Michael's Monthly Column "Throwing My Loop"

Throwing My Loop…    

By:  Michael Johnson  



     The Assyrians and Babylonians told the tale long before, but the first written record of the story comes to us in written form from the Roman poet, Ovid.  In his tenth book of Metamorphosis – written over 2,000 years ago - Ovid weaves the spellbinding tale of Pygmalion, a sculptor, who carves a statue of his ideal woman from ivory.  He names her Galatea, meaning “she who brings the light.”  Venus takes pity on him, and she turns the lifeless nothing into a living thing…and Pygmalion finds his love.  And from this great myth, we learn a great message…that something wonderful can come from what appears to be nothing
     In 1912, the Irish playwright, George Bernard Shaw, sets the tale in London and we watch as Professor Henry Higgins transforms Eliza Dolittle into a new creature.  In 1964, Shaw’s play, Pygmalion, provided the basis for Lerner and Loewe’s musical, My Fair Lady.  And we watch, after all these years…still spellbound.
     I have always been far more interested in underdogs than showdogs.  After all, I was the former and while never quite becoming the latter, I did change my ways.  Later in life, I began to wonder why.  Still later, I began to wonder why does anyone?  Why do some people continue to waste their lives, and yet others make at least an attempt to turn their lives around for the better.  Why is that?  I’ve seen it in countless horses and even in working stock dogs.  They are utterly worthless for the longest time, then suddenly they become something new…something that cares and tries.  The answer was always in the story… 
     A Pygmalion came into their life.
     I always recommend to…well, anyone who will listen - that if we want to learn how to help  - how to reach people, or indeed, reach any living creature, one should get a big bag of popcorn, turn the sound way up, and watch all – the entire three hours - of My Fair Lady.  Certainly for the costumes, the music, and the so clever dialogue, but more importantly, from the perspective of how it is we help another reach their potential.  Ovid’s words – and Shaw’s – are full of meaning, such rare wisdom, and clear truths, that if we pay deep attention, we cannot help but be moved to a new place.  A place where we become better at doing the best thing we can do…help our brother and sister become more.
     At this point, someone always says, “But you can’t make someone want to.  You can’t open up someone’s mind and heart and pour in desire.  You can’t motivate another.  Motivation has to come from within.  A person has to want to.”  That is a seductive way to think.  Reminds me of the old joke about how many psychologists does it take to change a light bulb? 
Ans. “One…but the light bulb has to want to change.”
There are some people on this earth who can help that light bulb want to change.
     I know that we can.  I know because it was done to me, and I’m betting it was done to you.  Someone made you feel differently about your self.  When someone believes in us before we believe in ourselves, we want to more than we once did.  That is the moment we begin to become more.  In Faust, Goethe says, “Correction is good.  Encouragement is better.”  That’s what Henry Higgins does for Eliza.  He knows she can do it, and when she hears his words, and begins to believe…her soul opens it’s sleepy eyes.
     It’s true of humans.  It’s true of horses.
     In the early so troubled days with the horse called Shine, he used Pygmalion to help me see what he needed…
     “Here’s Miguel’s problem,” he says.  “It’s in Pygmalion you know.  It’s right there.  He just can’t see it yet.  But if he ever does, things will be different.  It’s right there when Eliza says, ‘That was the beginning of self-respect for me.  You see, the difference between a lady and a flower girl isn’t how she behavesit’s how she’s treated.” 
Then Shine adds, “Ain’t it a shame Miguel doesn’t know that’s true of roping horses, too?”


                                                                                               --Michael Johnson

 Ed. Note:  In January of 2012, RFD-TV’s All Around Performance Horse TV, and Roping and Riding with Tyler Magnus, will broadcast the first embedded segment of The Advice Barn, a viewer call-in show hosted by Dr. Harry Anderson, with featured guests, Dr. Michael Johnson, and Dr. J. D. Norris.
The Advice Barn is sponsored by Total Feeds, Inc. maker of Total Equine, Dr. Harry Anderson’s creation of an all-purpose feed designed for the horse.  Total Feeds, Inc. sold thousands of tons of Total Equine last year.




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