Politics, Lawns and Deep Space

1 07 2017

MilkyWay_AFP_360x270

There are three things that have been swirling around the brain space today. They all seem pretty innocuous but they all keep dancing around each other as if they belong in some way – like ingredients to a stir-fry or witnesses to a crime that each saw only one part of it.

Or it could be nothing.

  1. I posted a question on Twitter and Facebook: “Just one serious questions for Trump supporters – is there anything he could say or do that would cross a line for you?”
  2. I finished a TED Radio Hour Podcast, “Peering Into Space”.
  3. I mowed my lawn while listening to Spotify.

Let’s start with answering the “why” for each of the above:

  1. I just need to know. I have a good friend (among others) who voted for the guy. I actually get it. I even can accept it though I don’t agree. I just can’t accept the behavior of this person any longer. There has to be a threshold even for supporters, no?
  2. I have been intrigued, fascinated, mesmerized and overwhelmed by space exploration since I started writing NASA letters as a kid to get cool glossy, planetary photos back.
  3. It was time and I had to cut the grass before the rain fell and music makes it go faster.

Now, the deeper insights – what did I learn?

  1. Out of over 1,000 “friends” on Facebook, not one answer relative to the question. Is this such an unsafe topic that we are now a society that can’t stand up against something without fear of compromising how we will look to others? Do we not have enough confidence to separate the man from the party and call it what it is? Are we now at a point where we can’t admit maybe we got part of it wrong without feeling like a failure? I learned that, sadly, we are.
  2. Jill Tarter, astronomer discussed our “common cosmic origins “, the bond among all living things, regardless of birth place (on this Earth or otherwise), that makes us part of a “billion year lineage of wandering stardust…an intimate connection with the cosmos”. Consider that the molecule of hemoglobin in your blood which equates to a significant amount of iron was created in nucleosynthesis inside a massive star that exploded about 8 billion years ago! As she put it, “we have the remains of a stellar explosion in our veins (and)… if we got that concept in our minds….and take a few moments in our day to take a step back…earth is one tiny planet in corner of one small galaxy in one big universe – all of us are the same.”
  3. I can’t listen or explore new playlists when distracted – by loud mower engines or even louder thoughts. This was the goal but I reverted to my own playlist instead of a new one, which I listened to after I was done so I could give it my full attention, like days gone by where people used to actually sit and listen to an entire record while reading the lyrics for the album sleeve, and nothing more.

So what? Is there a connection?

Yes. I can’t stand living in such a myopic world where taking sides is the new “can’t we all get along”? Whether you want to believe it or not, we really are all connected. If, like a good (or not so good) Will Smith movie, Earth was going to be attacked by another alien society, we would not be Democrats and Republicans, or Americans or Syrians, we would just be Earthlings. It sounds silly but it’s true. This is why banding together to protect this place from environmental damage should be a no brainer and yet we divert to what is easy, what is based in fear and what has nothing to do with the connected stardust coursing through our veins.

And we have to start somewhere. We can’t bring our own playlist with us every time there is an uncomfortable situation, discussion or person in our midst. It deserves our full attention and this takes work and time, patience and listening. That’s all this nonsense is really about – different playlists that we hold on to because we feel it defines ourselves and we have to identify with it. I don’t like some of my son’s playlists (though it has introduced me to a new vocabulary) but they are his and it doesn’t mean he doesn’t respect that I have my own. In the end, we both love music.

Can’t we be the same with our individual social, economic, cultural and personal playlists? After all, we are just one tiny planet in one small galaxy in an enormous universe. We better get on the same page soon because we have bigger things coming our way – like asteroids, comets and unruly lawns.

Until next time,

Marc





Enough With Passion Already

1 02 2016

feed-your-soul

Vegan, low carb and completely organic….just saying.

If I never hear the phrase “follow your passion” one more time, it won’t be soon enough. 

First of all, depending on what your passion is (or who it may be), this can end you up in a legal situation and no one one needs that.

Secondly, if every single one of us followed our passion, I suspect we wouldn’t have working sewage treatment plants, clean highways or confidently diagnosed proctology exams (not that proctology can’t be someone’s passion, I guess.)

My point is that, what, who and why we “follow” in our lives can have some pretty significant consequences. As someone who is constantly at angst with himself over how to blend in those things that I love (music, comedy, writing) with those things that I can actually make a living at (right now) to serve those I love (my children), this choice to follow my passion could be great for me but for those I care about, not so much.

However, what if we focused on feeding our souls instead? Feeding is not some ritualistic, ethereal cult-like foray into dissolving everything else in the name of all that is passionate! Instead, healthy feeding is about nourishment and just like the right amount of protein, fiber and fat (and in my case, resveratrol), we need the right amount of experience that builds up our soul. This is a physical thing. You know what it feels like to be excited about doing something.

You know that feeling when you have it – that moment when you are just in the moment, maybe alone reading or listening to something, or with friends or family and simply feeling glad to be alive at the moment, regardless of what you may be going through otherwise.

I cannot imagine not spending time with my parents, friends, pursuing comedy and music or watching bad TV with my kids – regardless of how easy or not those may be at any given time (which is a nice way of reminding everyone how painful comedy really is).

My point is that we have enough pressure on us already without having to buy into this notion that there is some amazing life that awaits us if we only find, follow and pursue at any cost our one passion. Do yourself a favor, and find a couple of things that nourish your soul and you may just realize that your passion is something entirely different in the first place.

Until next time,

Marc





You’re Doing Great

26 01 2016
Screen-shot-2012-04-18-at-7.06.06-AM

Sorry in advance for smudging your screen.

I had someone who knows about all the things that are going on with me right now say, “keep going, you’re doing great” and I have to say, it took me by surprise.

I have received some empathetic quips in the past but don’t remember anyone looking at me and basically making me think that maybe, just maybe, I am doing ok. It’s sort of like the blizzard we just had here on the East Coast – there’s a lot of shit that went down but it’s not representative of anything than a moment in time. (There I go with those stupid metaphors again – first bad one of 2016 which means those with resolutions can officially break them now – you’re welcome).

The strangest part about this statement wasn’t that it was said but that it struck me so profoundly. Usually, I would just pass it off with a “thanks” or something but it really stuck with me. What if I am doing ok? What if in the midst of divorce, job uncertainty, house uncertainty, and lower back pain, I really am doing ok? Jeez, is that even a possibility?

The thing is, at this moment – on January 25, 2016, I am doing great. I am with my kids. We had some amazing time together – sledding, watching movies, celebrating school cancellations and just being. My mom is feeling great. My kids are doing great. I am walking tall, listening to music  – really listening – like I am 15 again reading the inner pocket of the album. It feels so good to just feel good.

That’s it.

Today, I am doing great.

I hope you are too. 

I really do.

Until next time, 

Marc





Starman

12 01 2016

Bowie

It is a gift when you can provide meaning to so many.

I, like millions of others, was surprised and upset to learn that David Bowie passed away yesterday. I, also like millions of others, never knew him and felt a sort of relative sadness that I hadn’t felt for other celebrities with recent passings.

Maybe it’s my perception, but it seems that the conversation on social media around David Bowie has been beyond what I would have expected with so many people sharing their thoughts – even more so, than say when Robin Williams passed away. Maybe it’s because Bowie kept his illness to himself and closest confidants and in this age of “news as it’s happening”, we had a real shocked reaction to something tragic after it was too late, rather than as it was occurring.

I listened to a few interviews from the past couple of decades and it is clear that David Bowie was a true artist and non-conformist in many ways, but it is also clear that he was simply a man with love for art and work. Who really knows what he meant to his wife, children and closest family and friends? What is clear, however, is that Bowie, his music, his art or a combination therein did mean something to millions over long periods of time.

And here is where I think the collective sympathy lies on hearing of the news of Bowie’s death – the meaning. Much like recalling where we may have been during historic events both good and bad (Nixon’s resignation, Diana’s wedding and death, 9-11, or learning that a loved one was about to become a parent), David Bowie seems to be attached to great meaning – and in a very positive way – to so many people’s lives.

For me, it was just remembering listening to “old” Bowie in my first apartment after college, alone, realizing that there was so much more than his 1983 “Let’s Dance” album. I must have replayed “Hero’s” dozens of times. For others it is around a concert, a relationship, and the list goes on and on. And throughout all of this, he was David Bowie. Truthfully, little is known about Bowie beyond the artist unlike the incessant reality-driven world of today’s celebrities. That’s the way it should be because we then get to place meaning to the artist, to the music and to the time in a way that reflects and embodies what we need it to when we need it to. I can’t imagine that one will be able to say the same of the Beebs.

Until next time,

Marc





Portrait of the Artist as a (not so) Young Man

26 08 2015
This is not a portrait nor a young man...discuss.

This is not a portrait nor a young man…discuss.\

Yes- leave it to me to pick a nerdy title for a blog post. I’m special that way. Now onto the blogosphere….

Last weekend I got to sit out in the evening at a local pub – the mahogany bar in front of me and on the other side of a wooden divider, the sounds of a lone singer belting out classic tunes by Neal Young, Pearl Jam and other amazing artists. It was as close to my version of “The Voice” as I had come to before….hearing the vocals but only being able to imagine from whom they arose.

The singer had a fantastic range and a syrupy but deep tonality that surprised me for the range of various different songs he was playing on the guitar while strumming away. I had an image in my head of who this guy was. When I took my beer and headed over to the patio where he was performing, I was surprised to see a guy not much taller than myself with a pair of jeans, spectacles and an unassuming blue and gray plaid short-sleeve shirt. My first impression was, “man, this guy looks like Moby but I don’t think Moby sings like that.” My second was: “did we go to school together?”

I was thoroughly enjoying this guy singing and even wanted to catch up with him after as I have been looking to hire a vocalist to record (or re-record in some cases) some original music I have written. After he played his last tune, he thanked the audience and also said that he had an original 10 song CD for sale for $5.

An older gentleman sitting with his 3rd or 4th wife – I couldn’t tell the exact number; it’s so hard to tell these days – started laughing and quipped to me: “$5 for 10 songs? How good can it be? He’s a little old to be hocking CDs.” In one minute he was able to convey every horrible judgement that some inappropriate distant relative from the past had said to me at one point or another about something or somebody.

Thankfully, I had not let my “beer voice” talk on my behalf and instead, just said something to the effect of “well, he’s really good and clearly enjoying himself.”

I was so frustrated by this guy. Was I internalizing his comment a bit? Probably – sure. What gets me though is the ease with which he felt comfortable making fun of this artist. Had he been 20, I am sure he would have still said something like “let’s see where you are in 20 years” but have accepted the fact that he was giving it a try. The message here was that his age had something to do with the acceptability to express a passion of his – guitar playing and singing. (OK, OK  – editors note here – I AM internalizing that part because, honestly, for all I know he hates singing and guitar playing and was just doing it to pay the bills. But based on the looks of his tip jar that night, I highly doubt it.)

Why is our society so comfortable with allowing youth to explore but once you reach a certain age limit, it becomes more acceptable to judge? I am the first to find annoyance with all of those adults still “finding themselves” but that doesn’t mean that people necessarily should stop finding a part of themselves.

Sometimes people are found – they don’t need to look anymore. They are born into families that are supportive (financially, emotionally or otherwise) or have a natural gift for those faculties that are easier to get caught and be found – athletics, academics, the last name Kardashian. However, many of us have a lot of exploring to do and this should not be seen as the antithesis of responsibility. It’s quite the opposite. Show me the person who has nothing left to figure out and I’ll show you someone who continues setting unrealistic expectations on someone – a child, an employee, an entire Republican party (hello Mr. Trump – I’m talking to you).

But in all seriousness, Joyce wrote about his protagonist breaking away from conventional norms and figuring out his identity. He was a young man but his age wasn’t what made it exceptional. It was his journey. This doesn’t have to stop just because you happen to be an older man of means sitting with your 3rd or 4th wife watching an amazing guitarist and singer for free on a beautiful weekend evening. That’s not “making it” at all – that’s barely even “finding it” if you ask me.

Until next time,

Marc





On Peaking

8 07 2015
We still have more mountains to tackle!

We still have more mountains to tackle!

“Have I peaked?”
That’s the question that has been running through my mind lately.
Embarrassing but true.
It’s this ridiculous idea that, at some point, I experienced “the best that it was going to be.” This is a very glass half full disposition to say the least. It’s really glass quarter full with a dead fly in it, to be honest.
As I have written about in past blogs, much of this is based on a false reality of where one should be at my stage in life. I let the chatter inside my head take over some times, though meditation has helped somewhat.
The question of “peaking” is really not the right question because, after all, what does that really mean? Rather, the question should be “have I stopped striving?” I hope I have not “peaked” because that’s a pretty boring road ahead. The answer to that question is entirely up to me.
Maybe this is one reason I really love writing, comedy and music. There is no question that there is so much more for me to do in these realms. I know in my gut that I have not “peaked” whatever that means. I guess I know it when I get there.
I can’t speak for anyone else but I think that I definitely put so much into being the role of husband and father that I just let the restlessness that existed inside me, about what really makes me tick as an individual, minimize to a dull roar. This feeling of being “past my prime” in some respect is completely ridiculous because it’s as if everything that was defined before is to stay as it was. Maybe it’s being conditioned with this onslaught of youthful messages so one thinks that if you haven’t identified your lot in life by age 25 and made it by 35, good luck. Maybe it’s an internal voice about what it means to be socially acceptable as a family man. Maybe it’s a combination of both. I really don’t know.
All I do know is that I see a lot of people that are seemingly just passing through life in a zombie-like state going through the motions. Perhaps it’s a misinterpretation but I have spoken with enough people where I don’t think that is the case. The only thing stopping any of us from doing something about it is fear. I can’t seem to think of any other reason. Sometimes that fear is tangible, real and requires a level of just “sucking it up” but often it is not even close.
I have found myself hitting “send” on emails or “post” on these blog posts prior to proofreading on purpose. I know myself. I will read something that I think will be judged as stupid and think that people will make fun of it (assuming it even gets read). I find myself saying “yes” to things before being able to talk myself out of them, often wondering on the way there “what was I thinking?” This is all done purposefully to push my comfort zone and work past fears that are mainly in my head.
I think a lot of people may be surprised to think that this is me. I like to have fun with friends, joke around and hopefully make people feel good about themselves. I can be the biggest extrovert with people I truly care about and enjoy being with and the biggest introvert with everyone else. The truth is that I am incredibly uncomfortable at most social interactions. I would never do anything, however, professionally or personally, if I didn’t work at it every day.
So, damn it – no, I haven’t peaked. Not even close. What about you?
Until next time,
Marc
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Youth is (not) Wasted on the Young

20 06 2015
Youth is (Not) Wasted on the Young.

Youth is (Not) Wasted on the Young.

You have probably heard the saying that “Youth is wasted on the young.” The idea is that younger people don’t know how good they have it or may take their youth for granted. I used to buy into that. Not any more.
I had an epiphany recently. I went to see a dueling piano band at Howl at the Moon in Philadelphia. They were fantastic. I love live music and the energy and talent was palatable.
When I first was there, it was not even 8 PM yet. I enjoyed listening to them play and the room was yet to be filled but represented people of different age groups – from 20s through much older. By 10 PM, the demographic noticeably changed where the room was packed with college aged kids. I have to say, that by the time they celebrated another person’s 21st birthday, I decided I did not have enough beer in me to deal anymore…that and the music selection noticeably changed.
It is important to know when to leave and by 10:30, it was time. I am not 21 and there is a difference. That being said, watching so many young people raising arms in the air while spilling drinks on each other, smiling, dancing – you get the picture – did make me reflect. When does this type of fun stop for the rest of us? Why does acting stupid and enjoying friends with song, dance and an adult beverage every now and then often get relegated to the wedding or Bar Mitzvah ceremony?
I don’t think youth is wasted on the young at all. I think those guys know exactly how good they have it. That’s why they are celebrating so much. Inherently, all they have to do is look around at their parents, their bosses, teachers – basically anyone born before 1990 and see how their lives are most likely to turn out. Carpe Diem is their mantra. Youth is not wasted on the young – it is ignored by the rest of us.
I say “it” and not “they” because I am really referring to the state of youthfulness. To me, the distinction between being youthful and “acting your age” is the same distinction between being confident but “not being arrogant or cocky”. It is subtle but distinct nuance.
I am not convinced that people really get that, particularly in our good vs. evil society that is referenced on Facebook, Fox News, CNN, etc. Admittedly, I think I struggled with this distinction for a long time. It was why I kept my hair short, my comedy relegated to a notebook never to leave my pocket, my music hidden in an iPhone app and my voice suppressed with the exception of a few friends.
Youthfulness is about expression and exploration and there is no reason at all that this needs to stop once someone enters “the real world.”. How does someone even experience the real world without expression or exploration? I think these two things are part and parcel of innovation, learning valuable lessons and living. It is really about ignoring fear. Exploring new things and expressing oneself are very vulnerable things to do. They often lead to embarrassment, failure and things that are not as acceptable as you grow older. But it is incredibly exciting at the same time. Maybe that is why some people say “life is a roller coaster” – it is scary but a thrill.
It is not a coincidence that so many successful artists and entrepreneurs are so damn young. They’re not smarter than people twice their age. They are just more fearless. They have chosen not to make excuses for their passions or their approach regardless of what people think.
We could do so much more if we didn’t think of youth as an age demographic and rather as a state of mind. I am hopeful. Now if we can get the rest of society to catch up, we could really do something.
Until next time,
Marc
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