Here, There and Everywhere

Posts tagged ‘inspiration’

A Compassionate Challenge

51xULqwkGaL._SX260_.jpgMaximum Axioms for mental acuity: 100 simple sayings for intellectual inspiration (Vol. 1) by Faydra D. Fields. Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

Though the title may sound complicated, or high falutting, it is anything but. Right from the get go, Ms. Fields explains that the axioms are not new thoughts, but are said in her own words. They are simple, yet profound.

“Life would be so much more straightforward if it came with directions, but it would also be less flexible.”

There are no flowery, or unrealistic statements in this collection of screenshot ready comments.

“Help others feel better, and they will survive. Help others be better, and they will thrive.”

Some of the words are challenging, yet compassionately so.

“Life is lived in the midst of your storms, not after they have passed you by.”

Others find the humor in living and self-reflection.

“Don’t depend on others to toot your horn, especially since you don’t even know where their mouths have been.”

“Do all you can to keep the game of life from becoming a trivial pursuit.”

Maximum Axioms for Mental Acuity hits the spot – the sweet spot of being honest with one’s self, taking care in what you say and do, and reminders about what is, and is not, important. Am looking forward to the next volume in this collection.

One by One They Died

Life of Nane Alejandrez. Excerpt from Don’t Just Sit There, Do Something! Grief’s Wake Up Call.

In photo: Nane holding photos of brother Tavo and Leo’s headstones.

naneOne by one they died . . . from drugs . . . from violence . . . from pain, hate and revenge. Nane’s oldest brother got wiped out when he was intentionally hit from behind on his motorcycle; his younger brother died from a heroin overdose; his uncle Pancheo was stabbed to death; numerous cousins succumbed to drugs or were murdered; and his father died from an accumulation of life-long exposure to pesticides, alcoholism and a blow to the head with a baseball bat during a gang fight. That Nane survived to tell his story is a miracle in and of it’s self. 

Mr. Alejandrez is now director of Barrios Unidos (Communities United), was instrumental in convening a national gang summit for peace and has received countless awards and recognition for his work in teaching and living non-violence. Barrios Unidos is a multi-cultural program whose mission is to prevent and curtail violence among youth, by providing alternatives such as the Cesar E. Chavez School For Social Change; outreach to youth clubs, parent groups, juvenile hall and kids on the street; and community economic development by operating a full service, custom silk screening business called BU Productions, where youth learn production, sales, marketing, design and administration skills.

NANE:

I’ve seen so many families get torn apart and so many men, especially men, go into hate and revenge and take somebody else’s life. Not thinking about what it’s going to do to the rest of the family. All the violence and anger . . . and a lot of us being brought up to not show any pain . . . to not let people know . . . so we act out, even at times when we don’t want to.

When I acted out I didn’t really want to, but I did it to show that I was looking out for the neighborhood; for the honor of my family. It felt like I wasn’t punking out. If you didn’t do nothing then someone else would think, “Oh well, kill one of those family members and nobody will do anything about it.” So the family would look at each other and say, “Who’s going to do something about it?” – That whole system of payback; trying to keep an image that causes a lot of pain. It’s easier to do that then to deal with your pain.

One thing I’ve learned throughout the years, is I wish somebody would have talked to me about pain and how to deal with it; how to not inflict pain. I learned how to numb it by using drugs and violence, which removed me from feeling it and kept my feelings busy on something else. That worked for a while, but what began to happen was the addiction started taking over. No longer was it about feelings; it was just being well. Surviving and the excitement of breaking the law and running with the home boys . . . you know . . . rebelling, not conforming. I didn’t know anybody that was dealing with it.

People would say, “It’s OK, everything’s going to be all right.” I’d say, “How do you know everything’s going to be all right, when I’m feeling like shit?! You tell me everything’s going to be all right, but that guy over there’s laughing at what he did to my family. Why shouldn’t I go do it to his family?” And then other people would just say, “Go out and take care of it.” They think, “Why isn’t he doing anything? Why doesn’t he take one of their people out?”

There’s that whole thing of not believing in a higher power. I said, “How can this God take my loved ones away? How can He allow it to happen . . . to take my heroes?” The heroes in my life were taken away in a short period of time. The heroes to me were my father, my Uncle Frank and my oldest brother.

After losing all these relatives I was still using drugs a lot of the time. When my father had his operation I was strung out and unemployed. Here I was having graduated from the university with honors and I was really down. When I went to see him in the hospital I was loaded. I went into intensive care. My aunt was there and we went into see him. There were five individuals in intensive care and you know a lot of people that go in there don’t come out. They told me he was all bandaged up and swollen and it would be hard to recognize him. I go in there and start to talk to my father and tell him how much I love him, how much I care about him, my aunts at the end of the bed rubbing his feet. I’m saying, “You’re going to be OK. I love you Dad.” Then my other aunt comes in and says, “Alejandrez is over here.” I look and say, “Wow man!” I was talking to the wrong man. (laughs) I was talking to another man two beds down from my father. My aunt let go of his feet and yelled! I could hear the rest of my family laughing, even in a situation like that, they were laughing. They were going, “Nane’s over there talking to another man.” I swear to God I felt like disappearing. If my father could talk he would have said, “I’m over here stupid!” or “Pendejo en estoy!” So I had to move from that bed to my Dad’s bed and repeat everything. That’s how fucked up I was. That’s an example of the madness. It took me about a year after my father died to really let go of that.

After all these deaths, when I really wanted to clean myself up, I was able to see a friend of mine who was clean. He’s now one of my best friends. We had used together in the past, so when I saw him clean I saw the possibility. He was looking good. I’d gotten busted and was going to court and he would show up in the courts. Every time I had a court date he’d be there supporting me.

Finally I just couldn’t do it no more. My family . . . my children . . . I wasn’t doing anymore talks. I couldn’t hide it anymore. I’d gotten so deep I couldn’t maintain. And I didn’t want to be doing stuff when I was loaded. I hid my addiction a lot. When it got to the point were I couldn’t do that anymore I asked for help. When I asked him for support he was there. Once I got clean and got the drugs out of my system I started to feel a lot of the pain.

I think I was always a spiritual person but I got side tracked. I got more involved in my traditional ways . . . my indigenous background . . . knowing that it was OK to pray. I’d go around with a lot of Native American teachers and prayer was always there. So I started to pray and go to NA (narcotics anonymous) and they always ended the meeting with a prayer. I began to feel different. My work started coming out again and I was really happy. I was seeing the faces of children and I told myself, “If I’m going to do this I need to do it right.” I need to be clean and I can’t be backsliding. I got more involved in my work and my self. It took a long time to do that again.

I’ve been gifted, you know, in certain situations where things were going to happen . . . by me being there . . . and the respect they have for me. Because I have been through a lot and they could sense it, it stopped it from happening again. People know that this is what I’ve been talking about for the last twenty years. “Stop the violence! Stop the violence!” Even through my madness I’ve stuck with it. People my age always tell me that that’s what they admire about me . . . that I’ve always stuck with it. It’s been hard. There’s been a lot of pain. People ask, “Why would you want to stay in a situation where you’re dealing with so much pain?” But at the same time there’s so much hope . . . the smiles on the kids. They’ve got this place, they’ve got a job, people that look like themselves running it. They got inspiration that maybe someday they’ll be doing it.

More of Nane’s story, and others, at: Don’t Just Sit There, Do Something! Grief’s Wake Up Call

A Sister’s Promise

imagesInterview with Nancy Goodman Brinker. An excerpt from the book Don’t Just Sit There, Do Something! Grief’s Wake Up Call.

Susan G. Komen was married, with two small children, when she was given a diagnosis of metastatic breast cancer. She fought a valiant fight with every known treatment at the time, until her body could withstand no more, and died in 1980. Before she passed away she had her younger sister, Nancy, promise to find a cure for the disease that was afflicting so many women across the country. Nancy thought the world of her “big sister” and though she was in the depths of despair, and “utter hopelessness”, she promised “Susie” that she would do everything within her power to find a cure.

Two years later, Susie’s little sister, Nancy Goodman Brinker, started the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation and brought breast cancer to national attention, becoming the largest private nonprofit group in the world devoted solely to funding breast cancer research. Since 1982 the foundation has raised over 100 million dollars! Over half a million people now run in their annual 5K “Race for the Cure” in cities across America. They were instrumental in getting the U.S. Postal Service to issue a stamp for Breast Cancer Awareness; have galvanized the undergarment industry to provide labels on their clothing which advocate breast self-examinations; and inspired countless well known politicians and celebrities to publicly speak about their personal encounters with the disease. 

NANCY: I came from a large extended family. My mother has been my greatest role model. She was very close to her family. She weathered losing so many she has loved. She was the only child in a family where there were several uncles and aunts. Many of these uncles and aunts were more like older brothers and sisters, because she was an only child. My Mom had nine aunts and uncles combined, who had a total of four children between them.

Mother ended up being a caretaker and very close to these uncles and aunts. Except for one or two, she literally nursed them all until they died. I use to spend a lot of time with her when I was growing up, taking care of some of them, going to see how some were doing; watching her suffer many losses and then of course my sister. Mother always had the most optimistic attitude, you know, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” She lost her mother when she was only twenty, so she taught me about loss. I still find it so very sad.To tell you the truth, even now I don’t know if I have learned to really deal with it. There must come a point in your life where you never stop grieving but you just take action, you just go forward.

I honestly don’t know how my mother has dealt with all the losses in her life, particularly one uncle who she loved very much and was like a brother to her. That was the one time I really saw her fall apart. It took her a long time to get over that one. I saw her crying in bed, grieving. Ordinarily my mother is compassionate and full of feelings, yet also stoic and able to go on. This one took a lot of her . . . this one uncle’s death. He loved, supported, helped and listened. He was just wonderful to her. He was gentle and kind and I think that he rounded out her life, gave her the comfort that a parent would give a child. He was her mainstay.

She had a supportive family with all her uncles and aunts around. She was an only child so I think she was a little more used to being alone then some of us are. But this one uncle’s death was very sudden and it was tough for her. She weathered through it. She is a very special person, my mother.

Loss was a part of our life. We’re Jewish and mother had lost family in Germany during the war. I wasn’t old enough to know about it when the war was going on per se, but I knew to the extent that we had relatives who were lost in Europe and the war. We talked a lot about that and how precious life is.

When Susan died the thing that helped me the most was focusing all of my energy on fulfilling her dream and last request, which was to cure breast cancer. I had to do this in her memory. I really wanted to do it. We had been through such a siege.

Luckily, I had met and married a wonderful man just after having gone through an awful divorce. I think focusing all my energy and working as hard as I could on the Komen Foundation, raising my son, and being a wife, helped me get through a lot.

I don’t really remember anything specific that people said or did, except one person who helped a lot. He was a Rabbi that we had in Peoria at the time. We went to see him towards the end of Susan’s illness. We wanted to know how to deal with the children and how to deal with her. He told me what to say and how to say it. He said, “Don’t lie and tell her everything is going to be OK . . . she’ll be OK. She is not going to be OK. What you have to do is learn to be sympathetic and it is awful, you don’t know why it is happening. You wish it weren’t happening. You don’t know what to do about it. And that you love her very much and you’ll be there till the end and do everything you can.”

As the years have passed I don’t think I miss her any less. I probably miss her more. I’m getting older and would love to have my sister with me. We were best friends. I think in one way your circle of friends and people narrows, it doesn’t grow it narrows. What’s important in my life now is different then it was. I have learned that there are very few people in life who love you unconditionally. I think sisters are like second mothers if you will. There was unconditional love there. We could say anything we wanted and be totally frank.

In a lot of ways the Komen Foundation has fulfilled a lot of what we had hoped for. It’s funny. I’m not a person with supernatural beliefs but we have always said that we have a Komen angel and it’s Susie! When things start to go wrong she’s there, something turns and it goes right. I can’t explain what I mean but believe me it’s there. I don’t believe in angels in the traditional sense, but I do believe in angels. I don’t know what it is, but there is some spiritual holdover. It’s certainly not in the normal body, but there is something to this and I just can’t quantify it. I have felt her presence on several occasions, so I know it’s there. I don’t know how to describe it to you.

One day I was driving in my car, looked up and there was golden light everywhere in the car. It was like a shower of golden light and I knew she was there. It was very, very interesting. In fact, I was driving down to one of our big Komen events, one of our big luncheon events. It was about four or five years after we’d started and I just had this feeling. It was amazing. There have been other times, particularly at the Races for the Cure, when I felt she was there watching. She’s there, sitting up there watching. I don’t mean to say it’s a different world or inhabiting a different world.

There have been many times when I have almost quit this work. I’ll say, “I can’t do it anymore, it is too hard.” Then something will happen, something very satisfying will happen. I have asked for guidance, “Show me what I am doing.” If I listen and watch the cues it always happens that I find what I am after. There is something very spiritual about this work. There is something almost other worldly about it.

I think it is God’s will and I think there is a lot of randomness in life too. I think that if you are chosen to do something or if you put yourself in the path of being chosen to do something, somehow the circumstances all fall into place. Then you have an obligation to do it. I have been very well fed. I am well taken care of. There is no reason for me to do anything else. There is no reason for me not to do this. I must do it. For me to spend my time at anything else would be wrong, just not right.

Just playing and having a life of leisure is not my style. But it isn’t that it is just not my style, it’s also the fact that there is a lot of work to be done. I wasn’t given the opportunity to do what I do without a reason.

Sometimes I get back a lot from the work and other times I don’t. But it isn’t what I get back from it, it’s what happens, it is how well I do my job. If I do my job well and at the end of the day people’s lives have been saved and we have moved along, then I feel good. It keeps refueling the reason for why I’m here. It’s like I am on a mission.

I don’t understand why Susan died and I lived through my cancer. I have no reason to understand it, except that she was born premature and for some reason her immune system may not have functioned as well. I may have been given a longer period of time to do this work. I don’t know. Believe me, there were times I wish I could have fought her battle for her. I think I was diagnosed with this disease to unfortunately understand, on a very personal level, besides everything she went through, what it was.

Looking back there are few regrets. I wish that I had had a little more time to be, well . . . I would have liked to have had another child. At the time they advised me not to. With breast cancer they weren’t suggesting that people go on and have more children. Today it would be different. I missed out on a lot of things with my son when he was young. He’s turned out, thank God. There are times I wished I had had a little more time and hadn’t had to stay up all night worrying about things. I have been so intensely involved in my cause.

I have some wonderful friends, but I don’t think I’m particularly popular on a personal level. I think people like me, basically view me as strong, you know? But there are things, that because I am an agent of change, I’m not the person you would just call to go play with. My friends are wonderful and they tend to include me, but I know they don’t think of me as being a cozy person. I’m intense about everything I do. I’m sure they feel uncomfortable. I wish I were more low key. I’m just not. No matter how hard I try I’m not wired that way. So I try to cope and handle it, but it just doesn’t seem to work out for me.

On the other hand I’ve learned to not be afraid to take something on that seems impossible. My father was my role model for success and achievement. With enough commitment, courage and persistence, especially persistence, you can overcome almost everything. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist. I’m not. I have largely been successful because I surround myself with extremely bright people who are much better at everything then I am. Don’t be afraid.

More inspiring stories at Don’t Just Sit There, Do Something! Grief’s Wake Up Call

Writing With Deena Metzger

The 2013 Writing and Story Intensive
A week=long exploration with Deena Metzger
May 25-31 in Topanga, California (near Los Angeles)
Applications Open

Entering The Work

deena-metzger1This intensive is envisioned as a circle, a small group of women and men gathered to devote themselves to their work, that is to the work.

Many beautiful and profound works and explorations have been launched through these intensives in the last 13 years. Many writers have emerged and many have been transformed, their lives deepened and made soulful by this intense, often luminous writing experience augmented by the qualities of medicine walks and quest, by community and solitude.

This Intensive provides an opportunity to begin, as well as to enter more deeply into a manuscript. It calls us to find our own true voices, to break open the forms, to explore hidden realms, to devote ourselves to the stories and manuscripts that are calling to us. It is an opportunity to experiment and dare. This intensive honors the stories that must be told whether one is beginning the exploration or has delved deeply into a manuscript. What is called for is devotion and commitment to bringing the story to the page.

Many participants will be experienced, even published writers, looking for inspiration, direction or support for new or on-going work. For some this Intensive may be a beginning. Often people who have not thought of themselves as writers become aware that there is a book they are called to write. We call such people Story Carriers.
Imagination and the Future

For every writer, the imagination can be a real place. The real life and our future reside there. When we enter this sphere, the writing experience calls self and other(s) into dynamic relationships on the page. This writing can be like a council that holds all the voices, including our ancestors and descendants, the visible and invisibles and the beings of the natural world, as cohorts. It develops from the intrigue that we can each imagine and enter a new literature that looks to and helps create a vibrant and beautiful future.

But each of us is required, given the state of our world and the transformative possibilities of 2012, to consider our assumptions and understanding about who we are as writers, peacemakers, and members of a community of beings. Story carriers, writers, and artists living in these times of grief and possibility are called to imagine and commit to a new literature and a new culture so that the lives of the humans and non-humans and the earth itself will be vital again. Our words can destroy or restore. What we write matters. Together and as individuals we will seek out new forms resonant with the land and these times to engage with the world, the future and the spirits.

We will be actively seeking new language, new forms and new visions. On behalf of our writing and the word, we will engage storytelling, dream telling, ethical reflection, prayer, meditation, silence, music, divination, indigenous and wisdom traditions and the voices of both the visible and invisible presences, on behalf of a vital and sustainable future for all beings.

In this week we will address the issues that must be addressed, explore our lives, souls, minds, and creative work through formal and informal teaching, directed and spontaneous writing, circle work and individual sessions, solitude, time on the land, visioning, ritual and ceremony as appropriate.

For more information email or call Danella Wild at 310-815-1060 for details, fees and how to apply.

Nonviolence in Syria

From Nation of Change
by Stephen Zunes
1 February 2012

Unarmed Resistance Still Syria’s Best Hope

The Syrian pro-democracy struggle has been both an enormous tragedy and a powerful inspiration. Indeed, as someone who has studied mass nonviolent civil insurrections in dozens of countries in recent decades, I know of no people who have demonstrated such courage and tenacity in the face of such savage repression as have the people of Syria these past 10 months.

The resulting decline in the legitimacy of Bashar al-Assad’s government gives hope that the opposition will eventually win. The question is how many more lives will be lost until then.

While the repressive nature of regime has never been in question, many observers believed it would be smarter and more nuanced in its reaction when the protests of the Arab Spring first came to Syria in March. Indeed, had the government responded to the initial demonstrations like those of Morocco and neighboring Jordan with genuine (if relatively minor) reforms and more subtle means of crowd control, the pro-democracy struggle would have probably faded rather quickly.

Instead, the regime has responded with live ammunition against overwhelmingly nonviolent demonstrators and with widespread torture and abuse of detainees, even as the protests spread to every major region of the country. The death toll as of this writing now stands at more than 5,000.

Unlike Tunisia and Egypt, where the opposition was relatively united and was able to take advantage of divisions within the ruling circles, the elites in Syria have been united against a divided opposition. Decades of human rights abuses, sectarian divisions, suppression of independent civil society institutions, ubiquitous secret police, and an overall culture of fear have made it difficult to build a unified opposition movement. Furthermore, the Israeli occupation of the southwestern region of the country, foreign invasions and occupations of neighboring Lebanon and Iraq, and periodic threats by Turkey, Israel and the United States have allowed the nationalistic regime to further solidify its control.

Another difference is that Assad is not a singular ruler, but part of a powerful oligarchy composed of top military officers, wealthy businessmen, Baath Party officials and others. Dictatorships that rest primarily on the power of just one man are generally more vulnerable in the face of popular revolt than are oligarchical systems where a broader network of elite interests has a stake in the system.

Syria has not had much experience in democracy. Its brief democratic period following independence was aborted by a CIA-supported coup in 1949. Following two decades of coups, countercoups, a brief union with Egypt, and chronic political instability, Defense Minister Hafez al-Assad seized power in 1970 and ruled until his death in 2000. Despite that the republican Baath movement was founded in large part on opposition to dynastic succession so common in the Arab world, Assad was succeeded by his son Bashar. The younger Assad, while allowing for an initial wave of liberalization upon first coming to power, soon cracked down on dissent. Indeed, the only liberalization subsequently has been on the economic front, and that has primarily benefited only a minority of Syrians and greatly increased social inequality.

Read complete story at Nation of Change.

Keeping Joe Alive

(Excerpt from Don’t Just Sit There, Do Something! Grief’s Wake Up Call)

Alexandra’s only child, Joseph Matteucci (age 17) was killed at a youth baseball game on May 15, 1993. During a melee between teams, in which Joseph was trying to extricate his friend, he was struck in the back of the head with a baseball bat, which had been swung in a fit of anger towards another boy who ducked. Two days later Joseph died of his injuries. It was the first game related death in little league history.

As a result of her son’s death Alexandra Matteucci created a national organization, The Joseph Matteucci Foundation for Youth Non-Violence, which envisions the “youth of America discovering the power of standing for peace, respect for life, and passion for living.” Their endeavors include a mediation training program taught to and for high school and middle school children; a sports emblem program designed to educate parents, coaches and players of the importance of good sportsmanship; and a scholarship program which supports educational opportunities to students who demonstrate an ongoing commitment to peace activities on campus. In addition to starting the foundation, Joe’s vital organs were donated to a 44-year-old construction worker, a 38-year-old lawyer, a 13-year-old girl and a 57-year-old man.

Alexandra Matteucci: “Joseph continues to live with me. He is very much a part of this foundation. He has been an inspiration to me all my life, showing me unconditional love. He was very wise for his age. I shared all my problems with him. We were very connected. I was a single parent since he was a year old. I even felt a spiritual connection to him before he was born . . . in the womb.

Joseph’s death was a symptom of how our society deals with violence and aggression that can lead to violence. Our anti-violence program is really about bringing the young people, the coaches and the parents together prior to a season in a single event that’s mandatory. I talk about what happened to my son, how and why it happened and ask everyone to stand and take a pledge. The pledge is, “Play to win. Play safely. Win or lose fairly. And be cool.” Then they sign the pledge and put our emblem on their uniform. Some of the teams incorporate the pledge in their opening day ceremony and their fund raising events.

One of the things I think that makes an impact on these young people is that I talk about Joe. I show pictures of him. They realize who he was and they come away very touched. When I go and talk about him in the schools, I tell them there’s a part of Joe living in each and every one of them and that every child and every parent is important.

Our program now teaches conflict resolution in the schools right along with our safety program. I read this article in the paper about an incident where two neighbors got angry at one another over parking and one of them went over and killed the other with a bat. He had very similar injuries to what Joe had received. I remember saying to myself, “Here’s another example that it’s not about baseball, it’s about anger.”

The impact of having someone taken from you, especially a young person, is so overwhelming that fortunately your body and your mind have the ability to save you. It takes some time before you’re ready to realize the immensity of the loss of your child. It’s so humbling. It’s an experience I can’t even describe in words. Not having that child in your life is difficult to comprehend. There are so many things that go through your mind.

What helped me most were people that sent articles and books or folks that would listen to what I had to say about my grief, that would allow me to talk about Joe. People don’t realize that when you’ve had a loss you want to talk about that person. The first reaction from most people is they avoid talking about it with you.

I’ve realized what great gifts our children are. They don’t really belong to us. We don’t own them. It’s humbling when you realize you can’t control everything. I have memories of holding Joseph in my arms and saying to him, “As long as I’m here Joe nothing will happen to you,” but that’s not always true. They’re going to go places and be around people that aren’t always in your control. You have to trust that you taught them to have a sense of what’s right and wrong.

Though he’s gone physically, he and I are still connected. Our relationship continues. I think Joseph came here as an old soul. In a way he’s my teacher. Since he graduated so early he must have been ahead of the learning cycle.

When Joe was killed it opened me up to my soul. It helped me release myself to my life’s mission. I said, “God, I don’t know why I’m here; I’m obviously not understanding it. It’s too painful and debilitating. I don’t have any purpose in my life any longer. So I’m giving my life to you and to Joseph and whatever consciousness is out there. My life is yours. ou take it. You open the door and show me the way.”

When I did that, I realized the doors are open . . . there is a purpose. What I do now comes very easily. It’s very spiritual. It’s not something that’s coming from me; it’s coming through me. Isn’t that amazing? I find that I have more love now than I ever have.

When Joe was seven or eight, he gave me a card for some occasion or other. I opened it up and started crying. Inside the card was a drawing of some trees on a hillside, birds flying and in his handwriting it said, “Mom, I love you. I love being around you. You are like oxygen to me and I’m a tree. You are also as beautiful as a tree.”

Losing my son in that way was the painful beginning of a new, more open life. And he continues to live through every child he touches. With his story being heard over and over again it brings him to life. It’s Joe’s message, Joe’s story and I’m the vehicle . . . the messenger.”

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