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23 July 2011

A Personal Note

DISCLAIMER: This blog generally serves the purpose as a look into my portfolio. However, this is a rare instance that I feel it appropriate to let it serve as look into my soul. Feel free to pass over this post.

Death is not something to escape. This is a bold statement to make and I don't mean any disrespect or insensitivity to anyone by saying so. I usually sit at a funeral and react the way I would at a fundraising meeting or corporate health insurance training. Or so others have accused. But it's not that I'm not affected by a monumental event -- I just process it differently than most people I know.

I have been somewhat preoccupied with the idea of death for the last year. I try to be the kind of person who is constantly learning. I've become a victim of being so "open minded" that things are spilling over the edge, sloshing into doubtful and half finished conclusions. I've noticed that answers that used to be all encompassing have as of late proved too small and shallow to even hold nostalgia. It's a part of growing up -- I accept this. But I can't help but think that we each go through this maturation process differently. If this wasn't true, then I don't know why nature wasted it's time making all of us as individual as snowflakes. As they fall from the sky, not a single flake ever could take the same path. I'm not saying this as a scientist -- I'm saying it as a dreamer. I have to assume that the individual shape, size and weight of a snowflake causes them all to fall in undetermined, hectic and INDIVIDUAL patterns. This is different then other forces of nature -- like rain. Every raindrop can be paired up with an undetermined amount of twin drops. They must even take the same course through the coordinate sphere we live in -- they only travel in straight lines.

I think it's obvious that the human heart is far more like a snowflake than a raindrop. Every breath we take pushes us in a new direction from our peers around us. A person's identity is seen through every day they live, every chance they take.

I can't remember when this happened or who it happened with. But I was having a conversation with someone about artistic direction in a film. I spoke highly of a movie that I can't remember now. But I remember specifically not being able to find a word for how I wanted to describe the formation of the work. I hopelessly tried words like the director 'crafted', 'directed', 'formed', 'sculpted', 'painted', 'designed' his work. None of these verbs approached what I felt about the job he had done. But despite my frustration, I came up with the verb I wanted: orchestrated. That's what he had done. He had orchestrated the work into something beautiful.

Music is something that I understand enough to be properly stumped, awed and generally confused about the very nature of it.  An individual note produced in a clear, unspoiled tone is a simple building block.  It can come in many colors, textures, contours or any other descriptor you can find.  From there, those blocks are put together to create a melody.  This process repeats so many time until you are left with a complete orchestra.  But you will never hear a symphony performed the same way twice.  This is due to the fact that the brick layers are all embracing the moment as an opportunity to sing their personality.

Our lives are orchestrated by every building block of time they span.  Every person we meet is another counter melody to our theme.  Some produce dissonance.  Some parallel our song.  But we all hold out for those whose blend with our and create harmonies that soothe our souls and bring us to tears.  To connect with another person is like listening to their symphony through their own unique voice.

I think about the symphony that my life has been.  There have been boring parts.  There have been daring parts.  It's amazing to think about everything that has been packed into 25 years.  I started off unable to see, walk, talk, eat or do anything at all for myself.  In just 25 years, I've experienced so much.  I've met so many people.  I've been wrong so many times.  Just like live performance -- we're not granted the luxury of going back and fixing a mistake.  We can only press forward in a way we haven't done so before, trying to make the future more beautiful than the past.

We usually don't know when the concert is going to end.  We aren't given a program on our way in.  The lady next to me with the mink stole that smells like mothballs tells me that other concerts generally end after a certain number of years.  I can hear the fellow behind me with the cubic zirconia cuff links say that the most beautiful part of these things is when kids enter the picture.  People fumble with flash bulbs on cameras or waxy records, trying to capture as much of it as they can to revist after the fact.  Someone in the back brought a kid that clearly would rather be at a circus than a concert -- how could he understand what he's about to witness?  He's only a child.  Children don't value a concert like an adult does.  I've been to parts of other people's concerts.  Some of them have only a few instruments while others have performers being elbowed off a stage that creak under the weight of so many people.  I haven't liked everything I've heard.  Sometimes I've had to wait in my chair for what seems like forever while the musicians are tuning.  The conductor just won't take charge.  Other times I have been refused admittance to the performances.  No matter how I beg and plead at the door, I'm not let in.  I don't know why.  Is it insecurity that the music isn't good?  I won't shout out boos or cat calls.  Maybe the hall is already too full.  But that's silly too cause I take up hardly any room.  I wouldn't be in anyone's way.

It seems like that the only thing that is the same in all the shows is the beginning.  Just the first note.  That's the same for everyone.  But from the moment that the doctor slaps the baby into life, things are different for everyone.  But getting back to the matter at hand, they all end.  Often unexpectedly.  And in that moment everyone reacts differently.  Most say the same thing -- why did it have to end so early?

I resent that.  Why is that the first thing we think?  Why did it have to end so early?  I feel that the subtext is "I'm not satisfied".  Get over yourself.  It wasn't your symphony.  Instead of saying that you wish it would go on, realize that you didn't even understand the majority of what you heard.  Now that it's over, you can begin to digest what you have been given.  Did it move you?  Did it change you?  It should have.  You should have let it.  Put your stupid cell phone away during the concert and listen.  Listen to what's going on.  It's beautiful.  The mournful cries.  The triumphant crescendos.  You were just treated to a masterpiece, full of theme and variations, counterpoint melodies, modulations of wisdom.  Did you decipher even a single progression?  Have you ever resolved a three chord that way?  How many keys did we pass through?  You want the song to keep going on?  You didn't even get the cost of the ticket out of what you just heard.  Even though you were presented with fortunes.

The real reason I wrote this is because of what I'm going to write about now -- how I want people to react when I die.

I don't know when it will happen.  That doesn't matter.  The worst thing someone could say at my funeral is "he had so much life ahead of him".  That's not true.  I didn't.  That was all I had.  Say instead "he had so much life behind him".  Don't mourn that fact that there isn't any more -- instead focus on what was accomplished during that time.  In my life, I have excelled on the piano.  I have ran more races than I can count.  I have skiied in the Rocky Mountains.  I have swam in every ocean, except for the freak ones on the poles.  I guess that makes it only 3 out of 5.  But that's more than half.  I've run on the Great Wall.  I've cliff jumped in the Mediterranean.  I've kayaked in Alaska's seas.  I've listened to Native American Rock Opera in the shadow of Mount Rushmore.  I've loved without being loved back.  I've withheld love from those who loved me.  I've grown up in the care of two Titans.  I'm one of 6 world changing children.  I've believed in myself.  I've given up on myself.  I've embraced myself.  I've realized my dreams.  I've failed.

The symphony of my life has been more than I could have ever dreamed on that July morning that I came into this world.  I saw light for the first time 25 years ago.  I still don't have any idea what it is.  But I love it.  I love life.  I love being alive.  When it's done -- it's done.  That's okay.  The show was great.  It will echo in deep places on this earth for a while.  But even when the very last strains cease to find listening ears, I will never forget my song.  I will listen to it over and over and over again.  I'll love every missed note and every broken string.  There won't be any part of it that I will let go of.  And I'll bask in the overwhelming concert schedule I'll have for the rest of time.  When I feel it's right, I'll interject one of my own melodies that I wrote in a way that I don't understand now.  Don't mourn me when I'm gone.  Celebrate the time I had.  Celebrate what we shared.  When we connected, we forever wrote each other into our song.  Listen to it again.  It was beautiful.  I will.

So when you see me at your funeral not crying, it's not because I'm thinking about work I'm behind on.  I'm not smiling because I'm thinking about the lunch waiting for us.  I'm not staring at the window because I'm wishing I was somewhere else.  I'm just listening to the song another time.  It really was great.  Thank you for it.  Thank you for filling it with life.  We can't possibly live everything ourselves.  We can't be every snowflake.  Thanks for giving a tiny peek into what it's like to be your snowflake.  I'll love you for that.  You are celebrated today -- whether you're dead, alive or waiting for your turn.  I hope you celebrate me too.

The real tragedy of life is that we get only one.  Death as a rebirth -- did the Mayans have it right?  A dying star as the afterlife?  Beautiful.  Tragic.  Wonderful.

Hey -- you're great.  I can't wait to hear your symphony.

1 comment:

  1. As long as I've known you, this is exactly how you treat people you meet. with genuine interest in their story.