We had the good fortune of connecting with David Bartholomew and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi David, what role has risk played in your life or career?
We live in risky– which is to say uncertain— times, so why not learn to thrive amidst it all; and further– relish it all? Coping mechanisms, mental health, our energy and vitality, our outlook and ability to roll with the flow of all which life dishes out, are intimately intertwined with how we play with uncertainty.
We learn to control that which we can and prepare to our utmost for inevitabilities and eventualities. Seems like a good working strategy to me.
A laundry list of a number of my experiences might indicate having put a finer point on pushing some boundaries– seemingly risking life in various ways in the pursuit of liberty and happiness; but really, I think I just had an early sense of all of this being a process of learning to enjoy the ride.
I don’t think I consciously just started doing risky things, willy-nilly. And what of a number of experiences, practices, gambles and approaches of mine that often have seemed outwardly risky to others, I believe have always been more calculated risks— eXperiments In Living (XIL’s)– more zen-like exercises in furtherance of spiritual principles in which I have always been immersed– than random acts undertaken with reckless abandon.
- In the film and physical world– that has translated as a 30+ year career as a Hollywood stuntman on the receiving end of no significant injuries, in contrast to being an ex- (as in– no longer with us) daredevil; jumping off perfectly good buildings, launching myself and/or perfectly good vehicles through the air, getting on the back of a 2200 pound bull, taking on any number of actions that must occur on cue (Action!) and often repeatedly, landing at the same end mark.
- Creatively– it has looked like putting my money where my mouth is— literally and figuratively– on set or in auditions as an actor; as writer/director/producer, often funder of my own projects– just basically schlepping myself, my essence, my face, my work, all around town, putting all up for grabs and on the line to be accepted or rejected on a whim.
- Spiritually— it has looked like delving into the shadow-filled work of numerous dark nights of the soul, where risk equates to total vulnerability.
But let’s work up to all that, because I was lucky to have received a bit of a foundation which has allowed me to go there. And my stock in trade, as healer/writer/motivator/friend/mensch, having survived those risks, is in relating such core principles to those who might embrace and apply them in any area of their lives, especially as they arrive at critical junctures of their own.
I had a formative experience as a kid that connected me to life and the universe– a spontaneous spiritual epiphany you might call it. And so the question then became– what to do with it and where to go from there; that is– how to get back to that place? That experience defined the path and the direction. And from there I only had to begin noting what kinds of things seemed to put me closer to it and what experiences threw me further out of it?
Where others might not take on any of the “the unexamined life is not worth living” stuff until their scheduled mid-life (now we also hear of the quarter-life) crisis… I had been blessed with awakening to such a quest early enough that I was able to avoid a lot of detours and doubts/questions/recriminations about time which folks sometimes look back on as perhaps being wasted– speaking non-judgmentally here, and only of such as relating to those who awaken, and come to mourn to a degree a life currently encompassing less meaning than they might have hoped for.
Still in school I also stumbled upon a couple guiding philosophical goals for myself– to not ever look back on my life and wish I would have…, and to not be a spectator in my own life.
I think these have served me well, and they apply across what any might consider my risky business, in the arenas of: the testing of physical limitations, spiritual boundaries and possibilities, career goals, being seen in the world, risking vulnerability in personal/interpersonal interactions, just everywhere; with the intention to ground into my being valuable qualities, meaningful experience, all the stuff that you can’t take with you when you go– which, to me, looks like as much wisdom and compassion gleaned from the gifts, blessings, lessons, opportunities that this benevolent Universe bestows upon me (and all of us!).
Implicit in such a philosophy is that we are not being set-up to fail, that the Universe is holding up its end of the bargain in serving up those experiences which are for the highest intentions of the growth of our soul; that we are safe, that within this maya/illusion, this Matrix, field, force, virtual reality playground, nothing is truly created nor destroyed. This is all 100% truth should one be able to operate from the mystic/esoteric view of things. And such a perspective has the added benefit of alleviating a lot of needless worry and suffering.
Through this lens what now looks like the greatest risk one could take might be that of risking nothing or not much at all— thus coming to look back with regret, and leaving with perhaps not enough memories to have made it all worthwhile.
Look out at all of the fear in the world today. Fear of change– the unknown, that there isn’t enough, that someone is going to get mine, that leads to miserly protection. Fear that has continued to foment further separation. All of this out of a desperate attempt to not have life come at us any faster than we can handle.
Risk injecting some trust and faith into all of this– that lack is an illusion, that the world is a safe place, that your brothers and sisters of all stripes will respond to your needs with love and support.
Risk getting to know– truly know– the other.
Risk stretching the ability to share and serve.
Risk championing the ideal.
Risk stepping into the shoes of others.
Risk being the one in your group who takes the unpopular, yet larger, stand.
Risk putting all of your certainty up for re-evaluation, expansion, correction.
Risk speaking up against injustice– no longer content to get ours at the expense of others.
Risk standing out as an individual– confident that your essence and authenticity are deserving, that your gifts and unique combination of strengths are much needed in this world.
“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”
— Frank Herbert, from Dune
Risk speaking truth to power.
Risk keeping your heart open– amidst all of the sadness in the world, the overwhelm, any of it which seems too much. The world needs our hearts. And in witnessing others of heart, and throwing ours into the mix, doesn’t then the world seem a more inspiring place for others to risk opening their hearts further as well?
Risk feeling… everything… of the human experience. We came into this experience by our consent.
Risk then– checking in as opposed to checking out. Here is where the work is.
Risk– as the Tibetan monks, Native Americans, so many others– living in preparation for a good death.
Risk putting all on the line– milking this life, this body, these emotions, your creativity, for all they are worth.
Risk stripping away the past, coming to terms, putting it all in perspective.
Risk facing, and reframing Fisher King wounds and Achille’s heels.
Willingly risk stepping into, and through, your rites of passage. Put all on the line in pursuit of character.
Risk coming to know thy self. What else is there?
“Once we believe in ourselves, we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight, or any experience that reveals the human spirit.” — e.e. cummings
Risk taking the higher ground– atoning, apologizing, amending, making right, forgiving.
Risk standing in the fire– as a sword is tempered by being repeatedly thrust into the flame, into the water, beaten into shape, and ultimately evolving into the extension of the just hand of the warrior.
“Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.” — T.S. Eliot
Risk asking the larger question, and being prepared to receive the answer.
Risk having more questions than answers.
Risk standing as, and exuding– the qualities you wish to see in the world– Love, Light, Courage, Faith,
Harmony, Peace, Compassion, Hope, Inspiration.
Risk steadfastness and unerring focus in pursuance of the prize– of making this life a garden, heaven on Earth.
Risk not cutting any corner, not sacrificing care or quality, being uncompromising in the quest for mindful, conscious excellence.
Risk listening. And receiving.
Risk being the sacred witness.
Risk rising out of complacency.
Risk the heights and the depths.
Risk heart. Always, always, always… and only… heart.
“For me there is only the traveling on paths that have heart, on any path that may have heart, and the only worthwhile challenge is to traverse its full length–and there I travel looking, looking breathlessly.” — Carlos Castaneda
Risk testing your mettle.
Risk being your word.
Risk laying it all on the line.
Risk blazing a trail.
“Buy the ticket, take the ride.” — Hunter S. Thompson
Seriously– what do you have to lose? What is the alternative? Sometimes not taking the risk… is the bigger risk. The moth which does not break out of the cocoon never becomes the butterfly.
Yes, it can all sound like fortune-cookie wisdom… if you process it from the surface. But as with all esoteric wisdom, the layers of meaning come as you stick with the thought– as petals of the lotus unfold one by one.
“One thing is certain: you can never become anything other than yourself, and unless you become yourself you cannot be happy.” — Rajneesh
For me– the philosophy of my life, in regard to risk, could be seen in my preparation and undertaking of a movie high-fall. I feel I am able to do this. I accept the gig. I have trained for it over time, in incremental steps, and my skills are up to the task. I have looked at it from the bottom-up and top-down. I have dictated the size and placement of my crash pad. I have visualized this fall again and again– feeling it kinesthetically throughout my being.
I step onto the ledge. I know that as they call, “Action!,” I have to jump. When they pay the dough, ya gotta go. I feel I have planned all correctly. I have confidence that all has been accounted for. I can lean out, teeter on the edge, such that I can pull myself back. But the decisive moment– the point of no return– comes as I push past… that limit… that safe place– watchful, somewhat apprehensive yet still in control. There is the instant where I am up, on the ledge; then, by volition– by way of a concoction of confidence, trust, surrender, release, grit and adrenaline– I have passed through that invisible barrier, over the threshold, and I am airborne. The test. Faith in this act of power, or surrender. And the result. Exaltation! Epiphany. Buzzing. Hyper-alive.
This excitement can be generated and experienced in infinite ways– as we just play with and savor, truly make mindful, visceral… all aspects of our lives.
The only risk, truly, is whether, and how, we decide to show up. To be present. To honor this gift of life we have been given.
“Bite your teeth into the ass of life!” — Ian Holm, as Pascal, in Big Night
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
As we look at life as a mystery, strive to maintain as much of our natural state as possible, see with wonder, serve with heart and uplift with mindfulness– the ride becomes poignant, really enjoyable, all of life becomes art, and any and all of our expression– personally or professionally– thus becomes authentic and unique. Arriving sooner to the quest/mission of coming “to know thy self”, saves a lot of steps, eases a lot of pain, and really contributes to as much gratitude, appreciation, compassion, wisdom and joy as one can squeeze into this life. Your “brand” (I really dislike this term) is your true self and not some gimmick. And to honor the resources that go into any of our work– they need to serve and yield commensurate return (they need to give back!).
Any great local spots you’d like to shoutout?
I generally go more old school than trendy. To get it out of the way first– I hit the first In-n-Out burger, then give the best, fastest, driving tour of the things people think they want to see in L.A. their first time– which gives them the pix they want to post, while avoiding the nasty and scummy. Lesser known gems include Bronson Caves in Griffith Park (the original Bat Cave), the carousel in Griffith Park, the witchy/fairy house in Beverly Hills, other “photo spots” their friends won’t have taken.
Should they want more on the touristy side, I like Dearly Departed Tours (formerly Graveline Tours). I have taken this tour (in a hearse) and find myself reinvigorated about this town after the 4 hours. Yes they focus on the famous deaths, but after a certain small handful of notables any tour really ends up focusing on famous people who have passed; so– not as macabre as it might sound.
Of course there is the PCH drive, with a meal stop potentially at Patrick’s Roadhouse, Gladstones, Neptune’s Net.
Downtown– I like the art walking tours put on by the L.A. Conservancy–like the Art Deco walk. The Last Bookstore. The central library. Phillipe’s, The Pantry, Grand Central Market, in summer when it’s not a pandemic– any event put on by GrandPerformances.org. There are so many places we have shot in for film shoots, that if I can get them in, I would let them see the old subway tunnels and old Dutch Chocolate Shop downtown, places they would recognize from tv like the Fantasy Island house at the L.A. Arboretum.
And at some point, for a recharge, the nice meditative walk around the Self-Realization Fellowship Lake Shrine– the most peaceful place in L.A.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
The most supportive and inspiring person I know, who has motivated me with love over the past 22 years, is Joan Clark– artist, author, intuitive, renowned natural perfumer, creatrix of empowering workshops/classes/retreats/
Aengus MacNeil (Saoirse Pictures)