I was at church last night and I saw a young couple in front of my wife and I. Has it been that long since the lithe figures in front of me was something readily seen by looking at a mirror? Nostalgia, a remembrance of half forgotten days that seem more whole than the stored fragments show them to be. And then I looked upon the dusty turntable and put some vinyl on the plate. The arm fell with a click, a few pops were heard, not unlike the noises emanating from the early morning stretch. And the music played. And tune after tune rose from the twin boxes in front of me. The sounds that were always in my mind was playing between my ears and then a smile. A person that grows and learns is never old. One need not be defined by wrinkles and added girth. As long as a sense of wonder remains, time’s arrow always moves forward. No matter the age, adventure beckons. Sense it, hold it, go for it. And live.
Vinyl sounds great, but those pops! I guess it’s the price to pay when listening to something that sounds a little less clinical.
It’s interesting to see what segments in the music are used by the youtube AI.
One of the greatest movies in the history of cinema is the great Italian film “Cinema Paradiso.” It won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film, but really, this film should have won the award for Best Picture. Truly a masterpiece, with a hauntingly beautiful soundtrack by the peerless Ennio Morricone. As a way to introduce people to this movie, and as a tribute to a truly great composer (who recently died), here is a performance of the theme from “Cinema Paradiso.”
In the wee hours of the morning, after another restless and near sleepless evening, I started listening to music. The notes played on and then I suddenly realized that at that moment, I wasn’t really in the room. My mind had wandered back in time, remembering a time when family members who are but a memory were still breathing the same air that I breathed. And in that moment, I found myself wondering. What is really important in my life? And in nearly the same instant, I thought about the people who are forever part of me. I didn’t remember the clothes they wore. Or the places we have been. I thought about how much I was loved. And how this feeling that never goes away always brings balance back into my life.
I was taught so many things by a great many people. The most important lessons were not imparted with words, but through actions, through example. Kindness is not optional, even when it is difficult to give. Respect other people, even when you don’t agree with them. Be generous to others, for what you have, even if earned, is a gift given to you, not to be hoarded, but to be shared. Speak the truth always, but never harshly.
And then the present, or the near present, came back to me. Sometimes, just seeing and being with someone is enough. Your heart always finds a way to tell you what it feels. And in the music, joyful and hopeful as the dawning of a new day, I remembered the thing that gives life to a life. Love. A gift, a treasure. A memory? Sometimes. Transient? Not when it is true.
After years of not paying attention to my record player (and the old LP recordings), a sense of nostalgia filled my life as 2018 was coming to a close. It was not a very good year for me, but I am not going to say that I had nothing to be thankful for. There are always so many things to be thankful for in one’s life. Lives end, but the experiences shared, the memories, the love remains. It was a time to realize that that old song from “Funny Girl” – “People” still mean the same thing to me now, several decades since I first heard it (and fell in love with the song). Life has ups and downs, but as long as there are people in your life that give it meaning, life is always worth living. Sorrow may linger, but joy always remains.
And so it was that I ended up putting a record on that old Denon record player, only to find out the stylus on the cartridge had snapped. A few days later, Amazon shipped me a new Ortofon cartridge. And what was dusty and forgotten was alive again. As the stylus fell on the vinyl, the past and the present became one. And the sound of music, long unheard, became part of my life again.
A little snippet from Alfred Brendel playing Mozart.
Another thing. Somehow, an old CD player that was supposed to have been donated years ago never made it out of the garage. After cleaning off the dust, it was time to play an old Carly Simon CD. Some things never get old.
A new year. Old things are new again. And new things, well, they’re always there to be discovered. “People. People who need people. Are the luckiest people in the world.” I am a lucky man.
For people who love musicals, the hashtag above will be familiar. It is so fitting that at the moment of great loss, I found meaning in music. My first distinct memory of my mother was watching “The Sound of Music” so many years ago. When I posted the last entry on this blog, I was on my way to Manila to bring my mother back home from her vacation. Her cancer came back, and unlike the saying, the third time was not the charm.
It’s hard to imagine what happens when the music that has ruled your life suddenly disappears. It is an empty feeling when your world is devoid of the person who raised you, who understood you, who cared for you. The person who knew you first, the person who felt my heart beat for the first time. The person who taught me that honesty and truth were the important ideals in life. That love, among all the things that we can give to another, is the greatest gift of all. It is so easy to think that all that we have will always be with us. And truth be told, if we lose a lot of the things that we have, we will not be missing anything at all.
That is almost true. The thing is, we are nothing without the people who care for us. And the people that we care for. Why is it that a child with almost nothing at all, in the warm embrace of her mother or father has a smile so broad that in that instant, the world lights up as if a meteor is streaking through the sky. The warmth that love brings is the one thing that truly makes our lives complete. We can look to the skies for inspiration. With love in our lives, we need only look at our hearts to find that a simple look, a simple smile, a single touch is enough to lift our souls to the heavens.
And so it was in May that the person who saw me as I am finally joined the husband that she lost more than a decade ago. In that moment, her spirit joined the spirit of my father and together, I imagine that they look down upon me and in their corporal form, the same love that bore their son fill the heavens, magnified by the love of the countless multitudes who came before them. Love free of the boundaries of time and space.
I say to myself that as long as I remember, as long as I feel, they are never truly gone. The truth is, life for those who lose someone truly dear will never be the same. Life is altered forever. And yet, it does not have to be a life without meaning. Different yes. Meaningless? No.
And so it was that I happened upon the music that keeps playing in my head. It is in an endless loop. Not that it mutes everything else in life. Rather, the music gives one the clarity to understand that as long as we live, there is always a place for us to find love. We need not wait for someone to embrace us. The gift of love is best manifested when we share it with another. And so, in the loneliness and emptiness that death can bring, it is the act of giving one’s self to another that allows us to find life anew.
Accept people as they are. Find the good in all and in so doing we find the good in ourselves. “I never dreamed that I would find someone like you who would want me.” For many of us, we have already lived the dream. Loving parents that nurtured us, cared for us. We have been found, in the very first moments of our existence.
And now, it is up to us to find the meaning of the hashtag “youwillbefound.” It’s not about being alone. It is about realizing that we are never really alone. There will always be someone who will love us. We are, after all, created out of love. We are all children of love that is infinite.
And so, thank you Evan Hansen. In the depths of sorrow, the wonderful music, the incredible story, the beautiful words reminded me that there is so much to live for. No one is truly alone. #youwillbefound.
A note about Dear Evan Hansen. This is the best musical I have seen in years. Dare I say that it might be my favorite musical written in the last thirty five years. Yes, this includes Les Miserables, Phantom, Hamilton, Rent, etc. A lot of great music to be sure, but there is something about the vulnerabilities that the characters in this show exhibit that we as human beings can understand. And relate to. We all have fears, moments of doubt. Sometimes, no, often times, we need to let others into our lives. To heal us. To love us.
On the Saturday matinee, Michael Lee Brown played the part of Evan Hansen. A fantastic Evan! And Mallory Bechtel as Zoe was adorable and wonderful. This is the show to watch in New York. And now that it is about to embark on its first American tour, I hope that you are able to watch this wonderful musical. Pasek and Paul are the new dynamic duo in the musical universe. The play by Steven Levenson is exceptional. Two and a half hours of laughter, sorrow, empathy, and hope. Yes, hope. The core of this show is hope. Forgiveness. And love.
You are not alone. You will be found.