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Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Act Three Dilemma

A lifetime of being in love with literature has brought with it a fair share of dilemmas. Aside from those that originate with my posse, how to weigh the relative merit of a book recommendation? When is it time to abandon an author? Which genres have grown tired for me or, are no longer useful to me as a thinker or, don't have much to teach me as an aspiring writer? 

Finishing John Banville's masterful 1997 novel The Untouchable helped fortify the newest dilemma in Act Three of my reading life: How many new-to-me authors can reasonably be added to my list of "keepers"? I mean, without being too specifically morbid, at seventy-one + years, it's probably time to begin making my keeper list manageable, no? I knew right after finishing Snow - Banville's most recent novel as well as my first exposure to him - that he deserved a return visit. But after two gems in a row, my newest dilemma loomed large. Do I now place Banville on that more select list? Those of you sharing my literature lust and residing in Act Three, please give me some help here. Act Two and share that lust? Be forewarned of what might lie ahead. Pretty sure I have few readers in Act One but just in case - see Act Two. 

" I am aware of a ceaseless hubbub of voices loudly saying things no one seemed in the least inclined to listen to." In my experience, if an author doesn't provide a sparkling or wise sentence like that early in a book, no matter how good the story or how rich the characters, that author is not going on my keeper list. So Act Three dilemma aside - given that sentence is on page thirteen of The Untouchable -  Banville is now on my not-so-manageable keeper list. At least, until the first time he disappoints me.

 Reflections From The Bell Curve: The Twist

Saturday, September 11, 2021

The Lunacy Of Fashion


I'm tempted to say that only in America would a pair of jeans like these attract customers. But I suspect other countries have their fair share of privileged people who would pay $128.00 to look like they can't afford to replace their tattered clothes. I'm not kidding - $128.00.

The lunacy of fashion is foremost of the things that have always mystified me. I realize admitting this renders me culturally irrelevant to the chic among us. But irrelevancy aside, I still wonder: Do the people who peddle this "I'm so poor" pretense to the consumers who are willing to swallow their swill ever stop to consider the message being conveyed to people who are truly poor? How many mouths can be fed by $128.00? 

Who is this cranky, fashion-challenged blogger trying to reach with his crabby rant? I'd settle for anyone who has seen an ad like this and had an inkling of wondering about what it says about unthinking consumerism. 

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Postponing Gratification

Spending any time thinking about how many hours I've devoted to my guitar is never wise. I'm better off just continuing to be purposeful, disciplined, and staying open to rare moments of transcendence.

There were perhaps two dozen people present as several of those moments occurred recently at my first post-Covid gig. I'm reasonably sure no one in that art gallery - except me - recognized my moments of fleeting musical rapture. That predictable circumstance did not diminish the experience at all. My solitary communion with the music I was creating - no matter how brief - was magical.  

As my second set began, I was back on more familiar ground - happy to be sharing music with others, proud of how my practicing and memorizing allow me to be flexible about what songs to play, pleased with my level of comfort. What single discipline has occupied the greatest percentage of your time? What lesson have you extracted from the hours you've spent practicing that discipline? I've learned many things via thousands of hours spent with the guitar. Today, being able to postpone gratification tops my list of the lessons I've extracted from more than a half century living with an instrument. 

Sunday, September 5, 2021

Recapturing Exuberance

While being enchanted by the unalloyed exuberance of a group of young children frolicking on the beach recently, I began reflecting: When did I begin losing that kind of boundless joy? How difficult would it be, really, to recapture that exuberance? And, what is preventing me from doing so? 

Although this is hardly the first time my wondering has travelled down this path, in the few days since watching those children, the time I spent recalling my transition from childhood to adolescence brought a fresh insight to me. Have you ever witnessed a group of teenagers tapping into uninhibited exuberance? I am quite certain I have not. More to the point, Pat as an adolescent would no sooner have acted like those children on the beach than he would have scaled Mt. Everest. Think of what any teenage cohort would say to one of theirs caught acting like those children - "Grow up!", "Act your age!", "You are so immature!", etc. 

Truth be told, even as a thinking adult, I've probably said - or at least thought - similar things on those occasions when I've observed an adolescent acting child-like. And there's the answer to question #1 in my opening paragraph above. Part of the price paid for becoming an adolescent is a diminished ability to tap into boundless joy.

This moment the second and third questions from my first paragraph are not as hard to untangle. It will not be at all difficult to recapture that exuberance if I stay in today's mindful space. The only thing preventing me from doing so is me. If I let go of all the stories attached to "grow up", "act your age" and "you are so immature", in no time at all I can be just like those children again, wide-eyed and immersed in the wonder of the beach, myself, and the magical world that surrounds each of us. 

Thursday, September 2, 2021

Revisiting The Six Word Memoir

Stable start, eclectic "career", still searching.

Call me a solipsist if you must. But when the widget on my home page called popular posts recently dug up my six word memoir, I felt oddly compelled to re-read it. 

Four and a half years later; I wouldn't change a word. (Now call me an egotist if that gives you solace.) But obnoxious self-satisfaction aside, with new readers having joined me here since March, 2017 and enough additional folks who now qualify as frequent commenters, I feel justified re-visiting this idea, especially given the quality of the entries others made when the post was initially published. 

So, after taking a quick look at those entries, why not give this exercise in concision a try? And allow me to issue another challenge: What clever approach did your egotistic, self-congratulatory, solipsistic yet still favorite blogger take replying to most of those entries?         

Reflections From The Bell Curve: The Six Word Memoir

 p.s. Aside from my two sisters and my brother, there are only a handful of people who have been an essential part of my life longer than my partner of forty-three and a half years. One of those people, an infrequent reader of my blog, recently vowed that he would make his first public comment here when the year - 2021 - matched my 2021st post. OK "almost" oldest friend: That day has now arrived and this is an ideal post for making good on your vow, given the six word limit.  

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Harnessing My Trepidation

"I cannot remember the books I have read any better than the meals I have eaten; even so, they have made me."   - Ralph Waldo Emerson

In my experience, nearly every new adventure brings with it an almost equal measure of excitement and trepidation. Although some might say those are two opposing forces, for me, each gives some fuel to its counterpart. Anyone out there relate to this? 

Which brings me to my newest adventure, scheduled to begin in early November. Directly below is a brief description, in case any local reader decides they'd like to participate, at least for the maiden voyage. Let me know of your interest either via a comment here or with an offline e-mail or phone call; I'll supply some particulars. And wish me luck harnessing my trepidation into excitement. 

Join a community of interested people who will share ideas and gain insights on a different topic each month. Our facilitator Pat Barton will ignite the conversations using readings, music, and film as a means of exploring different perspectives on subjects like joy, belonging, and courage.

Saturday, August 28, 2021

Marking The Eighth Decade

2019 marked the start of my eighth decade. And this post, my 2019th, marks the end of this limited run series initiated on March 3 when I matched my 1949th post with events from 1949, the year that kicked off my first decade. This is your last chance to share something in this series. What was significant for you about the year 2019?

Aside from the out-of-the-park surprise birthday party my wife and daughter pulled off to mark my 70th birthday on November 23, I think 2019 is destined to be the "year before Covid". Oddly, my wife and daughter and I had decided 2019 was going to be the last time we hosted my family for Christmas Eve. No drama was associated with our decision; we simply concluded that hosting for almost forty years was long enough. And then, because Covid was still raging when Christmas 2020 rolled around, everyone in my family hunkered down and did their own thing. That rendered our abandonment of the longstanding family tradition a non-issue. I'm still not sure if anyone in my family will pick up where we left off on Christmas 2019 when the holiday arrives this year. And with only one of my four nieces still living nearby, it's quite possible my whole family may not get together for Christmas Eve ever again. 

If that becomes the case, 2019 could be additionally memorable as the year of the final Barton family Christmas Eve hurrah. I will miss it.

Reflections From The Bell Curve: Gobsmacked