This weekend, we went to Cedar City, Utah for the Shakespeare Festival. There’s nothing like traveling to teach you a thing or two about home.
This weekend, we’ll attempt to redefine what “home” means, and what role it plays in our lives. Hopefully, you’ll leave with some clear direction on how to immediately make your life better. Plus, we’ll dig into some of what drives us, and we’ll explore an objective way to measure art. Stay with us.
- Cedar City, Utah | www.cedarcity.org/
- Milt’s Stage Stop | miltsstagestop.com | 3560 UT-14, Cedar City, UT 84721
- The Grind/Main Street Books | www.facebook.com/braunbooks | 25 N Main St, Cedar City, UT 84720
- Mike’s Tavern | www.mikestaverncedarcity.com | 90 W Hoover Ave, Cedar City, UT 84720
- IG Winery | igwinery.com | 100 N 200 W St, Cedar City, UT 84720
- Centro Woodfired Pizza | www.facebook.com/CentroPizzeria | 50 W Center St, Cedar City, UT 84720
- Festival of Flavors at Brianhead Lodge | www.brianhead.com | 314 Hunter Ridge Dr., Brian Head, UT 84719
- Cedar Breaks National Monument | www.nps.gov/cebr
- Shakespeare Festival at Southern Utah University | www.bard.org | 195 W Center St., Cedar City, UT, 84720
- The Narrows at Zion National Park | www.nps.gov/zion
A hundred and fifty years ago, a bunch of Mormons asked the US government if they could have some of that new land out west. The US begrudgingly said yes – something they hadn’t done before and wouldn’t do again – and with that, Congress handed a religion what eventually became the state of Utah.
(In fact, the original area was much larger. The federal government carved away at it again and again as others had their go at Congress. Mormons were some of the first settlers of Las Vegas.)
Why did they want their own little spot in the middle of nowhere? So they could carve out their own constitution, beyond the laws of the Union, and legally practice polygamy? Maybe.
But I think it had just as much to do with wanting to be surrounded by your own kind. Wanting your own homeland.
It’s true in our most intimate relationships. Have you ever had that first date that just went so well, you felt so comfortable? Like you had come home?
Did you know that happy couples in successful relationships share more similar DNA than those in unhappy or unsuccessful relationships? And the longer you’re together, the more you’ll see similarity in the DNA of you and your partner. You literally find what feels familiar and comfortable, and you grow together.
It’s true among our friends. Our family. Our tribes. Even sports fans find commonalities beyond their team.
And there’s value in it. When hanging with the like-minded, our mind can be more creative and free, and we feel more open to share those ideas with the group.
There’s value in diversity, too. And we know it. New and different ways of thinking are sometimes the only way to break free from the group-think that’s common to the like-minded, and new and different thinking best comes from those with different backgrounds from your own.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. My point was that Mormons moved TO their home. They packed up their horses and carriages and books about polygamy and their alcohol – just kidding, they don’t drink, and they left what they previously considered their home to go find a better one.
All travelers do that. There’s something travelers know that others don’t. But don’t worry, I’ll be sharing those secrets in a minute.
This was our home, for this weekend.
We used Airbnb for our accommodations, because the hotel options in Cedar City weren’t great. Honestly, shit just booked up fast on account of the Shakespeare Festival.
This place was awesome. Yes, it’s trying to look Shakespearean, and yes, they built this place solely to house Airbnb guests of the Shakespeare Festival.
Cedar City was full of all these cute little places, like Milt’s Stage Stop, where I reckon you to hitch up yer stagecoach for some grub. It’s the kind of place that has as much taxidermy as it does serve-yourself salad bar ingredients.
Then there’s this Historic Main Street, where you can find some small town gems, like The Grind Coffee/Main Street Books jumbled in with the likes of a Sizzler and a Pizza Hut. We found ourselves there a lot because it was close to the University where we were staying.
For example, The Grind was our morning coffee spot. What an obvious name for a cafe, being that it means both a ritual of the coffee bean as well as slang for how people spend their time toiling away on their laptops in cafes these days.
I looked it up and there’s a coffee shop with this name in, I think, every town and city in America. Hmmm, what does that say about the work ethic in this country?
The Grind is attached to a bookstore with NOT NEARLY as clever a name. (“Okay guys, what should we call our bookstore on Main Street?…“)
Of course, I picked up a copy of The Story of the Mormon Pioneers. Boy, was it a page-turner! Just kidding. I haven’t read it yet. But I’m sure it will be.
Cedar City had about as many churches per capita as Las Vegas has bars. In case you didn’t know, Mormons don’t drink. So bars in this tiny, reserved town? By our count, one – Mike’s Tavern. And it was AMAZING.
I’m pretty sure Mike was there that day.
And you can probably thank the Mormons for the …interesting alcohol laws you can find in the state of Utah.
Apparently there’s this thing called “3-2 beer” named after its alcohol content – 3.2%. Major beer makers have to brew up this special low-alcohol beer for Utah and a couple other states.
Okay one more: According to our bartender, you can’t order a double cocktail?? And apparently if you try to get around it by ordering two drinks, or a cocktail and a shot, they have to serve you one at a time?
Okay, I lied – one more: We had to lie to our server about where we bought our wine, since you’re not allowed to bring alcohol into the state. Okay, I’m done. Here’s Mike’s Tavern on Ladies’ Night, featuring DJ Janelle.
Despite all that, there’s a lot of spirit-making going on in Utah. Salt Lake’s High West Whisky was at a festival we attended, and right here in Cedar City, someone managed to open a winery (IG Winery), tucked away behind a bed and breakfast.
Every time we found booze, I couldn’t help feel like maybe there are two cultures in Cedar City: the locals and the tourists. Living in Las Vegas, I understand how that goes.
Finally, we recommend Centro Woodfired Pizza. They were delicious, and they were very accommodating when we were running late for our show. Okay, that’s enough about Cedar City.
Festival of Flavors at Brianhead Lodge
Cedar City is less than an hour away from the ski resort town of Brian Head.
There’s obviously not much skiing going on in August, but the fine marketing team at Brian Head Grand Lodge was doing everything they could this weekend to keep heads in beds.
You can zipline, tube down a half-pipe, or rent mountain bikes and ski lift up to the top of the mountain and ride down.
They also happened to be hosting Festival of Flavors. (Hint: the “flavors” were flavors of liquor and beer. There was some food, but it was like hamburgers and shit. I guess it just sounds way more Utah-friendly to call it ‘Festival of Flavors’ instead of ‘Come Get Shit-Faced at a High Altitude.’ Plus, it looked better on the souvenir mug.)
Cedar Breaks National Monument
On Saturday before the show, we went hiking at Cedar Breaks National Monument. The weather was perfect.
The entire hike is along the rim of a cliff of rock that’s been carved out over millions of years by the river, leaving behind beautiful red, orange, and yellow hoodoos (thanks to iron oxides) and cliffs 2,000 feet tall.
A thousand people come to this place every day on average. And I understand why. You just sit and stare. It’s up high enough that you can see the hills of Utah for days. You feel like you could reach up and touch the clouds.
And if that isn’t not impressive enough, it’s also home to some of the oldest trees in the world. This juniper is thousands of years old. Parts of it die, and it redirects water and nutrients to the living parts. Just look at it hold onto the edge of this cliff for dear life. It’s whole life, right here in this spot.
Heart is Where the Home Is
As strange and different this place is, I somehow felt… comfortable there. This place got me thinking about where – and what – home is.
My home isn’t four walls and a roof on a quiet street in Henderson. My home isn’t stucco and wood and drywall. Chairs and tables and TVs and toilets.
Nor is my home the Las Vegas valley. Nor St. Louis. Not roads or schools or skyscrapers or Walmarts or traffic jams or local news stations or grocery stores.
Nor is it where a person is born or grows up. The Mormons after all left that place to come to their home. Home can be where you currently are. Or it can be a destination.
I suppose I’m lucky. I happened to be free from the assignment of a physical home, and free from the arbitrary obligations and loyalties and biases that come with it.
So what is my home? Not a place. A feeling. Home is comfort.
It’s how you feel when you exhale. When you relax your muscles. When you let your guard down.
It’s the experiences and stimuli that, when you encounter them, just feel so natural to you. Like a warm blanket in a hot tub while watching your favorite movie.
We all gravitate toward the comfortable. It’s our nature.
You are a human being, a big bag of emotions and personality, and home is the perfect reflection of that personality outside of yourself – out there in the world. Not one thing, but many, just like you.
Sure, a physical place can encompass some of the stuff that typically evokes the feeling of comfort. But it’s far from perfect. A house may encompass some of those attributes that bring you comfort – like your couch, or privacy, or security. But far from all. There are so many more.
Just like people, places have personalities, too. A place or a city or a country may encompass many of those same feelings that agree with you, and you may feel comfortable there, and you may even decide to make that place home.
Have you ever been traveling, and you run across someone who also traveled to this place, some time ago, only they never left? They just stayed? They were so comfortable in this new place, they realized, hey, this is home.
So home is just where you find the greatest amount of attributes that match your own. Home is the ideal manifestation of your personality out in the world. Home is the mirror image of you.
And so maybe that’s your goal in life. To find that place. But I think we can do better than that. But let me come back to that.
Once we’ve altered the definition of “home” – once we’ve set ourselves free from the old definition, we’re free to take it other places as well.
Could home be something other than a place? Could home be a time? Couldn’t different times have different personalities? All these billions of people. All these millions of years. How do we know we’re living in the perfect time for us?
That got me thinking. Maybe “home” can have other attributes as well.
Some people feel at home while engaged in activities of the mind, whereas others drift toward activities of the body. One isn’t better than the other. Just different. But being up here at the top of this giant hill, hiking and thinking, it made me realize why this place has such universal appeal.
Some naturally drift toward conflict where others seek peace.
Everyone is most comfortable at a different particular natural steady-state balance between producing and consuming.
Different people feel more at home engaging in a certain type and nature of exchange of information. Everyone builds themselves a personalized balanced portfolio of conversations comprised of some mix of people, events, and ideas.
Some are more comfortable with more risk where others prefer safety.
People naturally find themselves at various maturity levels.
We all vary concerning the degree and role that ethics plays in our lives.
The self-empowered and the go-with-the-flow.
And on and on.
This is the brand-spanking new, 900-seat, open-air, Elizabethan-inspired Engelstad theater. We attended two shows here on Friday and Saturday – The Three Musketeers and Henry V.
Henry V (and probably most of Shakespeare’s plays) was a masterpiece. Or maybe I’m just new to live Shakespeare.
It’s a story written in 1599 about true events taking place in 1415. Henry V is the King of England faced with an impending battle over French sovereignty. It’s a play full of complex language and ideas; it’s about the struggle of men and the struggle of kings; it’s about duty and war; and by the end, you’re not really sure if the play sided with the good or the evil of any of it.
And sometimes, that’s what great art is all about. Two people can experience the same thing; one can leave with the lesson that, while tragic, war is necessary and maybe even heroic; another can leave with the lesson that war is unnecessary and barbaric. Well played, Shakespeare.
Art CAN Be Measured Objectively… Here’s How
Shakespeare’s work is objectively good, and you know it. I don’t need to sit here and preach to you about why this guy is still a household name 400 years after his death.
But it does open a window for me to make another point. Art is objective just as much as it is subjective.
There’s a certain guilty pleasure that people experience while enjoying something that they know is objectively bad. I think the world has let itself get so distracted by the embarrassment of having such terrible taste that we’ve all but pushed this fact – objectifiable nature of art – out of our collective minds.
But Tim, you say, great art is just a preference. What makes it great to me is the fact that I enjoy it, right? And nothing else?
I’m gonna try to bring back objective measure with a system that I just made up called The Three C’s of Art Measurement. It goes like this:
Let me illustrate The Three C’s with an example of really terrible art: A guy comes along and places a rock on the ground and says, “this is art.” You come along right behind him, do the exact same thing, and declare, “this is art.”
Your art is bad, and here’s why:
- It’s ridiculously easy to create or recreate (low on craft).
- No one appreciates the meaning of your shitty rock art (low on connect).
- You literally just did the same thing as the guy that came right before you (low on create).
Maybe the guy before you created better art, I don’t know. He would at least get a better score on craft, since he invented the idea.
Craft and Create are easy to understand, and it’s easy to understand how they may be measured as well.
Connect is a little trickier, but it’s the one that makes Shakespeare (and all great art) shine. It may be the most important element of art. Connection is measured as (a) broad appeal – what % of society identifies with it, and (b) appeal diversity – how broad is the spectrum of reaction/connection to the art?
Connect is all about “home.” For the artist, it means recognizing that we all live in a different home, and creating a piece of art that we can all come together around; creating a piece that 10 people can stand across from and it can mean 10 different things – invoke 10 different emotions.
If no one’s connected with the art you’ve created, than did you create art at all?
For example, in Henry V, Shakespeare has architected a work that so many can identify with. Henry V tackles the complexities and responsibilities of being a king, from both perspectives. The death of his men weighs heavy on Henry’s shoulders – so much so that he disguises himself as a commoner to engage his men. Through this medium, Shakespeare is able to create a dialog that spectators of all socioeconomic classes can identify with.
Shakespeare understood that different people’s “home” is at different scopes of control. (Some feel comfortable influencing the lives of 5-10 people, others feel more influencing the lives of millions.)
He mixes dialog and metaphor with action and war; comedy with love. Something for everyone. Shakespeare knew how to cater to many homes.
Let’s do one final example. Now, I didn’t measure this shit out with a ruler – I’m just trying to make a point.
And the cool thing about it is, once you’ve done individual works of art, you could theoretically aggregate it to an artist or a genre. Check it out.
For example, Jackson Pollock. He would be high on create and low on the other two, right?
Okay, you get the idea. I can move on, right?
The Narrows at Zion National Park
Sunday, we hiked The Narrows. (As recommended by Diane for a super long time. Thanks, Diane!)
The Narrows is an unbelievable Earth space in Zion National Park just outside Cedar City.
The Narrows exists because of a river that has carved away at rock for an embarrassingly long time. And what’s left is almost 90-degree cliffs straight up into the sun. Hiking The Narrows is just you and the river and the infinite rock walls. 20 miles of it.
Well, except for the very beginning, at the trailhead, where we shared the space with hundreds of other people. Yuck. It was like an international fucking community pool. It was horrible, and we made it our goal to hike until we didn’t see people anymore.
We achieved our goal.
The Narrows is fun and beautiful and adventurous and hard and ugly and repetitive somehow all at once.
It’s a lot of navigating your way over rocks and through 2-feet-deep water.
You know that feeling of getting things done? Do you like that feeling? The Narrows evokes that feeling.
You know how hopefully I convinced you that Cedar Breaks is for everyone? This place, the Narrows? Despite all the people? This place is for no one.
It’s a stark universe of bare rock and empty water. Somehow lifeless, despite all the life.
No one is at home here.
I’m definitely not at home here. I don’t like bodies of water. You know why? Humans don’t have gills.
Why does everyone keep thinking we belong in large bodies of water?
But despite all that, it felt good. To leave my home. Which got me thinking…
What’s the value in being home anyway?
Be a Tourist of Life
All of life is a coming home. – Hunter ‘Patch’ Adams
Imagine you’re born, and someone gives you an apple. Because that’s all that is grown there. Apples. Every day you eat apples. For years. You love apples.
Then one day, someone gives you a banana.
Now, maybe you enjoyed the banana more than the apple, maybe you didn’t. That doesn’t matter. All that matters is that now you’ve tasted it. Henceforth, every time you eat an apple, you’ll be comparing it to that banana.
Are you better or worse off? I think we can all universally agree that you’re better off, right?
That’s what being a tourist is all about. The comparison of your current comforts of life to something different, regardless of whether that which was compared ended up being better or worse or both or neither.
We all gravitate toward the comfortable. It’s our nature.
The ones who are out there taking risks and seeking change that will make their lives and the world a better place – those people understand something the rest of us don’t: They understand the value that comes with being a tourist – with leaving your comfort zone.
Being a tourist incrementally improves the quality of your home. How? It forces you to reassess.
The final result: either (a) you realize a way that some part of your home could be better, and you improve it, or (b) you reaffirm the allegiance you had to your original method.
Either way, the result of the thing is a stronger, better home.
It leads to an open-mindedness. It inspires you to drive change where change is welcome.
Be curious. Scare yourself.
I’m not just talking about leaving your cities, although you should do that also. I’m referring to a metaphorical tourism. Finding your comfort zone(s) and leaving them.
Not because life is about leaving home; but because it’s about finding home. And the only way to get there is the hardest way. The all-the-way-around way.
Break your house down. Dissect it into small chunks. Categories of home. Where something could be better, improve it. Where you have no context, go get yourself a banana.
Big. And small.
Been stuck in that same job for too many years? Ask yourself what you can change. How you can be a tourist.
Try a new dish at your regular restaurant.
Find and follow people on social media who disagree with you.
Look, I don’t know where you’re comfortable, but you do. How are you comfortable? Pay attention. Find where you’re comfortable. And when you do, ask yourself what being a tourist in that situation might look like.
If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you. – Fred DeVito
Be curious. Scare yourself.
Marines and accountants and CEOs and stay-at-home dads and journalists and teachers and doctors and preachers. Just like the Mormons, we’re all headed home. If only our destination were just as apparent.
Give yourself the confidence to step out onto the ledge of the difficult and the unknown. Introduce a little discomfort into your life.
Head home by leaving home. Trust me, it’s the most valuable thing you could do.
For all episodes of Make The Weekend, visit maketheweekend.com.