Friday, March 9, 2012

The Meaning of Life

While wondering how many times you can wake up feeling like Gregor Samsa before you start wondering what you are doing wrong, your allotted slowly slips away from you.

Imagine a job that requires you only to show up.  Initiative is discouraged. A positive attitude is prohibited.  You must go to work and do nothing. The only requirement is to be there in the chair and nothing more.  What would you do?

Perhaps you would create a job by setting up a series of workflow steps that must be completed each day.  The product of these jobs does not contribute to the achievement of any goal.  No productive results occur, but these work-like actions fill some of the eight hours that must be covered.

Sometimes the phone rings and someone needs a correction made or a configuration tweaked.

One might be inclined to complain, but the checks keep coming on time and the bills are paid.  With so many others out of work, you might feel thankful to have such a job.

Where is the meaning in such a life?

Friday, January 20, 2012

Worrying About Tomorrow

A good friend of mine, barely 35, suffered a brain aneurysm while playing his upright bass with his band in a casino down in Oklahoma last night.  He's got paralysis on his left side and speech difficulties.  As the talented bass player and songwriter in a hillbilly roots band, this health crisis will fundamentally change his life and redefine who he is and how he lives into the future.  He was planned a change from road trips to a day job after some additional education, but, no doubt, that is on hold,  too.

So here I sit in relatively good health staring at retirement with a similar catastrophic health issue hanging in the future.  What do I worry about? Not much worries me. I wonder how to write a blog entry that isn't a long bitch about my grievances.  I speculate about my next trip across the pond might happen. Hell, when my next trip anywhere might happen.

Nothing life-changing for me, but a guy that I worked with dropped dead of a massive coronary three weeks ago--at 8am on a Monday.  Now, Bill succumbs to what amounts to a stroke.  I grieve about my friend's misfortune and his young family.  Sometimes life unfolds in seemingly random ways leading me to believe that there is no plan, only evolution.  Maybe it does worry me just a little.

Get well, Bill!

Monday, January 9, 2012

A Golden Birthday Moment with Friends

Golden Moment

On a pleasantly warm January day, we headed to our local micro-distillery for some live acoustic music by our friends, Mark Bilyeu and Cindy Woolf.  By 2pm the room was packed with about 40 people sampling the moonshine, vodka, and rum, and noshing some chili and beans. 

A table was still empty just in front of the musicians and we took it.  As he came in, Mark brought in a large cake carrier and announced that his wife Lizzie had baked me a birthday cake.  I was charmed and taken aback.  We usually do the surprising and this was a new experience.  Liz's spicy cake with nuts was a big hit with us and our new special friends.

At our table only 3 feet away from the microphones, we could joke around and share some private moments with the performers.  The small room holds an assortment of tables and chairs arranged as needed to seat everyone.  The hard walls reflect all the bar conversations back to us during the music, but that's my only complaint. 
As always, Mark asks what I would like to hear, and, as always, I draw the proverbial blank, but he had done an all Woody Guthrie show the evening before and offered us some well-traveled Guthrie tunes.  Cindy was singing her original song wonderfully with Mark playing his remarkable guitar solos, as they have done on each other's tunes for many years. Their duet of the folk tune 'Handsome Molly' is one of Sue's special favorites.

Sue and I sampled Jim's rum and ate Liz's fine birthday cake. It felt like a birthday party for both of us since Sue's birthday comes next Friday.  Through the magic of facebook, I hoped that I could get Mark to hum a few bars of Paul McCartney's "When I'm Sixty-Four", my new age.  To my amazement, he sang and played the entire song on his Martin acoustic guitar.  We laughed, we all had fun, we celebrated together.  He threw in 'Big Rock Candy Mountain' for me at no extra charge.

Despite the chill outside, we left with the sense that something wonderful had happened, a sharing with friends.  Warmed by the rum and thrilled by the music, we stumbled to our car and headed home into the night. 

This day will be remembered with love and affection for a long time.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Birthday Boy

It's the 12th day of Christmas again and I get another year tacked onto the same old carcass.  Sis and my oldest brother called with birthday greetings.  We don't talk as much as maybe we should.

I'm still celebrating these birthdays because Mahatma Gandhi's grandson decided to become a heart surgeon, came to Topeka, Kansas, to practice his art, and took me as a patient.  2012 marks the 20th anniversary of that meeting.

With a nervous laughter, we all tell ourselves that time marches on,  but after a while things in your life really do begin to change, to alter, to evolve without any conscious effort on our part.

In my mind's eye, my youngest brother is still 5 years old, but this year he turns 56 with 2 grandchildren.  In my mind's eye, I am between 35 or 40 years old but I'm actually twice that age. No wiser, just older.  One young cousin has caught on and now calls me old man (she somehow resents my constant family picture-taking, too). Another, even younger, cousin just calls me The Man--when she's in a good mood.

People wonder if they deserve the kindnesses of others.  I like the Buddhist idea that taking good care of yourself is taking good care of your family and friends, too.  Compassion given comes back to you in multiples.

Am I the happiest man on the planet?  I am today.  Sue makes that happiness possible everyday and I try very hard to appreciate her love and understanding.  It's not easy for her on some days.

Luckily for all of you, I only get this sappy one day of the year and that day will be over soon.

Happy Birthday!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Driving To Work Alone

My drive into work takes about 45 minutes so I have plenty of time to think--and to listen to music.  If I ride alone, I tend to listen to music that I would not chose if Sue was in the car.

Jazz is not my first musical choice, but my explorations of music in college did lead me to some jazz that I like to listen to.

One of those groups is the Modern Jazz Quartet.  Their conceit is that they are a chamber group playing jazz and, at times, their sound does feel quite similar to the effect of a classical chamber ensemble.  If we accept Goethe's definition of chamber music as "four rational people conversing", MJQ fits.  All four members played together as a quartet in the Dizzy Gillespie Band before striking out on their own.

Today's listen was The Artistry of the Modern Jazz Quartet, a compilation of their work 1952-1955.  They supposedly created the cool jazz form.  Four brilliant individual players weave a magical melody together with space for solo sounds, too.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Pressure Is On

My daring niece is again overseas, now in an Asian country.  She has resumed her excellent travel blog, but it shows this blog as a link.  Since I erased all the crap that previously appeared here, I guess I should start writing.  My wife is the diarist in the family, but with the internet anything may be possible.  After all it's 2012!