Monday, November 17, 2008

The "Pragerhead" experience

I think it was Janice last night who compared us to 'Deadheads,' those die-hard fans who are willing to travel anywhere the band the 'Grateful Dead' is performing.

That's us, Pragerheads, Dennisheads ... We braved the cold, the snow, the slush, the long trek from the Cleveland Clinic or Church parking lots to hear Dennis speak on one of his favorite subjects (and ours), Happiness. Thankfully, members of the Solon Chabad, invited us to share the experience.

When Dennis took up the microphone last night he wanted to know right away who in the audience had never heard him on the radio. Quite a few people raised their hands, and Dennis wondered aloud, "What are you doing here then?"

I was mystically jealous of those people who had never heard Dennis on the radio. These were first-timers, 'virgins,' as it were. They were about to experience those "Wow!" moments the way I did when I first heard Dennis Prager on the radio, when I first heard "I prefer clarity over agreement," or even "Write that down, Alan!" - that kind of wisdom which only comes from long-dead grand-parents or even, say, Will Rogers or Homer Simpson.

I knew what was coming and I silently begged these people to pay very close attention because they were about to have their worlds changed forever.

But then, like any good experience, I found myself enjoying re-living those same moments, just the way I would if I were listening to a favorite song, or watching for the billionth time one of my favorite movies.

I didn't care if I knew I was going to hear something I had heard before, I was actually listening for it, waiting for it, and, of course, hoping that everyone else would revel in it, too. And, yes, I think they did.

Last night's Happiness lecture reminded of the time, a number years ago, when we had tickets to hear Victor Borge. We were polite, an appreciative audience, (in Asheville, NC, the stage set outdoors on the terrace of the Biltmore estate, overlooking the Smokey Mountains). But we didn't really come alive until Borge started doing his old routines, the ones that first made us laugh all those years ago. We fairly screamed when the elderly Borge fell off his piano bench while his beautiful opera singer belted out some aria or another. It was the 'old' stuff that drew us there in the first place. The kids in the audience even got the jokes. I don't think you can get enough of a good thing.

There was another process going on in my mind when I should have been listening to Dennis. I love watching couples, not necessarily married couples, it just has to be two people who know each other well. I like to observe their body language when they are sharing the same experience. They are subtly sharing it with each other through whispers, side glances, and the hardly-noticed leanings into one another, as if to say, "Did you hear that?" They don't usually turn fully frontally and face their companion because that might be too much of a distraction or intrusive. Most of these communications, of course, are designed to go unnoticed by anyone else.

I can see why this sharing of the "Dennis Prager experience" is analogous to the Deadhead one, and why we are then drawn to communing with each other every month at our Dennis Prager Group meetings.

But I think my most memorable and perhaps profound "Wow!" moment last night came when Dennis spoke of the minister who surprised his congregation one Sunday when he told them, "God isn't enough." From our human beginning God knew that He wasn't going to be enough for us, that we were going to need other people. It just so happened that Adam needed a wife (don't they all!) but more importantly God knew that Adam needed someone other than God Himself. Who would have thought! Even Will Rogers would have appreciated that revelation!

Pragerheads come from very diverse experiences, some religious, some secular and some combination of secu-religious ones, but Dennis reminded us last night where happiness needs to come from and that we owe it to other people to at least act happy even if we're not feeling it at the moment.

Dennis also spent a good bit of time on how the Chronically Unhappy and 'Moody' people can have an adverse effect on children, too. I felt empathy for the young father in the audience, the one who was looking for advice on how to keep a three-year-old from becoming a chronic complainer. (I'm not sure if the young father ever heard someone say, "If you don't stop that crying I'm going to give you something to REALLY cry about!" The line worked on me as a child so I used it on my kids.) Dennis did his best to offer advice but in the end he fell back on the one staple and really ancient tenet: You'll figure it out.

Like most important experiences I will regurgitate pieces of the evening over time and it will be as though I am just tasting these morsels for the first time.

I also feel a little like a pearl diver who already knew what was inside that crusty old shell but then was surprised to find there were two pearls this time. One pearl looked a lot like all the other pearls and then there was this new one, one I hadn't ever imagined before.

I look forward to hearing from you about the other pearls you found last night. Send me your emails or log on here yourself and we can all re-live the night.

No comments:

Post a Comment