How many conversations does a person have in an average lifetime? It must be billions; almost as many conversations as there are moments. It is staggering to think about how many conversations are taking place right now - an infinite number it would seem. This is our world. When you boil it down, all our world really amounts to is trillions of conversations all taking place at the same time. There is never a time on the earth when no conversations are taking place. Never. What is death, then, except the end of all conversation?  

People talk about the art of conversation. It is an art. I believe that. I also believe it is something so massive and beyond our understanding that it may very well be the force that guides all that we are and all that we will become.

How many of all the conversations that take place around the world every day will directly lead to an action that will affect the world in some way, large or small, or the fates of the individuals involved? If one conversation leads to an action, good or bad, and that process is multiplied 100 trillion or more times throughout a minute, an hour, a day, a month, a year or through decades, think of the force of what that means. It’s incomprehensible. Conversations sustain us; we are social creatures who must communicate. By nature, humans cannot be entirely alone. We cannot not talk.

The conversation is essential to our existence, even if our environment mandates that the conversations we are having are destructive or negative. We need conversation the way we need love and food and water and sleep. We are constantly on the search for meaningful conversations that make us laugh or feel a certain way about our lives or our circumstances, conversations that validate our ego, our sense of who we are, and our purpose. If I think of the world in this way, I will be forever conscious of the conversations I have, what they mean, and how they will predict the rest of my life. 

Imagine the premise that there is no such thing as a meaningless conversation. Conversation as a higher power would be viewed much differently, a strange god that is neither bad nor good, but simply a force of communication with its own agenda. Does conversation have its own agenda separate from the conscious or unconscious agendas of the participants? If this force is some kind of higher power, does it have an agenda? Is there a method to its madness?

How many conversations have led to peace? How many conversations have led to war? Sometimes I think we'd all be much better off if we would simply not talk so much. 

I’ll be thinking about my conversations in the days ahead, at least for a while. Eventually, of course, I will forget this conversation I had with myself today.  I will babble on about everything under the sun, as I did before, or maybe not.

Note to self: think about “conversation” on occasion. I’ll shut up now.

 

The Delight in Being Right

Many years ago at a long-since defunct company, a guy at my office was fired.  I had predicted it a few months previously. The first time I met the man, he was interviewing for a position. I told my boss that I believed he was mentally unstable and should not be hired. I am not in Human Resources and there is no reason why my opinion would (or should) matter under the circumstances; so, the powers that be did not agree and hired him anyway.

I forgot about the whole thing until a few weeks later when I found out that the guy had been fired. I don't know the facts of why he was fired, but when I heard the news (even without knowing the facts), my immediate reaction was a feeling of great satisfaction that I had been “right.” I kept these feelings to myself for the most part (thank goodness), but internally I was busting with self-satisfaction that I had been right and others had been wrong. (I should emphasize that this was a big assumption on my part — I don't even know if it is true.)

Despite the fact that I didn't even know if what I believed was true, my gigantic ego reared its ugly head and all I could feel was huge pride that I had been able to perceive something about this person that most others had not. I don’t know why I felt such pride about that fact –- it is most likely simply because every one of us loves to be right. I mean, who doesn't want to be right?  Right?

My ego expanded exponentially at the notion that I am more skilled at “reading” people than most. I was overjoyed at how perceptive I had been. I had predicted what others had not -– how much fun is that? Then, for some reason (I’m not sure why — I don't remember anyone saying anything to trigger it), it hit me like a bolt out of nowhere: shame. What on earth was I feeling so smug about? This person had lost his job –- possibly because he was an unfortunate victim of mental or emotional illness (or simply a putz). Whatever the reason, why was I feeling giddy? Because I had been right about something that resulted in another person’s serious misfortune?

I should have been devastated that I had been right, not proud. My compassion should have immediately kicked in when I heard the man had been fired. Instead, I had felt only pride that I had been the one to predict the man’s downfall. I realized that even though I love to think of myself as a sensitive, compassionate person, in this circumstance, my ego had turned me into an ass.

It was quite a wake-up call. It made me realize once again the huge power of ego and that nobody, especially not a "righteous" person like me, is immune to its effects. We’ve all felt it -– that warm, fuzzy feeling we get when we are able to look somebody in the eye and smugly tell them, “I told you so. I told you this would happen. Didn’t I call it? I was right. I knew this was going to happen.”  The delight of being right.

The only upside of realizing what an ass I had been is that it showed me once again that I am not as much of a hotshot as I sometimes think I am. I bless the days when my cocky, internal self-confidence gets knocked down a peg and I realize that I am not always the compassionate individual I purport myself to be. There is nothing more insufferable than a "righteous" person.

It is a truly humbling experience to be caught with my pants down -– even if I’m the only one who feels the draft. Still, awful as it feels when it happens, I am grateful for the shame. There is a blessing in feeling deep shame every once in awhile. If my ego didn’t get knocked down on occasion, I might walk around this world busting with pride about how intelligent I am, how insightful and perceptive I am compared to those around me. People tell me that I’m an intelligent, caring person of character and I have more than enough ego inside me to believe them. I am grateful for having been blessed with a brain that works reasonably well most of the time and a heart that feels pain when witnessing the suffering of another, but this week I got hit with the brutal truth: none of it means shit if righteousness turns me into a prick.

It may be that I have compassion at times.  It may be that I am right at times. But, so what? The one thing that can cancel it all out in an instant is having pride in one’s own virtues. Compassion isn’t something I should be patting myself on the back for -– it should be a given. Whoever said that pride is the deadliest of the seven sins hit the nail on the head. There should be no pleasure in realizing I’m right about something as lousy as a man losing his livelihood or suffering the consequences of debilitating mental illness. I hope I remember this the next time I feel joyful or proud that one of my predictions comes to pass. Great danger lies in being “righteous.” Our pride in being right may very well end up doing more damage than whatever it is we warned others about.

I know much of my righteousness comes out of anger. My anger gets the better of me sometimes, partly because I watch too much cable news. I listen to the reporters (I refuse to call the journalists) on MSNBC, CNBC, CNN, and the other cable news networks and it makes me feel righteous.  I occasionally rage at the television screen when I listen to their inane, mean-spirited and often narrow-minded commentary on the news they report. Their egos prevent them from simply reporting the news. Their egos and their righteousness (and undoubtedly encouragement or at least passive acceptance from their superiors) lead them to comment on what has happened instead of simply reporting what has happened.

Recently, for example, a reporter on MSNBC told the story of an unemployed woman who won a significant amount of money gambling. The first two days she won a sizeable amount of money from a slot machine and some other game. On the third day she won $50,000 playing the Powerball Lottery in her state. After reporting the story, the commentator on MSNBC said, “While we are glad this woman had this good fortune, we feel that it is not a good idea to go out and gamble with your unemployment check. Just a little advice from MSNBC.” That’s when my righteousness kicked in. I yelled at the television, “You’re a news network! You’re not supposed to give advice! You’re supposed to report the news, not comment on it.”

The reporter’s advice was sound of course. Obviously, people probably should not take their unemployment check and go to Atlantic City, but in my opinion (for what it’s worth) it is not MSNBC’s place to give advice -– even if it may be correct. Imagine if the reporter had given this advice a week earlier and the woman who won the $68,000 had heard it, heeded the advice, and not spent her unemployment money on a Powerball ticket. She would not be sitting today with $68,000 in her bank account.

It occurred to me that, even when we’re 100 percent on target in what we believe, perhaps we don’t have the right to give advice –- for the simple reason that we cannot know what may result if our advice is heeded. We all do it of course. We all give advice, both solicited and unsolicited, but the difference between the advice given on an individual basis and the advice given on television is that when the average person gives advice it is handed out one person at a time. When a reporter on MSNBC gives advice, he or she is reaching the ears of millions.

Ironically, I realize that last statement is nothing if not righteous. I can’t seem to help myself. It’s a vicious cycle. I’m sure to be right again (or at least think I am) — at least as often as I am wrong. When that happens, I know that if I am not vigilant, my ego may inflate to two or three times its size as I once again relish the satisfaction of being right. If I am not careful, I may once again puff up with delight inside at how wise and insightful I am.

I hope I’m not right again anytime soon -– and if I am I hope I don’t derive any pleasure from it. As good as it feels to be right sometimes, I don’t want to be a pompous ass…even if I’m the only one who knows it.