To Sing a life worthy of the Sagas

Saga

Sing

I have frequently mused — to myself and others — that I would like to live a life worthy of being called Shakespearian; whether tragic, comedic, or both. Such thoughts have been in reaction against headlines on dating profiles which proudly proclaim ‘no drama’. Although I have often empathized with the intent in some cases — it’s like wanting to start a relationship fresh and free from the burden of the historical — the baggage of past relationships, for instance — as well as free from the burdens of the present. And part of me also likes the idea of travelling light in general.

But in terms of life and/or relationships, I also like keeping things real. For me that means a life filled with drama. Although the word ‘saga’ has a very specific literary application, it implies to me a very long tale of neverending battles, which are not always won by the protagonist — the race is not always to the swift. The protagonist does not always do the right thing, and the immortal/heavenly/divine/etc beings are just as foolish and errant as humans.

If it is often painful to attract people into my world who are so full of their own drama that they are neither free nor otherwise capable of giving more than a tiny fraction of self or existence to a relationship — yes, part of my own drama is that I can be a very needy soul — much of this pain has to do with not fully living and trusting in the drama that is my own destiny.

The last verse of a song that makes me cry as often as I sing it runs:

‘How then am I so different from the first men through this way?
Like them, I left a settled life, and threw it all away;
To seek a Northwest Passage at the call of many men,
To find there but the road back home again’

I have written previously of going south to find myself as well as to find and confront the antagonist in the sage of my search for happiness. The tears provoked by the song are at the realization that I’m also seeking the northwest passage, perhaps travelling in the wrong direction, longing for the road home but perhaps never to find it, whether I die en route or whether I just spend aeons trapped in the ice (and I do mean aeons — several lifetimes, perhaps).

So I keep singing the song, because the tears are therapeutic. I also sing it as a kind of mating call, because I know that the only lover I will keep for life is the one whose own life is a mirror of my saga, and therefore we will always be alternating between going south and seeking northwest passages, and not always together, even if my dream is to find a lover to live the sagas side by side — sometimes gazing into each others’ eyes, sometimes standing and gazing together at the antagonists ahead.

I want a love life to be a saga of battles and other bard-worthy dramas. Sometimes this means that we will live separate lives, as another song says. But when I find my lover, I know our love will go down in history. It should be no other way.

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The Brick Whisperer

Brick

I alluded in my last post to motivational interviewing. I’ve dealt with the experience of talking to brick walls far more often in my daily life than in my previous social work career. But to be fair: sometimes when people don’t respond, it’s because my own ideas are too much like half-baked blocks of clay to earn a response. If the converse seems true, that my listeners just seem too fully ‘baked’ to absorb anything I’ve said, the truth is probably often that they are just not motivated to respond with anything in particular.

And as I’ve mentioned, motivation is interpersonal.

So my aspiration (and this word implies that I have to be fully capable of breathing life into myself before sharing – or wasting – my breath with others) is to become someone who is capable of learning the language of bricks (and the walls from which they are built).

Maybe Reagan was a brick-whisperer.

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Pensi(e)ve

Pensive

It has now been just over a month on a new medication to jointly help with moods, anxieties and attention-span. I am at least certain that there has been more than just a placebo affect. Of course no medication is going to solve my problems, to be the ‘magic pill’ to help get my mind and life in order. When a life has become as chaotic as mine, though, radical means are essential.

What have I been hoping for? A relief from the sieve that is my mind, but also the new sieve into which to place my thoughts so that they can be later sorted. Of course, you might say along with me, ‘Well, why didn’t you just use wordpress as that sieve ages ago?” I think if I could take a year doing nothing else but emptying my thoughts onto pages on this site, I might find the release and relief from the weight of my own thoughts and cares. And yes, I believe the daily prompts and other challenges will prove therapeutic. But without the medication, I wouldn’t be able to sit still long enough to write as much. The next step is sitting still long enough to meditate.

But here are my dilemmas: I’m also trying to pursue excellence as a musician. One reason that I’ve resorted to medication is that my distractability had become so severe that I wasn’t even accomplishing my goals of practice. The fact that I’m sitting down to write more often is the result of partially giving up on the attempts to be sitting at a piano, but I have no choice but to hope this is temporary. I take my music seriously (as a dance instructor tells her students, we take our art seriously so we don’t have to take ourselves seriously — a fine line or a good remedy, and it may answer one of my later questions).

Here’s another question: the unexamined life was said to be not worth living. But why is it that it is only those who examine the worth of their lives who risk reaching the conclusion that their examined life is not worth living, and choose to end it all? Or at least think about that frequently? (And I hope I can be honest about this without someone rushing to the conclusion that this is a cry for help. I’ve cried for help elsewhere, and this is a much more constructive and hopeful alternative). I think the answer to being overly pensive is to have the pensieve. If one is to examine one’s own life, one must be able to dispense of ones thoughts afterwards so that they don’t weigh one down.

I have dreamed of being a Harry Potter, and of course eventually a Dumbledore. We’ve all got our scars. As a ginger, though, I would be happy to have Ron’s blend of courage and loyalty. Of such things is magic truly made.

So thank you to WordPress, a thanks to my like-ers and followers, to whom I have not had the attention span as of yet to respond adequately to their comments and support. One of my favourite texts on motivation says that it is an interpersonal phenomenon. The daily prompts help channel my motivation to write. But it is the responses and the journeys of others that construct my pensieve, and help me to be pensive about examined lives that are not my own.

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With the flourish of…

Flourish

With the flourish of my fingers on a keyboard, I’ve often changed my destiny. Alienating others who might have had positive influences on my life, introducing myself to those who have become friends or even lovers, writing letters of thanks or apology, praise or scorn, complaint or blessing…

Here’s the thing: In Ireland, it is said that some people have what is known as ‘the gift of the gab’. The implication seems to be that only rare people have this ability. Referring to someone with this gift, though, is not necessarily a compliment, and it could mean they are full of blarney.

So why is it that in our own society, having the gift of the gab is something that is considered a requirement for a young man to flourish in the world (and the sexist implication that young girls should still be silent is not my own preference)? Having the gift of the gab is also often conflated with extroversion — there is actually not a reliable correlation there.

Roxanne (the cousin of Cyrano, not the one with the red light), wanted a lover with this gift of the gab. She imagined that love would flourish if love could be talked about. And indeed, Cyrano knew how to talk about love — he just preferred to do it with the flourish of the quill rather than with his lips and tongue (you know what I mean). But NEITHER Cyrano nor Christian had the kind of gab-gift that Roxanne wanted. So she ended up alone long after both Cyrano and Christian were dead.

I am neither Cyrano nor Christian, but I do feel for them in different ways. Would that I could flourish in life and love without ever having to talk to anyone until I was completely comfortable with them as a soulmate. But that is not how our love- and life- worlds work. I wish I could pen-flourish my way to life-flourishing. But then I would be expected to go on book tours and talk my way around.

So apply all of the above the flourishing of my fingers on piano keys, and you’ll understand how I want to flourish.

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Apo-logy

Apology

From the Greek, meaning ‘away from a word’ (? No, I have no idea if this is accurate, and I’m not sorry for breaking my habit of resorting to Google).

The roots of the word may hold true. In the beginning was the logos, which not only means word, but also story, reason, among other themes. And the common use of the word apology is also a slight departure from one of its philosophical meanings, which is to promote a particular form of spirituality, for instance.

But here is the beginning of my real point of this post: To all the girls I’ve apologized to before, who specifically admonished me to stop apologizing (and I’ve had to tell many others to stop apologizing to me), I’m not sorry. (Or, I’m not not sorry?). To all the girls to whom I’ve owed legitimate apologies, the originating errors of which I only discovered later, I am indeed truly sorry, but this apology only holds until the moment you tell me that I should never apologize, in which case I’m sorry to myself for casting my pearls of apology before pretty intelligent girls who won’t recognize their worth.

Am I seriously this much of a chauvinist swine?

No.

So let’s make a deal: let’s all stop being sorry for what or who we are. Apologizing for something we’ve said or done is a cesspool of never-ending words. Which brings up alternate senses of the word ‘sorry’. If we can distinguish between what we are and what we do, we are in defiance of some of the historical philosophers who say that what we do is who we are, but even if this is true, then we should never apologize if what we are is scorpions who have no choice but to sting the toads riding upon our backs.

And no, I’m not sorry for mixing metaphors either.

I could say that I apologize to myself before I apologize to others, so that I might truly have the kind of transformative experience suggested in today’s prompt word essay, but being sorry to oneself is just a flip side of being sorry for oneself. The famous seatbelt rule is meant to have a proactive motive rather than one of regret or apology. Unless your travelling companion dies while you’re fastening your own seatbelt.

I actually didn’t bother reading whatever it is that Anna Wintour had to be sorry for. I don’t want to know, because if she has to be sorry for being the scorpion, then I really do have to dig deeper and discover if there are things I should have changed about my existential identity or about my lifetime habits in stinging others.

To switch from Greek to Latin: Caveat Emptor. So we can all stop being sorry.

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Go South, Young Man

Every journey, every battle, is said to to be traveled and fought with oneself. So all of this is just happening inside my head, as many lay and professional souls have told me. But regardless of the tenuous distinction between the internal and external, intrinsic and extrinsic, motivators and foes, I can say this:

I’ve spent most of my life searching for the one-armed man who stole my mojo. I’ve been a fugitive from facing reality, perhaps, a fugitive from the justice that I’ve always tried more to impose on myself than on others, from the justice that others try to impose on me when they’re not telling me to take responsibility for doing it myself.

But strangely enough, the one time in my life when I came closest to finding this one-armed fiend was when I literally (and figuratively) went south. It was this time in my life when I was most literally a fugitive as well — no green card, and eventually no i.d. of any kind — and yet gainfully employed in the most fugitive of professions.

After 9 years I came back north, and re-started my east-west and west-east journeys that had become a habit long before heading south. And I still haven’t found what I’m looking for (no shortage of other songs come to mind).

So it’s time to head south again. Not quite so far as before. In the figurative sense, I’ve still been doing this even since returning north. But I know the one-armed man is down there somewhere. He doesn’t just have my mojo, he’s got my mission papers. He’s obviously on the run too. And he’s also my guru, which means he’s not going to come looking for me.

And yes, I’m still a young man, so I can still allow myself the permission and the admonitions to go south.

South

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The mortal yawpers

There have been times — especially in recent days — when the impulse to write has been as demanding and unruly as the impulse to play music. This is not the first time in my life when the two impulses have competed, and they do often threaten to fight to the death. At times I do feel like a helpless victim caught in the crossfire. Other times I find the courage to play the diplomat between them — I have written entire university essays in my head while practicing my scales or sonatas; the essays earned top grades, but not my technique. I haven’t yet discovered the means to the reverse — most of my musical creations have been born while out for a walk. In the two most recent years especially, I have found fairly consistent means to put half-blinders on as I work on my classical technique, but I sense that the battles between what I am going to call (for now) my two mortal yawpers, will not come to truces any time soon.

As I sit here writing, less than 30 feet away from a piano that I would normally be spending precious moments with before her tuner arrives, I have also consciously chosen to accept that loss of musical time and to find a way to make it up later. It’s painful, and it truly is like saying goodbye to a lover. There is no shortage of ways that I could expand on that theme, and I can’t resist mentioning one of them: the tenants downstairs have not always been thrilled with the hours of ‘grunt work’ between my lover and I — the tenants don’t get to hear the whispers, although sometimes we do let them in on the music of the afterglow. Ok, so yeah, the analogue breaks down for obvious reasons, but whenever the tenants say to me “it was awfully quiet up there today”, I don’t think they understand the agony of when the reason is that the piano and I can’t get our alone time, or the fact that often when they don’t hear a peep, it’s because we’re whispering the love notes to each other. In between trips outside for coffee and a smoke between sessions.

So now that I’m writing about other things competing for my attention: Why have I referred to the impulses as ‘mortal’? Art is long, but not immortal. The soul of art may live forever, and there may be poems or songs that continue to be copied or transcribed into new media for generations. I do believe that my impulses to play music and to write are based on immortally universal longings of humanity. But I also believe that humanity is just a stage this part of the universe is going through. And the particular output of the urges — the songs, the notes on the piano, the essays that I write — may as well be the drawings in the sand by Picasso is a short story by Ray Bradbury. In the case of that story, Picasso didn’t care whether anyone else saw them before they were washed away by the lapping waves. He was on a public beach, so wasn’t aiming for privacy, but also wasn’t advertising his sand-drawings.

In my case, I am actively posting my passing thoughts on social media. Some friends and advisors would rightfully caution or implore me to just write my thoughts down in a diary, or save them to my desktop, either to be edited later or to be deleted as irrelevant. (I almost wrote ‘irreverant’, which many have already witnessed). There are probably about 40 years worth of my private journals, correspondences, and formal essays residing in landfills or having gone up in flames. There are some that live in friends’ basements, sharing their secrets with many other of my belongings that I have left behind in basements and garages extending from Vancouver to St. John’s to New Orleans. I have a desktop and several usb chips lying around containing the content of my thoughts from about 1995, when I first started sending my ideas in emails. As for the ones that I can access from my own desktop or have already been posted to facebook, let’s be real: when I’m not writing, I’m going to be searching for a piano to get back to. Editing is just not my thing. (Although I also failed at true ‘stream of consciousness’ writing, because I still want to at least pause long enough for some sense of structure in the moment).

So my yawps are mortal. The greater context of my borrowing from Whitman is the idea of the ‘self’. I may as well have borrowed from Popeye in grunting my shanty about who I think I am. (to Yam or not to Yam?). Some of the only reading I’ve been able to accomplish lately has been a collection of the Upanishads. I don’t think Whitman was off-base at all when he sang of the self in the lower case. I also know that the lower case self is just another picture in the sand — one grain of which may contain the entire universe, but still vulnerable to the lapping of the waves of whatever is beyond the universe. Another piece of Hindu wisdom that I haven’t actually read the full context of is the conversation between Krishna and Arjuna. Detach from the results of your actions, but engage in those actions nonetheless, with the full passion of someone who yawps immortally even if the echoes only reverberate a few times before being lost to time and space, or to other louder or more eloquent yawps.

So I will write, and I will make loud noisy love to the piano whenever I can. I could look into some corkboard to lay on the floor, or I could just buy earplugs for the downstairs tenants. When I write, I do post on social media for all passersby, but I am still confident my yawps are relatively quiet. I have been known at rare times to vociferate loudly and endlessly in person, and it’s not usually because of being drunk –rather just too many pent-up frustrations. For those who think I should stop writing so much, be thankful: when I write, I don’t need to shout. My scales and other musical grunts may be more irritating, but we’ll deal with that another time.

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