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Tag Archives: Philosophy

My Thoughts Since the Passing of Walter Becker

It seems we rarely give pause in respect to the passing of time, until we reach a certain point in our lives, and only then do we regard it peripherally. Additionally we give little thought to the passing of time in the lives of others as well. Especially those figures who are of the semi high-profile sort. As much as some of us like to think that we know about what they do, in the end, we find that we know very little, and that in reality they were little more than punctuation in our own lives.

The weight of this observation didn’t hit me until this past Sunday evening as I lay in bed. I had, as one could guess, been preoccupied with listening to music the majority of the day, and had not listened to the news until switching on my radio that night.

As soon as I heard the announcer mention the name of Walter Becker, I knew what words were to follow. Walter was one whose name would rarely be mentioned in context with anything else within the past forty years. One had to know who Walter was in order for his name to be familiar.

Walter looked like the guy you’d see in the seventies, sitting outside the mall waiting for a ride. One of the most unassuming bottom-to-top-to-bottom-to-top-again success stories in modern American music, Walter lived out his life in obscurity, in plain sight.

It occurred to me that this man had lived and died within a period of 67 years, and all that I knew about him could easily fit into a thimble. Even though throughout the years, I had painstakingly reverse-engineered his guitar leads and his bass licks, and had attempted to capture his ultra clean, rich lead tones to no avail.

Had Mr Becker not partnered with Donald Fagen during college, both men may have easily faded into the backdrop which is composed of the rest of us, and aja, one of my ten favorite albums of all time would never have materialised.

With the death of Glen Campbell last month, and now that of Walter Becker, the passing of time has become all too apparent to me.

We never know when we’ve caught our last trout, or completed our last composition.

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What Is True Will?

You’ll often hear ads on television and radio which promote motivational speakers. These speakers often focus on the use of ‘will power’ in order to get monumental tasks accomplished. Thousands of posters, and countless memes have been dedicated to the use of positive thought and will power.

But what is will power, and is anyone actually in possession of true will?

How many times can you recall yourself saying something to the effect of, “I’ll never do that again”, or “From now on, I’m going to______________”? But how many times did you find yourself doing ‘that’ again, or forgetting the vow you solemnly made to yourself ‘from now on’?

These sorts of shattered illusions are what expose the true measure of our will.

When I was twenty years old, I made a short list of objectives that I fully intended to accomplish by the time I was thirty. I didn’t reach any of the goals. Not a single one.

But my intentions were good, of course. It seems that we always start out with the best of intentions in whatever we endeavour to do. Right before things go straight to hell.

So for the next thirty years, I was determined to see if there was one thing in my life that I could see through from beginning to end. One thing – surely couldn’t be too terribly difficult to accomplish. What, then, was the one thing that I was certain that I could devote the rest of my life to? Well, the one thing that I valued among everything else was music. I had begun my quest as a songwriter around the same age that I’d made my list, and it is true that I had not abandoned the journey. The fact was, that I had yet to be come successful at it. My dream was to be able to play several instruments tolerably, engineer sound, and produce my own material. Bands such as Todd Rundgren and Steely Dan were huge influences in this respect.

Success is a term that is generally associated with money and being well-known, respected among one’s peers, and the like.

Nonetheless, I persevered, and although I had learned a great many things in relation to the field – I was working in a retail establishment which sold musical instruments and sound equipment – I had still to make the strides that I had intended by the time that I was forty. Often it was necessary to remind myself why I had begun in the first place.

Throughout the course of rearing two children, and working all kinds of day jobs, I redoubled my efforts to set money aside for musical gear, and recording equipment. I also set aside one hour a day to practice at my craft, this was apart and completely different from the actual playing of music, which would consume even more of the time that I had precious little of.

By the time I was fifty years old, I had become connected to my Muse, and was writing profusely. The musical path that I had begun was a bit of a surprise, but I followed my Muse wherever it led without question. I completed my studio, which I christened Good Intentions, and chose ‘Hell Paving Company’ for the name of my publishing domain. It cannot be said that I was not acquainted with the irony of it all by this time.

In 2014, I tore my studio down with the intent of erecting it in another, more suitable room of the home. All of my gear sat in a corner collecting dust for the next three years. Chronic Fatigue is a cruel mistress, and my life had been slowing to a crawl since I had contracted it in November of 2007.

Then one night last month, while lying in bed, I was listening to the 20 odd sketches of tunes that I had recorded into my Android. I stared over into the dark corner that hid all of my recording equipment.

“Starting tomorrow, I’m going to start putting my studio back together, even if it kills me.” I told myself. The task was daunting.  But I knew that if I died before getting the tunes – which the Muse was still being so charitable in supplying me with – properly recorded, I would go to hell. Hell is a completely different place for writers. I imagine it to be a place where only poorly maintained manual typewriters exist, paper is at a premium, and the thoughts come too quickly to transcribe.

Mainly, however, I couldn’t bear the thought of leaving these tunes orphaned. Nobody except I had heard them, and my task was to get them recorded and give everyone else a chance to hear the wonderful imagination that the Muse is so blessed with, for you see, I do not feel that these pieces of music are mine. I have been assigned a task, and it is up to me alone to complete these pieces.

Eight days later, although my back and shoulders were killing me, the studio was together, and I found myself becoming painfully reacquainted with the plethora of cables and the routing of which I had all but forgotten.

Today I fired up all of the components, and with the exception of the ancient synthesizer, everything seems to be working. Maybe if I just jiggle the handle….

So I have discovered that perhaps there is indeed a bit of true will left inside of me at the age of 61. And that I may have, in fact, discovered the meaning of true success.

 

CFS Worst Case Scenario (Typical Day)

I’m going to write a bit today, not about music, but about this damned affliction that I have mysteriously been strapped with, generally referred to as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

I’ve only attempted to relate this disease in one or two other blog entries, but it seems to garner a decent bit of attention when I do, so I’m going to take a stab at it today, primarily because today is one of those days that I almost think that I’d be better off dead, although that may sound a tad harsh.

No, I’m not contemplating suicide. I don’t have the guts to do that to everyone else involved in my life that such an action would inevitably and adversely effect. The stigma surrounding CFS alone is bad enough. The inability, or unwillingness, of the scientific community to get to the root cause of the disease is enough to drive an individual into deep depression, and to withdraw from society.

No fun can be had. No breaks can be taken. Nothing is available that will alleviate the constant dull headache – the constant pressure at the top of my eyeballs and consequential sensitivity to sunlight. Nothing can take away the God-awful feeling of constant sluggishness that I feel from the moment I rise to the time that I fall asleep.

I have most recently described the feeling as one of having a constant hangover, coupled with that of coming down with influenza. I am aware that this may be impossible for those who do not suffer from the affliction to identify with this notion, or even believe that it is possible to feel this way 100 percent of the time, but I can assure the reader that this is the way that it is.

And then, I have to awake and begin the day. The difficulty of having to get through a day, accompanied with these symptoms, cannot be over emphasised. There are things that need to be done around the house, and I have to do them. The smallest tasks are sometimes nearly impossible to surmount, because the symptoms that I have just outlined are only baseline symptoms. Sometimes they are considerably worse, and other days they are marginally better. On the better days, it almost reminds me of how good I used to feel. If one is not careful, this will bring on a bout of depression, and I learned that lesson the hard way, so I must put that out of my mind, and be glad that I’m having a “good” day. It is almost laughable to refer to it as good.

One has to rest several times while washing the dishes. One has to rest after cleaning the cats litter boxes. One has to rest while sweeping and mopping the floor. One has to take breaks while cooking a meal.

Some have asked, why not use a dishwasher? Because washing dishes gives me something to do.

Others have asked why I don’t order out. Because it’s too expensive, and again, cooking gives me something to do.

One inquired, “Why don’t you lose the cats, dude?” Because the cats give purpose to my life. I talk to them, I fuss at them, I cry to them, and I tell them my troubles, and they respond by nuzzling and marking me. Sometimes that in and of itself is annoying, but I tolerate it, because if I were completely alone, I would begin to question the value of my life, and that is best not to ponder.

What it seems that many do not understand, is that as humans, we want things to do. If we begin to strip away ‘doing’ in order to ‘not do’, then our lives reach a point to where we feel useless and unnecessary.

Lacking the ability to do an honest day’s work anymore, one’s life becomes amazingly empty. I used to imagine having nothing but all the time that I required to do nothing but write and record my music. Having reached this point however, has been a mixed blessing, as recording music has become a major task. Singing is a task. I have to pause the process and rest between verses, because singing requires an incredible amount of energy. Either it always did and I didn’t notice because I had a seemingly endless store of it, or it did but it didn’t matter because I had said endless store.

These dishes – the litter boxes – the mopping and the sweeping. These tasks have taken on new meaning in my life in the past nine years, and if you can’t imagine how that must feel… you should consider yourself very fortunate indeed.