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Magic? No. Magical? Yes, yes! September 2, 2020

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Uncategorized.

“The idea came from the idea of escaping the world, actually. For me, there’s definitely days where I feel like I’ve been overwhelmed by people, and I need to get away. So Bob Peterson, who is the lead writer and co-director, he and I were just sitting in a room thinking of ideas. And we were experimenting with this visual idea of a guy in floating house, and it just seemed really intriguing.”

– Pete Docter (b. 10/09/1968), quoted from an AV Club interview (dated 05/28/2009)

Today started with something that wasn’t magic, but it was magical. For reasons unknown to me, David Blaine and his team picked today for his YouTubes Original special Ascension. The stunt, to soar up thousands of feet with helium balloons and then parachute down, took years and planning and even more years of dreaming. Blaine kept saying he was doing it for his 9-year old daughter Dessa, but he was also doing it for everyone who has ever dreamed of flying, soaring, and floating above it all. He said it was amazing. I say that despite all the technology, and maybe because of it, it was magical – and it couldn’t have happened on a better day. Because, to me, September 2nd is all about magical dreams and the inspiring people who make them come true.

“I want to see how life can triumph.”

– Romare Bearden, Artist and Activist

The artist, author, and song writer Romare Bearden was born today in 1911. Perhaps best known for his collages, photomontages, and abstract and Cubist paintings, he originally aspired to be a cartoonist (and even supported himself, for a brief period, as a political cartoonist).  While serving in the United States Army during World War II, Sergeant Bearden was part of the all-black 372nd Infantry Division of the 15th Regiment. While I have read accounts that spent his service in the United States and other accounts saying that he served on the Western Front, one thing is not disputed: during the war, he saw mankind at its worst and he wanted, through his art, to express the humanity he felt was lacking in his wartime experiences.

“There are roads out of the secret place within us which we must all move as we go to touch others.”

– Romare Bearden, Artist and Activist

Of course, it is easy to imagine the atrocities one might have witnessed on the Western Front, but what would an all-black infantry member experience if the served in the United States? Segregation, prejudice, racism – and this was experienced more by the domestic soldiers than those on the battlefield. While the enlisted men were black, the officers were primarily white. In addition to the things we normally think of as being segregated during the 1940’s (housing, transportation, food service, church), especially in the South, parades and other ways people in the service were honored was done separately. The separation and hostility included people who were part of the Officer’s Candidate School in North Carolina (like Sergeant Bearden) and meant that the black soldiers were sometimes restricted to their bases even when they had time off.

When his service ended, Romare Bearden spent time in New York City and in Paris, where he studied philosophy and the history behind the art he had, primarily, taught himself to create. His work didn’t just depict African-American people; it showed the unity, cooperation, and collaboration within the African-American community. Along with his cousin, Private Charles H. Alston (with whom he also served in the U. S. Army), Emma Amos, Hale Woodruff, and 11 other artists of color, Sergeant Bearden founded the “Spiral” group, which discussed the responsibility of African-American artists to the Civil Rights Movement and “to consider common aesthetic problems.” It was during this same period that he began his collage work and started experiencing great success and recognition through exhibitions in major galleries and museums.

In 1984, four years before his bone cancer-related death, he was paid $90,000 for a 60×13-foot mural, entitled “Pittsburgh Recollections,” which was installed in a Pittsburgh subway station. In 2008, the mural’s value was estimated at $15 million. Two years after his death, the Romare Bearden Foundation was founded “to preserve and perpetuate the legacy of this preeminent American artist.” The non-profit foundation serves as the artist’s estate and has developed grants supporting children, young (emerging) artists, and scholars.

“If you’re offered a seat on a rocket ship, don’t ask what seat. JUST GET ON!”

– Teacher and Astronaut S Christa McAuliffe

Born today in 1948, S Christa McAuliffe was a teacher who became an astronaut – because she was a teacher. At an early age, she was inspired by the “Space Age” astronauts like John Glen. As an adult, she was chosen from over 11,000 applicants to participate in NASA’s 1985 “Teacher in Space” project. She trained to become the first teacher in space and planned to conduct experiments and teach two lesson plans on her first mission aboard the Space Shuttle Challenger. Unfortunately, the shuttle broke apart 73 seconds after launch killing all seven crew members on January 28, 1986. This American of Irish and Lebanese descent, who was also a mother and wife, was posthumously awarded the Congressional Space Medal of Honor (in 2004). Schools and scholarships have been named in her honor; however, her students remember her for her advice on life:

 “Reach for the stars. Reach for it! Push yourself as far as you can.”

– Teacher and Astronaut S Christa McAuliffe

Canada’s first “space tourist” was born today in 1959. Known for reaching for a different kind of stars and pushing himself (and others), Cirque du Soleil co-founder and former CEO Guy Laliberté turned 61 today. He believes in having a greater purpose and in taking risks, which probably explains his penchant for poker playing, but also his success as an entertainer and producer. While he is now billionaire and one of the wealthiest Canadians in the world, he started off as just another kid inspired by the circus. He started off as a busker, a stiltwalker, and a fire-eater, but eventually became a producer.

In addition to curating one of the most innovative and entertaining performing arts companies in the world, he is one of the founders of the non-profit One Drop Foundation, which aims “to ensure sustainable access to safe water and sanitation for the most vulnerable communities through innovative partnerships, creativity and the power of art.” He called his venture into space a “poetic social mission” designed to raise awareness about water issues addressed by One Drop. The foundation’s values are respect, integrity, collaboration, innovation, and fun – the same elements you need for a good circus. Mr.  Laliberté said, “Inside every adult there’s still a child that lingers. We’re happiness merchants giving people the opportunity to dream like children.” Of course, to encourage others to dream, one has to dream big; always, always, always, believe in the dream; and have the resources to make it so.

“I am blessed for what I have, but I believed in it from the beginning. Today the dream is the same: I still want to travel, I still want to entertain, and I most certainly want to have fun.”

– Guy Laliberté, Cirque du Soleil co-founder, polker player, and Activist

“Life is tough, and if you have the ability to laugh at it, you have the ability to enjoy it.”

– Salma Hayek, Actor, Director, Producer, and Activist

If I didn’t have all the other birthday people to honor, but I wanted to get across the same advice and inspiration, I would defer to a Mexican-American woman who stands not quite two inches taller than me.  Born today in 1966, Salma Valgarma Hayek Jiménez, now Salma Hayak Pinault began her career in the award-winning telenovela Teresa. By 25, she had won an Ariel Award (the Mexican equivalent of an Academy Award) and was ready to take on Hollywood, where she would receive more accolades and critical acclaim. She has appeared in sitcoms, children’s specials, and every imaginable genre of movies.

In 2002, Salma Hayek produced and starred in Frida, a biography of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, which was directed by Julie Taymor. In addition to paying tribute to her Mexican heritage with Frida, honored her Lebanese heritage by producing (and voicing the character Kamila) the animated movie Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet. As she continuously racks up awards and nominations for her work as an actor and producer, she has also modeled; worked as an official spokeswoman for Avon and Revlon cosmetics; and worked with Proctor & Gamble Company, in collaboration with UNICEF, to promote the funding of maternal and neonatal tetanus vaccines.  She’s a yogi who has developed a juice delivery program and her own brand of cosmetics.

In addition to all this and more, Ms. Hayek has had overcome dyslexia, navigated America’s immigration system to become a naturalized citizen, and overcame sexual assault and harassment during one of the high points of her career. Her personal experiences are part of the reason she works to increase awareness about violence against women (even testifying before the United States Senate to support the Violence Against Women Act), donates to anti-domestic abuse shelters and groups (in the United States and Mexico), and is a breastfeeding advocate who once breastfeed a newborn in Sierra Leone when the baby’s mother could not produce milk. She once said, “What is important is to believe in something so strongly that you’re not discouraged.” Inspiring words, for sure! However, I always follow another bit of her advice….

“I act tall!”

– Salma Hayek, Actor, Director, Producer, and Activist

Please join me today (Wednesday, September 2nd) at 4:30 PM or 7:15 PM for a magical-birthday inspired yoga practice on Zoom. Use the link from the “Class Schedules” calendar if you run into any problems checking into the class. You will need to register for the 7:15 PM class if you have not already done so. Give yourself extra time to log in if you have not upgraded to Zoom 5.0. You can request an audio recording of this practice via a comment below.

Wednesday’s playlist is available is available on YouTube and Spotify. (The practice music is the same, but one playlist includes David Blaine’s Ascension and the other includes Romare Bearden’s “Sea Breeze.”)

Romare Bearden’s “Sea Breeze”

David Blaine



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