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Wise Counsel

A friend wrote to me this week with an enormous question. Everything she's been working on and for hit an obstacle of enormous proportions. Violence in Egypt has derailed her project, a play about redemption and understanding. The concept, the substance, and the form came to her like a apparition, hung over her until she pushed the opportunity full force. A film was made, rehearsals started, writing ongoing. She was on fire.

All of 2011 had been her inspiration. She was a protester/guardian at Tahrir Square, not only standing with her sistren on the front lines but watching after others: people who needed food, medical attention; she wrote blogs from the front lines. From the experience came her play "Solitaire" connecting 9/11 to Arab Spring. The momentum propelled her toward her next project and then the unbelivable happened--a revolution that had so much promise for Egypt and so much inspiration to the rest of the world, flipped into a reactionary, unbelievable assault on the people. the grassroots movement pulled up by the roots.

The level of hearbreak was disarming and so she is frozen in place. And she wrote me a note that said, any ideas?

I worry about the question as much as I worry about her. Not because I don't have an answer but because this is a huge life moment....how do I restart my life? Because I know for this artist, her work is her life, mostly, and mostly is for me too. In addition, I wonder, of course, why she asked me; she may have consulted others, I don't know, but the moment the question came to me, I was on the road and unable to answer.

As a result, I meditated not just on the question but how to come to it. I usuallly respond immediately with collected wisdom of years of my own disappointments, paralysis, fuck-ups and getting messed with. Also years of teaching, mentoring, and advising collected numerous awarenesses of what works (who knows?) and what doesn't (i.e.try everything).

The initial request spiraled outward to what makes wise counsel, what constitutes a usefulness? Even more, is there a possible spark that another person can provide that could really make a difference? Or like all personal questions, is the solution already inside waiting to be found?

Thing is, recently a few people I know have become life coaches--they've taken courses in counseling lite, management, and some psychology to make themselves available to people who need directions in their lives. One of the life coaches is in her twenties; another leads an anti-social life. What gives? I ask myself. Can coaching a life come before having a successful one? Can't help but be synical.

I've led a lot of life and expect to have more. I've managed most normal problems (sans children) and still have more to balance. Am I qualified to coach? or to answer a friend in need?

What would a good answer be--I'm getting something here.

A. Evident that I really know the person

Like the generic crystal ball reading, any answer that doesn't penetrate the top layer is insensitive

B. Obvious that I care about her and the question.

My best thinking needs to go into the response. I do need to meditate on who she is and how she lives in the world. The answer needs to honor our relationshp

C. Pulled from more than one kind of resource

The best answer may come from my life's experiences, but not necessarily. Great literature, observations, meditation, spirituality--the resources are endless; I am not a singular wise guy

D. Is specific to the question

can't be applied to any other dilemmas, like how do I manage my crazy life?

E. has a broadness as well as a specificity

The answer makes room for personal interpretation but is also concrete in its substance

Above all, I want the search for the answer to teach me something, broaden me as a person as well as a counsel. It follows my line, when ever I stop learning from it, I stop teaching it.

At some point, I'll be off the road and holding still and I will send a reply. In the meantime, I wish I could just sit by her frozen self and sigh when she sighs and draw wings on her back for when she's ready to fly again.

The worse part about paralysis is the loneliness she feels for her work. It moves away as she reaches toward it and the fear is not just not being able to reach it, but not wanting to. Artists are among the greatest self-punishers around; the vortex must have been invented by a disenchanted artist.

Until that answer is developed, I stand at her precipice and look into her void and distinguish what's ahead in the murkiness.