Avoiding Pink Elephants

It’s not exactly science and yet…

I’ve found it to be a relatively infallible system.

Namely, if I want Malibu, Vlad’s best friend, to visit, I don’t need to text his owners.

Instead, I just need to vacuum.

(Vlad’s relationship with the vacuum is definitely complicated.)

You see, Vlad is a bit of a shedder.

Malibu––a Husky / Shephard mix––even more so.

But put two white and off-white puppies wrestling together for an hour or so and the aftermath is a true blizzard of fur.

Although this month’s meditation theme HERE is Embracing the Paradox, in this case it’s more that I’m capitalizing on the irony within Murphy’s Law. 

Please Note: The differences between irony and paradox are somewhat subtle

(I’m sorry Alanis Morissett, but it is NOT ironic when it rains on your wedding day––that’s simply just unfortunate).

Irony is when there’s a meaningful contrast between what is expected and what actually happens.

Paradox, on the other hand, is when a seemingly contradictory statement reveals some deeper, often hidden truth.

Although when it comes to truth and meaning, admittedly sometimes the line does get a little blurry.

Speaking of boundaries …

Several music theater-obsessed friends texted me when it was announced this week that Barbra Streisand’s long-awaited memoiris finally being released in November.

And that it comes in at a whopping 1040 pages.

(One particularly passionate friend actually wishes it were even longer).

One thing I’m pretty sure the book will NOT include is something that’s now dubbed“The Streisand Effect.”

There’s even a wikipedia page about it HERE.

Apparently, Barbra was upset that a photograph of her Malibu estate was included with 12,000 others in the publicly available California Records Project documenting coastal erosion.

She sued the photographer for $50 million.

The judge dismissed the lawsuit and instead ordered her to pay the photographer his $177,000 in legal fees.

The aftermath, however, is what’s really interesting.

Prior to the lawsuit, the image had been downloaded only 6 times.

In the month after the lawsuit alone, more than 420,000 people viewed it online.

And––please don’t sue me––I’m sharing it here below, too.

While I support anyone’s fundamental right to privacy, nonethelessthe unintended consequence of trying to suppress information(or anything else) usually increases its exposure (and its allure) on an exponential level. 

It’s a larger than life example of the classic “Don’t Think about Pink Elephants” and naturally that’s all you can imagine.

Although it now has a legendary star’s name attached, the phenomenon is international and historical.

Even Dostoevsky wrote about it over century ago but used polar bears in his example.

Wikipedia tells me that in Chinese culture it’s called chengdu or “wishing to cover, more conspicuous” and that a similar expression appeared as early as 400 BC.

And even this very week, when Jane Smiley revealed after her Pulitzer Prizing-Winning novel A Thousand Acres was recently banned in Idaho schools she was “delightedbecause the only thing this ban will achieve is people wanting to read it.

(Speaking of Pink Elephants)

Sometimes, there’s irony involved in what inspires us.

For example, decades ago, when I was at a particularly low financial ebb and at what seemed like a career standstill, an acquaintance from film school was determined to give me a pep talk.

Coming from a legacy of show business success, though, nothing they offered had any resonance.

However well-intended, all the motivational efforts were unrelatable and thus frankly more depressing than inspiring.

It was only a footnote to a particular story that offered any comfort.

Namely, at one point, pre-Mega Screenwriting Success, apparently an unpaid utility bill resulted in the lights getting turned off for a few days.

Ironically, none of the Success on Steroids Speeches was nearly as inspiring as that humanizing detail.

(Plus I could embrace the reassuring fact that, given that my own ConEd was paid to date, for better or worse, at least I knew I wouldn’t have to face my problems in the dark.)

On many levels there are elements of irony and paradox involved in the observation that “Tragedy brings out the best and worst in people.”

Sometimes it doesn’t even take a tragedy.

All it takes is a scuffle.

I’ve written often about how my chocolate lab Belle was an angel.

In contrast, Vlad is also an angel (mostly) but one prone to getting into scrapes, shenanigans, and other assorted mischief.

There’s a longer version of this story but many months ago Vlad had a moment in the smaller rooftop dog run where he got carried away but, thanks to quick reflexes, no one got hurt.

Even so, the other dog’s owner became violently threatening, and while he apologized multiple times minutes later, the only other person in the dog park––someone I’d just met––still felt I should file a police report.

In contrast…

It happened three weeks ago, but I haven’t written about this yet.

Now I have a concrete reason to do so.

It was probably the worst, most emotionally intense thing I’ve ever witnessed.

Our baseball field friend Jonathan has three dogs, one of whom Chase––along with Moon and Miku––form an informal alliance as Vlad’s most committed Fetch compatriots. 

A few Saturdays ago, one of Jonathan’s other dogs, a beautiful sweet husky named Agathor, was resting across the field.

Out of nowhere came the most agonizing scream any of us had ever heard.

As Agathor was rising, another dog charged into him, more or less T-Boning him.

Wailing in pain, Agathor couldn’t get up.

Suddenly, with his spine fractured, this vital young dog had lost the use of his hind legs.

With the community mobilizing around him, Jonathan swung into action, all the while repeating over and over…

“I can’t believe this happening…”

None of could….

I’m writing about this now for two reasons.

The first is that the GoFundMe for Agathor just launched.

It’s HERE.

Although, as I’m sure you know, almost all newsletters are designed for marketing purposes to get people to buy things, I almost never do any of that in these. 

Yet today, since this hits so close to home and it’s not at all for me, I’m making an exception.

If you’re inspired to contribute to Agathor, that’s great and…perhaps even more importantly…I really do believe in the power of sending positive energy.

(That is, if it’s real and not just a hashtag).

There’s still hope that Agathor might fully recover (although every day it’s lessening) and I’d like to do everything I can to tip the scales in his favor.

So please donate HERE if that feels right…but absolutely send him (and Jonathan) a moment of your best healing energy.

My second reason for sharing this (still potential) tragedy is that it really did bring out the best in so many people.

Even before the GoFundMe, people were contributing in lots of ways.

For all of us, the intensity and unexpectedness of the experience at 7 am on a routine Saturday morning had a seismic effect. 

One detail stands out:

Jonathan’s response to the owner of the charging dog.

Unlike my rooftop apologizer after a non-incident, even while facing his the shock of dog’s potential paralysis, Jonathan was compassionate and kind.

In the face of tragedy, that was truly moving and inspirational.

Life’s paradoxes and ironies can serve us wellwhen we’re aware of them.

If you want it to rain, maybe you should plan a picnic.

(Or if you want a puppy playdate, just clean your house).

In the same way, trying to prevent people from seeing something can increase the viewership a couple hundred thousand times.

Irony abounds.

Indeed, perhaps the most inspirational part of your success story isn’t the view from the pinnacle but a telling detail from thebottom rung of the ladder.

This month I’ve really seen how Tragedy (even Challenge) really brings out the best (and worst) in people.

That’s why I’m hoping amongst all the good that’s already come from Agathor’s awful situation, something even more amazing might arise.

Again, you can help financially HERE, but even more importantly take a moment and envision his healing.

To paraphrase St. Francis’ prayer––which I only now realize concludes via paradox––perhaps it’s also true that by supporting the healing of others, we are ourselves healed.

Namaste For Now,

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