Friday, April 15, 2016 5:03 PM
“Auugh!”, as Charlie Brown used to say
—Though I prefer the traditional “Grrr!”
“Doh!” sez Homer Simpson—though I like a solid “Damn!”
On Firefly they say “Fracking” when they might as well say “Darn”.
I say “Golly-Gosh” a lot, ‘cause I know it won’t do no harm.
But if I’m really in a huff a give a loud “Harrumph!”
Just so you’ll know I’m pretty close to losing all my shit.
‘Cause when I get to swearing there’s no telling when I’ll quit.
Saturday, April 16, 2016 12:24 PM
Lately I’ve been getting a busy signal from my brain—‘temporarily out of order’, ‘please wait—maintenance in progress’—whatever it is that makes my brain useless for anything except self-preservation. But today I’ve awoken with the feeling of fresh canvas—as if my brain is saying ‘yes, of course you can be creative—what are you waiting for?’
It’s kinda like when my hands are too shaky—I can’t play the piano, no matter how much I want to or how hard I try—but in a larger sense, in that my head is the ‘shaky’ part and if I push it, only garbage comes out. But as I say, today—fresh canvas, clear sailing, blue skies—however one puts it. And I don’t know where to start—should I just relish this feeling of power and potential for a while or should I jump right in and start doing?
Creativity cuts both ways—I can revel in sumptuous daydreams, just privately enjoying my own imagination—or I can attempt to hitch my Pegasus to some earthly activity—a poem, a drawing, an improv—which is a greater adventure, but has its pitfalls. My head is signaling that my creative juices are once again flowing—but I’ve yet to hear from the body, which decides every day on a different amount of gas in the tank.
Some days the body fairly screams for activity—pushing me out the door for a walk around the block, or doing a little spring cleaning on some especially dusty part of my work area. This is rare, though. Most days I’m lucky if I have the wherewithal to do some CD-ripping while I sit here typing. I complain about having to do this but truthfully I’m grateful for a little busy-work that falls within my competency—and I kinda dread the day when I’m done with the ripping. There’s something reassuring about having some simple job to do whenever I feel idle—feeling totally useless is one of the great drawbacks to disability. It can really eat away at your self-image.
Posting a poem, picture, or recording can be very satisfying—it feels like an accomplishment. Getting responses, in the form of likes, shares, or comments, really adds to that feeling—but sometimes the total lack of response can undo all that good feeling. Often, in desperation, I’ll ask Claire to look at my post and give me an opinion—she usually reassures me that I haven’t wasted my time. I have to be careful—I want attention—to a point—but not so much attention that I feel obliged to return that attention to others—I want to be admired without the hassle of admiring someone else’s stuff. I’m self-involved—what can I say?
Most people see a lack of energy as the inability to get sweaty doing hard work—it’s so much more than that. The brain uses energy—a chess player burns more calories than a weight-lifter. And that energy goes into learning, into appreciating what others do, and in doing your own stuff. Without energy, I learn less and am less interested in what others are doing—so when I do my own stuff, it’s claustrophobic—I’m trying to weave new patterns by rearranging old memes. Back in my healthy days, my creativity was a response to the torrent of new input of ideas, images, and concepts found in the world around me—now I’m trying to squeeze creativity out of a vacuum of house-bound, isolated idleness. The law of diminishing returns stands as a specter, always at my elbow.
I wouldn’t dwell on it—but there really is an exclusion that comes with age. I can’t hang out at a college student union or a local bar or any of the places that I remember enjoying—I’ve outgrown them—and even if I don’t accept that, the young people there will let me know in no uncertain terms just how out of place they consider an old geezer at their haunts. In a private setting, good manners usually prevent anyone from rubbing it in—but out in public, the elderly stand out. I think the sight of old people makes the young uncomfortable—we are proof that their fantasy will someday metamorphose into something like us—and with us out of sight, they are protected from that unpleasantness.
People fear death and wonder why—since it comes to everyone. But age is the real boogeyman—just as inevitable, sooner arrived at, and visibly uncomfortable—death is a mysterious and sudden end to everything, but age is a lingering torture of diminishments—activity, freedom, and comfort all shrinking with each year. Sure, it builds character like nobody’s business—but once your character has finished building itself, what then? Like T. S. Eliot says, we acquire a perfect understanding of our lives, just when it has gotten past time for that understanding to do us any good.
One’s children are a temptation—how easy it would be to try to attach myself to their lives, to make a surrogate life for myself by intruding in theirs—there’s no end of excuses I could make—my experience, my knowledge of the world and of people, a lifetime of skill and wisdom. But by doing that, I’ll only delay the time when they begin to think for themselves—by ‘helping’ them forward, I’d really be pushing them somewhere I never got to, for my own reasons—it just wouldn’t do.
No, age is the ultimate hard lesson—there’s nothing you can do but learn it—if you struggle against it, it just makes you look foolish.
Sunday, April 17, 2016 5:32 PM
I just finished a very difficult piece by Scarlatti—something I’ve practiced for decades and today was the best stab at it I ever took—so when I finished, I stood up and said, “Where’s my thunderous applause? Why don’t I hear thunderous applause? Something’s gone terribly wrong if I’m not hearing thunderous applause—and I’m not hearing thunderous applause—heads will roll.” In this way I comfort myself for doing well in an empty room. And of course I didn’t have the camera on—but that’s a funny story.
I recorded a quick trifle in the front room, and brought the camera into the living room, where the baby grand is, but then decided not to set it up and turn it on. I told myself, “You know, if you turn the camera on, somewhere there’ll be a noise—and you’ll get upset that the recording is ruined—and it’ll be a whole thing—so just leave the camera off.” So I did. And, boy, did I call it—the world’s most annoying dishwasher timer went off about twenty times before it finally quit—but I was able to just keep playing—because no one else was listening and I didn’t give a damn about the timer myself. I love it when I’m right. But that’s when I was comfortable enough to play the Scarlatti, to a marked lack of thunderous applause. You win, you lose, I always say.
Murder on 34th Street
This brings me to “Miracle on 34th Street”—the bane of atheists everywhere. I just caught the last half of it—the modern, Mara Wilson version. I prefer the original, Natalie Wood version—but this 1994 version is even more devastating to atheists. The trouble with “Miracle on 34th Street” is that it addresses the biggest problem for atheists—what about the children?
The central theme is encapsulated in this quote from the film: “If you can’t accept anything on faith, then you’re doomed for a life dominated by doubt.” Or, even worse, this one: “If this court finds that Mr. Kringle is not who he says he is, that there is no Santa, I ask the court to judge which is worse: A lie that draws a smile or a truth that draws a tear.” We can use a ‘get tough’ policy when we are speaking to adults—but what about children?
We parents want to give our children something to believe in—nothing has caused me more doubt and worry than to raise our children without any religion—not because I believe in one of them, but because it is Santa Claus on steroids—something to believe in with a vengeance, as it were. I yearned to offer my children this imaginary comfort—and if I could have offered them the magic without all the poison it contains, I would have. Yet in the final analysis religion’s darkness outweighs the sparkle of fairy dust—I couldn’t indoctrinate my children into one of those shams and still look at myself in a mirror.
I was often tempted to lie to my children while they were growing up—some of the questions they asked made me sick to answer truthfully—because people can get very ugly—and the ugliest of them seem to gravitate towards the money and the power, thus shaping our society far more than the wishes of the vast majority ever enter into it. We live in a world where the unethical is often legal and the ethical is always bad business. To prepare our children to meet that world we have to warn them of some of the worst humanity has to offer—not that I laid it on that thickly, but even the barest outlines of society can be unpleasant to explain to innocents. This is especially true when you live to see a smile on their faces.
So, as pleasant as it might have been to spin them a yarn about angels and doves and pearly gates, I gave them the truth as I saw it. I don’t regret it. There are some nasty people out there who profess a strong faith in god—and if you ask them they’ll tell you all about him—some of them even talk to him. I’d have been damned if I was going to raise my kids to be prey for those types of crazies.