Thoughts on 9/11/2011

September 11, 2011 at 10:10 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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As I write this, I am listening to a live performance being broadcast by our local classical station. It is a 9/11 commemorative concert put on by a choir that has shared the stage with my chamber orchestra on more than one occasion. Rachel is doing math homework behind me at the kitchen table, with Dan alternately helping her and washing dishes. Chloe recently began her sophomore year in college, a happy passage marred only slightly this weekend by near 100-degree weather, a mildly bad burn on the back of one hand (the tea water missed her cup on Friday), and a painfully swollen bee-stung foot.

I am one of those people who did not suffer any personal loss on or following 9/11. I cried in pain at the loss that so many others experienced; I welcomed my now 84-year-old aunt who finally chose to move here four years ago, 9/11 having proved the final straw to her increasingly anxious existence in New York; and I gasped when I learned that the wife of a friend of mine was in the World Trade Center that day, amazed and grateful that she was lucky enough to be back here to tell the tale. I had played at their wedding not too many years prior. There were a few more threads that touched my own path, but nothing approaching the before-and-after seismic shifts some were forced to navigate.

My mother has told me more than once how very sorry she is that I have never experienced our country as a united people with a common cause, as she and her generation did during World War II. I am grateful to have been born after even the aftermath of that war and its atrocities, but I admit that I would love to know what it feels like to have all (or at least most) of my compatriots agree on what patriotism means, at least in the moment. In my mind 9/11 is the closest we have come.

There is that story of the German soldier who met up with an American soldier on Christmas Eve sometime during World War I. Though they were enemies, though they did not share a common language, they shared something bigger and more important. They showed each other photos of their respective families. They knew in their hearts that they shared similar emotions – missing their loved ones, fear of never returning home, wishing they could celebrate a holiday they had probably never had to miss before in their relatively short lives. Something larger than the war and enmity brought them together. If then, why not now? If once, why not forever? We know it to be possible.

My parents raised me to believe that terrible evils have been done in the name of God and religion throughout the history of humankind. I suppose one could see it that way, but I do not. I see the true enemy as a blind and desperate greed for power, most often based in fear, which seems to me to be the antithesis of any God- or Spirit-centered religion’s credo. Unfortunately it seems to come naturally to us humans to carry baggage forward into each generation, rather than learning to look around us earnestly, with new and hopeful eyes, into the eyes of those around us, whether familiar or foreign.

I hope it is all right with Eric Lowen and Dan Navarro if I offer you the words of their song “All Is Quiet”. I love this song so very much, finding it a balm in a troubled time:

*All is quiet tonight, the stars are in their places
The moon will give us light to see into each other’s faces
And I know the road is hard, but if we carry on together
We will get by

We live our lives in the eye of a hurricane
We cast our fates on seas of indifference
While all along the shoreline
We look for a chance to believe
That darkness will fade and the promise will survive
Until I hear you say

All is quiet tonight…

We make our way through streets full of danger
We build up walls to keep us inside
But they keep us apart
Till we become the worst kind of stranger
Who stands with open arms and barricades the heart
And still I hear you say

All is quiet tonight…

Just imagine how our world would be if we looked quietly into the eyes of our loved ones and enemies alike, and listened with an open mind and an open heart. Not an easy charge in a fear-filled age.

From Edith Hamilton, American educator, author and Greek scholar (1867-1963):

The truths of the spirit are proved not by reasoning about them,
Or finding explanation of them, but only by acting upon them.
Their life is dependent upon what we do about them.
Mercy, gentleness, forgiveness, patience;
If we do not show them, they will cease to be.
Upon us depends the reality of God here on Earth today.

I send this out to you with love. May we each find countless small ways to initiate ripples of peace as we go forward, and may the days to come be irrevocably changed for the better by those actions.

*(Please note: Because “All Is Quiet” was written and copyrighted by someone other than myself, I do not feel comfortable offering a recording in my blog entry. You can go to iTunes or Amazon.com to purchase the song, recorded by Lowen and Navarro, or by my own trio, the Folkaltones. Or both.)

On the road a la Jetsons

July 6, 2011 at 8:31 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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I am writing this while sitting at the dining room table of one of my oldest and dearest friends, one more temporary home along this path of travel. Just so many beads on a 24-day-long chain. It’s amazing to me to think that this is how Dan and I used to live for weeks on end, back in my touring days. As much as that now seems more like a past life than just part of my own story, I have to admit that I have had a fairly easy time settling into this traveling rhythm. Somewhere in my cells it is a familiar groove.

So. Right here in this paragraph – indeed, in my very next sentence – I am going to tell you something, straight out. I GOT AN ANDROID . Not only that, I added APPS. Many of them. And, though a few weeks ago I would have proclaimed from my very own soap box that I can easily do without such new-fangled high-tech toys, thank you very much, um, it has actually been kind of, well, fun. Chloe and I used it to determine whether gas was cheaper on this or that side of the Colorado-Kansas line (we saved around $3 by waiting until we crossed into Kansas), it led us to the most fantastic restaurant that serves locally-grown and meticulously prepared cuisine (715 in Lawrence, KS), as well as helping us find our way to more than one cleverly elusive destination. It has accurately predicted the weather so I could dress for 70 or 95 degrees (though it couldn’t turn down the insidious overdose of air conditioning once we were inside the building – more on that in some future post. Hopefully they’ll come up with an app for that soon.) It has made it a piece of cake to keep up with my emails. It has located and navigated our path to Whole Foods, music stores, Target, and more. One app supplied us with quotations from famous people for our presentations. I know what the date is every day on the Jewish calendar. If I had figured out how to use it in time (and remembered where it was hiding), I could have helped my teacher by running the stopwatch when we needed it during one class session. I have taken countless pictures and emailed them to Dan and my mother and a college friend of Chloe’s (except it turned out she [Chloe] gave me the wrong person’s email address, so we are actually not sure who received the not-so-scenic view of Salina, Kansas. No offense to any Salinians out there.) And in case you are interested, I am facing southeast at 145 degrees right now, a minor but accurate fact imparted to me by said droid.

Oh. AND I have made and received phone calls on it. Which is, of course, what I got it for to begin with, though it is all too easy to forget that, when trying to figure out how to use all the other stuff, as mentioned above.

Gone are the old days. Dan and I can remember countless occasions when we had to be near a pay phone at a specific time on a specific day for a radio interview or to call a hard-to-reach contact, way back in the 1980s when we drove for all my tours. It was often next to impossible to find a phone when we needed it. Do you ever have one of those dreams where you finally find the phone booth only to discover it is out of order, or someone is already using it, or the buttons don’t work right or you don’t have the right amount of change or your long distance calling card somehow doesn’t work? Or the temperature is either ten below or 95 and humid? It was like that more often than you might guess. I will never forget the time when we called our answering machine from the back office of one of my gigs, and heard a message from our neighbor that was cut off in the middle: “So we don’t want you to worry, and the police came, but they told us—“ It was just like one of those nightmares – I couldn’t get our long distance card to work, the connection kept getting interrupted, and I was frantically dialing (we actually had a “dialer” that we carried around to beep the tones into phones that still had dials) while Dan and I were picturing our front door broken down or our house burnt to the ground. (In the end, it turned out okay, but the stress of getting through to our neighbor took at least eighteen months off my life.) None of this would have happened if we had had cell phones back then.

And now a word from my devil’s advocate, or old self, take your pick.

By sometime in the 90s Dan used all the evidence from the above adrenaline-sucking paragraph to try to convince me of the virtues of an (early) cell phone. I agreed with him that having one in our possession could spare us – or at least reduce the frequency of – the nightmarish challenges of keeping up with communications while being on the road. In my very next breath I always went on to say – and here comes my actual soap box moment (just a warning) – that maybe it turns out that it’s actually good for us to have some private time. Maybe it’s all for the better that there are times that nobody knows where we are or how to reach us. Yes, I can turn my android off, but it’s possible that even just knowing that someone could be calling or emailing me keeps one tiny set of neurons on alert when they should be taking their twenty-minute power nap or meditating on a mantra that bears no resemblance to a handheld superpower device.

So while I’m happy to have this new instrument from the Star Trek era in my employ, I still feel uncomfortable with the fact that our host for this Friday night reached me when I happened to be shopping for lead refills for my No. 7 mechanical pencil and a backpack last night. And while I was able to carry on a perfectly coherent conversation with her as I navigated the aisles of the mega-store, it’s just plain weird that she didn’t have to know where I was while we were pinning down the parameters of tomorrow’s visit. I find it on the edge of icky when a woman in the stall or dressing room next to mine is chatting with someone I cannot see. (Granted, I cannot see the woman in the stall or dressing room next to mine either, but I know you know what I’m getting at. Please don’t let me lose my momentum here.)

When we were kids, my brother and I watched the Jetsons on television together. We wanted what they had – the TV-screen phones, the instant food, the remote camera intercoms, etc. – so bad we could taste it. While I know we have not gotten as far as flying cars (thank goodness – can you imagine bad or raging drivers filling the airways in addition to the highways?) we are using a lot of things that look like Jetson imitations as it is. My android is teaching me that it can be fun, just as that happy animated family from the future made it seem. But I also want to remind all of us that the Jetsons had their daily life issues, as do we all. George, Jane, Judy, and Elroy had all manner of things to contend with at home, at school, and in the workplace, which was what the episodes were REALLY about, even if my brother and I missed the so called point. It’s not how I call Dan every day, it’s the fact that I do get to talk to him. It’s not how we found the gas station, it’s that we are fortunate enough to be able to afford to pay for this trip so that I can develop further in my profession, and also so that Chloe and Rachel and I can enjoy being together in our respective musical endeavors, re-connecting with several old friends, and making new friends along the way. I am glad to have my droid’s help so that perhaps I am less frazzled when I get there! But let me remember that the tool, no matter how seductive, is still just a tool.

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