Just try new things. Don’t be afraid. Step out of your comfort zones and soar, all right? Michele Obama
In a recent article in Aeon, titled Now THAT was music, writer Lary Wallace sets the stage for his rather generalized conclusions on our ability (or inability, in his case) to appreciate new music. He starts with the assumption that we all experience this “One grim day (when youth is over)” and “you find that new music gets on your nerves.”
“Some of us are more susceptible than others, ” he says with authority, “but eventually it happens to us all. You know what I’m talking about: the inability to appreciate new music – or at least, to appreciate new music the way we once did. There’s a lot of disagreement about why exactly this happens, but virtually none about when. Call it a casualty of your 30s, the first sign of a great decline. Recently turned 40, I’ve seen it happen to me – and to a pretty significant extent – but refuse to consider myself defeated until the moment I stop fighting.”
Why, he asks, do our musical tastes “freeze over”?
I got news for you Lary. It really doesn’t happen to all of us. I’m nearing 60 and love a wide range of new music. I always have . I plowed through the 60s , 70s and 80s, and found something I’ve loved in every decade. I got busy with kids at the turn of the 21st century, but they kept me current on everything from technology to literature and music. Today, my contemporary musical tastes range from Marian Hill, Paloma Faith, Mumford and Sons, Passenger, Ed Sheeran and Kaleo to Van Morrison, Steely Dan, Jethro Tull, the Beatles and other classic musical artists.
This is It
and I am It
and You are It
and so is That
and He is It
and She is It
and It is It
and That is That. – James Broughton
These are conflicted times. It’s easy to lose ourselves in the maze of social and mainstream media, to become disoriented by the barrage of information and confusing or unsettling news that inundates us at ever turn. What’s real? What isn’t? What’s truth? What’s lies? Where’s our place in the overall scheme of things? And maybe “Why is this happening to us?” – whatever “this” might be.
“In an ever-changing, incomprehensible world the masses had reached the point where they would, at the same time, believe everything and nothing, think that everything was possible and nothing was true… The totalitarian mass leaders based their propaganda on the correct psychological assumption that, under such conditions, one could make people believe the most fantastic statements one day, and trust that if the next day they were given irrefutable proof of their falsehood, they would take refuge in cynicism; instead of deserting the leaders who had lied to them, they would protest that they had known all along that the statement was a lie and would admire the leaders for their superior tactical cleverness.” – Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism, 1951
Official White House portraits set the tone.
So Donald Trump is the now the 45th president of the United States; a man who couldn’t be more different on almost every level from the 44th president. There’s enough written about the new president and the potential dangers of his fascist leaning, misogynistic, racist and isolationist views that there’s nothing new I could add here.
Tens of millions of women and men have marched, since the inauguration, and protests roil online and off about cabinet appointments and early administrative actions. And there are also plenty of people who are pleased about our new president.
Either school of thought, however, as well as those in between require vigilance – a willingness to stay informed, to understand the facts of the matters that govern our lives, and to take some meaningful action when governance strays from upholding the Constitution to authoritarianism, discrimination, or otherwise abusing the rights of the governed – the citizens by whom the president is employed.
Cypress Knee Sampling, by T.Willingham
If you are in the sacred space between stories, allow yourself to be there. It is frightening to lose the old structures of security, but you will find that even as you might lose things that were unthinkable to lose, you will be okay. There is a kind of grace that protects us in the space between stories. It is not that you won’t lose your marriage, your money, your job, or your health. In fact, it is very likely that you will lose one of these things. It is that you will discover that even having lost that, you are still okay. You will find yourself in closer contact to something much more precious, something that fires cannot burn and thieves cannot steal, something that no one can take and cannot be lost. Charles Eisenstein, The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible
2016 , many will say, seemed a more challenging year than usual. Certainly the loss of iconic figures like celebrities Prince, David Bowie, Leonard Cohen, Carrie Fisher and most recently her mother Debbie Reynolds, cultural heroes like astronauts Edgar Mitchell and John Glenn, and scientist Vera Rubin sports luminaries like Arnold Palmer, literary figures like Harper Lee and Pat Conroy and public voices of conscience like Elie Wiesel, and many others ranged from stunning to heart breaking. The American political climate was stormy and unsettling, and the nation remains painfully divided across lines many of us thought were being erased.
If, in the midst of a restless social and political climate, one is inclined toward more personal reflection and reconsiderations, then the storm front can feel catacylsmic. Lissa Rankin describes this experience powerfully in her blog piece, The Space Between Stories , named, as this blog piece is, for a phrase taken from the work of Charles Eisenstein
“…it is a constant idea of mine; that behind the cotton wool is hidden a pattern; that we — I mean all human beings — are connected with this; that the whole world is a work of art; that we are parts of the work of art. Hamlet or a Beethoven quartet is the truth about this vast mass that we call the world. But there is no Shakespeare, there is no Beethoven; certainly and emphatically there is no God; we are the words; we are the music; we are the thing itself.” Virginia Woolf
Socrates said the unexamined life is not worth living. The converse, of course, is that the examined life is worth living. Sometimes, though, something triggers a deep examination and life can go full HD to an uncomfortable degree, and we see the thing itself like never before. In a world ready to medicate and therapute itself out of every sadness and every brittle thought, a world full of platitudinous feel good memes, painted in the broad brushstrokes of ridiculous certainty – right and wrong, good and bad, left and right, beautiful and ugly – the sudden clarity of the deeply examined life can be startling, upsetting and even frightening.
How do we empower the people we call the voiceless? Pass the mic.
– Amani Al-Khatahtbeh, editor-in-chief of MuslimGirl.com, June 2016 panel at the White House’s United State of Women Summit
An editorial piece by Lionel Shriver caught my eye in the Tampa Bay Times this morning. Not familiar with Shriver’s work or immediately with the context of her situation as a keynote speaker at the Brisbane Writers Festival, the editorial puzzled me.
“Briefly, ” she wrote, “my address maintained that fiction writers should be allowed to write fiction — thus should not let concerns about “cultural appropriation” constrain our creation of characters from different backgrounds than our own. I defended fiction as a vital vehicle for empathy. If we have permission to write only about our own personal experience, there is no fiction, but only memoir. Honestly, my thesis seemed so self-evident that I’d worried the speech would be bland.”
As a writer and an avid reader, the topic interested me, and at first I couldn’t see what the issue was. Of course readers have to speak in other voices, and sometimes from the perspective of people different from themselves. Without the ability to do that, we wouldn’t have Huckleberry Finn or To Kill a Mockingbird. Right?
I’m well aware that we have a very human tendency to think we’re being open minded when we’re mostly supporting our own existing world views. Buster Bensen did a great piece on the issue of cognitive bias over on Better Humans recently and even provided a handy “cheat sheet” for improved self-awareness.
But even with my bias chart at hand to help me approach the current political landscape with a truly open mind, I don’t see any other way to view the current Republican candidate as anything but an immature, manipulative, narcissistic bully unfit to shine the shoes of any American, let alone function as the leader of our democratic republic.