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Here in L.A., most of us are not content to experience occasional moments of personal inspiration. No, we seek them out 24/7. We spend thousands on stirring seminars, awaken many inner children, study much Kabbala, quote The Secret at cocktail parties, and attend desert rock concerts.
Still, I can report that despite these efforts, inspiration doesn't come any easier here than anywhere else. No, like anyone-like a truck driver in Wyoming or a holy roller in Oklahoma, the average Angeleno is lucky to get three or four really genuine revelations in a lifetime. And from my impartial polls, these usually turn out to be pretty straightforward: "G-d exists." "Other people matter." "A house in Brentwood is not worth your soul." "Most guys really should get married."
You know, the basics.
This afternoon, the Urban Man finds himself chatting about personal inspiration with a noted screenwriter and a Beverly Hills accountant-neighbors of mine. We've taken some folding chairs out beside the hedge on the accountant's narrow driveway, where a late sun slants in our eyes. To my delight, I find that yes, even accountants have revelations-and not just about multi-colored spreadsheets, but life, the universe, you name it.
He tells about the day he and his wife met-a day fraught with signs and wonders. A hand appeared in the sky.
The screenwriter, hard-bitten as he should be with the illusions of his profession, describes a moment of true religion, 20 years before.
No kidding, a screenwriter.
But both agree that such moments rarely come on demand--in fact, even if you read four self-help books, listen to three soulful ballads, and rent the movie Whale Rider-your next important moment may nevertheless arrive without warning.
You'll spend ten years at a desk. Then one afternoon, as your boss speaks some tedious nonsense, you'll catch sight of a lone white bird flying past your window, and you'll know it's time to go.
You'll be pulling up to Starbucks when you hear a snatch of laughter, and decide there's still hope.
A woman will say a single word, smile a single smile, and lo, you'll find yourself in love.
It's not that things haven't been working toward such conclusions beforehand; it's just that like an earthquake, where the pressure may have been building for a thousand years, the mental shift itself often comes unexpectedly and....inexpensively.
Most importantly, agree my wise neighbors, it's not the number of inspirations that matters. Not even the quality. No, it's how long you can keep them alive.
It turns out that some 50% of genuine personal insights can't survive a long drive up the 5 freeway with the radio blasting. And of those that can, most get lost later that night in the noise of a club or a cineplex, or they disappear in the onslaught of other people's revelations on midnight blogs.
The accountant wonders if that's why Angelenos have to keep seeking so much new revelation, day after day, week after week-and end up spending so much to find it. It's kind of an inflow/outflow problem, you see, since so much here conspires to wash away your deepest inspirations.
Still, as evening opens into night out on the driveway, screenwriter and accountant state unequivocally that even in L.A., the happy, successful people seem to hold on to a very few personal insights, and don't waste all their energy begging for more.
The Urban Man listens carefully to their words, but like most, I find myself ...greedy. And as I walk back toward home, I think, who knows, one more cup of coffee might do it, even tonight. A little Beethoven. A chapter of Paolo Coelho. Maybe I'll get just one more inspiration before another day ends here in the city of dreams.
Copyright © 2007 Marc Porter Zasada. All Rights Reserved.
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