Sunday, March 27, 2011

I didn't exactly anticipate the response below, though knowing my father, I should have. I did, in fact, expect a simple, "Yep! Sure is, Al!"

But... I was wrong in the best way possible. Sometimes things you know to be true are best reiterated and solidified by your father, Jethro Tull, Bob Dylan and Ben Folds - even if it is the 100th time he's tried to tell you or the 1,000th time you've heard a song.

This is simply a father speaking to his daughter. If it interests you to read his eloquent train of thought, please do:


“Life is good and the universe is cool, right Jharv?” Your mother warned you not to ask me questions like that. Buckle up. Here we go on the roller coaster inside my head!

“Words are flowing out like endless rain into a paper cup...” or so wrote John Lennon in "Across the Universe." Curiously, as physics now believes that electrons can be in two places at once and string theory abounds, the prospect of parallel universes seems to be reality. So it's entirely possible that in one of those parallel universes words can indeed flow like endless rain into a paper cup. Grab your cup and allow me to pour.

The first time that I actually understood Einstein’s famous equation, actually meaning that energy was simply matter moving at the speed of light, I was awestruck. “Wait a minute, you mean matter and energy are the same thing???” It struck me that none of what we believe is real, actually is, at least, in the form we believe it takes. This knowledge made me realize that we humans spend a lot of time worrying about things that simply cannot and do not matter and too little time actually seeing what surrounds us. I can recall sitting with Linda in front of the fireplace and saying, “The sun sure looks beautiful tonight.” She gave me that “What stupid ass thing do you have on your mind?” look that only Linda can give as I explained. It certainly is true that the fire in the fireplace releases energy in the form of heat and light as a result of the rapid oxidation of the wood. It is equally true that plants create food for their growth from the energy from the sun through photosynthesis. Ergo, the heat and light released from the fire is nothing more than sunlight that resided within the wood until I lit the kindling. (I am not sure if Linda was freaked out by the profound nature of my observation or my firm grasp of the obvious).

So nothing is real, or what it appears to be, or everything carries with it a bit of everything else, but that does not mean that everything is false. Our reality is no less real if it only exists in our perception. The Aurora is beautiful because we perceived it. Not in spite of it. Friendship and love are beautiful because we feel them. They are no less wonderful because they could not be explained or calculated. Even when the force of one tectonic plate moving above another is readily understood to be the cause of the massive earthquake, having the explanation makes it no less tragic. The betrayal of false friends mocking you from the comfortable confines of the tiny cube of space they occupy, the glow of computer screens as their only windows to the universe and armed with the computer key board and the desire to deprecate that which they do not have the vision to see, the soul to embrace or the courage to experience, hurts when you are the intended recipient and cuts to the quick when done as a cabal. They endeavor to nourish their spirits by picking at the flesh of those who actively live in the world, hoping to photosynthesize that energy into a beam of self superiority. (Here I was initially torn between quoting Ben Folds “Make me feel tiny if it makes you feel tall, but there is always someone cooler than you.” and the O’Jay’s: “They smile in your face. All the time they want to take your place” [Ironically, this O’Jay’s song is entitled “The Back Stabbers” and was recorded 22 years before O J Simpson’s trial. What more evidence does anyone need to prove that everything in the universe is intertwined?]) Make me laugh and you can be my friend. Love me and I will love you back. Reject me and it is your loss.

I think a fitting lyric for my view of life comes from Cat Steven’s “Sitting” in which he perfectly captures Nietzsche’s concept of the Übermensch in the verse: “Life is like a maze of doors and they all open from the side you’re on. Just keep on pushing hard boy, try as you may, you are going to wind up where you started from.” That verse fits because it captures what the “Tweebs” (my term for Twitter dweebs) and “Face...” (Still working on a proper pejorative for these users of Facebook) will never get: One’s universe, whether it be the cosmos, the earth, society, or personal relationships, is difficult to understand and often impossible to manage. Open this door and find joy and comfort in the arms of another. Open the next to a stunning landscape. On the other side of another, find poverty and suffering. Another simply opens into the abyss. In the end, whether we choose to open the doors and explore, look through the doors that others have opened or avoid opening doors altogether, try as we may, we wind up where we started. Ashes to ashes. Star dust to star dust. If we can open the doors and experience what is on the other side and laugh at the absurdity of it all when we open the door to the abyss, seems to me to be the measure of a life well lived. Don’t worry about what may be on the other side. Open the door. Whatever is there is what was meant to be there. Embrace it. Reject it. Deal with it accordingly. I am tremendously proud to have raised offspring who are willing to open the doors, wherever they may lead. I am gratified that some of the time, the doors are held open widely and long enough for the rest of us to look through. I feel sorry for the Tweebs because they really do not live.

I do depart from Nietzsche, however, as I do not and cannot accept that God is dead. I sometimes think that this notion is born of the western view of the world in which our analytical tradition begins with the large and breaks things down into smaller and smaller parts in order to understand them. I prefer eastern thought and the spirituality of being one with the vast universe (or many with the universes?). The shape shifting of the Aurora occurs all around us in everything we see. And it occurs whether we as humans attempt to start it, stop it, or alter it. It is egotistical and vain to believe that anything our species does in the physical world will permanently improve or diminish it. Global warming? Really? One massive volcano blast or meteor hit and it is ice age all over again. (Although that little prehistoric squirrel really does crack me up.) To say nothing of a blast of energy from a distant quasar. (In my head I hear Humphrey Bogart saying, “The problems of one little species don’t amount to a hill of beans in this universe.”)

Although I do believe in God, I am entirely certain that banding together in various groups to invoke the favor or garner the attention of a deity, only to slaughter members of other groups in His, Her, Their, name or names is more about controlling other humans than grasping the point of a higher power. I readily concede that Jethro Tull’s Aqualung album in general and the song "Wind Up" in particular, released while I was in junior high, impacted my view of God. “I don’t believe you. You have the whole damn thing all wrong. He is not the kind you have to wind up on Sunday.” Reaffirmed by CS&N’s "Cathedral": “Too many people have lied in the name of Christ for anyone to heed the call. So many people have died in the name of Christ that I can't believe it all.” - in which you could insert the name of almost any religion in place of the word “Christ” in that sentence. Nevertheless, there is and will always be something magical about Christmas. A celebration of new life in the dead of winter. Extolling peace and good will. The very feeling the holiday brings. God is present in all of that and is with us everywhere and always. He was there with the cold girl in Iceland looking at the Aurora, as well as in that field in Minnesota as the yin-yang swirled over three cigar-smoking nude dudes. I don’t profess to know what God wants for us or what God wants from us. However, I am ever awestruck by the synonymity of God and the universe.

Jai Guru Deva Om

Nothing’s gonna change my world.
Nothing’s gonna change my world.

Although, I would add, that the world constantly changes, and thereby changes me.

P.S. This obviously was written in a parallel universe. How else could you explain two John Lennon quotes and none from Pete Townshend? And the O'Jays? Really? Where did that come from?


So since I can't always make myself as clear as my dad can, I will close this with the words of Mr. Folds:

So you can laugh all you want to,
But I've got my philosophy.
And I love you, you're my friend,
But you got no philosophy.
Now it's time for this song to end.

5 comments:

Kelly said...

If we ever write a movie set in Bora Bora [which, to be clear, I would have no problem doing], your Dad had best be signed on to do the soundtrack. And again, to be clear, while I love the sentiment, I will not be lying in the mid-winter Minnesota woods with a cigar any time soon, borealae be damned.

Franko said...

What a beautiful father/daughter exchange! And poetic. If you hadn't started opening doors yourself all along the way these last few years, this moment would NEVER have happened. I know (as do most of your readers :) that I'm your biggest cheerleader...but that's because even when you get knocked down, you turn it into something magical...just by being you. Carry on.

Alli Harvey said...

Kell - yes, without question. Haha and that's ok, I still love you. It's almost sailing season anyway. Bright colors and boats.

M - you are the best cheerleader! I have a little experience in such things myself. SO very grateful to have met at that summer jazz festival and then even more grateful to be reunited at a Tom's Diner table in the fantastic company of the Damnwells a year later. You are just like an older, wiser sister to me, but that doesn't mean I can't be your cheerleader too!

Cait said...

I love that Jharv had a nice little cameo on your blog, but what I love even more is that his note is full of wisdom that could only be gained by living life with an open heart and open mind. What I love the most? That he passed his love for life, adventure and new experiences on to you (possibly because it allows me to live vicariously through you).
Also, no matter how old we get, dads can always seem to put it all in perspective. The more you do your thing and gain new experiences, the more you learn to love this crazy world.

Alli Harvey said...

Ms. Cait! I love that he did too! I wish he'd write more... Dads (and moms!) and friends are very good at putting things into perspective when you are only seeing things from one side. Thank you for being the ever honest, sane one with a consistently firm grip on reality via your own life experience. You know how I feel about our alma mater, but without that, I wouldn't have you.