Sometimes you find things you're not looking for that surprise you. And sometimes you find things that don't surprise you at all. I think I'd have to say that's what's happened here. I have found that I don't have the discipline, the wherewithal (amazing that's even a word, hey?), the charm the... sticktoitisveness (turns out that's not a word but I'm guessing you know what I'm saying anyhow!), to actually do a blog. This realization, I think, fits into the category of something I found that doesn't surprise me.
Now, if I found this snow heart on the sidewalk? That would surprise me! Well... it would surprise me if I hadn't made it.
But who knows what surprises are in store for me? I hope some good ones!
In his article “Seeing Things as They Are” C.W.Huntington Jr. makes the observation that poets notice things the rest of us miss. They find words, he says, to bring what they notice to our attention to overcome our blindness and remind us of fundamental truths we would otherwise miss.
Now I’m not so sure he’d include someone like me in with the pile of poets he’s talking about. But one of the things I’ve always loved about songwriting is that the effort to do so forces (enables encourages, invites…) me to look closely at life — at my experiences, at the world — to see it, feel it and work to translate it to lyrics/music that do speak to fundamental truths.
I believe that art — and by art I mean all art — does a very important job of capturing and expressing an essence of what it is to be human that otherwise falls through the cracks of our daily interactions. A beautiful or compelling turn of phrase, a captivating melodic line (photographic composition, colour layers in a painting…) assures us that someone out there feels the same way we do, even if we couldn’t begin to articulate exactly what that feeling is. In a very profound way art, when it moves us, lets us know we’re not alone in this great big world.
For me working to capture the essence what might be falling through the cracks of my own existence is an enchanting, inspiring, formidable task. And, of course, digging in to take apart and examine how others so brilliantly manage to do so is both inspiring and humbling. I am brought to my knees when I experience the work of others who so marvellously succeed. I don’t necessarily succeed. But the desire to do so has me looking, watching, tasting, considering… feeling with keen interest. It’s like if I’m working on a song I get to live life more vividly.
But what’s interesting is that further into his article Huntington Jr. points out that we aren’t in charge of our thoughts. We don’t really control them. If we were, he asks, why would we choose to call up worries and regrets? It’s like breathing. (He didn't say this but this is how I’m seeing it.) We can choose to hold our breath, speed it up or slow it down. But most of the time we don’t. We just let breathing happen on its own. Similarly we can nudge our thoughts along, direct them, nurture them. But for a good whack of the of time (and maybe this is only me?) the mind wanders where it will. I know that even when I’m really working to focus I’ll find my mind has ventured off. It’s in the garden or back at the house we lived at when I was 5 when I want it to be with me, considering the next string or words I intend to write or read or…
The thing is, when my mind is off wandering around doing its own thing and not what I’m asking it to do, well, that's often when it delivers the best ideas. So it's kind of like I didn't really have anything to do with the idea —I didn’t come up with it. If that’s the case, I really can't take credit for a good idea. At the same time perhaps this reality absolves me of the blame for a not-so-good idea?
Maybe, as it’s starting to become increasingly obvious, one doesn’t need to take any of this too seriously? Not the art, not the looking, not the lame lyric or the stunningly fine melody. Because really, I might be doing the looking (watching, tasting, feeling, considering…), but I’m not too sure who exactly it is that's doing the seeing. Maybe it's all of us? Maybe we all contribute to the ideas -- brilliant and not so -- that help gather what's falling through the cracks or, as Huntington Jr. says, bring vision to fundamental truths? Maybe.
As we rounded the final corner of 2015 and came face-to-face with 2016, I found myself considering with great attention what new year’s resolutions I would adopt. What, I thought, did I need to spruce up or sharpen? There was the obvious: lose the 5 pounds I’ve put on in the last two years, curtail my enthusiastic consumption of booze, get back into shape…. There was the sort of shape-up-to-society’s standards: get a real job and make some money, fix our mud-pit of a backyard, apply the KonMari tidy-up method to the house… And then there was the more personal, be nicer, don’t-yell-at-the-kids type of improvements.
You see, in the fall I had cause to investigate the promise and practice of self-hypnosis. I read heaps about the subconscious mind and the power of hypnosis (even got “Self-Hypnosis For Dummies out of the library. Yup, there’s a Dummies book for everything!). I listened to a broad variety of talks and experimented directly with a whole host of self-hypnotherapy sessions that were going to boost my creativity; help me become more productive; make me a “money magnet”; enhance my love life, my relationships and enable me live more passionately, more joyfully; bolster my ego and self confidence; help me become more perceptive and compassionate and… Well, you get the picture. So perhaps it’s not surprising that when I looked at the vast list of ways I could be better, I was in a quandary as where to seriously place my attention.
The thing is, I am pretty good with rules and self discipline. If I set a course for myself and am clear enough about precisely what it is that I’m doing (or not doing!), I mostly will stay the course. But I wasn’t getting clear on what rules and regime I was going to put into place. And frankly, the more I thought about it, the grumpier I got about what the future was going to hold for me. If truth be told, I stepped into 2016 without a plan, without resolutions and with a general sense that until I got it together, 2016 didn’t hold much promise for me.
Then an interesting thing happened. Having missed my deadline, I stopped thinking about how much more creative and happier and slimmer and more organized and kinder and smarter and more productive and…. I could be. I shelved the self-hypnosis stuff and stopped trying to craft any kind of self-improvement program at all. And the grumpy pessimism was replaced with a sort of happy calm.
Then the other day I came across a scientific principle called the Mediocrity Principle. It simply states that most of what happens in the world is just a consequence of natural, universal laws — laws that apply everywhere and to everything, with no special exemptions or amplifications for anyone’s benefit. What it’s really getting at — and the reason it’s called the mediocrity principle — is that the earth, our physical world isn’t special and we’re not special. Our state, “…is not the product of intent. The universe lacks both malice and benevolence and everything follows rules.” Grasping those rules, the author (whose name I forgot to take note of — sorry!) goes on to say, should be the goal of science. And maybe, I’ve found myself thinking, worth considering in the context of life generally?
I realize this is a scientific principle that doesn’t apply specifically to humanity as such. Afterall, intent does play a role in the shaping of lives, personalities and inclinations. But in thinking about it and my, or is that our obsession with self-improvement (let’s face it, self-help is a behemoth industry and clearly I’m not the only one working to spiff and sharpen!), I can’t help but think the mediocrity principle is sort of freeing when applied to life generally. It’s not that we can’t get more, better, stronger…. (fill in the blank with any self-improvement goal), it’s just that being more, better etc. doesn’t make you special. Just as being whatever you are right now doesn’t make you special. Oh, I know self-improvement isn’t about being “special” as such (although I’m sure in some instances it is). But by saying no place, no creature, no galaxy, no… is special, that we just are? In my opinion this invites us to more comfortably take the place that we take, just as we are. Perhaps letting go of the notion of being anything better or different from what we are would actually bring about greater peace and general well being (an ironic side benefit to embracing the mediocrity principle?)?
Anyhow, for now I’m steering clear of the self-help stuff. I’m a middle-aged woman who drinks too much wine, is jiggly in the middle and who has spent far too long writing this to ever be considered productive! But I think that’s probably OK. Yup, probably just fine.
PS. At the behest of my good friend Cori Brewster I re-friended audacity by piping Rob into the airport last Friday night. It was, as you can imagine, a silly, somewhat embarrassing but mostly hilarious adventure that ultimately entailed my mom and 3 sisters joining in on the parade. We all — and that includes a whole whack of strangers — had a good laugh. But the best comment of the night came from a guy who looked at me and said, “Well, I hope he stays with you!”
So far so good.
I’ve been thinking about audacity.
When I was rewriting the About section of my website I meandered down memory lane and found myself revisiting some fine old memories I hadn’t considered for a long time. Wow — did I really drag my bagpipes along with me when I travelled Europe and then again to the Middle East and Asia?! Did I really whip them out in all sorts of hugely public and foreign places to play with no or little consideration to how much attention I would draw? Was I oblivious to the attention or…? And what about the business of getting my nose pierced in India in 1985? Obviously getting your nose pierced and sashaying about the streets of Calgary with a diamond (or cheap piece of glass or whatever!) stud isn’t a big deal now. But in 1985? Even the lizard-styled punk rockers had hardly embraced the idea. So what about the attention — often really negative attention — that attracted? I can’t help but think, back then I had some audacity.
No doubt there are heaps of considerably more audacious actions underway in the world today, and were then. But these were MY actions and in the revisiting of these memories I have found that I’m almost surprised I did these things. So the question that keeps popping up is: given the same set of circumstances would I — the person that I am now — do these things today? Could I withstand the glare of the self-imposed spotlight? Could I turn a cold shoulder to “what people might say”? Lord, I picture setting myself up with bagpipes to pipe Rob into the luggage carousel section of the airport from some exhausting flight and I cringe! Really???
The thing is, I know and well remember that I didn’t do any of these things TO draw attention to myself. I did them despite the attention. I loved playing pipes, wanted to travel and knew that both my playing and my pipes would suffer if I left them behind. I thought the women in India with their diamond-studded noses were the most beautiful I had ever seen (still do) and loved the idea of experiencing and experimenting with their aesthetic. I absolutely adored my tall, joyful Cape Breton lad (still do) and knew that he’d be honoured by my gesture… All of these things I did for love and joy — without fear or concern for what people would think or the glare of the spotlight. I did them simply because I wanted to. Kind of nice, isn’t it?
But what about now? Well, I’d like to think I would be as fearless and joyful and unconsciously expressive. But I can’t help notice that I can’t think of one audacious thing I’ve done in the last God-knows-how-many years. Hmmmm. Sure, I can don the pink hat, a silly ball gown and swoop down the gravel road in a golf cart with like-dressed sisters on a Sylvan cocktail cruise. But that’s just play. What about audacity in life?
I was thinking of setting myself a goal of doing at least one really audacious thing in 2016. But I’m not sure it’s audacity if you set out to do something because it’s audacious. The dictionary says audacity is “boldness or daring, especially with confident or arrogant disregard for personal safety, conventional thought or other restrictions.” If the motivation, at least in part, comes from how the action appears then that’s giving consideration to conventional thought isn’t it?
So, I’m going to wander quietly into 2016 with the notion of audacity sprinkled liberally through my consciousness and I’m just going to see if I can’t genuinely and honestly invite it back into my life. Why not? A little bold disregard for conventional thought sounds… well, it sounds like a most awesome way to not take life too seriouslY!
Anyone want to join me?
Yup -- this should be fun. And by this I mean writing a blog, playing music, writing music, putting into words and pictures on this website thoughts and ideas about who I am and why I bother trying to make music. ALL of it should be fun. In fact, the older I get the more often I have thought, "This should be fun." Or -- perhaps more to the point, I've thought this should be MORE fun of just about everything I do! I have had (and I don't think I'm alone here) the propensity to take myself and all that I'm doing just a little too seriously. Like I might get hurt if I do it wrong.
Truth of the matter is, the whole on-line, social media, hey-everybody-look-at-me culture that's blossomed in the twenty-first century has been tricky for me. You see, I actually consider myself an extrovert. I don't have problems speaking to strangers or to stepping into the limelight when there's a reason for me to do so. But it's been weirdly difficult for me to do this -- type away in my kitchen and toss myself out to...who?! Those who might find me interesting or talented or clever or charming or... enough to pay attention?? Lord, and what if no one does?
Well, that's where the fun comes in. Just like the songs I write, I think I should just go ahead and do it. If no one comes to my party, it's still a party if I'm having a good time! I still can don my ridiculous pink cap (stylishly exhibited above), shuffle through the joys of working to string thoughts and ideas together, still sip my coffee (today it has eggnog in it) and I can still delight in simply doing it because I can!
Besides, as Joshua Becker -- who writes the becomingminimalist blog says -- blogging helps you become a better writer, live a more intentional life and it helps you become more well-rounded in your mindset (along with a bunch of other fairly compelling reasons). Who wouldn't want that?
So --we'll see where this goes. But wherever it goes, it should be fun for me... and for you! (Hello?.... anybody there?....... Helllooooooooo.....?)
I'm Christie Simmons -- the person the rest of this website is about. But if you don't feel like reading all of that, to cut to the chase I'm a singer songwriter from Calgary, Alberta. The picture above is of me and my sister Catherine Simmons (a most awesome author) at Sylvan Lake where we get to play and have fun. I'm hoping this is another place where I'll get to play and have fun!