Wednesday, October 2, 2013


‘In life, all good things come hard,
but wisdom is the hardest to come by.’

‘Not everything that is faced can be changed,
but nothing can be changed until it is faced.’

Lucille Ball (1911-1989)

In an article entitled ‘My Dearest Memories,’ published in the September 21, 1966 edition of The Australian Women’s Weekly, the legendary actress, comedienne and producer Lucille Ball [pictured left as well as below right] had this to say about God:

'To me, God is a hill, a cloud, a tree, a Christmas eve on top of a high bridge, my grandmother Hunt's backyard during a rainstorm. That backyard is where I sensed the presence of God. Every nook was utilised, beautifully arranged with flowers and rocks, young bushes and fruit trees. The seasons seemed holy---an incense of hyacinths each spring; oak golds and purples in autumn; a snow-covered stillness in winter with the hieroglyphic tracks of birds, rabbits, cats, and dogs in the drifts.

'Is it possible for a backyard to be a church for a child? It was for me---it was my sanctuary.'

That's pantheism, some will say, to which I say, ‘So what? Pantheism makes more sense than traditional theism.’ Actually, it’s not pantheism at all but a mindful appreciation of the innate sacredness and holiness of the eternal now---and that’s something very beautiful indeed.

Here's an even earlier memory of Miss Ball's---taken from her posthumously published autobiography
Love, Lucy---that once again reveals her incredible capacity for mindfulness:

'My father's condition never improved. His grippe turned into typhoid fever. He died not long after that storm. He was only twenty-eight and my mother was almost twenty-three. I was not yet four, but I remember vividly the moment she told me Daddy was gone. I could tell you where the tables were, where the windows were, what they looked out on, where the bed was. And I remember at that very moment, a picture suddenly fell from the wall. And I noticed on the kitchen windowsill some little gray sparrows feeding.'

Mindfulness is the presence---note that word presence---of bare attention to, and choiceless awareness of, the action (be it internal or external) of the present moment from one moment to the next. Presence refers to both physical and psychological presence---your presence, that is. Insofar as your psychological presence is concerned, we are talking about a curious, deliberate, intentional, and reflexive awareness of what is, but in an 'un-self-conscious' frame of mind such that you are and remain ever open to whatever happens.

Miss Ball’s memories of her Grandmother Hunt’s backyard, and of her father's untimely death in 1915, have all the key elements of mindfulness, namely, a remembering what is present, and a remembering to stay present in the present moment from one moment to the next (it’s demonstrably clear that Miss Ball did both of those things, given the meticulous detail of her memories), and, finally, a remembering in the present moment that which has already happened (the remembering of a past event is an experience in the present). As respects the detail of her memories, attention to detail was one of Miss Ball's hallmarks. She once said, 'Perfectionism has become a dirty word but I think it means attention to detail, and it is the secret of many successful people.' Including herself, I might add.

Your moment-to-moment experience of the action of life as it continually unfolds from one moment to the next---when ‘accompanied’ by your simultaneous and instantaneous mindful physical and psychological presence with that action---is your ‘church,’ your ‘sanctuary.’ You see,
worship has everything to do with ‘worthiness’ or ‘worth-ship,’ that is, ascribing worth to that which is worthy of the ascription, and very little to do with God or gods in the traditional, ‘church’ sense. Worship is a mindset that shows reverent love for the sacredness of the eternal now---and what could be more sacred or divine than that? 

However, a sense of the sacred or holy needs to be combined with what Miss Ball once referred to as 'that enchanting quality of being able to develop ... a "sense of play".' She noted that her old friend, film actor, comedian and producer Harold Lloyd, had that particular quality, along with 'authority and understanding ... vitality ... incomparable timing ... awareness of material ... [and an] ability to execute them all with a complete credibility.' Miss Ball had all those qualities, too---in spades.

Miss Ball was right to use the words ‘church’ and ‘sanctuary’ to refer to her childhood experiences and her later memories of the events in question. Hers was, in her own words, 'an everyday religon that works for me.' Although she was a close friend and 'disciple' of Dr Norman Vincent Peale and his spiritual philosophy ('I can talk to him on the phone for five minutes and feel I've been to church for a month,' she said in a 1974 interview), she was not into organized religion or dogma, didn't believe in an afterlife, and was fairly agnostic on most things 'religious' (despite saying, 'I regard myself as very religious without going to church'). 

Religious or not, there is no doubt that Miss Ball was very, very spiritual---and she understood what mindfulness is all about.

Images of Lucille Ball are licensed by Desilu, too, LLC.
Licensing by Unforgettable Licensing.
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