In my baby book, my mother recorded that from the time I could stand in my crib, I would dance and sway to ballads, and there is no better ballad than “Beyond the Sea” by Bobby Darin.
This song was climbing the charts the day I was born, and I like to think it was the first song I ever heard played on the radio. We’ll never know, so it might as well be so.
Over the years, it has never failed to charm and soothe me. Yes, it’s romantic, but that wasn’t its first appeal for me. Or perhaps it was, but in a different sense.
As a child, my family would sometimes spend an afternoon at the beaches in Monterey, CA. These are beautiful, scenic waterfronts, the ones with the otters, and I’d look out in awe of the vastness of the ocean. To me, it held wonders known and unknown, for how could we be certain what lay at the bottom of the sea?
When I heard my song, I pictured another imaginative soul, wearing clothing from a bygone era, also standing on the shore in wonder.
Today when it plays I close my eyes and dream of dancing with the ideal partner to this music. Others on the dance floor stop and clear the floor as we move in perfection. It’s truly a dream, for I am not a dancer, and it’s a rare man who could match my vision.
Whether or not it was the first song I heard played on the radio, it no doubt was one I heard often in my earliest days of life. I hope it’s one I continue to hear all my days, and it never loses its charm for me.
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It’s coming soon for many of you. I may get some too, but it’s a little different here. I won’t experience anything like what surrounded me during a situation I once thought of as the most embarrassing moment of my life, a story I knew better than to tell. Until now.
It was my first significant snowstorm
since moving to Minnesota, and light, powdery snow was piled high all around. Stir crazy and not particularly savvy about wintery road conditions, I bundled up and blithely took a walk a few blocks down to the grocery store.
Not a good idea.
Sidewalks were snowed over, so on my way back, rather than walking on the street, I chose an obviously safer route across the parking lot and down a hill. Obvious, that is, to a lifelong Californian.
What I foolishly didn’t calculate
was the three feet of snow now jutting out from the side of that hill. As I plowed through the fresh powder on the ground, suddenly the earth gave out under me and I dropped five feet straight down.
Damn. What to do now.
I waited until I was pretty sure all current traffic at that stop light had passed before working my way out. Then, with as much dignity as I could muster, (which is to say, not a whole lot) I proceeded home.
Fortunately, I was new to the area, not to mention bundled up and resembling a cookie jar, so likely no one recognized me.
that’s my most embarrassing moment? OF COURSE NOT. Comical, perhaps, and a good mental laugh-inducing picture, but I’ve lived through a lot worse since then.
But you won’t hear about those moments from me. It’s taken me decades to tell this story, and it’s more funny than embarrassing. No doubt you’ve lived through one or two of your own, and I’m always up for a good laugh.
Some of the other moments, well, best to lay those memories to rest.
Which makes me wonder how many really painful memories others have that they wisely don’t tell, except that sharing them might make the rest of us fools feel a little less lonesome? I’m talking those times we behave outside of our own character, seemingly controlled by demons unknown to us.
If that resonates with you, those demons, if it wrenches your heart, then you know what I mean, the divide within yourself.
But every once in awhile, I’d like someone to say the words, whatever they are, that would tell me the anguish of my most humiliating moments isn’t mine alone. Maybe each of us, most of us, or even just some of us, go through the same thing at times in our lives.
If you know those words, let me know.
It isn’t easy to dispute popular opinion, especially when that opinion is idealistic. Yet those are the concepts that need delicate dissent to understand the balance to the idealism. the pitfalls to the practice. Often, popular opinion fits the era it grows in and goes out of style as the environment changes.
Popular thought can be confusing, and become useless. It’s learning to discern the core of truth behind the thinking that’s important, and forget the fluff others will use to distort the issue. When you get down to the foundation of a belief, everything you hear about it becomes easier to sort through.
That’s when you start the debate, the discussions, the conversations with those whose heart is turned to helping you. You’ve created your own basis for belief and can build on it through the wisdom of others.
It’s also the time when you look at that core belief critically. Take a step back and think, “if everyone told me this was a lie, would I still believe it was true?”
At that point, of course, you’d have to consider why they might think it was a lie. Always good to play devil’s advocate with your own thinking. If you don’t do it, at some point someone else will, and it can get really messy if you’re not used to it.
There are multiple reasons for deeming something true, and we each have our own tolerance for these various ways. Experience, science, faith, because your parents told you so are some of them.
Just for the record, hearing it repeated as a fact on a sitcom, or any form of mass entertainment, probably isn’t a good basis for belief. In fact, anytime you hear someone state something that’s clearly intended to evoke a reaction, consider whether the reaction is most important to them, or the response. The motivation behind words is important.
Generations have survived the time & tide of trendy thinking, parental influence and bad polling. Anytime someone gives me a ten- or twenty-word conclusive summary, or worse yet, pithy quote, of their philosophy about an important issue, I consider it worth a penny for every word. Abbreviated comments shouldn’t summarize a belief. They should launch it.
Intriguing debate, courteous disagreement, and the discretion to know when to walk away, literally or figuratively (and sometimes it takes the bigger person to do it only figuratively) help hone thoughts and ideas. A word of caution, don’t act like you’re willing to die for your beliefs unless you actually are, and decide ahead of time what those beliefs might be.
How did I come to these conclusions? I took my own advice, and this is what I’ve come to believe.
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In real life I’m pragmatic and not very good at romance in relationships.
I like the idea of hearts and flowers on Valentine’s Day, but when it comes right down to it, wow, that’s a lot of money I’m not sure any man I’m dating should be spending in that way. There are probably other things I might appreciate just as much that would be far more practical, and I’m not crazy about roses anyway.
today the minutes seem like hours/
the hours go so slowly/
and still the sky is light/
oh moon grow bright/
and make this endless day, endless night…
(from “Tonight, Tonight”)
But romantic songs, oh, I’m a goner. The musical West Side Story has a few good ones, and just recently I discovered that Jay & the Americans, that singing sensation from the 60s (“Cara Mia” “This Magic Moment”) had their first hit with this version of “Tonight, Tonight.” (below)
As my friend Bill says, Leonard Bernstein, who wrote the music, probably is turning in his grave every time it plays (it’s not exactly the way he wrote it), but it’s a great rendition. And listen to the lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. Does it get any better? (yes, it does, with “Somewhere,” from the same musical).
I suppose no one over the age of, I’m not sure, but fairly early into young adulthood, can have too many illusions about lasting romance. I’m not talking lasting love, because that exists, and I’m not saying romance leaves a relationship. But that falling, falling feeling fades and real life takes over eventually.
But I think everyone, married or single, should be allowed to recapture that emotion once in a while,
to believe in the beauty and hope that comes with falling in love. Songs of the heart resonate for different reasons, if they do at all, but here’s a new favorite of mine, an old classic, I hope will bring a smile to your face.
By the way, the original lead singer of Jay & the Americans, the one performing on this single, was Jay Traynor, not the better known Jay Black. Because there’s such a difference in their voices and styles, and, well, I’m a huge fan of this romantic song as well, I’m including “This Magic Moment” also by Jay & the Americans, with lead singer Jay Black.
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Ah, one of my favorite quotes, most often abbreviated to “hell hath no fury like a woman scorned”:
“Heaven hath no rage like love to hatred turned, nor hell a fury like a woman scorned.” — William Congreve, The Mourning Bride
That shortened form keeps part of the original thought intact, but it overlooks another important idea: there is no one we despise more than the one we once loved the most.
Something every divorce attorney knows, and the best make a fine living on that understanding. The rest of us can learn from it, too. Why do I hate him so much? He shouldn’t have this hold on me anymore.
There’s good news about pendulums. They swing to one extreme, and then to another. Then the arc of the swing is smaller, until finally, there’s no more momentum. Unless, of course, something happens to start the swing all over again.
We’ve all seen that happen, and if you pay attention, it usually happens while the pendulum still has a pretty good arc. Once it’s stopped, it’s hard to start things up again.
A thought that has application both for you who dream of the day the passion will end and you who dream of the day it will begin again with the one who’s got the power over your pendulum.
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I’ve heard this thought, expressed one hundred different ways, a thousand different times since I’ve left college. It rings true if you’re an honest student of your chosen profession, assuming, that is, your chosen profession requires any depth of knowledge for expertise.
Yet there are those who never cease to set themselves up as ultimate experts. I know one man who relies on Wikipedia for all knowledge, and we laugh at his “degree” from the “university of Wikipedia.”
It’s not my intention to disparage the information you can find there, because I reference it myself frequently, but it’s not always balanced and is rarely complete. It doesn’t even claim to be. It is, after all, an encyclopedia, and that’s a center of knowledge best known for abstract pieces of truth that ultimately teach you nothing.
A quality education, therefore, is not what you learn, but how you learn it. The value comes from leaving not with a packet of notes, but a mind that discerns and questions. The source of your knowledge is not your textbooks or reference material provided by a single professor, but by the world of information available to you.
If I had only one course to take in college, it would be Logic, for that was the course that taught me to think and sort through the drudge and mire that surrounds so much of the information out there today.
A pile of information makes you an interesting, albeit limited, conversationalist. The ability to discern makes you a greater mind than most.
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