From time to time, my intention is to introduce my readers to some of my favorite inspirational philosophers, theorists, and deep thinkers, and today I’d like to introduce you to Marianne Williamson.
A number of months ago, my dear friend, Michelle, invited me to a lecture at the Marble Collegiate Church in midtown where Marianne speaks every Tuesday. She had attended before and was quite taken with her philosophies and her oratorical style and thought I too would enjoy attending.
Marianne Williamson is a well-regarded spiritual leader, speaker, and author whose main philosophical teaching is based on A Course in Miracles texts. I’d heard of her from my days in California but didn’t know much about her or the Course, for that matter, but I was intrigued.
Her lecture was a mix of spirituality, tough love, irreverence, and a lot of humor. And the topics she covers, as I soon found out since I now attend regularly, are always au courant and run the gamut from the present political climate to love and relationships — no topic seems to be off limits. Two famous quotes she utilizes periodically: When asked why do some people attract losers? "It's not that you attract them," she says, "it's that you give them your phone number," and when talking about self-pity, “Get off the cross, we need the wood!”
Though Williamson uses the imagery and language of Christianity and Judaism, she is as much inspired by Eastern religion and science, and believes that “dogmatic organized religion hasn’t been a great gift to mankind.” According to Time magazine, “Yoga, the Cabala, and Marianne Williamson have been taken up by those seeking a relationship with God that is not strictly tethered to Christianity.”
So, in honor of Michelle’s birthday on July 10th, I’m offering up Marianne’s very accessible think piece on aging.
What’s Age Got to Do with It?
by Marianne Williamson
“One day, I received a couple of videotapes in the mail, containing footage of some lectures I’d given in 1988. I told my daughter I wanted her to watch them with me, to see what her mother looked and sounded like two years before she was born. I thought I was doing this for her, but soon I realized I was doing it for me. As she watched, she was mesmerized by the image of her mom not yet weighed down by years of sorrow, still light and breezy in both body and spirit. And I was sort of mesmerized myself…
Watching the tapes of my lectures, I was surprised to see my daughter so surprised. I hadn’t realized that she didn’t see her mother as a lighthearted woman, full of easy jokes as well as wisdom. I saw then that I’d become someone I didn’t really have to be — I had descended into the dark psychic waters of a few rough years and had simply fallen for the lies I’d heard there.
What happened to me is what happens to many of us, in one way or another. Age can hit you like a truck, knocking the wind of your youth right out of you. For years, you move around in reaction, seemingly defined more by what you aren’t anymore than by what you are now. Yet slowly but surely, you morph into the next phase of your life — different, but not necessarily less than, as opposed to more. The less or more part is up to you.
I remember buying a CD by Joni Mitchell a few years ago. The cover art is a self-portrait of her holding a glass of red wine: I sat looking at the picture for several minutes before putting on the music. And when I did, I was appalled. Nothing seemed to sound the same; I didn’t hear the Joni I thought I knew. 'Oh my God,' I thought, 'she’s lost her voice!' The high, sweet quality was gone. I, who had listened to Joni Mitchell for decades, didn’t recognize the sound I heard now. For at least five minutes, I went on and on in my head about how Joni Mitchell couldn’t sing anymore.
Then I started to really listen, only to realize, of course, that the voice that was no longer there could not compete in magnificence with the one that had taken its place. Her voice revealed a new depth now, a longing that the voice of her younger self didn’t have. Somewhere between her soul and her throat, her past and her present, good pop tunes had alchemized into high art. Light and bright melodies had become deep, stark, soulful cries from the center of things. She’d moved into a place of power that is anything but less than. Someone already a giant seemed to have turned into a goddess.
Her path — and her changes — are meaningful to me, given my own experience. Having begun lecturing over 20 years ago, people sometimes tell me that they wish I would lecture “like in the old days.” And I know what they mean. I was flip. I was funny. I was telling it like it is. But it was the ’80s, for God’s sake! It’s easy enough to be light and breezy when you’ve never seen anything but light and never felt anything but breeze. Later, when that’s no longer true — when decades more have been added to your personal repertoire of both pain and pleasure, your voice cannot not change. The question is, will you then lose your true voice or find it?
Seasons change, but all of them are spectacular. Winter is as beautiful as summer, both in nature and in us. We needn’t be less compelling with age; we’re simply compelling in a different way. Being where we are, with neither shame nor apology, is what matters most. The beauty of personal authenticity can compensate for the lost beauty of our youth. My arms aren’t as shapely as they used to be, but I know so much more now about what I should be doing with them.”
TIME TO DINE: Cooking for Joan
I love shellfish, especially shrimp!
I love spicy food!
I love Italian food!
Well, I found my trifecta: Shrimp Fra Diavolo. I made it for the first time last summer and loved it. Last week, I intended to serve it at my 1st Salon Series Dinner focused on Ancestry and our DNA. Sadly, due to an illness and a broken tooth, the dinner was postponed, but I cooked for the two guests who could make it, Michelle and myself. We must have been famished because the two of us not only ate all of the pasta (I did make a little less than I would have), but we devoured most of the sauce!
The combination of the sweetness from the fish, the tangy acidity of the tomatoes and the fire from the peppers is divine. The result is a sauce filled with depth and heat, plump and perfectly cooked shrimp, all soaked up by pasta. Yum!
Shrimp Fra Diavolo
Cook Time: 33 min | Makes: 4 | Difficulty: Easy
- 1 lb pasta (any strand or ribbon pasta will work)
- 1 pound large shrimp, peeled, deveined
- 1 teaspoon salt, plus additional as needed
- 1 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper flakes, plus additional as needed
- 3 tablespoons olive oil, plus 1 to 2 tablespoons
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1 (14 1/2-ounce) can diced tomatoes (in season, I use heirloom cherry tomatoes)
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 3 garlic cloves, diced
- 1 tablespoon capers
- 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
- 3 tablespoon chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
- 3 tablespoon chopped fresh basil leaves
*You can use a pinch of sugar if the tomato acid is too much for you.
Cook pasta according to directions.
Add 1 to 2 teaspoons of olive oil to the pan on medium heat and saute the onion until translucent, about 5 minutes.
Add the tomatoes with their juices, wine, garlic, capers, red pepper flakes, and oregano.
Simmer until the sauce thickens slightly, about 10 minutes.
Add the shrimp and saute for about a minute, toss, and continue cooking until just cooked through, about 1 to 2 minutes. (I prefer my shrimp slightly under-cooked, so I remove them at 1 min.)
Transfer the shrimp to a large plate; set aside.
Stir in the parsley and basil.
Season with more salt, to taste, and serve.