Monday, February 27, 2017

#222 - Time Keeps On Slipping, Slipping, Slipping

"I felt the beat of my mind go drifting into time passages, years go falling in the fading light" - Al Stewart "Time Passages"

In December, I marked a milestone birthday. For those unaware, a milestone birthday is one of those occasions you are mostly happy to have reached. At the same time, a part of you laments that another such day has come and gone, leaving you to contemplate the fact of aging and, if you are morbidly inclined, think about your own mortality.

To mark the occasion, I wrote a song I simply titled "Time." (You can view the lyrics here.) It addresses and references, I think, the typical things one thinks about as one ages - lost opportunities, wasted time, life sort of sneaking up on you and then past - you know, cheerful stuff like that.

I don't know whether it has or can be scientifically proven, but anecdotal evidence, along with my own personal observation, suggests that it is in fact true that time passes more quickly as one ages.

It is as if, rather than proceeding along a straight line, time follows an arc. It seems to climb uphill (and thus pass more slowly) when one is younger. How many of us when we were young would blurt out to our parents or some other adult "I can't wait until I'm old enough to move out and live on my own" or words to that effect?

When we are young, time seems to drag in a sense. It is as if some unseen hand is holding the reins, slowing us down to keep us from rushing too fast into our future.

As we enter adulthood, time's arc seems to level out a bit. There is still a slight uphill climb as we establish our careers, perhaps marry and begin a family. We hit a sort of pinnacle where we are somewhat established professionally and personally while still young enough to pursue new goals and dreams.

Then we hit middle-age. The downhill portion of the arc begins. Our children, if we have them, seem to grow up overnight. Our careers, perhaps, no longer hold the allure they once did. Or other thoughts begin to compete for space - travel, retirement, grandchildren. We begin to lose friends and family to illness or age at a greater rate.

This is not to say that we all take to our rocking chairs and simply wait for the end to come. It does mean that we begin to recognize that there is an end point. Perhaps we try to cram in things we thought of doing when we were younger but never got around to for one reason or another.

In my case, that thing has been music. I've always enjoyed singing, and when I was younger, I thought I had a decent voice. So, I began taking voice lessons. For the last few years, with the help of my wife, I have been regularly singing around town.

For years, I wrote song lyrics as a way to express my emotions and dreams. As I've gotten older, those efforts have improved to the point that I wanted to share them with others. Again with my wife's help, I have been able to set a number of those lyrics to music. In December of 2015, we put some of those songs on a CD for friends and family. This summer, we hope to put out another CD.

Last fall, I also began taking guitar lessons. At this stage in life, I have no illusion or aspiration of becoming the next Chet Atkins, Mark Knoffler, or Carlos Santana. However, I hope to learn enough to be able to arrange some of my own songs and perhaps even accompany myself on occasion.

I do not know exactly where on time's arc I currently reside. I know I am on the downhill portion of the arc (unless our average lifespan suddenly increases to 150 years or more). I also know there is still plenty I want to do, some of it an attempt to make up for lost and wasted time.

Some people say it is never too late to pursue your dreams. Well, technically, at some point it is too late. (Death comes to mind.) However, I have not yet reached that point. So, I keep on dreaming, and I keep on chasing.

"Buy me a ticket on the last train home tonight." - Al Stewart

Friday, February 10, 2017

#221 - Done Trying To Understand

"You are about to enter another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind. A journey into a wondrous land of imagination. Next stop, the Twilight Zone!" - Rod Serling's opening narration

I have felt as if I were living in the Twilight Zone since January 20, and it has only become more surreal in the three weeks since The Donald took the oath of office and became our 45th President.

I have to wonder, though, whether the man (or his wife or any of his advisors) actually listened to the words of that oath as he repeated them. Because since that day, it seems as if Trump has spent more time tweeting in response to things said about him than he has actually governing.

Trump has railed against a retailer for making a business decision to no longer carry his daughter's line of products due to poor sales. The fact that he doesn't seem to recognize the need to cut your losses by dropping product lines that aren't selling might help to explain his four bankruptcies and the fact that he owes hundreds of millions of dollars to his creditors. (If he were a nation, he would almost make the United States look solvent.)

A key Trump advisor, Kellyanne Conway, also spoke to the decision by Nordstrom to discontinue the Ivanka Trump line in a clear violation of law. (Not to mention her repeated mention of a terrorist attack that never took place. #rememberBowlingGreen)

Trump's wife is suing a British newspaper, claiming among other things that its stories have harmed her ability to profit from the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that comes with being First Lady. Are we next to see the Trump Hotel brand proudly brandished above the portico to the White House?

None of Trump' supporters seem concerned by these blatant conflicts of interest. They continue to delude themselves into thinking that Trump is going to "drain the swamp" when, in fact, Trump is himself a swamp creature. Instead, they shout "Benghazi" and complain about protesters not giving Trump a chance, all the while failing to accept or acknowledge that millions of Americans are concerned about and opposed to the actions of this President.

I have friends and family who say they don't care how another person chooses to live his or her life. In the next breath, however, they voice their opposition to gay marriage or abortion. So, they actually do care; why don't they admit it?

They talk about turning this nation "back to God" (i.e., a return to Christianity) and have no problem in banning a different faith. They conveniently forget the fact that the Constitution prohibits establishment of a national religion or of laws regulating the practice of religion (or non-practice).

They then turn on those of us opposed to Trump's immigration ban, wondering how we can support a religion that marginalizes women while forgetting that there are Jewish sects in this country where women do not have equal standing with men. They also seem to forget that not all Muslims share the antiquated views of some more radical members with regard to women, just as most Christians no longer support slavery or stoning for eating shellfish, both of which were accepted in the Bible.

Regardless of where you stand on gay marriage or abortion, the fact is that legalizing both does not force you to do either. Whereas criminalizing both forces people to live their lives in secret and/or resort to desperate measures. It's the old "out of sight, out of mind" approach.

These same friends and family argue that they are not racist, yet they have no problem with Steve Bannon being the key advisor to Trump or with Jeff Sessions being Attorney General. Both men would be right at home in a Ku Klux Klan meeting. Instead, they point out that Democrat Robert Byrd was a Klan member for a short time in the 1940s, as if that justifies the views of these two men. Last time I looked, two wrongs did not make a right.

Do I believe everyone who supported and voted for Trump is a racist? No, not yet, but I do believe Trump is at the very least a closet racist. He is definitely a bully. He is definitely mean-spirited, and he is certainly thin-skinned.

For eight years, I watched as friends and family ranted about the lack of experience of Barack Obama before he became President. Yet these same people have no problem with Trump's lack of experience in government. Nor are they concerned that Betsy DeVos' only qualification to be Secretary of Education is the fact that she and her family donated millions to Republican political campaigns.

I admit to having a hard time understanding how supporters believe Trump gives a damn about middle-class Americans. He has never been middle-class in his life, and his Cabinet is made up primarily of rich white men.

I am convinced that if Obama had said or done half the things that Trump has said or done so far, conservatives would be screaming for his head on a platter. For some reason I can't (or maybe don't want to) comprehend, they are okay with Trump doing and saying these things and can't seem to understand why some of us are not okay with that.

Since these people can't seem to understand or seem unwilling to try to understand, I've decided I'm done trying to understand their views. I accept that there are serious problems in this country. I do not accept that they were all the result of one man's actions (Obama). Nor do I accept that hatred, fear, isolationism, dismantling of environmental protections, or daily tweets on Twitter are the path to a solution for any of these problems.

With each passing day, I grow angrier at having my patriotism questioned because I disagree with Trump's actions and his supporters. Dissent is, perhaps, one of the most patriotic acts a person can engage in. In fact, this nation was born out of dissent. Slavery was eliminated because of dissent. Women gained the right to vote because of dissent. Workers gained better wages and safer working conditions because of dissent.

Now, however, Trump supporters simply want me to shut up while it remains okay for them to belittle me because I disagree. Well, this "snowflake" does not plan to comply with their wishes. Just remember, with enough snowflakes, you get a blizzard, and I suspect it's coming.