What Can Coincidences Teach Me?

I’ve never been big on noticing signs and omens, and I have historically tended to ignore them on those occasions when I did notice. Lately though, I’ve been seeing more connections between things, and paying more attention.

Take The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy. I hadn’t intended to read it, but the universe seemed to want me to. Three times in one week, while reading other things, I came across references to The God of Small Things. I was beginning to think to myself, “Maybe I should check this book out,” when I found a copy of it on a table in our apartment building where people sometimes leave books for other tenants to take. I picked it up, and just finished reading it yesterday.

Go back in time for a moment, to when I was a little kid. I was with my parents, visiting an older couple from our church. The adults were in the living room chatting, drinking coffee, doing adult things. I was in a small den, listening to my first transistor radio. A song came on that I loved immediately. I would later identify it as “Ruby Tuesday,” by the Rolling Stones.

Back to The God of Small Things. Near the end of the book, one of the main characters is listening to a song:

There’s no time to lose
I heard her say
Cash your dreams before
They slip away
Dying all the time
Lose your dreams and you
Will lose your mind.

“Ruby Tuesday.” And how is the character listening to these lyrics? On a transistor radio!

And now I’m thinking of another memory:
I have been cast as the young boy Randolph in a local high school production of Bye Bye, Birdie. I am 10 or 11. The music director is teaching me to sing Randolph’s songs in the school’s Choral Room. And there are posters of somebody named Mick Jagger on the wall. I wouldn’t learn who Mick Jagger was for a few more years, and it would be some time after that that I finally connected him to “Ruby Tuesday.”

Do any of these connections mean anything? Well, if you subscribe to the idea of synchronicity, maybe. Jung described it as “meaningful coincidence” or “acausal parallelism.” I don’t fully understand Jung’s theory of synchronicity, but I’m going to go with my own theory: Even if interesting coincidences have no underlying connection, and even if disparate events in the universe aren’t connected and trying to send me secret messages, if I spot connections which strike me as meaningful then for me those connections are real. The message I take from them is mine to decipher.

This puts the responsibility of interpretation on me. What do a brilliant but depressing book and a rock song from the 1960s that impressed me as a kid have to share with each other and with me? As I get older, and realize that I have not realized my dreams, the passing of time has been weighing heavily on me. As I read the lines from the song in the book, they struck home, just as they are striking home now as I reproduce them for this little essay. Interestingly, there is some uncertainty as to one of the words in the lyrics to “Ruby Tuesday.” Arundhati Roy writes, “Cash your dreams…” In at least one place online, I found, “Catch your dreams…” Or maybe it should be, “Cache your dreams…”
“Cache: store away in hiding or for future use” (Google dictionary).

I have some more thinking to do. Why haven’t I been able to catch my dreams? Or did I not store them properly? Or is it time for me to cash them in? I will start paying closer attention to “coincidences.”

Tanning

Yes, I’ve heard all about how it will give me skin cancer. Yes, I realize it is feeding my vanity. Yes, it is not cheap in terms of either money or time. But still…

…I tan.

I have tanned indoors. I have tanned outdoors. I have done it for many years, and most likely will continue to do so. Not only do I like the way I look with a bit of color, I enjoy the warmth and relaxation of a good sunbath. Some of the best naps I get are in sunbeds. Tanning is also part of a virtuous circle for me: When I am tan I am inclined to show a bit more skin. When I show a bit more skin, I want to be fit, so I exercise more. When I am following a fitness regimen, I watch my diet more closely and look and feel better as a result. A heightened awareness of my body brought about by diet and exercise makes me more conscious about my dress and overall look, which includes…

…my suntan!

Sometimes Good Is Better Than Great

Neil Gaiman is not just a fine author, he is a fine speaker as well, as his “Make Good Art” speech testifies (https://www.uarts.edu/neil-gaiman-keynote-address-2012). In my journal, I sometimes like to include quotes I find inspiring. I was in the process of writing down Gaiman’s quote, when I thought to myself, “Isn’t that a little weak? Why ‘good art?’ Why not ‘GREAT art!’”

But then I thought of one of the great stumbling blocks for many an aspiring artist/writer/composer/etc.: Perfectionism. Making great art sounds intimidating; I’m not sure I can do it. What if what I create isn’t great? Maybe I just shouldn’t create at all.

Then I thought of another quote, this one from Andy Warhol: “Don’t think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it’s good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make even more art.”

Just get it done. Anne Lamott says we should give ourselves permission to write shitty first drafts. Shitty I can do. Good I can do if I work at it. Great? Maybe, maybe not. I’ll let someone else decide. In the meantime, I have to make art. I have to just get it done.

Going to Church

Blog Post for 1-6-2019

 

My mom has played organ in church for as long as I’ve existed. Her mom before her played organ for most of her life. So it was inevitable that I would be dragged along to church every Sunday, and again every Wednesday for choir rehearsal, which involved both of my parents. And what did I think of this? I hated it! On Wednesday evenings, I occupied myself playing with the rather anemic selection of toys in the church nursery, usually alone. On Sunday mornings, Sunday school found me in with a bunch of kids who all went to a different school than I did, so I was again left feeling alone. What’s worse, once I began taking an active interest in the current music scene, the Sunday morning service forced me to miss Casey Kasem’s “American Top 40” on the radio! That was unforgivable.

In high school, I began dating a girl who went to a different church, and by this time I was allowed to make a few of my own choices, so I abandoned the church of my childhood, and even switched from Methodist to Baptist! (In my dad’s eyes, THIS was unforgivable!)

When I left home for college, something happened to me that happens to a lot of kids when they first leave home: I stopped going to church altogether. And I stayed stopped for a good long time. It wasn’t until I started playing piano for a church choir that I began once again regularly attending Sunday morning services. It’s nice. I enjoy going now. Outspoken atheist Kurt Vonnegut used to routinely recommend going to church if for no other reason than to be part of a community.

The community aspect is certainly part of church’s appeal, but I think an even bigger factor is being part of a purpose. After all, a church isn’t just a group of people with nothing in common thrown together randomly. I can get that in a restaurant, at a concert, or on a subway car. The group of people in a church have a common purpose. I don’t pretend to agree with everything my pastor says, or with every line of every creed church hierarchy has handed down. I have too many doubts, questions, and concerns to blindly swallow every morsel of church dogma. But I respect the sense of purpose. I am happy to be part of something bigger than myself. I am not alone.

 

Me!

Before I begin, it’s only fair to say a little something about myself, so you know with whom you are dealing when reading these posts. I am primarily a musician, though to call myself a professional in that field would be stretching it as my music career, although a few decades old by this time, is still in its infancy. My main performance outlet is church, where I accompany the choir, and also play in the praise band. I also serve as the church’s worship arts coordinator, which is a part-time position, but a rewarding one. Aside from participating in the church’s musical activities, I engage in voracious reading about all things theological, philosophical, and historical. This blog is an attempt to add my own voice to the mix, unscholarly though it may be.

When I was just a kid, I loved reading daily devotionals, and even began writing my own book of devotionals. That project fell by the wayside before completion, and I have since regretted never finishing it. (Aside from the good it would have done me from a personal growth standpoint, just think of the commercial potential of a book of children’s devotionals written by an actual child!) These posts may or not end up being anything like devotionals, but this is my way of revisiting a bit of unfinished work from long ago. Besides, I believe a person’s quest for spirituality is an ongoing adventure.

Please join me in the journey!