Glad … for music

I’m so glad I … hear the music.

When I was a kid I was obsessed with Top 40 radio, but I also hoarded my dad’s 78 rpm records and fell in love with Artie Shaw’s “Frenesi” and Benny Goodman’s “Sing Sing Sing” and Raymond Scott’s “Powerhouse.”

My background music as I type this is Anoushka Shankar, and I seem to write most efficiently to Ahmad Jamal, but Bruce Springsteen and the Beatles and Rachael Price and Jason Mraz have been known to accompany my fingers as they tap along … and of course the likes of Beethoven and Bach and Strauss and Copeland.

We have wind chimes hanging outside the window to my office year-round, so I hear music without melody whenever the slightest breeze or the heartiest gale is underway out there.

I am pleased to report I even hear the music in a work like “Revolution 9” by the Beatles, with its rhythms and mighty crescendos.

I think it was Terry Pratchett who had one of his characters say, “Music is everywhere if you know how to listen.” And so it is.

I pity the ones who only hear noise, because there is music everywhere, ready and willing to unite us in peace. Some days I feel like I’m the only one who hears it, but that’s the lie the noisemakers would have us believe.

Glad … for words

I’m so glad I … learned to read and write. The world opened.

I learned about shy stegosauruses and buried treasure, superpowered heroes and heroines from other worlds and down the street, and with pencil and paper I created my own world.

Words give us a portal into other minds and souls, times and places. We walk with Thoreau through Walden Woods in 1854, go whale hunting with Melville in 1851, settle into the audience at the Globe Theatre in 1603 to see what story this fellow Shakespeare has come up with now.

The twisting and shouting of everyday life and social media settles into a calm between the covers of a book, and we see the more reasoned background of hastily or imprecisely spoken words. Or our hearts are hastened by the passions on the page.

We live in a world where all of these words are at our fingertips. It’s a grand time to be alive.

Gladness is infectious

What if we spent a day starting every sentence with “I’m so glad …”?

I’m so glad I …

I’m so glad you …

I’m so glad we …

How soon would we run out of things to be glad about? or would we discover, at length, that the supply is endless?

I can’t help thinking people would be a lot happier if they were always looking for what makes them glad.

I’m so glad I thought of this.

An instrument of Your peace

Apparently St. Francis of Assisi did not write what we know as “The Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi.”

Does it really matter? It’s beautiful whoever wrote it.

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me bring love.
Where there is offence, let me bring pardon.
Where there is discord, let me bring union.
Where there is error, let me bring truth.
Where there is doubt, let me bring faith.
Where there is despair, let me bring hope.
Where there is darkness, let me bring your light.
Where there is sadness, let me bring joy.
O Master, let me not seek as much
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love,
for it is in giving that one receives,
it is in self-forgetting that one finds,
it is in pardoning that one is pardoned,
it is in dying that one is raised to eternal life.

Top 10 lists of remembered joy

While mindlessly surfing social media the other day, I stumbled across a “10 best TV shows of all time” thread. I love lists and so enjoyed wandering through other people’s lists.

Then I decided to give it a whirl. These are the 10 shows I thought of before my brain started thinking “shows that I SHOULD put on the list” as opposed to the first ones that sprang to mind.

Foyle’s War
Breaking Bad
Eli Stone
Buffy The Vampire Slayer
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Hill Street Blues

(There are multiple programs called Jericho; the one I meant is the one about a small town in the aftermath of a nuclear war.)

Lists like this are conversation-starters. The next time I think about best TV shows of all time, I’ll probably have a whole different list. Except Firefly. Firefly will top every list I compile.

My favorite movie list isn’t as fluid. I even have my Top 10 specifically ranked.

  1. It’s A Wonderful Life
  2. The Wizard of Oz
  3. Casablanca
  4. E.T. The Extra-terrestrial
  5. Arrival
  6. Serenity
  7. To Kill A Mockingbird
  8. Raiders of the Lost Ark
  9. ummm …

OK, it gets a little fuzzier after the top eight. (There are multiple movies called Serenity; since Firefly is my favorite TV show, you can make an educated guess as to which Serenity I’m talking about.) Movies that have made my personal top 10 include Field of Dreams, Dances With Wolves, Singin’ In The Rain, A Christmas Story, Joyeaux Noel, The Lives Of Others, Metropolis, The Empire Strikes Back, John Carter

Let’s see what happens when I try to think of 10 favorite books …

Nineteen Eighty-Four
Dandelion Wine
The Scarlet Letter
True Grit
The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress
To Kill A Mockingbird

It gets hard after that, because I have loved so many books. And notice I didn’t number them.

I could bore you all day with this. My favorite albums, songs, comic book stories, order of the Star Wars movies, bands, singer-songwriters, old-time radio, silent movies (Have you ever seen The Wind? OMG) …

In the end, the appeal of lists is that they recall moments of joy and discovery and love, each item bringing back a memory of a time well had.

The longer the list, the greater the recognition of how much joy life offers to each of us.

A snooty snob who enjoys the tawdry

I opened my old college textbook The Literature of England at random yesterday morning and found “This Lime-Tree Bower My Prison,” Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poem composed in his garden under a lime tree while his visiting friends took a walk in the nearby countryside. He had to stay behind, having been sidelined when his wife accidentally spilled boiling milk on his foot. (Ow-ow-ow!)

Before that, I took a brief stab at “Troilus and Criseyde,” and what a surprise, 45-plus years of not reading Middle English has rendered Chaucer’s brilliant quasi-epic poem essentially unreadable to me. I do know that reading it was one of the surprise delights of my education, but I would need to be re-educated to re-experience the joy — although perhaps that would be a more worthwhile venture than the three episodes of The Blacklist that I viewed the night before.

(Somewhere in the last few days, I read a reference that a society constantly exposed to tawdry crap aimed at the lowest common denominator becomes tawdry and low and full of crap. It was written more elegantly than that, but it was a good point. There are delights in the old stuff more subtle than a gun to the face.)

I don’t mean to be a snooty snob, but I do like a turn of phrase. Discovering Coleridge’s poem was another reminder of the thousands of undiscovered treasures waiting within reach on the shelves in this little room. OK, many of them I have indeed discovered and decided to save (Bradbury, Doc Savage, Hawthorne), but so many pages are as yet untapped, and the old treasures are fun to revisit.

Notice when I reach for examples, I pick Hawthorne (everyone knows he’s a classic, although he’s not necessarily many people’s “favorite” classic author), Bradbury (becoming a classic but not considered so until well into his career), and Doc Savage (not “literature”).

I do seem to have a unique perspective on what constitutes good reading. I enjoy enjoying stuff that’s off the beaten track. I like that about being in this skin.

Shelves of buried treasure

(Written at the end of an enjoyable early-morning hour spent reading old poems, reflecting on the thousands of pages of buried treasure on the shelves in my room, and writing in my journal.)

Ah, the familiar pang of knowing I have but a few minutes left before I must dive into the quotidian. And here’s a hungry dog to help me start the transition.

Exploring the piles of treasure is entertaining and instructive. “You need to get out more,” they say, but, see here, we need to get in more, too. Look what I’ve found in here just this morning, after all.

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