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My most recent single release - "My True North" - is now available on Bandcamp. Open my profile and click on "audio clip".

Sunday, May 28, 2023

Mission 3.0

Perhaps foremost of the benefits I've derived from years of long distance cycling are the occasional moments of clarity while on a ride. So it was a few days back. While on my bike, I realized it had been years since I  last reviewed the mission statement I constructed in 1994. As my long ride continued, a large portion of a new mission statement came to me clearly.

After getting home, with the new statement still percolating, I felt compelled to dig up that 1994 iteration as well as version 1.0, constructed in 1978. Setting aside how long it took me to unearth these artifacts, rereading them both was edifying. I'm convinced much of my personal growth between version 1.0 and 2.0, and even more so between version 2.0 and the present, can be linked to having a long-range vision of what I wanted my life to look like as the future unfolded. And though the three versions don't match up neatly with the years encompassing Act One, Two, and Three of my life, they're close enough. 

I'd welcome learning of your current mission, no matter which version. If you've never attempted to construct a mission statement, I'd urge you to try. I strongly believe anyone can benefit from the effort it takes.

Mission Statement 3.0: Pat Barton (Spring, 2023)

As I wake each day, I will approach the sixteen hours ahead - like a gift waiting to be unwrapped - by aiming for these things: 

* To ease someone's suffering - in some small fashion - and/or to make the world a better or more humane place, however marginally.

* To demonstrate in some way to someone I care about - via words or deed - that they matter to me.

* To meaningfully move my body, even if some would not call that movement "exercise". 

* To write or otherwise create something, if even just a journal entry.

* To read some portion of a book or books.

* To play my guitar.

* To meditate. 

Friday, May 26, 2023

Wait, Who Is This Person?

Wait, you like what? You want to go where? You're following who on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram?

I suspect I'm not alone in occasionally assuming things about people I've known for a long time. And though I try to guard against stereotyping, claiming my assumptions about others are not occasionally prone to that impulse would be nonsense. Last time I checked, I was still human. Making assumptions may sometimes be lazy thinking, but when coupled with people we think we know, it can also be about comfort. It's reassuring to feel we know someone well. For example, predicting what brings pleasure to someone we are close to forms the basis for thoughtful gift-giving.  

Having trouble remembering the last time you succumbed to the impulse of assuming things about people you know well? If so, turn it around and try recalling the last time you befuddled someone close to you in this regard, i.e., you mention something you enjoy doing and someone close to you responds with genuine surprise. Or, maybe you say you are thinking about trying "X" and the idea elicits shock in someone who has known you a long time. I'm confident saying most of us make assumptions about those we think we know well as much - or more than - others make assumptions about us.   

Although I don't surprise myself a great deal, I'm usually pleased when someone close to me is taken aback by something that strikes them as "not like Pat". I don't purposefully aim to shock and have no wish be enigmatic. Still, being occasionally unpredictable is kind of neat, even when assumptions - and even a hint of stereotyping - are in play. Case in point: I like Barry Manilow's music.  

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Transformative Literature

First, I'll get the bragging out of the way. I'm proud of myself for putting aside my oft-repeated bias about "historical fiction".

Because if I hadn't done so, West With Giraffes could easily have slipped by which would mean, in turn, I wouldn't now be recommending it - without reservation - to all of you. What a disservice that would have been to Lynda Rutledge's 2021 treasure. How I wish my blog had more reach; her novel deserves nothing less.

I'll begin with the pitch-perfect first-person voice of seventeen-year-old Dust Bowl orphan Woodrow Wilson Nickel. "Not having much practice with thanks, I didn't know what to say." Not hooked yet? Try this: "I straightened my spine and with the hubris of a selfish boy with nothing behind and everything ahead I said 'I can do it'."  The "it" in that sentence is driving a truck from New York to San Diego in 1938. Cargo? Two adult giraffes. Did I mention Woodrow has no driver's license?

A lifetime of reading has rewarded me with some memorable insights. This book is rich with gems like this one: "It's a strange thing how you can spend years with some folks and never know them, yet, with others, you only need a handful of days to know them far beyond years." Even out of context, that straightforward sentence rings true. In context, near the end of this quest, it is earned wisdom with the power to transform an attentive reader.

Other strengths: Superb use of period detail to catapult a reader into 1938 America, a solid moral core, fully-realized characters that will linger, an intriguing but not intrusive architecture. And, on page 339 a lengthy passage about the importance and enduring power of stories I copied word-for-word to ensure I can re-capture the warm glow of this novel anytime in the future that I wish. Instead of including that passage here, let me suggest you set aside some hours for West With Giraffes and discover it on your own. I'm confident you will thank me. Special nod to the three widely disparate readers who recommended this winner to me, all three recommendations coming within the space of two days. I'm convinced that was the universe's way of telling me to discard that nasty bias of mine.  



Saturday, May 20, 2023

How Many, You Ask? Well ..

Keeping track of how many - books finished in a year, songs in my repertoire, National Parks visited - is something I've done for as long as I can recall. And throughout my life, I've resolved to stop doing so many times, although I haven't - mercifully - kept track how many times. My resolve rarely lasts long. 

Although I've got a theory or two about the tenacity of this nettlesome habit, I'm curious to first hear your view. Those of you who do not share my tendency to keep track, what would you guess are some reasons that drive someone to do this? Those of you who do share my tendency, how closely have you examined what drives you to do so? What answers have come to you? More pertinently, anyone out there who once had this tendency and has managed to break free for an extended period? Your strategies?

As Act Three gallops forward, my tracking seems to be, if anything, accelerating. Were I to ever consider returning to therapy, this might be something worth exploring. But with the final curtain approaching, I think I'll forego a professional intervention and just stick with my meditation practice. Most of the time when I'm in that mindful space, the tracking dissipates. That is, as long as I avoid keeping track of how many times - in a given period - I've meditated. Oh boy.           

Wednesday, May 17, 2023

A Difficult Lesson in Perspective

Have you ever encountered someone who has faced so many hardships over their lifetime that you found it difficult to imagine how they've survived? 

Like all of you, I've known lots of people who have faced hardship. Also like all of you, I've had my own bumps, though considering how long I've been in the game, probably fewer than many. But I recently met someone whose story was almost beyond belief. As each new painful detail was revealed, I found myself thinking "that has to be it, right?" Were I to describe the hand this person was dealt and just a few of the experiences recounted - experiences that routinely accompany a hand like this one - I suspect you would be rendered as speechless as I was. Or, you might think I was exaggerating. Almost fifty years of abuse, marginalization, and cruelty. How does someone endure this? 

Would you believe me if I told you I detected no malice in this individual? No hate directed at abusers or anyone else for that matter. It took me a full emotionally draining hour to de-brief with my wife the experience of spending three hours with someone with this much grace. If I ever lose sight - for even a short while - of my good fortune for a life of minimal hardship, I hope my wife will remind me of that de-brief. Shame on me if I walk away from this experience without gaining at least a little perspective.            


Monday, May 15, 2023

Looking Forward to My Sandwich

I saw The Namesake not long after it was released in 2006 and can still clearly recall how much I was moved.  At that point, I had not yet read anything by Jhumpa Lahiri, the author of the eponymous novel upon which director Mira Nair based her film. But based on the movie, Lahiri immediately went onto my "to read" author list. I finished her Pulitzer prizewinning collection of short stories - The Interpreter of Maladies - not long after and then consumed her 2013 novel - The Lowland - in 2017, based on a long-simmering recommendation my wife had made to me. The post directly below traces my earlier journey with this gifted author's work. 


The journey continued recently as I returned to the source and read The Namesake, an unassuming yet masterful account of the challenges and triumphs of assimilation. As I read the novel, several searing scenes from the film came back to me whole, even though it's been more than sixteen years since I saw it. And, here's some great news I just discovered: A local library is sponsoring a showing of the film, to be followed by a discussion of the novel, both built around a potluck dinner with people encouraged to bring a dish featuring the cuisine of their country of origin. How cool is this?

I get to complete a Namesake Sandwich, having first seen the film in 2006, then reading the book, and now watching the film a second time while the book is fresh in my mind. For a bookworm and movie dweeb it just doesn't get any better than this. Ever had a movie-book-movie sandwich like this? If so, please tell me and others about it. 


Thursday, May 11, 2023

Now, About That Title ..

Although the ending is a little too tidy, The Bachelors is a film that I'm sure will stick with me. If you haven't seen this 2017 sleeper, put it on your list and contact me after you watch it.

J.K. Simmons is that rare actor who elevates every movie he is in. In this winner, playing a father having trouble navigating his grief following his wife's passing, Simmons hits every mark. And the young actor who plays his teenage son in the heartfelt story - Josh Wiggins - although previously unknown to me, is now someone I'll be looking for in the future. The last two scenes featuring just Simmons & Wiggins are perfectly modulated. I defy anyone to be unmoved in the penultimate scene when the two hug - whispering apologies to one another - at the conclusion of a cross-country race.

The supporting cast - Julie Delpy, Odeya Rush, Kevin Dunn, & Harold Perrineau - are uniformly fine, and Kurt Voelker's script and direction are top notch. I love stumbling across a treasure like this. Now, about that title ..