When I was younger, I heard about some of the details of organ transplants—that the recipient had to take pills for the rest of his or her life to keep the body from rejecting the organ. As a healthy young man I thought, how awful—I’d just as soon pass on the whole thing. Imagine having to remember to take pills every day. And what if there was an apocalypse, huh? No more pills factories—bye-bye, little post-apocalyptic transplant patient! It would hardly be living at all, I thought.
I don’t know if I took my morning pills. A handful of pills in the morning, a different handful at night, continue ad naseum until you reach a fog of backward spiraling memories of having taken pills, pills, pills. Result: I have no idea if I took my morning pills—and they’re the important ones, though oddly enough I’m not referring to the prescription morning pills, but the OTC remedies for 24-hr acid suppression pills and anti-squirts pills (alas, I blush to admit!) The lack of them often prompts me to the realization that morning pills remain untaken, one way or another.
But you know how it is—fourteen hours of sleep, ten hours of relative consciousness—the metabolism of a coma victim, most days. So that morning problem lags behind, lurking ever nearby. And if I err on the side of caution, I get sick from doubling up on all those meds—it’s either be sure, or endure.
I amazed myself earlier with a passable read-through of a piano transcription of the second movement of Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony—made it all the way to the end (which, if not a first, is certainly a second-time achievement). I’m always surprised by the amount of playing I can do when I stay relaxed.
Strangely, staying relaxed while playing the piano takes focus—not a tense focus, but a floatation type of focus, noticing ‘rigidity-creep’ and willing the muscles to be slack, or at least slacker, and maintaining a posture that is most supportive for my exertions, reducing the amount of muscle required to keep me upright and redirecting that power towards the arms.
And while that may sound very alert, it is only possible if one is quiet and not agitated. I do best upon waking in the morning, or from a nap. I pretend that I don’t care what goes on around me—I am in the living room, after all—but the simple truth is that silence is the best canvas to paint music on. So, half asleep, in a silent room, without the camcorder watching, I can do wonders. Too bad their nature makes them impossible to reproduce in front of other people, or even a camera lens—if people could only hear some of the stuff I get up to when I’m really on my game—oh, well. It’s good to have a private life—one has got to hold something back—and for a chatter-box like myself, being physically unable to display my best is the best (and only) way I can hold anything back—so that works out, if I look at it that way.
‘Twas ever thus’, as my dad used to say—I could draw a crowd while sketching in my pad in the old days—and an audience was an exciting addition to my sketches al fresco, especially at school, where cool points were counted. But my best drawing only ever happened in complete solitude—without interruption. Nor can I sparkle in conversation with the sort of easy erudition I can voice at the keyboard—like now, fr’instance—I could never sling this verbiage orally. It is only possible because I am alone and comfortable—and when I am not, nothing is possible. I have poor social skills, to put it mildly.
But peace of mind is vital. Whenever I’m worried, it gets in the way of my piano playing—being open enough to play and feel the music means being open to stray thoughts and when I’m worried, a whole flock will rush in. Sometimes it’s so bad I forget I’m playing the piano—weird, huh? You’d think a person would forget their troubles at the piano—but it’s just the opposite. But there’s a silver lining to the ‘peace of mind’ conundrum—when I read a good book I lose all awareness of my surroundings; I grow deaf to even loud noises; I am enthralled.
I couldn’t be more inside the story—I am a very good reader. To be a ‘good’ reader is a vague term—I’m specifically very good at vicarious experience. And as I look back at a lifetime’s book-worming, I’d say that my vicarious experience very likely exceeds both my conscious experience and my subconscious experience, i.e. I’ve spent more time lost in a book than I’ve spent not reading a book, or sleeping. Other people may talk about vicarious experience, but none who haven’t travelled in the world of books can ever truly understand its meaning.
I’ve often had occasion, upon being asked how my day went, for stopping myself from describing the adventures of the character in my book, and remembering to answer, “Just read a book, is all.” Here’s a good one—have you ever been reading about someone speeding through a dark woods and felt your eyes squint up at the danger of being poked by ‘twigs’? Have you ever eventually noticed a cramp in your arm from swinging a long-sword for so long in a ‘battle’? Then I hail you brother, or sister, in the Fellowship of the reaDing.