All Together Now

Another day, another rehearsal. More study, more practicing. And for all but the most independent and reclusive researchers or out-and-out hermits, this means work done in company. We need each other. The best progress is usually possible only with the support and aid of collaborators and fellow workers in all kinds of related tasks. We build on the work of our predecessors and colleagues; we stand on the shoulders of others.digital illustration from a photo

Nowhere is the necessity of such mutuality, of working very literally in concert, truer than in choirs and orchestras. I have written here plenty of times about the privileges and joys of my life in being able to attend not only so many wonderful concerts but the rehearsals where they are prepared. Beyond that, though, I feel fortunate to have the example and reminder constantly before me of an approach that can be tremendously beneficial in all kinds of life’s activities: surrounding myself with all of the resources that smart and able and collegial, supportive fellow laborers can bring to the task.digital illustration from a photo

Time alone is valuable. It offers all sorts of useful room for quiet reasoning and planning, uninterrupted cogitation and problem-solving, and the mental and emotional space to put all of those aspects to work for me. But there would be little in the way of material with which I can do any of that if it weren’t for the rich stores of fact and imagination prepared by all of those who have preceded me in any task I choose, and there can be only the kind of progress that my own limited stores of wisdom and experience, skill and talent and imagination can cobble together if I don’t work in tandem with others. So I am happy to enlist all of the company I can, and aim for working in harmony toward whatever purposes we can dream and achieve. Then, perhaps, my projects will have a chance of culminating in choruses of satisfied approbation.

Make a Note of It

I do, and learn, new stuff all the time. I wish it’d stick with me! It seems my approach to learning is very much of the two-steps-forward-one-step-back variety, or possibly, one forward, two back, if I’m to be entirely truthful. So much seems like water flowing through a sieve in this ol’ brain of mine.

That is one of the prime forces that made me such an inveterate list-aholic. I fear that if I don’t have lists for every occasion and purpose, and lists of what those lists are, I am doomed to lose whatever motes of mindfulness I have collected in the course of my journeys. Not that lists aren’t perfectly able to be misplaced, forgotten and misinterpreted themselves.

There is probably no perfect solution to this problem. I end up thinking about my lists almost more than about the contents of them or what I might do with said contents, most especially avoiding the thought that if I spent the list-composing and writing time on simply doing what I am making notes to remind me to do, I might not even need the lists. Heresy.

What can I say. I am a pessimist: I don’t think I’ll ever find enough time in a day to get all that I want done accomplished. I am an optimist, too: I think that if I hold something so dearly important as to document its urgency on a list, surely I will someday get it done. Obviously, I am just a good old-fashioned, self-deluded fool. But I have a whole list of reasons that that’s okay and will still get me to my goals. Eventually.digital illustration

Low Energy? Who, Me?

photoNo no no no, not really. It’s just old age. Just kidding! It’s a too-busy schedule. Well, maybe it’s inefficiency. Or….

The truth is, it’s probably all of the above. Time, life and busyness always conspire to make me think I’m losing ground. I get those little spurts of activity from time to time and what do I do with them? I want to sleep. Chores and tasks can wait for another day, can’t they? I tell myself that life is short and I can sleep when I’m dead, but no matter how much I work to convince myself that Getting Things Done and being an accomplished, lively person is useful and maybe even important, I would still rather do that seemingly wasteful thing of sleeping long and deeply.

So if it looks like there’s a power shortage around when I’m in the room, you’re probably not mistaken. Whether it’s my advancing age, overbooked calendar, impractical approach to my schedule, or just that I’m a lazy beast doesn’t really matter. You can be as busy as you like and get all of that Important Stuff done at your own pace.

Please remember to turn out the lights when you leave the room!

Lesser Lights

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The major stars are always more visible than those around them. It’s demonstrably true not only in the galaxies but in the more modest constellations of humanity. Our attentions are naturally drawn toward those who shine most impressively and dramatically—for good or ill; those more modestly gifted or less showy mostly find their own lights muddled or even eclipsed by the intensity nearby, and as a result we seldom spot and take note of them.

Even those of us who are not only accustomed to, but also aware of, being humbled and diminished by comparison to others’ flashier character can easily forget how this applies to others. Just because I might feel neglected doesn’t necessarily mean I notice others being equally shortchanged; indeed, it’s more likely that if I’m feeling under-appreciated I get too preoccupied with my longing to be Special and resentful navel-gazing to think that I’m probably in the majority rather than otherwise.

Still, there’s hope. Just as a supernova will someday burn to nothingness, human stars tend mostly to flash into the general notice, burn however brightly for however long, and be dimmed by eventual inattention or death. They, too, will eventually be outshone and/or replaced by other stars whose time has come.

And if I, or any other, should in the meantime feel unreasonably hidden from sight, we are still free to seek our own bit of gleam. For some folk, that seeking comes in ambitions for accomplishment and fame. For the rest of us, the surest way to kindle the blazing fire that gives off sufficient heat and light to be noted by anyone else is to turn our focus outward. Devoting energy, attention and love to causes and works outside of our petty selves, and especially to other persons, is the spark that, when kindled in their spirits, creates the steadiest, most lasting kind of light. Even the smallest and weakest among us shines brightly in this tiny act of selfless will.digital illustration

I’m a Multilayered Person

Being complex doesn’t in any way guarantee that I’m special. But not being special doesn’t prove I’m meaningless, either. I have my uses.text + photo

Heroes & Icons

What if we memorialized every great person who ever existed with a monument? Would there be a spectacular array, an endless crowd of museums and statues, or would it be a pitifully paltry showing?

We are accustomed, most of us nowadays, to thinking of people celebrated for simple excellence as entertainers of various kinds as being iconic or heroic. Does this last? Of course it does–in some small few out of the thousands. Mostly, though, at some point it becomes easier to see through the facade of greatness to recognize natural, ordinary  mortality, albeit often tinged with real excellence. photoAnd what recognition and reverence do we afford the true human treasures among us? The teachers and nursing home attendants, the hard-working janitors and the patient and nurturing parents who all work without expectation of worthwhile recompense for the true betterment of the world? Imagine the world decorated with art and architecture honoring the dedicated fireman who didn’t die in a dramatic explosive fire while saving orphans but instead served faithfully as a firefighter in his town for twenty-six years before quietly retiring to a modest split-level where he keeps his two young grandkids under his loving, watchful eye after school until their mother gets home from work. Picture statues commemorating the great deeds of the quiet lady who owned the small neighborhood grocery and after a hundred-year storm opened it and gave away everything on the shelves to the neighbors so they could survive until the needed services could be reestablished.photoThe collection of dedicatory art might be a lot less flashy and showy. But if every real great among us were recognized in this way, there would surely be a whole lot bigger and more meaningful museum of marvels among us, wouldn’t there.

Inverted Vortices & Puzzling Phenomena

I realize that all of us living creatures are scientifically explainable up to a point. We are generally parts of the natural world and therefore part of what scientists study and attempt to suss out and, in some wonderful instances, they do manage to make great discoveries about just what we are and what makes us tick. But me, I don’t really get any of it.digital illustrationHow is it, for example, that I have all of the parts required for me to be athletic, and yet I have never become anything remotely like it despite any school-required or even occasionally, self-imposed, practices? I’ve seen incredible athleticism in people with far fewer obvious tools for the task, not to mention having a visibly smaller inventory of raw materials in the way of the commonly used senses—blind or hearing-impaired athletes, for example—or functional limbs: any Paralympic athlete could clearly trounce my trousers in a trice.

How come, with all of my commendable efforts at garnering a real school-based education and my various attempts as an autodidact, I’ve still got an ordinary intellect and not the mega brain I see in some who appear to have been born to create shade for my dim thoughts?

I say this not to complain but, surprisingly, because it impresses and even sometimes thrills me, this magical, miraculous existence that we have. It’s actually exciting to me to think that there is so much around me and about me that I can’t begin to explain or understand. It may drive me a little batty at times to realize, as I do increasingly with the passing of said time, how little I will or even can ever comprehend about who I am and how I fit into the universe, but then I catch one more glimpse of a star—human or celestial—and remember how fabulous, how inexplicably yet palpably rich, this life can be. And I am both humbled and exalted.digital illustration

Not Just Another Pretty Face

At some level, most of us—no matter how disdainfully we might pretend to look upon those Others who obsess over appearances—wish to be thought beautiful. We want to fit in with others, to belong in the pack, to be loved.photoOf course, we know that even those who do fit in do so if and as the hierarchy of the pack allows. We are put in our places and told who we are, where we belong, what we’re supposed to be doing, and why we should accept that fate as though it were a natural law. After all, we tend to believe that nature is fact-driven and therefore we, who are mere specks in its vastness, must play our little roles as prescribed in the absolutes of existence. We sit here and take it. In many ways, that’s a useful approach to life, because, well, nature does drive a lot of what is and what happens, and bucking that can be counterproductive or even quite dangerous. And worse, perhaps, such refusal to accept the norms others have agreed upon as right and correct and natural puts us on the fringes and at risk of rejection. Someone along the way is sure to reject the rebel or misfit. Someone will think I’m unfit or, yes, Ugly.photoIt’s a wonderful thing to remember that besides all of the weird and dangerous and unpleasant and otherwise negative possibilities in stepping outside of the normal and expected course of events or refusing to be other than myself in order to seem to fit in better where I really don’t, there are also a vast array of glorious and splendid maybes waiting out there for me to dare to reach for them. Much of what is good and beautifully new in the world happens because one person dared to think, do, and exist differently from the pack, the mass of ordinary people, and brought about an increment of change. How wonderful if I can shed my fears, my need for conformity borne of desire for universal acceptance, and become ever so slightly more notable, one little nth more dazzling, than I was when I was only hoping to be like all the other creatures that I knew.

Look What I’ve Done!

graphite drawingWhile I will readily admit to having laid an egg, and a prizewinner at that, many a time in my life, I have neither done so in physiological terms nor, as the bird in today’s illustration appears to have done, in the supernatural way that allows said egg to levitate spontaneously.

On the other hand (or wing), I have managed to score a few modest accomplishments of my own, which, while hardly supernatural, at least impressed the heck out of me. And I rarely, in these cases, fail to make the bragging announcement.

The most remarkable thing about all of this is not that I have ever accomplished anything at all (let alone worthy of note)–though this is indeed impressive enough–it’s that I may have once or twice done something moderately grand and not felt compelled to trumpet self-aggrandisement.

Or did I just cancel out that small virtue by saying so? It’s just so hard to be humble.digital illustration

Crawling & Leaping

photoDo or Die

I am not brave, not big and strong, and change gives me the creeps,

But when the moment comes along, my crawling turns to leaps,

Because my innate sense of time and self and hope, my drive,

My dreams and aspirations, climb and make me feel alive–photoSo much so that I can’t keep still, must jump right up, arise,

And spring to action, and I will push onward to the skies,

For all that lies ahead is unknown, hid, but what may be

Is great and magical and fun, is grand and wild and free–photoIf I don’t take that daring chance and forge ahead at speed,

How will I, short of happenstance, find anything I need,

Or grow, improve, achieve, emerge? How can my sorrows sleep?

I know I’d best just fight the urge to crawl, and rather, leap!digital illustration from a photo