Standing before my bench seat at the Bowl, a cup of wine in one hand, a fervent patriot a few rows back singing along with the L.A. Phil to the national anthem, I sat down as the sun set, and had one of those moments. Looking at the curved lines of the bowl, the lights inside growing warmer as the night sky changed from blue to navy, listening to the sounds of the Phil playing, clapping after Joshua Bell made magic come from his violin, sitting in awe as Glenn Close sang "One Look" from the film Sunset Boulevard. Where I realized it felt like I was living in a movie. The first time I saw the Bowl was in Beaches, Bette Midler singing "The Glory of Love." Now the Bowl is a normal part of my summer plans, buying cheap seats for nights of music ranging from the Ray LaMontagne to Dolly Parton.
My movie-like night started as most of my days do, sweating as I walked through the July afternoon to catch the bus down Sunset Blvd. Smelling odd odors that wafted from my seat-mate's canvas bag. Watching the overweight driver labor out of his seat to help a mother situate her son's wheelchair, spending an extra few minutes listening to the beep beep beep of the automated ramp that allowed him to wheel onto the bus.
Walking amongst the tourists milling about Hollywood & Highland, their traveler's disorientation palpable as they circled blocks and got swindled into paying for photographs with one of the three Captain Jack Sparrows working the boulevard. Climbing past them to the Bowl, my friend and I finding a picnic table to share, sitting with cheese and cherries and a bottle of pinot noir to catch up on life.
A violin will almost always bring me to tears, whether from the horrific sounds of an eight-year-old's first lesson, or the heart-breaking beauty of a virtuoso like Joshua Bell. When he brought out his friend Frankie Moreno, a pianist and lounge singer from Las Vegas, I was skeptical, until their rendition of one of my favorite Beatles songs wrapped around me.
Father McKenzie writing the words of a sermon that no one will hear
No one comes near
Look at him working, darning his socks in the night when there's nobody there
What does he care?
All the lonely people
Where do they all come from?
All the lonely people
Where do they all belong?
A conversation from earlier that evening about the hell that this world can be came to mind, a story of a girl tortured and killed. Someone known, not just a news story. As I sat wrapped in a world of classically trained artists and music and light filling the amphitheater, a police helicopter buzzed overhead, on its way to shine its searchlight into a dark part of the city. A bird flew by the conductor's wand, a large, winged bug landed and breathed its last right on his score, as he shared with a laugh. And in the midst of all the beauty, I was highly aware of all the lonely people.
I woke to open Pema Chödrön's quote of the week:
Joining Heaven and Earth
"Recently," she writes, "in a friend’s kitchen I saw on the wall a quotation from one of Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche’s talks, which said: 'Hold the sadness and pain of samsara in your heart and at the same time the power and vision of the Great Eastern Sun. Then the warrior can make a proper cup of tea.'
"I was struck by it because when I read it I realized that I myself have some kind of preference for stillness. The notion of holding the sadness and pain of samsara in my heart rang true, but I realized I didn’t do that; at least, I had a definite preference for the power and vision of the Great Eastern Sun. My reference point was always to be awake and to live fully, to remember the Great Eastern Sun—the quality of being continually awake. But what about holding the sadness and pain of samsara in my heart at the same time?
"The quotation really made an impression on me. It was completely true: if you can live with the sadness of human life (what Rinpoche often called the tender heart or genuine heart of sadness), if you can be willing to feel fully and acknowledge continually your own sadness and the sadness of life, but at the same time not be drowned in it, because you also remember the vision and power of the Great Eastern Sun, you experience balance and completeness, joining heaven and earth, joining vision and practicality." ~Pema Chödrön
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