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Hunger, Sweat, Mistakes and Joy

05/06/2010 05:12 am 05:12:01 | Updated May 25, 2011

Q: It takes tremendous discipline to be so fit, what motivates you?

SS: I'm hungry, hungry for life, hungry to feel, hungry to do. It just feels right. If you look at your hands, these hands, they were meant to DO things with - to work, to play, to struggle, to fight for it, to care. Like the sun shines, we are born each day to do - I just like giving in to it, heeding that call to live. Sweat is evolutionarily integral to that call, it's part of our makeup. Animals just run sometimes, even when they're not hunting or fleeing, they just run. We are people, and before that, beneath that, we are animals. That thought excites me, and so exercise excites me in that way - like honoring the progress of time within my biological being; expressing its manifestation in this physicality by playing the instrument, by pushing it to the limit. In terms of discipline, discipline is freedom. Giving in to whatever you want, to laying around, to eating garbage, to not treating people with care let's say, that is slavery, slavery to our weakest, lowest being. Discipline breaks us free from that. It is the freedom to decide what we want to become, and the commitment to become that. A slave does only what is required. You're free the moment you step beyond.

Q: What advice would you give today's generation for building self-esteem, forgiveness, and making mistakes?

SS: For me making mistakes was paramount, it still is. I'm the king of mistakes. I think in identifying your own individuality you have to feel out what fits and what doesn't. Driving your own personal growth means reaching beyond your current capacity - but in that, you might find something greater than yourself that you aspire to. I think this is the essence of growth, and so for me it's where I found, and still find a lot of esteem; reaching beyond myself to grow into more than I am. Of course pushing the envelope means that you'll go too far sometimes, so you've got to be comfortable with that - with making mistakes, being judged and disappointing yourself - if you really want to live, really want to grow, really want to explore what it is to be you. Forgiving other people is magical, is beautiful, and it's easy to do - you just do it and then you see how great it feels. Forgiveness is a mark of personal evolution, of courage, of love, and of intellect. Forgiving yourself can be more difficult. But if making big mistakes is part of growth, then you've got to see them, learn from them, and then use them as tools to become better. Compassion makes sense - it's beautiful and smart, and it's a profound mark of an evolved mind, so might as well go there ASAP right.

Q: Knowing James Whitmore has obviously affected your life - has this relationship helped you as an actor, in terms of building character?

SS: Building a character, as an actor, and having character, as an individual, are two separate things. We'd play chess and talk about acting and politics, and I was certainly inquisitive about his methods as an actor, and I certainly learned from him. The man has tremendous character. He wasn't nice but he was kind. Meaning he cared deeply for life and for people, but he wouldn't sit around and waste the day. As an actor I was able to show him the things I was working on. I spent many hours in his yard spinning material I was exploring - from Hamlet to Mamet. His response and interest was an incredible gift for me, and as a man he's an incredible reference point for what's possible with care and commitment.

Q: I see the way you light up when you talk of your father as well. Where does that come from?

SS: The man's so fun, and he's outrageous. I only got to see him during the summers growing up but I could always tell him anything - and that makes for authentic relationship. He's manifested this incredible life where he travels the world, and lives on the beach in Hawaii writing books and teaching. His class is the most requested. I've been sitting in on it since I was 2 years old, and I'll still go sit in when I'm there. He's a great story teller, and when he talks about religions (he's a professor of comparative religions, and specializes in India) it's romantic and funny, it's metaphorical and actual - to me it's like poetry. There's nothing better than seeing someone masterful at what they do. Even if you don't like basketball, you can't help but appreciate the way Michael Jordan moves. My father is like the Michael Jordan of educators on the world's religions - he makes it seductive and cool, comprehensible and relevant...and often he's hilarious. It seems he lives in some sort of groove with the rhythm of life -- like he's living in the Tao. And his sense of humor is awesome. There was a time when I was about 9, when we'd go up to the University in the middle of the night and take the video player home to rent a movie, and so we rented the film, and he cooked something, and there was this big excitement about the doing of the whole thing. Then when we got home he spilled a beer into the top of the TV and the glass burst out the front, and the whole thing lit on fire. He was a bit panicked about it but laughing, laughing the whole time. I mean this is the adventure, this is humor, seeing it in all the ridiculous things that happen. I mean it's a choice, you can find the humor or not, and isn't the world cool when you do.