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 Wednesday, July 02, 2014

California, the Beta Test State, Part Deux: Social and Spiritual


So I was in California looking for an answer to the question, "Why does every trend and movement seem to come from California?"

Via Twitter I had become acquainted with an aspiring actress (correct term: actor) from Toronto, and a guy from Brooklyn who's trying to break into stand up comedy, both now in Los Angeles. I arranged to meet up with them to say hi in person.

Upon meeting I thanked each of them for taking the time to say hello to me, because I knew I was just some guy off of Twitter, and I didn't mean to impose. They both asked why I would even think it was an imposition?

In Georgia, I think it would be seen as an imposition. Why the difference?

In Hollywood, the people are generally under 35, a very social time of life, and they're there from somewhere far away, so everybody's looking for company. They also know the maxim, "It's not what you know, it's who you know." Therefore, meeting strangers and networking are not seen as unusual, and it creates an open environment. The comedian guy told me he'd even written to writers with the Conan O'Brien show and had a lunch! In Georgia, everyone gets a job by applying on or going to a recruiter. To write to a stranger and say you'd like to meet to discuss the shift supervisor position at UPS would be seen as bizarre. The only person off of Twitter who would say, "Hey, where can I find you?," would be a drifter with an ax. My perception (which someone out there will leap to tell me is wrong) is that in Georgia, if people don't know you from school or work, they don't want to know you, the end.

The Toronto actress (actor) told me I needed to read a motivational book called The Four Agreements. A couple of days later I met up with a girl I had known in high school who's now married with kids and living in L.A. She asked me if I'd ever listened to a certain motivational speaker. She also asked, "What kind of scripts did your parents give you?" I said wow, now I really felt like I was in L.A. My "scripts?" She said, "No, not like a movie script, like..." I said yeah, I understood, but that was Dr. Phil talk. Nobody in Georgia talks about their "scripts."

With that, another California difference was illuminated.

This is why so many show business people talk about their therapists, and why self-help phenomenons like EST and Scientology take hold. People in California are shooting for something big. They're either trying for fame as a movie star or director if they're in Hollywood, or to take the world by storm with a tech company if they're in Northern California. As they do this, they have plenty of voices in their head (scripts) from back in Michigan or Idaho telling them they're nuts, deluded, stop putting on airs, and chasing unicorns. So they reach for anything to beat those voices of self doubt back, and they may choose Kaballah, past life therapy, or sometimes drugs, so they can continue their climb.

In Georgia you're more likely to hear, "My motivational guru's name is Jesus Christ, and His book is called the Bible!" For Californians, the voice in their head from back home telling them to get back in line probably belongs to someone who was a Christian, and that's where the mistrust of conventional religion comes from.

But this stereotype of the New Age-y Californian is not the whole picture! My grandmother in Tennessee belonged to what, in her time, was an extremely strict Protestant sect called the Church of the Nazarene. Women were not to wear makeup, jewelry, or skirts above the knee. Dancing, going to the movies, and even owning a TV were forbidden. (They weren't into snake handling, though. That would've been nutty.) I was really shocked the day my Dad told me that my grandmother's preacher -- who I had seen dissolve into tears in the pulpit when I was a child, he was so wounded to have seen women wearing bikinis on Daytona Beach -- was a transplant from Southern California! After my Mom's passing I did some reading about the Church of the Nazarene, and it had been started by a professor from the University of Southern California. So even the most uptight, socially-conservative theological movements have roots in California.

A big picture was forming, but there was more to learn.

Posted by Art | 3:34 PM EST | 0 comments |


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