“Smile … Though there are clouds in the sky, you’ll get by.”
“You got to have a dream — If you don’t have a dream, how you gonna have a dream come true?”
What do you dream, friend?
I’ve been having a dream of folks talking to one another like friends, and being interested in what we have in common and fascinated by the uniqueness in every living soul, and boosting what it is that makes us different but the same, and living our life to the fullest and letting our friends live their life to the fullest the way they choose —
because we’ve tried being afraid of one another, and hating people who are different, and forcing our will on each other, and hurting, and yelling, and killing, and look where that got us.
“I come in peace,” that’s the mantra, and I go in peace, and we leave each other alone, unless you need my help, and then I’ll do what I can.
I’m not sure how to get this dream to come true. I think it starts with a smile.
I have built this blog, and my writing in general, around three action verbs: encourage, enlighten, entertain. If I have done at least one of those three things in a piece, mission accomplished. Today I’d like to share some of what has encouraged, enlightened and entertained me this year.
I am one of the blessed ones whose mom told me constantly, “I believe you are capable of doing anything you set your mind to.” That encouragement helped make me what I am today and kept me going when times were tough.
“I can do this,” you tell yourself, “because I can do anything I set my mind to.”
Here’s the secret: You really can do it. It’s helpful to have a mom to remind you, but it’s a simple fact of life: Whatever “it” is, you can do it.
That’s actually the easy part, knowing you can do it. You really can do anything.
The hard part? the rest of the moms’ affirmation of faith: You set your mind to do.
Setting your mind to do something is the most important part of the equation, because it might take years and all your strength to train your mind and body to get it done, so setting your mind for the task is the key.
If you ARE willing to invest your time and energy into the learning how to do it, the awkward trying to do it and falling short, and the steadily getting better and better until you’re good enough —
You can do it. You can do anything you set your mind to.
Go ahead. Set your mind. Get started. Take the first step, then the next, and keep going. Eventually you will do it. You’ll see.
In 1946 Robert Shaw and his RCA Victor Chorale released a Christmas album. In those days an album was really an album, like a photo album with pages that you mounted photos on: You could only fit three or four minutes of sound on one side of a 78 rpm record, so they packaged a bound volume of three to six heavy envelopes with records inside.
By the time I came along, the long-playing record had changed all that, and Christmas Hymns and Carols had been converted to a 33.3 rpm LP. That was what Mom hauled out on the day after Thanksgiving every year, and we knew the Christmas season had begun as soon as the Chorale belted out, “Joy to the World, the Lord has come …!”
It’s a remarkable performance, completely a capella. Shaw’s vocal arrangements are absolutely transcendental, and as soon as I hear the familiar recording again, I can smell the pine needles from the tree and the warm sugar cookies fresh from the oven, and I feel the comfort of artificial heat fending off the wintry weather outside, and I see the small but cozy living room and the bubble lights sparkling away.
Robert Shaw and Christmas go together in my mind, sure as “Joy to the World” is followed by “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear” and then “Angels We Have Heard On High,” etc. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of Christmas albums out there, but this — and Christmas Hymns and Carols Volume II a few years later — is the greatest of all time, in my humble opinion.
As much as I love the LP, my most cherished Christmas possessions are the Shaw albums in their original format, which I found (and transferred to digital) a few years back in such great condition that a casual listener might not realize the disc was rotating at 78 rpm. At least once a year I carefully take the fragile albums off the shelf and give the heavy old records a spin on the turntable.
A few days ago a friend asked on social media whether we think it’s OK to play Christmas music “early” — he had broken his tradition and listened to a couple versions of “Mary Did You Know” — and my mind immediately went to the Robert Shaw Chorale. My reply was:
“Personally, I would prefer a world where you can sing ‘Joy to the world, the savior lives … let heaven and nature sing’ all year-round. I’d love an oldies station where “Mary Did You Know” is folded into the mix from time to time.”
You have heard it said, “We become what we think about.” The great inspirational speaker Earl Nightingale called it The Greatest Secret, it’s the basis of the book The Secret, and writer James Allen wrote a brilliant little book more than 100 years ago along those lines: As A Man Thinketh.
I want to drag one sentence out of Seth Godin’s new book, The Practice, and suggest a corrolary.
This is the 101st day of my 92-day challenge. Back at the end of July, to celebrate my finally getting an independent host for WarrenBluhm.com, I committed to writing a blog post every day in August, September, and October, or 92 consecutive days. I don’t believe I’ve ever managed that.
Turns out it’s as easy as deciding to do it. It’s like working for a radio station that puts out nine newscasts a day, or for a daily newspaper: You put out nine newscasts every day, or one newspaper. You don’t have a choice. You made the commitment, you do it.
The difference is that the newscasts and the newspapers were a commitment to other people. For better or worse, over the years I’ve been much better at keeping those external commitments than promises I made to myself.
Several times over the years I’ve written about such commitments and made big announcements — my Kaiju trilogy, my pookha detective stories, even my superhero stories — and fallen through before the projects were completed.
So this time, I decided to just do it. I made no announcements like “This is now a daily blog.” I just started blogging every day. And what do you know.
I’m a little nervous that now I’ve given the game away, I’ll stop shipping a post every day. But I’m trying not to dwell on that fear; after all, I’m the proud author of Refuse to be Afraid.
This is the flip side of telling everyone I was going to do something and not doing it: I didn’t tell a soul until I could tell everyone, “Look what I did.” I like this feeling better.
And I feel a lot more confident that you’ll believe me when I finish by saying: See you tomorrow.