Posts Tagged ‘ideas / philosophy’

Time this time. I was looking through Instagram photos of soccer teammates, the joy and camaraderie they find in each other, then thinking how ephemeral sports teammate-dom often is, in a world of trades, injuries, and retirements. A thing of a season or a few seasons. Many things appear this brief to me now, having nailed down a few decades of life, but when you’re young and doing something among well-liked peers, the impacts and memories are deep and long-lasting; time seems to slow to allow you to really take hold of a moment, or at least it takes hold of you in retrospect. Schopenhauer pointed this out.

These thoughts, and some listening to Arcade Fire (whose best topic will always be nostalgia), particularly “We Used To Wait” (a song I will always identify with in our cellphone-changed world), got me wondering, how can we slow down time? In younger days, the novelty of what life set before me and the lack of self-conscience and relative lack of busyness and worry all added up to a slowed-down time. But could I, as an adult, get time to slow down?

I think of my multifarious life: the places I’ve lived, people I’ve known, pastimes I’ve pursued for pay or other (mostly other), the multitude of subjects I’ve read about and explored. I think of my time on a soccer team or at my junior high school or with a certain group of friends or minoring in Classical Studies in college or studying dragonflies and damselflies. With all of these, and the countless other things I have spent time on, it feels like I have just scratched the surface of what they could be.

Time and change go hand in hand, but I wonder what if I had stayed with my group of 7th grade schoolmates through my whole life, would I still feel I really had plumbed the depths of the relationships? There were so many people I barely knew, not to mention my friends and all the things we left unexplored. Or if I’d stuck it out in my DC job at age 30, where some people I used to work with remain colleagues. Would moving through time with this same set have made time seem richer and slower?

Put another way, imagine living in a year, say 1992, for a whole lifetime, meeting the same people, maybe traveling a little, but essentially exploring everything that was 1992 for a lifetime, the people, the places, the topics, the issues, etc. Not exactly a “Groundhog Day” recurring over, but time stood still allowing for all the world’s texture to be experienced.

But, of course, time doesn’t stand still, ever.

This is not the way of humans, the world, but if you look at a lifelong poet or a professor specialized in a narrow topic, you get a hint of the possibility of just how long time can seem. Imagine poring over the literature on a couple of specialized topics for the entirety of life, tweaking courses you are teaching, creating studies, honing pieces of writing that you are proud of, that benefit from a life’s focused gathering of expertise. Getting to know your colleagues in these endeavors, how their views differ or harmonize with yours, how change and evolution or stubborn resolution not to change points of view manifest themselves.

Maybe these minor adjustments and permutations really do slow down time in our minds, more than changing places and ideas and people incessantly as the months roll by. I’ll have to think more about this, and apply it to my life if it sounds like a better way.

Just a ragged peer into an inexhaustible realm.


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Despite lengthy inactivity due to other commitments, this blog still crops up in my thoughts and will continue. I originally planned to focus on music here, which I considered one thing I knew something about, and that the things I knew about it were fading. This led me to think that the “younger generation” or the international set might get something out of what I was writing, that maybe my personal recollections and opinions, and a healthy dose of links and images might bring some joy of discovery.

Now, I have often strayed from the blog’s intent into the personal realm, often thanks to the thoughts music has dredged (or conjured) up. Apart from these more meditative (or cathartic) entries, though, music remains the focus. It struck me the other day, though, how instinctively resentful I can be when someone recommends music to me. Music takes less time than a book or even a movie, so a music recommendation is easier to pursue, and there’s a broader pallet of music I want to spend time on than for books or movies, but there is still that knee-jerk reaction.

This resentment is not universal and it is not historical—a lot of my early musical taste came thanks to others and people to this day, especially if I like them, can send me in wonderful directions. I recently met someone who has had just this effect. There is great joy in discovering something for one’s self, but it doesn’t need to always happen that way.

So, when it comes to this blog, I am not necessarily recommending music to people when I write about it: I am mentioning it in the context of my life and tastes and if people latch onto it so be it and fantastic! I discovered a lot of music incessantly listening to the radio and poring over entertaining reference books on the subject, and people now allow some music service to shower them with similars. I prefer the album format, and will continue to push that here, but otherwise I am looking forward to just continuing to recount my personal taste and experience and letting it be for whomsoever.

Here’s to 2022.

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My reading calendar has been consciously in place longer than my music one, which is still driven only by feeling until maybe my last post, where I codified my feelings, for better or for worse.

I’m not sure how it started, but it must have been feelings like my music ones, and then a decade or so ago I looked at all the books on my shelf and decided to enjoy the carousel that was my mind, for once. Some of these monthly selections arose very naturally, long before I was conscious of anything, some came when I saw I had a mess of worthy books that were not being read. 

You might wonder where the nature books are; well they have been declared an ongoing concern, with readings in that vein taken up throughout the seasons. 


Russian, or Continental, fiction. This clearly arose from my working world days, taking the train to work in bitter weather and enjoying soaking up every phantasmagoric page of bedraggled, disgruntled, gauche civil servant fiction.


Brit hist, Vicky, Boney, Scots, &c. This started in an era of a lot of reading of the eras and lives of Napoleon and Queen Victoria, branching into general British history, including and especially the more alienated nations, plus the rest of Europe. The 19th century doesn’t loom as large as it once did, although it is still immense.


Presidential bios/U.S. history. Having collected two sets of presidential biographies, this seemed requisite. One president a year in at least one short book, and history related to his era.


International history (non-U.S., non-European). Adventures in my smattering of history books set in Asia, Africa, South America, Caribbean, Central America, the Middle East, the Pacific, the Arctic, Siberia &c.


Zola’s Rougon-Macquart series. In order written, as series should be read. We’ll see if I live long enough. I have a couple of translations of some of the books and have enjoyed comparing them to the originals when selecting.


Children’s fiction, Very Short Introductions. Summer away from school, why not read the old favorites? I have pairs of Oxford’s “Very Short Introductions” books and this an opportune time for summer study fun!


Thick novel. Sometimes not so thick. Lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer.


Music, art. A small group of classical music books (scores, lives), plus a lot of books about 19th-centure painters, mostly. 


Greek, Classical World, ancient, Louis MacNeice. A return to my heady first year of college where I delightedly delved into Classics. Greek Epics, plays, and poems, maybe history and art, what have you. Other ancients have been added to the mix. I began reading my collected Louis MacNeice (born on a date near mine) poems whose publication dates matched my age. I abandoned this habit several years ago, but am rectifying that this catch-up year.


Poetry, ghost stories, Irving-Chew. More loving return to schooldays, and what other month could be most poetic of the year, Keats’ birth month? On his birthday I read Washington Irving’s “Legend of Sleepy Hollow” annually for a decade or so. This gave way to Ruth Chew books about witches and magic. I also read a biography of A. C. Swinburne this month a while back. I never liked his poetry, but dug his life, and decided he’d make the ideal Hallowe’en persona if I ever put a lot of effort into ever wearing a costume again. 


Philosophy, religion. November weather must make me think, or want to. Paving the way for celebration and change?


Mystery, comics, roleplaying game rules/worlds. This started with reading a volume of Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes books per December along with Wodehouse or something akin. Now I have some comic book collections and roleplaying game guides lying around, so might add those. We’ll see.  

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More than a decade ago, I scribbled a few song lyrics on Post-it notes and strew them around my room; they are now stacked in a cabinet. There are six, and I thought it would be fun to take a look at each one and see what they dredge up. I recently re-listened to a John Betjeman interview where he likened pop stars to poets for our times, and these six quotations I wrote down were poetry to me.

Telephone rings,

someone speaks —

She would very much

Like to go — out to a show…

I remember being excited by these words, the idea of a woman who would call me out of the blue and invite me out. This Post-it gave a tiny sketch of an ideal woman, an ideal experience and situation. Wistfulness, a longing, a something lost in the past these are part of the Post-it sextet, but there’s more to it as well. The song is called “Paintbox,” and its lyrics and music bring a bunch of images to my mind I won’t get into here.

This Post-it has a line of tape across the top of it, so I had it taped onto something at some point. Could it have been a telephone?

Featured too often on t-shirts and other cultural utterances as a kid, I avoided Pink Floyd (and Led Zeppelin) for a long time (I have still successfully avoided Led Zeppelin). One day I got hold of Relics, a grab-bag compilation of their early stuff came my way, and that along with a bit of knowledge of the oddity of Syd Barrett got me to listen.

Composed by their keyboardist, Rick Wright, “Paintbox” has a pressing, percussion-driven beat from the drums and piano. Other than the romantic moment I’d latched onto, its theme is more of desire to escape from pounding social pressures. The singer wants to be rid of fools, rules, ‘their’ friends, the game, the scene, traffic, she. “I open the door to an empty room / Then I forget.” When the girl telephones, the singer isn’t sure what to do, but she sees through him, and the outing is planned and some comical stress and anger ensue.

A wonderful mix of music and words and themes from, as the 45s below call them, The Pink Floyd. One of their best songs, and it’s the b-side of a single, something not so unusual when you get to know a group well. 


We’ll see what’s next in our Post-it sextet soon.

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There is quite a trade in misheard lyrics and I don’t plan on making a habit of being part of it, although my old notebooks are full of lyric re-writes often based on initial hearings of Smiths’ and other songs. The Clash, when confronted about Joe Stummer’s enunciation, said that part of the fun was listening and the lyrics eventually clicking, and I agree. And sometimes it’s fun to run with the lyrical notions we’ve created when listening to songs.

Legendary Scottish band, the Trashcan Sinatras, have a song on what I’d call their best album, Weightlifting. It’s called “Leave Me Alone.” When I hear it, I think of the relationships that have ended that I still wish hadn’t ended. Those get fewer and far between as time passes, but there are still one or two or three I think about.

Here are the lyrics, as found online:

The hardest thing of all is to belong
The oddest thing of all this time
Is I’m not sad at all, I can see beyond
The hardest thing of all – goodbye

Leave me alone, you’re all I wanted
Don’t haunt me now, don’t want to know
Leave me alone, I’ve found what I’m made of
Don’t want you back, don’t need you back

Got no place to go, feeling’s going slow
The lowest of the low tonight
Well how am I supposed to know
If you won’t talk to me
Don’t talk to me

Yeah, the hardest thing of all
The oddest thing of all
Is I’m not sad alone

It’s beautiful how the singer accepts the situation and is resolute in their goodbye and doesn’t want the loved one to return or bother them with little friendly gestures anymore, even though there is a tinge of regret in the “you won’t talk to me.”

Legendary Scottish Band bumper sticker. (from rainmatesforever.com)

I had heard the first verse as this:

The hardest thing of all is to belong
The oddest thing of all is time
I’m not sad at all, I can see beyond
The hardest thing of all – goodbye

Similarly, the last verse as this:

Yeah, the hardest thing of all
The oddest thing of all
I’m not sad at all

So, rather than “this time,” I heard “is time,” giving a more philosophical tone to it all. “Time” is the odd thing instead of “I’m not sad at all” being the odd thing.

Sometimes I also heard “oldest thing of all is time”, adding more to that tone. Either way, my way of hearing gives the lyric a paraphrase something like, “It’s hard to belong, and time is odd (or old). But I’m not sad, and can now see beyond your goodbye into the timelessness of the universe. Nothing begins or ends, the past is not cordoned off from the present, and such notions. Despite the goodbye, I can live with it thanks to this perspective.”

The original lyric may carry a similar philosophical look, perhaps, with the singer not sad, seemingly for similar reasons as I just described. Or it may just be a more unthinking feeling of not being sad by the loss without any reasoning attached; they have moved on for whatever reason.

Maybe, probably, my mishearing doesn’t amount to a hill of beans, but as someone who used to trade in such writing, it sure is interesting (to me).

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As I look at my lists⁠—lists of favorite books, games, favorite movies and shows, movies and shows to see, careers, what to do today, what I want to do with my life in writing, nature studies, and learning the didgeridoo⁠—I sometimes think of what has been lost, how life was long before these lists really took hold and established what seems to be a permanence.

When I was young, I didn’t think about or try to plan which way my mind would go, and accomplished seemingly all sorts of things, including a few fun lists, of course, from the World Almanac, an Estes model rocket catalogue, or whatever else was in my hands; but they were never lists that pressured me into the future. You never know, and more importantly it never seems to matter, which way the mind will go when untutored, unstudied, left to its own devices, un-self-conscious. What projects, pursuits, and pitfalls it will fall into and just as easily slip out of. If there is an inherent energy, a lot will be done, possibly even accomplished.

A couple of writers come to mind who wrote in this way⁠—Lord Byron and H.G. Wells. Byron was an endless fount of poetry for a lot of his life, and was tired by his editors, but kept composing and wasn’t given to too much polishing. Wells pursued his writing objectives, completed them, and then moved on. He did not dwell upon his novels in the aesthetic revision sense. John Keats could sit under a plum tree, scribble up an ode and leave it thrust into some books, to be scooped up by Charles Armitage Brown and later published as a masterpiece.

There is something to working randomly that the burden of age, conscience, time pressures, or simple change has robbed me of. But, contrariwise, there is something to that final polishing and publishing that takes conscientiousness and follow thru. The fine art of acting in the moment and then taking the steps to preserve what is worthwhile out of it.


This tidbit came to mind amidst this crisis and all of this almost lecherous turning out of doors and socializing in larger and larger groups: “I am perfectly fine with many things being put on hold. When you’re on crutches you can’t play soccer for a while⁠—do something else. I don’t know why many in our society don’t draw that same conclusion.” My married, but otherwise bordering-on-hermit friend concurred, adding a few choice words about sheep, well here they are: “Maybe I’m full of myself but I think many in our society don’t have the capacity to draw the same conclusion. People work their jobs, watch television. They aren’t critical thinkers. They aren’t learners. They’re sheep. Sitting at home all day, they don’t know what to do with themselves. When you have a narrow identity and that identity is taken away, they don’t see anything other than getting that identity back. I don’t know. It’s a theory.”


And then this exercise from an old junior high friend who posted the idea online: favorite songs of yours as a kid, from tenderest babe up to early junior high. I copped out a bit on this, not digging into the deeper reaches of my memory. Maybe I was a little afraid to probe into the pre- and early elementary school daze, but what I came up with was something at least. Just way too many songs passing into my brain in the 70s. I fondly remember playing the song “I Can’t Stand It” from a neighbor’s Donny Osmond album at speed 78, ca. 1977, and I know that wasn’t because we liked the song. 

So, restricting myself to early ’45s I bought that I still have and sometimes play: “Come on Eileen” Dexy’s Midnight Runners, “Rock of Ages” Def Leppard, “Cum on Feel the Noize” Quiet Riot, “Electric Avenue” Eddy Grant, “Abracadabra” Steve Miller Band, “Even the Nights Are Better” Air Supply, “One Thing Leads to Another” The Fixx, “The Safety Dance” Men Without Hats, “Keep Feelin’ Fascination” The Human League, “I Feel for You” Chaka Khan, “Stray Cat Strut” The Stray Cats, “Puttin’ on the Ritz” Taco, “Total Eclipse of the Heart” Bonnie Tyler. Not so bad, actually!

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One of the cooler conservation organizations out there, the Center for Biological Diversity, sent me a postcard with a beautiful red fox looking at me with the poem “Keeping Quiet” beside. It’s by Pablo Neruda and I hope you’ll read it and mull it over, maybe even recognize it as your natural state, one that seems to have been forced upon many people these days who are so used to unceasing hustling. Without going on about it, I had never read this poem before, and it perfectly reflects the way to combat this gospel of profit margin, of anthropocentric growth, of getting ahead that so pervades human endeavor.

Speaking of celebrating the profitless, have you voted in the Signac puzzle piece poll yet?

I’ve been spending some more time with Divine Discontent by Sixpence None The Richer, listening more closely and associations that were vague now register.

There is the Crowded House cover, track 4, and one that brings to mind Alanis Morissette (5), early late Beatles (10), Bacharach or Alpert (11), and not sure, but someone (12), all delivered with Leigh Nash’s rich vocals and Matt Slocum’s rich orchestration and deft (along with Sean Kelly) guitar playing.

As usual, the best songs are the ones penned by Slocum alone. There’s even a developing “hat trick,” as I call a wonderful succession of three songs that lead off the somber festivities: “Breathe Your Name,” “Tonight,” and “Down and Out of Time.” This last is my favorite song at this point, and one Nash also contributed to.

Slocum’s songwriting remains at the high level of their big hit album, and his vulnerability and confessional knowledge of his own weaknesses remains as well. “I’ve Been Waiting” hooks you in and takes the breath away. “Down and Out of Time” captures some of the song that began their previous album“We Have Forgotten” has this lashing out: “don’t go, I’ll shoot you down.” “Down and Out of Time” says, “I aim my cannon at you ready or not / You’re gonna feel my pain like it or not.”

There’s no nicer song to sing along with. And it’s perfect for this time when so much is grounded and, despite all the pain for so many, there is much to be found in exactly thatbeing grounded. “Perhaps this earth can teach us / as when everything seems dead / and later proves to be alive.”

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Time is the trickiest business for us humans and as time presses on us and passes us by, we sometimes learn a thing or two about it. A decade or so ago, I garnered a ticket for turning right somewhere in Chicago where it was perfectly safe to do so, although an unnoticed sign prohibited it. After shelling out and a week of online traffic school, I learned a thing or two and was almost grateful for the experience. Hurrying to a destination rarely shaves off much time, and the times it causes an accident or ticket more than compensate for time saved while weaving in an out of traffic, treating each trip like a race between unspecified opponents on an unspecified course, or in tailgating or passing people only to cut them off or wind up right in front of them at a red light.

Sitting back a bit and watching the world unfold is more than worth it, in the end, and besides I can listen to (and sing) good music while driving, so what’s the rush? Haste does make waste, I constantly notice as I try to maneuver something in my apartment only to drop it. I have never been one to hurry. I was not especially eager to grow up or graduate from class to class. I spent an extra half-year, at least, at grad school phase two because I was comfortably working half the week, taking a small class load, and writing in my spare time. Never in a rush to marry for its own sake. When confronted with an almost incalculable span of time in fifth grade–what will your life be like in the year 2000–I produced something akin to normality, having a wife and kids and such, without much thought and certainly no plan or overwhelming aspiration. It just seemed how things would unfold, and that was fine.

Now, life sans hurry can lead to accomplishing nothing sometimes, especially when opportunities are not seized. On the other hand, life can be savored by looking around one’s self as time slips by. Delay is no friend either, and I have seen it these days with family, resistance to change, to facing reality, taken to dangerous levels. There is plenty of life left, and curtailing an activity here and there due to age or inability or what have you, well, there is no harm in that, and in fact it can be life-saving and life-improving.

My plan is to keep doing things, keeping busy, but not feeling compelled to rush into anything, and trying to better seize a moment when I can. There is value in holding my tongue and not acting, but more and more I note it is best to just say it and get it over with. No one is perfect at this, we are often off, but we can hone our skills as time passes by, however much our capabilities and ambitions may change. What is clear, though, hurry and delay can cause a lot of trouble and art is long.



Hurrian “Urkish Lion” and foundation document, Third Millennium BCE

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Delight in blindness.— “My thoughts,” said the wanderer to his shadow, “should show me where I stand; but they should not betray to me where I am going. I love my ignorance of the future and do not wish to perish of impatience and of tasting promised things ahead of time.” (Niet.)

It has been an unusual year or two, and as 2018 turned to 2019, when faced with a choice, I have decided to pare away, to strip down what I was doing to what I, in fact, wanted to do. My conservation work, although tedious in role at times, has been fulfilling and some camaraderie has arisen. Most else has been pretty much nil, but being close to my family and haunts is always satisfying. I rejuvenated a former working passion of mine and it might lead finally to a bit of recompense. If I were not so stubborn, I might have fled this place and find it happier by now, but I am always looking around here, trying to extract blood from a stone, whether it be a bird in a forest I’ve known my whole life, or finding a way of life here.

There is a tremendous beauty in this falling to nothingness, ignored by the hiring world, not pursuing unrequited friendships, rejuvenating my tasks and goals. Past great loves of mine have finally been let go, and the boxes storing those memories have dwindled to one. I sometimes feel a pang of regret in part of me. I wish what is now behind well. I cannot look back for long, for any longer.

And the past came to me these past couple of years in force. A college reunion in 2018 led to long conversations with people I’d respected then, but didn’t know well at all. On the other hand, a close friend or two from that time is no longer close. A couple of the very few cards I sent out this December to people from that time have gone unanswered.

And in 2019, high school took its turn, an even more obscure reunion for me, who had barely scratched my brain to think of that time in a decade or two. The nooks of the school were familiar again as we toured, and I found I had a single happy flash of recollection about almost everyone I met. It is benign, almost happy to meet people again who you barely knew then. The couple of formerly close friends I spent time with were fun to see as well. The others were small things: “I remember her, overhearing her commenting that she loved saxophone music as the girl behind me kept staring at and seemingly trying to steal my eyelashes.” “This woman wrote a different binomial equation in every yearbook she signed.” “This person lived so close to me, but being a block out of the range of where I ran around with my friends, I never got to know her.” Such happenstance smoothed over with age.

Someone I thought I might wish to meet again was at a concert. I had not imagined this context, and she with her husband, and it was pure revulsion after a moment of initial stun. In another context, maybe not revulsion, but it’s done and now revulsion is the default and so it will remain. I wash my hands of that wish.

I found someone recently who I had searched for off and on for years, ever since she’d said goodbye at the end of a school year way back then. No reply; could she forget me?. Or was it an odd juxtaposition for her, not worth it? I can let these things go now; I have tried, and the past is not much for our present⁠—it truly does end.

The world is indifferent, I know this, but experiencing it with such force in the world of standard human endeavor of these days⁠—finding work, finding love⁠—this indifference I had not quite experienced in the same way, with the same endurance, although I have found I can endure it pretty well. I refuse to refuse myself, to contort myself, to comport myself. And I am the better for it. After nothing most likely will come something.

And again, there is the delight in nothing, lost but still possibly on the verge of being found, but not relying on it, not trying to pave deliberate some way for it. Tonight, the delight of the epiphany is here with us now; my world has fallen to nothing; I am saved from strife. “Then the tempo of life slows down and becomes thick like honeyeven to the point of long fermata, of the faith in long fermata.” (Niet.) The earlier holidays’ powdered-sugared Pandoro is now parti-colored Rosca de Reyes.

I imagine most would say I have held the fermata too long, and yes I think of my former band teachers. Say it has been too long a pause in my indecision, confusion, stubborn refusal, seeking self again. I can let this long, sweet pause go like I have much else. Now it is time for achievement, compromise to scrape together a living and maybe loving. I look at the pair of Stiphodon gobies that have the 29-gallon fish tank beside me all to themselves and think of my being alone, and of the old line of mine in my head: “I await one ere I seal my tomb.” It holds true, and though it was written with a wife in mind, it can also apply to paying work. But even now, these do not compare to the satisfaction in this nothing, knowing myself as I stand. Now it is time, with minimal compromise, and as the celebrated musical advised, to Follow Thru and fulfill what I am.


Nancy Carroll in Follow Thru ©1930, Paramount Pictures

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