The Mask of King Tutankhamen

We have been told that each of us has some orderly arranged, but randomly selected set of genes that makes each of us different.  We know that is true from physical appearances, and from personality traits.  From knowing identical twins we know that even they are not perfectly the same.  The difference may be simply because one had a better experience in the womb, or one suffered a childhood infection that missed the other one.  And then there are all of the experiences that happen throughout lives. After a lifetime of experiences we are, truly, all unique. 

We gain education in a number of ways, some formally and some through the school of hard knocks.  Using the toolkit we were born with we observe and experiment, observe more, experiment more, learning to walk and then to talk.  Everything is practical at first and then we begin to learn concepts and to form abstract models of how the world works; even the Universe.

Some of us do a better job at one thing or another.  Others find that their toolkit works better along another path.  One of us becomes a mathematician another a running back.  Some of us find that we don’t handle numbers well and can’t run fast, but are better at sales or waiting tables.  It’s all good.

One of the concepts that arose from the Protestant Reformation was the concept that all work is good.  The word “vocation” meant calling.  Being a priest of a nun involved being called by God to do that work.  Other jobs were venial and were referred to as avocations (not called).  Luther, however, described the Church as a “priesthood of all believers” in which everyone who believed was called and therefore the work that each did was good.  Vocation came to mean occupation or means of livelihood and hobbies were called avocations.

So, some of us were taught, as I was, that there were no jobs beneath our dignity, however it was our responsibility to do them well.  My father used to say, “I don’t care if you are a ditch digger as long as you try to be the best ditch digger around.”  He meant it.  My mother was the one who said, “I hope you will go on to college.”

And so I did, became a professional, and in most people’s minds that defined who I was, but is our occupation what defines us?  It seems so.  Think about the surnames, Cooper, Smith, Wright, Miller and Carpenter, Those were historically all occupations, and some still are.  I don’t know whether the one who sings the liturgy in a Jewish synagogue gets or got paid, but the name Cantor, I imagine, related to that work.  Most of the members of church choirs work for nothing other than the chance to share their gift.

For many people the thing of which they are most proud is not the thing that puts bread on the table, but some avocation.  Attempts to make one’s hobby one’s livelihood are sometimes disastrous. 

Q; What do you call a bluegrass musician who breaks up with his girlfriend?

A: Homeless.

Even if the change pays the bills the switch may take all of the joy out of the thing which used to make one happy.  That happened to a couple of fishing friends who became fishing guides.

One of my now deceased friends was an excellent bluegrass mandolin player.  He hobnobbed with folks like Johnny Hartford (who apparently made friends with anyone who was a good musician) My friend was also a family physician.  He said more than once, “I’ll never be the best.  I had the choice of being a good doctor and an above average musician, or an excellent musician and a bad doctor.”

Still, although his patients may remember him as their doctor, most of us remember him for his music.

Here’s the rub.  When we die we cease to exist except in memory and evidence of the work we have produced.  Architects and painters leave beauty trailing in their wake.  For musicians the evidence dies with the last echo in the music hall unless their performance was recorded.  Even then, the recording is temporary.  Imagine if your work was recorded on cassette tape – or eight track – or reel to reel.

Writing - really good writing - may live on after us, but again, how can we ensure that?  The medium is the problem.  Those of us who wrote on Open Salon, unless we scurried to the site and saved everything saw years of writing vanish.  If we saved it onto a drive what will become of it?

Paintings fade, buildings crumble, in the end all memory and trace is gone.  Or is it?

We influence those around us in good and bad ways.  My parents had good work ethics.  They passed that along.  My wife got the same gift.  Our daughters have that ethic.  I think it has shown up in our granddaughters.  Was that gift in our genes, or was it the result of example?  I don’t know.  Perhaps both contributed.

I am disappointed that, while my daughters and granddaughters have musical ability, none are musicians.  That disappointed my mother, as well.  She was a pianist who taught herself and then took music theory to understand what she did.  She once made the observation that the difference in me and my progeny was that from the very beginning I had to make music.  It was not a choice.

That did not get passed along.

Maybe that is a good thing. 

Artistic drive is something of a curse.

Kansas - "Dust in the Wind"

Views: 125

Comment by Rodney Roe on October 6, 2016 at 5:00am

Good Thursday morning.  I hope each of you is happy to be alive.

Comment by Julie Johnson on October 6, 2016 at 6:08am

Another good one, Rodney.  Lots to think about, and come back to later. 

Comment by JMac1949 Today on October 6, 2016 at 6:33am

R&L, thanks for the reflection Doc.

Comment by Keith Joiner on October 6, 2016 at 7:39am

We are but a cipher, a zero, 0.

Comment by koshersalaami on October 6, 2016 at 8:04am

Leave for how long?

Music writing still exists in quantity for in excess of a thousand years. Not that everything about how to play it was preserved. 

There are hundred year old recordings available, even on the internet. 

My son couldn't physically play music, though I'm pretty sure he had perfect pitch, and my daughter isn't interested. 

I'm less concerned with being remembered than I am with leaving any good behind, even if those who perpetuate it aren't conscious of where it came from. 

Comment by Rodney Roe on October 7, 2016 at 6:02am

Except for a few people like the young mother on the train platform in Hoboken most of have a chance to reflect on our mortality, to have regrets about our choices and actions, and think about how we may in some small way make amends. 

I don't think we are a cipher unless you mean a zero sum of the good and bad that we have done. We may live meangless lives, but they are not without effect.

kosh, I may rent some time at a studio and lay down a few tracks just in case someone in the family wants to remember. My kids have listened all of their lives, so maybe it would be a waste of time. 

The important things any of us leave are the result of our example on the lives of others, and those effects may go unrealized at both ends.

I'm having a study today that will help decide whether I have more surgery, how much, some systemic treatment, if any exists or go home. 

I was not prepared for how hard all of this has been for LYNN, the one who may be left.

lots to reflect on.

Comment by Rodney Roe on October 7, 2016 at 6:05pm

In case anyone is still following, the news from the latest scan and doctor visit was as good as I could hope for. Looks like I'll be around a bit longer.

Comment by koshersalaami on October 7, 2016 at 8:46pm

Thank God



Comment by nerd cred on October 7, 2016 at 11:04pm

Good about the scan.

Isn't it all a balance of nature and nurture?

I had no one to teach me work ethic and my kids have it in spades.  
     I gave them wide limits to decide their behavior for themselves and then  
     left them responsible for the outcome. That included how hard to work.  
     My philosophy was I'd rather they worked hard for a C than float to an A.  
     It was never an issue. I'd encourage One to take a day off school for  
     mental health and she wouldn't.
I couldn't study an instrument so who knows but vocally can't carry a tune in a bucket.  
     I'd fool around with my sisters' piano books at times but got completely lost    
     when it came to doing different things with the two hands. Still a mystery to me.   
     Seriously, one of the kids used to shout at me to STOP if I sang along in the car.  
My kids were adept at any instrument they tried.  
     Story after story but two auditioned and were accepted in music performance  
     at respectable schools - not the top ones - and decided they wanted more in  
     their lives than music so didn't major.   
I never once reminded a kid to practice. Not an issue. 
Supposedly my grandfather could play any instrument he touched, mostly guitar and never had any instruction, couldn't read music. None of his 9 kids or 4 brothers were similar. He had no work ethic that's apparent from his history.
The paternal grandmother was said to be pretty talented on the piano and organ but I never listened to her play.

The violinist still plays because she needs to. For a time she played in community orchestras but in LA there's too much competitive bullshit. She plays for herself now. Only the violin. Two has had a very young student or two, played in a flute choir for a time, played bass sometimes for her husband's band until they spread out around the country, had kids and such.

It looks like a balance to me.

Comment by Rodney Roe on October 8, 2016 at 7:43pm

About musical ability, there is some relationship to mathematical ability.  A study back in the '90s found that children who were given keyboard lessons developed significantly better math skills than those who had none or had introduction to computer skills.  Perhaps, piano lessons reinforce the brains ability to recognize intervals present in pitch, harmony, and in rhythm which in some way translate to mathematics.

I guess I'm saying that musical ability is enhanced through practice,and effect changes in the brain.

I have a good sense of relative pitch, but i have a granddaughter with perfect pitch.  She also can perfectly remember every nuance in the way a song is sung, and reproduce it.  Regrettably, I became so entranced by that when she was young that I offered her singing lessons and keyboard lessons, but what she wanted to play were drums and I missed that at the time that she might have really worked with them.

Maybe not regrettably, the only thing worse than listening to a fledgling violinist is a fledgling percussionist.


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