From Pleasure, Pain

This is the first in a series of blog posts about what I see as the paradox of love. This essay is my answer to the prompt, what has brought you to your knees? I’m not sure where I’ll go with this. Maybe you can help. Ask me questions, or prompt me in some direction. Please keep in mind, this is merely my take. Feel free to provide yours.

Nothing begins, nothing ends,
that is not paid for with moan;
for we are born in other’s pain,
and perish in our own.
~ Francis Thompson

Twenty years ago, I started using the phrase it’s all about how we feel. Normally, I’d caveat such a mantra by claiming it only applied to people without mental health issues. In this case, I think the words apply universally. How do you feel?

Love is the highest standard we have for caring about others. In literature, movies, music, religion, and in our daily lives; our obsession with love is obvious. It’s poorly defined, extensively written about, and grammatically misused; but love is everywhere in the English language. We want to love and to be loved. It’s our ultimate pleasure. How sweet love is.

I embrace love, but I fear pain. Pain can take over my body. Excruciating physical pain has brought me to my knees. It’s absurd that such pain may be helpful as it travels my nervous system from its source to my brain. Pain is abnormal. Even though we all experience pain, it’s not supposed to be there unless something is wrong. Pain is a symptom more useful to doctors than to me.

As bad as physical pain is, emotional pain is more devastating. In extreme cases, mental grief often leads to thoughts of suicide. In physical pain I might say, I want to die; but, I never intended that. I only wanted the pain to stop. On the other hand, people in emotional agony can be dangerous.

Our vulnerability to emotional pain is greatest when we love someone. When we love another person, we grant that person more power over us than any god or demon. Still, we choose to love. Not just willingly, but aggressively with passion and desire. Why? It’s like we can’t live without it. If anyone does live without love, we consider that sad and dysfunctional.

Love has brought me to my knees in two ways. First, the wondrous and joyful pleasure of experiencing love has led me to my knees with happiness. Be it romantic love, love of parents, love of children, grandchildren, or friends; the wonderful state of love takes away the dark and gives light.

Second, love has dropped me in pain, in fear, in a depressingly dark, hateful passion. Love betrayed leaves behind lifelong scars too deep to ever completely heal. The end of a romance, the betrayal of a friendship, the dismissal of a parent we love, the suffering or death of a child; each of these may, and perhaps should, put me on my knees. Such pain and agony from the dark side of love makes me question the value of life.

There may be recovery or even pleasure at the end of the tunnel. Time may mend love betrayed. Still, our human nature forces us to look back into that dark tunnel, into that abyss of pain and suffering. We remember. Do we dare to ever again risk pain by making ourselves vulnerable? Do we face the agony of finding ourselves desperately miserable because we loved?

Why do we do it? Would you, could you, live without love?

That’s a paradox of love. We know the risks, the vulnerability, and the potential to suffer. And yet, we still seek out love and take the risk. How do you feel now?

Even when we look both ways and mind each gap, we will experience pain in life.

“The truth is, everyone is going to hurt you.
You just got to find the ones worth suffering for.”
― Bob Marley (20 years after his death, which means he never said it. True, nonetheless.)

The youtube poem below is worth hearing/reading, and I think the Love Hurts song by Nazareth is worth a listen.

 

It’s Magic

Magic2

I like the word magic. I like magical things. I like to use it to explain things I don’t understand. I like to say it – magic. I enjoy the way it sounds and how it feels when I say it. I like words ending with the hard K sound. Duck, truck, shmuck, fu**…; you get the idea. Back in the day, when something was unexplainable, we used to say it was PFM (pure fu**ing magic). I still use that initialism.

Magic1While I may not believe that supernatural beings exist (okay, maybe some duende), I still like to refer to unexplainable, cool happenings as magic. I try not to use the words miracle or miraculous in a serious sense. But magical works for me. If others want to use words like miracle to describe things, I have no issue with that. If the Pope wants to use it’s magic to explain anything, who am I to object?

Rally cap (inside out, upside down)

Rally cap (inside out, upside down)

I avoid serious superstition, but I’m not opposed to having fun with it. I’m a baseball fan. Consequently, I also enjoy words like jinx, luck (bad or good), the rally cap behavior, and the movie Field of Dreams is a favorite.

The Hail Mary pass by Roger the Dodger.

The Hail Mary pass by Roger the Dodger.

And has not American football brought new meaning to the Hail Mary? A heavenly pass to win the game (apparently attributable to the mother of Jesus) – thus, a miraculous win. It could have just been a PFM pass. But no. We had to bring somebody’s mom into it.

One definition of magic is the use of things to exploit supernatural forces in the universe with the power to influence earthly events.

Our belief in magic has been around since the earliest humans. It continues to have important spiritual, religious, and medicinal purposes.

Magic can also be used to mean wonderful or exciting, which is my preferred usage.

Magic3The origin of the word, or the concept of magic, seems to be rooted in the religions of ancient times.

Witches allegedly performed magic, and we know how that worked out for many of them in years past. I am no more opposed to witchcraft than I am to magic tricks – just saying. I don’t need wiccans raining fire down on me.

All of that definition and historical stuff is too much for my contemporary old brain. We change the definitions and uses of words all the time. When I say magic, I don’t mean any of that religious stuff, nor do I think it is spiritual (okay, maybe just a nudge, for fun). It’s just my way of saying that “I don’t know why. It just is.”

I’ve written about the magic of art, the magic of relationships, the magical beauty of nature, the magical feelings we have, and many other uses of the word. I must like it. And regardless of anyone else’s religious, spiritual, or superstitious beliefs; I can use the word magic as much as I want. Right?

Penn Jillette

Penn Jillette

I like musicians and magicians. I’m not sure which one I enjoy more, but watching magic is more interesting whereas music is more about how I feel. I may need music, maybe not so much magic. I enjoy the same song many more times than I would the same magic trick.

I don’t think I can name a magician who believes that his or her magic has a religious basis. There may be some, but I am not talking about shamanism. I know of one magician who is also, conveniently, a musician. But he would deny any spiritual connection to his performances.

Penn Jillette is an entertainer. He is a magician, musician, juggler, comedian, actor, and a best-selling author. He is also an atheist. Penn detests any misleading deception regarding the essence of his magic. He clearly states that what he does are essentially tricks to fool people. He is known for openly divulging how entertainer magicians do their tricks.

Here is clip of Penn and Teller magic.

May the magic in life produce wonder, awe, and gratitude in your heart. May you find your own personal brand of magic in people, nature, art, music, and love. Then you can spread your joyful fairy dust around the world to magically make it a better place for all.

Click here to watch Pilot perform It’s Magic. Lordy, those boys were young. Since this is no wonder of lyrical magic, no need to watch it all to get the point.

Finally, a little Doris Day magic for you—just click here.

Final Topics on Creativity

Creativity and aging

There’s too much information available to cover this area adequately. My research indicates that we become less creative as we age. Perhaps we do. But I would not say ‘less.’

creative old2

We change with age: physically, mentally, and emotionally. I think we also change creatively. I don’t think we become less creative so much as our creativity becomes altered as we adjust to all changes in our lives. Certainly, significant aging and mental problems (dementia) and physical illness have their effect.

Blocks to creativity

Creativity is an attitude. Our curiosity sleeps with our creativity. The more curious we are, the more creative we seem to be.

creative old3There are too many blocks to mention each one. We all sometimes have blocks.

When I tell people that I am not as creative as they are, they often want to fix me – to give me advice on how to be more like them (do as they do, believe as they do, be as ‘open’ as they are). They would also advise me to be myself, blinking not an eye at the irony.

I don’t say that I’m not creative. Of course I am. Everybody is creative. But we are not all the same. My creative nature is more sensitive to that of other people, thus they are my preferred source of inspiration. I confess: I struggle with creativity. Many of us do. So what?

I think the blocks to our creativity begin at birth. We are born creative. As far as we know, it is a uniquely human trait. Children are wild with the creative process (in most cases) based upon the behavior we can see. We don’t know what we can’t see. We do not know the thoughts of others. We only hear what they tell us. Over time, our creativity struggles with life, society, judgement, our own human condition and nature, as well as that of others.

We don’t know what creativity is (no, we really don’t). We only know when we have it or when we do not. We can see it in the work or behavior of other people, but we cannot see into their minds and hearts. Like quality, we know it when we see it.

Value of music in creativity

I can read while listening to classical music (no lyrics), but no other genre. I must write in virtual silence. But I also find music as stimulating to my own creative process as anything. I have no idea how it would go if I did what a so many other artists do with music. But I know this: it helps in two areas.

One is in the magic of creativity itself. The other is in the execution of the work. Think of these two aspects as you watch Jonas Gerard (age 75) in the video below, creating with live music at his studio in Ashville, North Carolina.

“The rhythmic influence of music is an important part of his (Jonas Gerard’s) artistic process…. The music allows him to work unpredictably and intuitively, kicking it into another mode and bringing it home to a subconscious space where he can respond to the rhythm, and the direction the paintings suggest to him.” (from http://www.xanadugallery.com/2013/Artists/ArtistPage.php?ArtistID=7399)

The following is good regarding music.

“In addition to stimulating creativity, music can help contribute to the development of a more creative mind.”

“Creativity is within each of us and the very reason the world exists.” ~ Frank Fitzpatrick, Why Music, Part 6: Music and Creativity

creative old1Einstein was interested in both creativity and music. He tied the two, even suggesting he would be a musician, were he not a physicist.

“If I were not a physicist,” he once said, “I would probably be a musician. I often think in music. I live my daydreams in music. I see my life in terms of music … I get most joy in life out of music.” ~ Albert Einstein from Alice Calaprice, The Expanded Quotable Einstein (as quoted by Fitzpatrick)

Afflatus [əˈflātəs/] (n)

Afflatus is a divine creative impulse or inspiration. The word literally means inspiration. It does not refer to the usual sudden originality, but to the staggering and stunning blow of a new idea, an idea that the recipient may be unable to explain.

Add music to this and creativity becomes limitless, in my opinion.

Duende [do͞oˈendā/] (n)

Your Duende?

Your Duende?

Duende is the mysterious power of art to deeply move us. It’s a quality-level of passion and inspiration that may be felt by anyone. It can be the artist as they work. It can be the observer of the piece, the reader of the text, the listener of the music, the watcher of the act or dance.

When you are next moved like this, speak to the spirit within you, “Ah, my Duende, you feel it too?”

 

Mental health and Creativity

This is confusing, and for some of us, maybe a bit dangerous. No one is more artistic, creative, or on a higher creative plane because they suffer a mental malady. We can be both mentally ill and creative. How one effects the other is unknown.

There is sufficient research to indicate some correlation between the two. But nothing indicates that being drunk, high, depressed, or any other mental condition causes people to be more creative. Normal healthy people can be, and are creative. Throughout history, the same can be said for troubled artists and creative souls. It’s the difference between ‘because of’ and ‘in spite of.’creativity1

Letting Go

I can now move all books on creativity from my writing table to the bookshelf from whence they came. I want to thank Elizabeth Gilbert for Big Magic and I am grateful to my friends and fellow artists/writers who suggested it. While I still have a lot of issues with what Gilbert proposed, I wouldn’t have taken the time to do the work had I been in total agreement with her.

From whatevCreativity2er source your creative ideas flow, may they flow to you in abundance. May you be orgasmic, chilled and thrilled with ideas, concepts, and plans. May you make the best of all your days being creative and doing your thing (art, writing, music, etc.) and enjoying the universal gifts shared by others. May the spirit of duende haunt your heart and mind, thus bringing you to a spiritual bliss as only we humans can experience.

Taco Tuesday (Big Block Brewery)

Big Block2Big Block Brewery is a nano-brewery about fifteen miles east of Seattle. When I first visited on a Saturday afternoon, it wasn’t crowded, but it was busy enough. Parking was plentiful and close.

About a dozen customers were either sitting at the bar or around tables. Big Block1 (2)Another twelve were seated in a spacious outdoor courtyard area while a few more played a game that involved the tossing small bean bags into a hole in a wooden target. Several other games were available outside.

The on-tap beer menu was neatly listed on a large, black chalk-board over the bar. Of the four columns, three listed house brews. The fourth column listed several beers from other places. They post this menu on-line so customers can see what is being served.

Big Block 3

I thought the atmosphere pleasant. 1970’s soft-rock music was playing low enough for customers to converse in normal voice, but loud enough to be clearly heard. I have tried taking a book and reading — worked fine when I did it. Who needs Starbucks? Restrooms were clean.

The name Big Block refers to big, powerful muscle-car engines. The industrial décor, which was based on cars, engines, and tools was comfortable and consistently themed. The service was good, but I had to go to the bar to order my second beer and to pay my tab.

The porter and black ale that I sampled were good; the stout was better. One customer told me that he liked the IPA. He mentioned that you need to like the taste of hoppy beer for that (I don’t).

Beer samples served in red tool box.

Beer samples served in red tool box.

The sampler package is cleverly presented encased in a small, red, metal tool box containing five small, four or five-ounce glasses of a variety of the brew on tap. A big part of the business appeared to be filling growlers (one gallon bottles) with beer. Several customers left carrying one or two full growlers.

Big Block1 (6)I am a beer drinker and a bit of a beer snob. I don’t pretend to be a beer aficionado. But based on what I could see, the beer is good—if you drink beer. If you do not, there is an issue. I asked what they serve for people who don’t drink beer (like my dear wife). They have a limited supply of wine, water, and nothing else.

Big Block Brewery doesn’t have food service and offers virtually no snacks. However, customers may bring in anything they want to eat or drink. Making a trip to the convenience store next door seems inconvenient (pun, sorry), but reasonable. So bringing in a sack lunch (open for lunch on weekends only) is acceptable.

Pizza delivery is also okay and Uncle Si’s Pizza is only about 40-paces south. I’m okay with that. I suppose that they have a good reason for the limit (or the freedom, depending upon your point of view). If it works for the owner, I am good with beer and pizza anytime. But there is no in-house point-of-sale for munchies. I think I saw a couple of bags of something on one shelf.

The web page is passable. It has a good backstory about the business and description of beers. It is not as useful as their other sites. The web page beer menu was outdated when I looked at it. The Instagram link from their web page takes you to some great pictures of the establishment. Click the Twitter link from the web page for an updated list of beer on tap. I couldn’t find a link for their Facebook page, but it is useful and has a current menu (Facebook page link).

Big Block4In my opinion, Yelp also does a good job providing information. The reviews were very positive (4.5 stars). There’s a nice review and announcement on Washington Beer Blog.

Anyway, I will be going back and I hope to see you there. Do you have any favorite places like this near you?

Big Block Brewery:
3310 East Lake Sammamish Pkwy SE,
Sammamish, WA 98075

Operating Hours (49 hours per week):
Closed on Mondays.
Open on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday (3:00 pm – 9:00 pm),
Friday, Saturday (11:00 am – 10:00 pm), & Sunday (11:00 am – 8:00 pm)

Time Perceived

Time Perceived

TThe other night, as we sat discussing writing projects and their duration, the subject of time came up. There were three of us, representing roughly three generations. The more we talked about time and how each of us currently sees it in terms of the future, the more I realized how differently each one of us viewed it. Time does not change. We do, and thus our view of time changes with age.

Time2I claim to be a right here, right now kinda guy. I live in the present moment. As I contemplate writing a memoir, this seems to cause me an ‘angst’ problem in that I wanna, and I don’t wanna. (I also struggle with writing about myself, but that’s not the issue.) I like History. It could’ve been considered my second minor at A&M. My manuscript is historical-fiction with too much history and not enough fiction. This morning I was asked if I would write a time-travel book (I’m noticing that Vickie has a knack for asking me thought-provoking questions). I didn’t have a ready answer, but after a lot of discussion and thought, my answer is ‘nope.’

Time1After doing a bit of reading, I’m no longer positive that I know what ‘this moment’ in time is, or if it exists. My metaphysical (woo-woo) friends get excited about this fascinating subject. When they do, I look at my watch and note, “It is one-forty, PM.” But they’re right. It’s really an interesting topic. Physicists and philosophers are all over it. Check out all the wiki and academic research (here and here), it goes on-and-on. But, I want to address time in terms of normal people; ya-know, like a truck-driver, retired cop, and Sociology grad-student walked into a bar to discuss it.

The grad student is a young female (they live longer) and has tons of time and a bright future. She is planning her entire future. The truck driver is a middle-age, overweight, heavy smoker and drinker. He doesn’t think about it much, but needs to change his life style in order to have more time. The retired cop has been there and done that. He feels like he’s been lucky and may be on “borrowed time.” Each can see past and future time differently, but they are now in the same place doing the same thing. The biggest difference is age.

It’s not so much that all of us can’t plan to write our novel with five sequels. It’s how we see the time that it will take to do that, not to mention the patience and persistence that will be required.

Two of my favorite songs about time are below. The first is Jim Croce’s Time in a Bottle. The video is with his wife, Ingrid, and their son, A.J. This song was recorded just before Jim’s untimely death and later released posthumously.

The second is a rendition of the Byrds’ Turn, Turn, Turn, which has a biblical, Ecclesiastes basis.

Finally, the last video is a George Carlin skit on time. It is about 11 minutes long, so if you’re not a Carlin fan, skip it. If you are, enjoy.

Oh my! Look at the time.

Sad is not Bad

Sad is not Bad

S

Life is simple. We are born, we live, then we die. Nature isn’t simple. Human nature is neither simple nor consistent. We are emotional creatures. Have you ever heard “I over E,” meaning intellect over emotion? I’ve also been told, “lead with your heart,” “go with your gut,” “trust your intuition.” Has anyone ever told you “get over it (Eagle’s song notwithstanding)” or to “cheer up?”

This is about our relationship with sadness. I am not talking about clinical depression or that which is caused by chronic physical pain. This is about things that make us sad. To pull the fence in a little tighter, I’m also not talking about those things in our lives that cause us to feel sad. Such events as the loss of a pet or loved one, denial for promotion, or failing at something important do us make us sad. I’m talking about self-inflicted sad things that we choose to bring on ourselves consciously and deliberately–for pleasure. It’s a paradox, but it’s one of those things about human nature that I love.

sad6Stephen King has made a successful career out of scaring the hell out of many of us. We (not all) like to be frightened. Scary movies are fun. They are not for everyone, but a lot of people love them. Why? Is it the same with sad books, movies, songs, or plays? We keep going back for more.

I don’t think I am going out on a limb by saying that we like sad songs. They make us feel good. It’s true and you know it. I love dark, sad poetry, sad movies, books, and songs. But few who know me would say I am sad. This has been going on with people as long as we have had any form of entertainment. For evidence of my claim, I offer one research report and one report on an Ohio State University professor.

  1. The pleasures of sad music: a systematic review” is quite long, but the abstract gets the point across.
  2. Smiling Through the Tears: Study shows how tearjerkers make people happier” is a down to earth report of research projects focused on movies.

sad7My focus here is music. A friend loved the song Dance Me to The End of Love by Leonard Cohen. That is until she learned that the inspiration of the song was in fact the Holocaust. It is a lovely and beautiful song, but that sadness changed the song for her. The song is not sad by itself, but because the inspiration was so tragic, her opinion of the song changes from love to sadness.

When we listen to sad songs, we like them. Country & Western music is replete with sad songs. In the opinion of many, including Elvis, the saddest song ever was I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry by Hank Williams (1949). I want to warn you, when I hear this song it plays in my head for hours afterward (this is BJ Thomas).

Another I like is Unchained Melody by the Righteous Brothers (1965). Actually, the song is much older than that. It is one of the most recorded songs of the 20th century. The song’s publishing manager reports over 1,500 recordings have been made by more than 670 artists in multiple languages. In 1936, Bing Crosby turned it down.

My third choice, I Will Remember You by Sarah McLachlan (1996), is in close running with about a hundred others.

 

sad12For sad movies, I have listed only five. It could be hundreds.

  1. sad10Love Story (1970)
  2. Ghost (1990)
  3. The Green Mile (1999)
  4. Titanic (1997)
  5. P.S. I love you (2007)

We all have our favorites. That is my final bit of evidence. We wouldn’t enjoy sad songs, movies, books, plays, and art if they made us feel bad. What are your favorites in sad music, movies, plays, books, or art?

Quotes

Originally, I planned to list a few of my favorite quotes. Then, I decided to ask my wife and three adult children for theirs – from music, movies, or literature. But any quotes or sayings were fine. After they got going, it turned into quite a game for them.

YolondaYolonda, my wife of 50 years (we married at age 2), is a native Texan and has her ‘druthers.’

“Here’s a quarter, call someone who cares.” ~ Song by Travis Tritt

“Goodness gracious, great balls of fire.” ~ Song by Jerry Lee Lewis

“Love will keep us alive.” ~ Song by the Eagles

“Life’s a dance you learn as you go, sometimes you lead, sometimes you follow.” ~ Song by John Michael Montgomery

“I’m Texas born and Texas bred, and when I die, I’ll be Texas dead.” And, “You can take the girl out of Texas, but you can’t take the Texas out of the girl.” ~ Texas sayin’s

BillyBilly on right, (w/Phish bassist Mike Gordon), our oldest child is in his mid-40s, a very nice, loving, big-man. He’s always been an avid reader, a talented writer, a movie aficionado, and a hard-core Phish-head. Add bicyclist, father, hubby, friend, musician, and deep-thinker.

“San Francisco in the middle sixties was a special time and place to be a part of it. Maybe it meant something. Maybe not, in the long run…but no explanation, no mix of words or music or memories can touch that sense of knowing that you were there and alive in that corner of the time and the world. Whatever it meant…” ~ Hunter S. Thompson

“You’re either on the bus…or off the bus.” ~ Ken Kesey

“Dreams come true; without that possibility nature would not incite us to have them.” ~ John Updike

“We do survive every moment, after all, except the last one.” ~ John Updike

“I love you, Butternuts.” ~ From the movie Half Baked. (horse’s name was Buttercup)

“Wherever you go, there you are.” ~ Book, Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life by Jon Kabat-Zinn

“Whatever you do take care of your shoes.” ~ Lyrics from Phish song, Cavern

“Set the gearshift to the high gear of your soul…you’ve got to run like an antelope out of control.” ~ Lyrics from Phish song, Run Like an Antelope

StevenSteven is our middle-child, now in his early 40s. He’s another good guy. An avid sports fanatic (Spurs and Cowboys) and mountain biker. Add hubby, step-father extraordinaire, house music DJ (Steve Balance), friend, and all-around cool-dude (maybe pragmatic and analytical). He initially said that he had no fav quotes, but when he and his sista’ got to texting, there they were.

“I am Groot.” ~ Repeated by Groot, a sentient alien character embodied in the shape of a tree and member of Marvel’s superhero team ‘Guardians of the Galaxy.’ Due to its frequent appearance in the 2014 film adaptation of the comic book series, the quote quickly gained recognition among the fans of the film, similar to the fan art surrounding the phrase Hodor, which is the only phrase uttered by the character in HBO’s medieval fantasy TV series Game of Thrones.

“Turn out the lights, the party’s over” ~ Willie Nelson Song made more famous on Monday Night Football by Don Meredith.

“That’s what I love about these High School girls, man. I get older, they stay the same age.” ~ David Wooderson in Dazed and Confused. (Billy also liked this one)

“Would I ever leave this company? Look, I’m all about loyalty. In fact, I feel like part of what I’m being paid for here is my loyalty. But if there were somewhere else that valued loyalty more highly…. I’m going wherever they value loyalty the most.” ~ Dwight Schrute in TV show, The Office

“Got a joint man? …. Be a lot cooler if you did.” David Wooderson in Dazed and Confused.

I’m not superstitious, I’m only a little stitious.” ~ Michael Scott

Julie and CAOur beautiful ‘baby’ is Julie. She can recite every line from the movie Grease (oddly did not quote it), is an artist, a thirty-something, 21st Century hippie, a mom and step-mother. I think she is a wonderful writer and, like her mom, a Grammar-Nazi. She lives in the middle of nowhere with her hubby, son, occasionally a step-son, or two lovely elves, too many cats, horses, and sometimes (because he likes to chase the horses) a dog.

“Tell me about the f***ing golf shoes.” ~ Hunter S. Thompson, from movie Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

“Be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars. In the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul.” ~ Max Ehrmann

“Why fit in when you were born to stand out?” ~ Dr. Seuss

“Woman are like tea bags; we don’t know our true strength until we’re in hot water.” ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

“So, Jesus is a superhero like Superman, or Batman, right?” ~ Julie’s 10-year-old son, CA, at age four.