Happiness Is Music   (2016Oct25)

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Tuesday, October 25, 2016                                               11:55 PM

On the one hand, I could hate myself for becoming too old to have any ambition in music any longer; but on the other hand, I’m not so sure the intensity of my grasping for music was entirely helpful. There are certain aspects of my piano playing today that I believe are enhanced by my lack of fixation on exactly what I’m doing. I’ve always known that certain activities are done best when least thought of—and music is certainly a great example of that, but I’ve only recently seen certain aspects of that which have ‘held me back’ to a degree.

I always knew my physical limitations would hold me back in piano-playing. So it wasn’t until I accepted that, at sixty, I had probably reached wherever my physical abilities would take me, that I became aware of some mental limitations I had placed on myself—at least in the way I thought of my playing as it related to making sounds. Music is such a wonderful gift—it changes with maturity, always morphing into something more richly-layered, like one’s self, but never degenerating, like one’s body does.

So I accept that the music I play today is as good as it will get. It’s not as much as I hoped for, but it’s far more than I ever dreamed of, back when I started. It has been both a challenging and comforting companion—the best kind of friend.

Today I played a nice long improv. I’m not sure what it sounded like, so, we’ll see.

 

Then I played a bunch of classical arrangements for piano. Three of them were decent enough to post.

 

Then I played a little ‘trailer’ at the end.

 

So much for the musical portion of my day.

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Wednesday, October 26, 2016                                         6:29 PM

The Enemy of My Enemy   (2016Oct26)

It’s funny—here we are with two weeks left—everyone’s pretty sure of the outcome of the election—more than that, everyone’s pretty clear that Trump was an evil anomaly—a thing that we narrowly avoided mistaking for a fit candidate. Yet one can still hear conservative pundits talking about his policies—as if he ever had any firm, practical, thought-out policies in the first place—and as if it still matters now, with early voting heavily in Hillary’s favor. Trump is fortunate to find the Republicans so in denial, and so blindly partisan, that nothing he says or does prevents most of them from pushing for the defeat of their arch-enemy, Hillary Clinton.

And this seems indicative to me. The Republicans have adopted an unhealthy habit of using any old rationale, provided it is anti-Democrat, and calling it a policy. The fact that these policies are impractical (like building a wall and deporting millions) or unconstitutional (like banning a religious group) or just plain crazy (like “bomb the hell out of them”) doesn’t seem to matter as much as whether  a policy can be used to beat Democrats over the head. The blind partisanship, and nearly overt bigotry and sexism that lies at the heart of conservatism, have shed the restrictions of logic, science, and sense.

The influence of money hangs over both parties, but the Republicans seem to favor the plutocrats philosophically, as well—as if they approve of a classist view of the citizenry. This hit-or-miss business of the American Dream was like winning the lottery, even back when it had more frequent examples. To think that we can go along as we have been, with people being helpless in the face of big businesses, just so we retain the illusion of economic mobility—is to ignore the oncoming waves of change that will make employment a very different, and much less common thing than we are used to.

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Republicans and Capitalists see the system as set in stone. Their focus is entirely on the status quo and the quarterly forecasts. They fear the true future—the reality behind their pushy forecasts—because time is no respecter of wealth or property or law. The Democrats (the good ones, at least) are more willing to face the future, and to say that people have rights that transcend profit.

When Democrats attempt to enact social safety nets, business regulation, or consumer protection, the Republicans always claim that the government does these things badly—and that the free market would do all this naturally, given free rein. This is false. It reminds me of a time when I was a young man working for my father’s company. I went to him and asked for a raise—I told him I couldn’t afford to live on my current salary. He replied that the company doesn’t pay people what they need—it pays people what they’re worth. (He could be a real hard-ass sometimes.)

Now, in a business paradigm, that makes perfect sense. But as a person on disability now—a person, in other words, who is worth nothing to a company—I can tell you that the free market doesn’t care if you are happy or sad, alive or dead—all it knows is mathematics. The Republicans get partial credit for their claim, however, because it is indeed rare that a government program runs any better than a square-wheeled bicycle.

Still, politics makes everything into a win/lose proposition. If a program isn’t perfect, it’s worthless. If a program is working, you shouldn’t criticize it. This is all very ineffectual and immature nonsense. Outside of political speeches, it is obvious to all of us that if something important doesn’t work, you don’t throw it out—you fix it. And one thing the Republicans don’t make a lot of noise about is this: government programs are complicated as much by wealthy influences and corporate lobbyists as they are by their inherent complexities.

And the whole ‘small government’ argument—please. You don’t hear Russia or China talking about ‘small government’. Our beloved Constitution is the rule-book for our government, such as it is, so we have to have government. And if we have a government, shouldn’t we have a good one, rather than a small one? What is the virtue of small, in the context of the 21st century? It would be nice to pretend we all live on our own farms, and don’t need no G-men snooping around—but that was two centuries ago. These fifty modern states, plus assorted territories, need an up-to-date, fully-functioning government—and anyone who wants it otherwise is a fool or a traitor.

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When you don’t know if you’re being hacked by the Chinese, the Russians, or the North Koreans—do you want small government? When hurricane surges flood New York City—do you want small government? When the Republicans extol the virtues of small government, they are cheering for the idea that businesses can make a profit from abusing people’s trust—but only if the government turns a blind eye. That’s what ‘small government’ means to big business—and that’s why Republicans campaign on it. I’ll believe them when they start to advocate for ‘small military’. You don’t hear that one much, do you? ‘Small government’, my ass—the freedom to rip us off, more like.

What I really can’t understand is why people are so willing to believe the worst of Hillary Clinton. Have you seen The West Wing, or Madame Secretary, or Scandal? To be a politician, even a well-meaning one, you have to play the game—and it’s a rough game. When the Alt-Righters try to blow up her every machination into a demonic conspiracy, it works much better on Hillary than it ever did on anyone else. Why is that? I can never see the point.

Is it the old female catch-22—that if they’re tough, they’re crazy bitches, and if they’re not tough, they can’t handle a man’s world—is it that bullshit? Maybe partly—but I’ll tell you my theory: you remember how we went for good ol’ boys for our last four presidents? Bush Sr., Bill, and Bush, Jr. were none of’em geniuses—and Obama got away with being smart by being so darned charismatic no one noticed. But in all those elections, there were smart, capable, but non-charismatic eggheads that would have made decent presidents—and we practically thumped our chests in defiance, as if to say, “We don’t need any pencil-necked geeks running this place.”

And now we are stuck with Hillary—smarter than us, more reliable than us, harder-working than us—of course everyone hates Hillary. We’re all looking around for a president we can ‘have a beer with’—the most important credential America knows of, in a president. The candidate we want is missing—and boy are we ticked off that we have to vote for the candidate we need. We’ve never made a practical choice for president before—and wouldn’t you know it—it’s a woman this time. Ooh, my aching back.

That’s my theory. The presidency gives one person too much power—we can live with that, but we’re sure not going to vote for someone who’s smarter than us—that’s a step too far. Fortunately, most voters will (as they say on the news constantly) ‘hold their noses’ and vote for her. As if…—Hey, we’re lucky to have Hillary—take a look at the guts of your I-phone and tell me it’s okay for America to have a moron for president.

I have to laugh when the Republicans bow to the inevitable, and tell people to vote for Hillary for president, but to make sure they vote Republican on the down-ballots—to keep a ‘check’ on her power. Yes, sure—the woman whose life has been all about helping children and families—be afraid of what she might do—be very afraid. Meanwhile, we’re supposed to re-elect the bunch that thought stymying every initiative of President Obama’s, just because he’s black, was a great idea—oh, yes—let’s put them back in Congress, by all means. Although, personally, I think they should all be lined up and shot. Effing traitors.

The Republicans are just Trump-Lite—they both advocate the same things—testing us to see how self-destructively stupid a lie can be, and still work on the electorate. The Republicans never win an election because they are right, they win because we are stupid enough to believe their lies.

What no one talks about is the Russian interference in our election. Why are they doing this? Well, let’s see—they’re only attacking Clinton—not one email from the Trump camp. Can we deduce anything from this? It seems to me that they want Hillary to lose. Why would the Russians want Hillary to lose? Maybe they’re afraid of her. If they were afraid of Trump, they’d be trying to sabotage Trump’s campaign. But they don’t care about any other candidate—just Hillary. Am I the only one who sees some significance in that?

I think they’re afraid of her. If I were Russia, I would be afraid of Hillary. She’s gonna shut down their little expansion party—she’s gonna stare them down and, if need be, shove a cruise missile up their asses. You don’t mess with Hillary. Trump hasn’t gotten any endorsements to speak of in this campaign—it’s a shame that Putin is the only one who wants him to win. Thus, the Wikileaks are something of an endorsement for Hillary, if you think about it. The enemy of my enemy is my friend.

Happiness Is   (2016Jan24)

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Sunday, January 24, 2016                                        11:51 AM

Unhappiness can seem like a deep pit from which there is no escape—but then something happens and happiness dawns—we look back and see that the shadows that surrounded our thoughts have all dispersed, that nothing is quite so bad as it seemed—that life is, in fact, good. And this happens to us whether we are rich or poor, lonesome or crowded, silly or distinguished.

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The difference is that unhappiness has reasons—ask anyone who is down and they’ll tell you the many reasons for their dismay. Ask someone why they’re happy, however, and they’ll tell you they don’t know—they just are. Is happiness merely an escape from reason? That’s entirely possible—there are plenty of reasons for worry—happiness may be simply the ability to transcend the knowledge that all life ends, that all things must pass, that human beings are not always nice people.

Consider intoxication-it’s got ‘toxic’ right there in the word—we poison ourselves with alcohol, etc. to escape from reason, to become happy. Consider the song lyric: “Forget your troubles, come on, get happy.”—we are not told to solve our problems, just to forget them. Happiness isn’t the absence of trouble, it’s the ignoring of trouble.

This brings us to the somewhat insane conclusion that happiness is not about conditions, it’s about attitude—we can be miserable in total comfort, and we can be happy in a snake pit—how we feel doesn’t necessarily match what we feel. So be happy—nothing can stop you. Just don’t go to your friends’ funerals that way—sometimes we are obligated to be unhappy. On the other hand, don’t be unhappy at a party—nobody likes a wet blanket.

To some degree, happiness comes from being busy—being busy is like being intoxicated—things happen, we get distracted from our thoughts, and happiness can spring out of any corner of our minds. That’s why being idle is so depressing—our unhappiness is uninterrupted and we need to be interrupted to remind us that happiness is an option. Loneliness and idleness are dangerous because they form pools of uninterrupted unhappiness—no distractions.

Charity and charitable works, likewise, do not make us happy because we are being ‘good’, they make us happy because they keep us busy thinking about someone else. But nothing makes us happier than danger—life is never so sweet as when death has been recently avoided. Life is so friggin weird.

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Behind The Façade   (2015Apr17)

Friday, April 17, 2015                                              1:05 PM

Yesterday I wrote a long tirade about lies. I didn’t mean for it to be a tirade—I intended to lay out my thoughts plainly, like a diagram. But when lies are the source of wars or murders or false imprisonments, it’s hard to keep cool while discussing the subject. The thing is—yeah, all that stuff is bad—very, very bad, but—I wanted to get at something behind the outrage. I wanted to discuss the effects.

You see, when I was ten years old, it suddenly occurred to me that my CCD classes were illogical. I didn’t think of it that way—Star Trek was still five years from its pilot episode. What I really thought was, “God, if you’re out there—talk to me. If you don’t talk to me, what good are you?” But no lightning struck me. Then I thought, “God, you’re a jerk.” Still no lightning. Over time it became clear that no response was coming, no matter how I felt about God. I’m a very literal sort of person, so discovering (after all the sermons and classes and nuns’ talk) that real life gave no actual indication of God made a real impact on me.

At the time, I became an agnostic. I was still possessed of enough faith in my elders to figure I might be missing something. But my world was full of bullies, mean brothers, angry parents, and strict teachers. There were plenty of real threats in my environment—so a threat that never manifested itself, like ‘God’s wrath’, was unconvincing, to say the least. It wasn’t until later, when I realized that ‘institutional lies’ were a feature of society, that I became a full-on atheist.

Ever since, I’ve been alert to any aspect of society that ‘runs on bullshit’. Religion is the big winner in that category, but Wealth, Fame, Cool, and many other illusions also make up a large part of our worldview. I’ve never achieved any of these things, but I have experienced little mini-demonstrations of them—and I’ve been horrified by the resulting changes in how others saw me and in how I saw myself.

I had slight upticks in my income, or had brief periods of localized notoriety, and was annoyed by the change in other peoples’ treatment of me—and how it made me feel funny about myself. Yet I made no connection—I still assumed that Wealth or Fame were desirable. It wasn’t until I’d seen how those ‘dreams’ could destroy so many people who achieved them that I realized that my own experiences had been warnings from reality. I think, deep down, we all know that Wealth, Fame, etc. are bad things, but we don’t let that stop us from wanting them. Maybe it’s the suggestion of power inherent in these ideas of ‘success’ that make them so tantalizing—I don’t know.

Alternatively, it could be the suggestion of comfort that attracts us to Wealth, Fame, or Status—comfort is first-cousin to happiness—and everyone wants happiness. But then we find that these illusions of success don’t really offer comfort, they offer options—and there’s nothing so uncomfortable as too many options. Rich people can loll on a hammock all day if they wish—but they have to choose to lie on a hammock out of the countless other options that rich people have before them—and guess how often they actually choose the hammock.

In the case of Fame, we tend to assume that loneliness is a sad thing and, therefore, popularity is preferable. Yet again, we find that Fame attracts attention, not companionship—famous people regularly find themselves feeling lonelier than ever, even while standing amid a mob of admirers.

The lesson here, to my mind, is that we should be wary of approximations when dealing with our hopes and dreams. Wealth, Fame, Power—these things are close to some very desirable ends, but in the end they manifest as something completely different—something bad. Real satisfaction and contentment come from things that are far less exciting to describe—a loving family, a close friend, a steady income, friendly neighbors, etc.

These things seem pretty achievable, don’t they? Oddly enough, the hard part to finding real happiness is in losing our obsession with these ‘mirages’ of success, the Wealth and Fame and whatnot. It isn’t until we abandon the struggle to be ‘King of the World’ that we find ourselves kings of our own little worlds. But there is no pleasanter surprise in life than to find that, while you can’t have it all, you already have enough.

My personal growth has involved recognizing many such ‘mirages’ (or lies, if you wish) and figuring out how to avoid falling for them without forgetting that other people still give them credence—that other people, in fact, make these ‘mirages’ the mainstay of their goals in life. But the point of atheism is not to make fun of people who take their religion seriously. And the point of having good friends is not to ridicule the rich and famous. If my values contain an inherent condemnation of someone else’s values, that doesn’t obligate me to attack those people. It’s called pluralism. And pluralism is invaluable in a world that is not only complex in actual fact, but made infinitely more so by layers of pretense.

Lately I’ve started to wonder about the circuitous mental paths produced by society’s mélange of truths, half-truths and lies. Social critics have recently observed that we always add to legislation, but we spend no effort on revising the existing laws, or repealing obsolete ones—this results in a justice system that chokes on its own accretion of ever more laws on top of laws.

It occurs to me that education is also overburdened with an accretion of details. I saw an article the other day that described a new technique of schooling where the Subject category was dropped—all classes were just classes. Every class could include more than one ‘subject’ and could more easily teach the connections between one ‘subject’ and another. By removing the artificial category of Subject, the educators streamline the students’ thought-processes, making them more organic thinkers.

This seems like a promising experiment. But it would be far more difficult to remove ‘categories’ from our social perceptions. Figuring out how to live our lives will probably always include navigating the various illusions of many cultures and beliefs. It’s rather breathtaking to realize that what can be nonsense to me is, to someone else, the very point of existence—or vice versa. Pluralism is some heavy lifting, at times.

And it means that we can kiss the idea of ‘simple solutions’ goodbye. Simplicity is definitely not humanity’s strong suit—so beware of impatience and frustration. Some of humanity’s most horrific crimes have been committed by frustrated people who have decided to ‘cut the Gordian knot’—to simplify the solution to a problem—that’s how we get to genocide, war, slavery—all kinds of bad stuff results from the impulse to ‘just fix it’.

Life, by and large, is much more about the doing than what gets done. It’s more about the journey than the destination. This is easily illustrated—the final result of everyone’s life is death—a rather useless achievement, unless there was some joy and beauty and love along the way. Corporations are famously focused on their ‘bottom line’, their profits. How transparently worthless this is. The experiences of the employees, their relationships, how their work impacts society—all the things that really matter are ignored. Corporations thus become paragons of imbecility. Now most people are forced to choose how they make a living without regard for personal fulfillment—we might as well as stayed with ‘hunting and gathering’ if all we wanted was to survive. I won’t even go into the idiotic emptiness of ‘corporate culture’. There, I think the word ‘culture’ refers not to the sense of a social-paradigm so much as the sense of a fungus, a mindless culture formed in a petri dish. The Dilbert comic strip is funny because modern corporate, cubicle culture is synonymous with insanity. Ha friggin’ ha.

I’ve even begun to question The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. I’ve watched that show religiously, every night, even back when Craig Kilbourn was the host. But now I’m starting to wonder—is it really a good thing to have that relief, to laugh off the overwhelming insanity of modern life? Would it not be better to let ourselves become well and truly outraged? The globe is in crisis—and the people in charge should more properly be in an asylum. What’s so funny about that?

Confusion Rampant (2014Jun05)

Hello, everyone. I’ve been getting my meds adjusted recently. Many trips for tests and exams and sonograms–but all is as expected–I shall live… although it has certainly cut into my video-making time, not to mention the time to sit at the piano and make the recordings–but I hope you can sense the increased clarity of mind in these two pieces.

 

 

This one was recorded several days ago but, as I said, I’ve been too distracted to edit and post it.

 

 

Hope you liked it!