Thursday, May 23, 2013

Far From the Tree

I’ve written about this book before when I was reading it a few weeks ago. I had to take it back to the library and wait for my turn again – It weighs in at just over 700 pages PLUS 200 pages of notes and bibliography.

But by far it is the most interesting and thought provoking book I’ve read in a long time. (Must admit I’m re-reading Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis right now and it belongs in the same strata.)

Not everyone will be interested in this book and I confess I did not read every chapter. Andrew Solomon writes about a wide variety of people who have some form of difference; in many cases what we call a disability. Some of those I could just not relate to, but others …

As the parent of a child with Asperger’s and more, I struggle daily with my role as a parent, how to cope but more importantly how do I help prepare her for the future as a adult; especially for the time when I may not be around.

Solomon addresses labels, how society lumps people under those labels for good and bad. But those labels are not who we are, they are just part of what we might be. And if I might add some interpretation to his words, what we can be.

The last chapter is simply called “Father” and in it he begins the story of his own path to fatherhood (far from traditional in our usual definitions) and many passages resonated with me.

Just a few:

“People want to get better, but they don’t want to change.”

“Any of us can be a better version of himself, but none of us can be someone else.”

And finally this one, which pretty much sums up a lots of things: 

“Incorporating exceptional people into the social fabric is expensive and time-consuming. The emotional and logistical calisthenics can be draining (emphasis mine!) Yet if parents often end up grateful for their problematical children, then so, in the end, can we all be grateful for the courage such people may embody, the generosity they may teach us, even the ways they complicate the world.”

Made me feel a little better!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

private Mount Everest

Found this while looking thru a thumb drive. No idea how old or how I got it but it was written by Hugh MacLeod. More of his work here

"Everybody has their own private Mount Everest they were put on this earth to climb. You may never reach the summit; for that you will be forgiven. But if you donʼt make at least one serious attempt to get above the snow line, years later you will find yourself lying on your deathbed, and all you will feel is emptiness. This metaphorical Mount Everest doesnʼt have to manifest itself as “Art.” For some people, yes, it might be a novel or a painting. But Art is just one path up the mountain, one of many.

Letʼs talk about you now. Your mountain. Your private Mount Everest. Yes, that one. Exactly. Letʼs say you never climb it. Do you have a problem with that? Can you just say to yourself, “Never mind, I never really wanted it anyway,” and take up stamp-collecting instead? Well, you could try. But I wouldnʼt believe you. I think itʼs not okay for you never to try to  climb it. And I think you agree with me. Otherwise, you wouldnʼt have read this far. So it looks like youʼre going to have to climb the frickinʼ mountain. Deal with it. My advice? You donʼt need my advice. You really donʼt. The biggest piece of advice I could give anyone would be this:  “Admit that your own private Mount Everest exists. That is half the battle.” And youʼve already done that. You really have. Otherwise, again, you wouldnʼt have read this  far. Rock on.

Sing in your own voice. Picasso was a terrible colorist. Turner couldnʼt paint human beings worth a damn.  Saul Steinbergʼs formal drafting skills were appalling. T.S. Eliot had a full-time day job.  Henry Miller was a wildly uneven writer. Bob Dylan canʼt sing or play guitar. But that didnʼt stop them, right? So I guess the next question is, “Why not?” I have no idea. Why should it?"

Hugh MacLeod

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Love Has Come for You

This is the newest and onliest by Steve Martin (yes that one) and Edie Brickell (Ms. not-so-new Bohemian and wife of Paul Simon).

Martin plays banjo and Ms. Brickell sings.

This album grew on me. When I first listened to a few pre-release samples, I was like “can’t wait til this is out!” The day came, I downloaded it and “meh” was my first reaction.

But now after maybe 10 listens, I keep on listening.

This is not a knock-your-socks-off CD. It’s quiet and happy.

I think this is at least part of what Americana music is or should be. An interesting mix of old style with some new-fangled lyrics. Hard to imagine Stephen Foster writing a song with the line: “When you get to Asheville, send me an email.” But it works.

Some of the lyrics are pretty dark. Babies in suitcases thrown off trains? “Yes She Did, Yes She Did” chronicles a suicide.

Fortunately the sad stuff is sung and played upbeat so it’s not as maudlin as it might be.  Brickell still has that little smirk in her voice but she mostly sings seriously.  I don’t know what to call her technique where she lets her voice fade out and off pitch at the end of a musical phrase but it actually works.

Martin’s banjo is not virtuoso but he is a clean and appropriate player for this music. All this is original with lyrics by Brickell and music written by both.

If you had asked me a week ago what I thought, I might have suggested not buying. But now it hardly comes out of my CD player.