Imagination. Expressiveness. Freedom. Honesty. Strength. Boldness. Versatility. Lively. Mindful. Acceptance. Openness. Grace. Solidarity. Hopeful. Spontaneous. Reverent. Relentless. Generous. Simple. Curious. Humble. Supporting. Patient. Gentle. Driven. Awake. Energetic. Sharp. Self-esteemed. Forgiving. Affirming. Gratitude. Healing. Comfortable. Comforting. Moving. Progressing. Learning. Secure. Beautiful. Bright. Sure. Inventive. Observant. Providing. Professional. Experimental. Inspired. Inspiring. Fascinated. Rule-breaking. Example-setting. Listening. Warm. Adapting. Peaceful. Carefree. Attentive. Well-versed. Sturdy. Flexible. Enduring. Nurturing. Spiritual. Thoughtful. Unexpected. Insightful. Persistent. Holistic. Teachable. Willing. Prevailing. Ground-breaking. Empowering. Authentic. Questioning. In-motion. Complete. Connected. In-control. Aroused. Uninhibited. Colorful. Resilient. Studious. Peaceful. Lucid. Prepared. Active. Responsive. Shameless. Thorough. Forgiving. Accepting. Protecting. Decisive. Myself. Inclusive. Hard-working.
As you want it to be. Like a composer choosing the meter for a new song, I am contemplating the question: How small does it make sense to cut the pieces of my life into? I'm hoping for an even eighty years total. I'm hoping for eight decades, two measures of four beats that each last ten years. Five years makes an eighth-note. Thirty months makes a sixteenth-note. The math is fun, if nothing else. Yes, just two measures of music. I don't want to pretend my life will make any kind of complete song, or even a section of one, really. How potentially pretentious to think that it should be anything more. Just a phrase will do. One phrase with potential.
I've been alive for two and a half beats. The phrase feels an ascending one, but with some almost-out-of-place deviations pointing down. Sixteenth notes, naturally. Some of them dotted. It meticulously struggles against itself. Disciplined syncopation. A flurry, but it makes sense. I look forward to working it out sometime, but not right now. Maybe when I'm fifty. Beat one of the second measure, I'll try to figure out what happened in the first.
And when I'm gone I will have performed one phrase with potential. Potential to die or to be used. Someone may hear it and say "I want to build on that". Someone may hear it and think "Wow, that was awful. That didn't make any sense. I think it's too complicated." or simply be uninterested.
So be it. Maybe nobody ever really hears it again except for a few lingering echoes when people attend my funeral; hear the eulogy of my choices. Maybe I was the last phrase in a symphony, a variation on the melodies written before me in the lives of my father and his father and his father's father.
Is there any use in thinking about it? I could slip my life into any metaphor's glove, the fingers would still make the same motions. The joints would still ache with nostalgia by the time my time is done.
I have a little piece of chalk that I don't remember who gave me. I'd call it indigo but really there's no name for it, and I'm going to draw a little kind-of-crooked circle on the ground. Probably nobody else is going to be able to see it, actually. Just me. But anyway, I'm going to be standing in it all day and if it's hard to get through to me it's because you haven't yet learned to see that shade of blue. And if it's hard to get through to you it's because I don't really know what good it'd do.
Some like to think. Some like to do. Which one is you? As soon as I blink, I wonder too. Which one am I? And what's the use? Of either, I have not the slightest idea.
Certainly no one feels greater than the other, as I find when contemplating just about any set of polarities, but just as certain is the inevitable conclusion that neither has value without the other.
Now, before I really dive in to this. What am I really talking about?
Abstraction and History, essentially.
--Abstraction: 1. the quality of dealing with ideas rather than events.
--History: 1. the study of past events, particularly in human affairs. or 2. the whole series of past events connected with someone or something.
I like to live in my ideas. I like to process. I have a talent/tendency to look at anything event involving anyone or anything and say "Okay, what does this tell me about reality? What does this tell me about the way that people are? What question does this inspire and what questions do those questions lead to? Where have I seen this pattern before? What other seemingly unrelated discipline does this actually relate to?"
So much fun! I like to smash ideas together. I like to talk to people about the way that the physics of functional harmony in music actually teaches us about the relationship of closeness and distance when it comes to human relationships. I enjoy comparing the rhythmic structure of the human calendar to rhythm in the visual and aural arts. You can find me learning strategy games with the combined hopes of simply progressing at something new and also finding some unexpected philosophical truth about how our influence is more important than our actual existence, or what we contain as groups is more important than how strong we are as individuals. The human mind and memory is a treasury of ideas. It is also the bed on which those ideas make love to each other, throwing sparks into the psyche and creating new entities to float around and color our thought-scape while they age.
The ironic problem with this is that this realm of experience is eternal and limitless. The pursuit of them has no final destination--except perhaps to approach infinity. This is an arguable noble cause, but it is not enough on its own to be of use to the human condition--that is, one that is primarily experienced on a mortal plane of limits/boundaries/edges. These thoughts happen, but do they happen? Certainly there is a history of thought, but what we read about--what matters to us-- is seeing what thought has led people to actually act out. If history is the whole series of past events (and I would add current events), it seems of course that we must find it in us to present our thought to the world in tangible form. Nobody but yourself can experience your thoughts, no matter how profound or important they seem to you. So refine them, and decide which ones are worth translating into action. History is a culmination of victorious thoughts, a collection of the ideas that made their way out of our minds and into the motions of our bodies.
Wars are started because "I want that to be mine and I am willing to kill in order to have it". Relationships begin because "I am attracted enough to her that I am willing to override my normally-passive social tendencies and introduce myself." Books are written because "I think that somebody needs to hear these words". Diseases are cured because "I believe there is a way to learn what causes this and how to prevent it". Technology progresses because "I think there is an better way to accomplish what we are trying to accomplish".
All actions start as thoughts. All good thoughts should lead to action. But the circle wouldn't be complete if we didn't say that it's equally important to look at the actions/events of history and ask the question "What ideas do they originate from?" Trace everything back to its origin. Realize that the ugliest actions people take come from the ugliest ideas.
This is why I spend so much time "up there" in that plane of intellectual thought, because it is the wellspring from which mindful action is poured.
There are times in my life (this season being one) where I feel almost regrettably passive, and find myself not taking as much action as I could or seemingly should. But in today's case, I'd rather not move until I know why I'm moving--lest I find my myself at fault, manifesting empty motions out of empty... notions.
The question is, how many times are you willing to start over? When you feel like you've finally arrived, are you able to admit that the work isn't done? Can you tell that to yourself without a defeated posture?
I remember so many slumped shoulders in my high-school days. I was a tennis player. That was my thing. Much of my identity, for better or for worse, was held up by my status as such. I had put so much practice time in. I had worked my way into the top positions on my team, and I had earned enough respect on the court to spill into my sense of confidence in the other parts of my life. So of course we'd get into our tournaments and there would be players from other schools better than me (much better than me), and it would be so easy to think in those matches that all my work amounted to nothing--just another loss. You can rise to the top of your pond, but where are you when that water is poured into the lake? And when that water is poured into the ocean? You very quickly find humility.
Those times that I realized how good I wasn't... were the times that I often forgot to love the game. All I knew how to love was winning. I wanted to feel like the best. What do you do when you realize you might never be? I don't have an answer, it's just a question-- just a conversation for each person to have with themselves in regards to whatever they care about. To some or even to most, it doesn't matter. And often I think that it must be nice.
What is music? Is it a competition? Sometimes. At it's truest, purest nature, it's not a competition, but in the practical world there is a degree of competition. There's comparison, unavoidably. If you are any amount of human you have those moments that you hear other people and think "I can do that... I can do better... I can't do that... Wow I have so far to go, I'll never be him... I'll never be her." You have to stand out in the crowd. A very big crowd. The internet means no matter where you are, the crowd of songwriters is big. Why would anybody choose *your music* to listen to?
But think about this: Every time your album or song is played, you've momentarily made it to the top. Somebody has chosen your song over every other song in the world. For 3-5 minutes, you're a winner. You get the gold. For the moment.
How about the rest of the time? Are you a loser? What about when you have a show but everyone's at someone else's show? Do you slump your shoulders?
I believe you have to find a way not to. A way for it not to matter if they're there or not. If you pack the house, good! If you don't, fine! Be humble, play your best. Play like you're in your bedroom performing to the walls. It still says something that you sang. All you need is to keep improving. Or, even better, keep meaning it. Keep intending your work for your work's sake. What you need is not to be better or be the best. What you need is perhaps to *get* better, but even then, just better than you were before, not better than everyone else.
Love the game. If you hate the game when you lose, do you actually love it? Love the song. If you hate the song when nobody hears it, do you actually love it? Love the crowd. But if the crowd's not there, don't hate everybody. Art doesn't force itself on people. Art invites people, without needing them. It's just open to them. It just exists because somebody first decided to love it.
I'm working on my love. I'm working on the reasons I do what I do. It was easy at the beginning, because there's nothing except for the beginning when you're there. I wasn't good yet, so I wasn't doing it for the recognition. I was doing it for the sake of doing it. For some reason I lost that. For some reason, it's finding me. Perhaps with a new start in mind.