Stubborn Without a Cause

It is Friday again.   I am amazed that time seems to be going faster now than when I was working and it was fast then.   This week was no exception.   Last Friday was yesterday, a week is a day.

I went clothes shopping today just to get something a little roomier for pants.   Last week I tried on my work-day slacks and they were so tight they looked ridiculous.    The new pants are two sizes higher than my old ones.   I just got one pair for business and one for casual as my social schedule is minimal and I’m not sure how long before I’ll need even larger sizes.

I am not losing weight as I thought I would.   This should not be a surprise because I’ve been spending my time either practicing piano or writing this blog.    In my previous sabbatical, I made a point to go for a two or three hour walk each day.    I plan to return to that schedule later but for now I’m stubbornly sticking to sedentary schedule.

Yesterday’s post mentioned a series of recorded story telling by Celestial Navigations.    I mentioned that I liked those stories on multiple levels.  Besides being just fun to listen to, the stories seem to each have an odd message with a optimistic ending where that optimism came from an unusual or odd perspective.    I can relate to the odd part but not the optimistic part.   I assume the optimism is an expression of the artist’s own personal success with himself doing something unique.

I’m living oddly but without the optimism.   That idea is what motivated the title of this post.   I’m stubborn about keeping my schedule without a cause for why it is a good idea.

Today’s piano practice was devoted to a early-skill-level two-page piece by Joseph Haydn.   Despite the number of days I have been practicing this particular piece, I’m not really making any progress.     And despite this being the 5th year of owning a piano, I’m not making a whole lot of progress as a pianist or even a musician.    I have no optimism that I will ever learn to play as well as regularly reached by 10-year olds.   Despite that lack, I stubbornly keep up the routine of practice.     That’s what I mean by being stubborn without a cause.   The cause I’m missing a cause for optimism.

I could say the same thing about writing.   I keep writing these blog posts with no other goal than to write two posts a day.   The posts are blog-like in their composition and structure.   By blog-like, I’m mimicking the style of other bloggers who are much more active in posting their opinions about current events.   I’m referring to the blogs of those who are not aspiring to be journalists or other paid writers.   They just write a bit until it seems they wrote enough and then hit publish.    At least that is what I’ve been doing.   I do make an effort to give a editing pass before publishing but even that editing is taken with the same stubbornness without optimism.   It is another stubborn activity.

I may be exaggerating a bit about the lack of optimism or cause.   For my piano playing, there are brief moments when the sound does come through the way I imagine it should be.  I can’t sustain it but it is not completely hopeless that someday I’ll figure it out.

Writing is a different matter.   I’m not writing to improve my writing skills.   Perhaps after a few more weeks, I’ll start to write more coherent short essays or short stories that may take multiple days to compose.   For now, I’m writing just to jot some ideas down.   This offers a glimmer of optimism in that the ideas build on each other.   Committing ideas into written words challenges my thinking.   I really do argue with myself but over time.   Each day I’m reacting to what I wrote earlier as if I heard it from someone else.    Perhaps the prospect of developing my ideas is a cause for some optimism.   If there is such an optimism, it is as weak as the optimism for piano practice.   Mostly I write because I am stubbornly maintaining my two posts per day schedule, a goal I just made up for no reason at all.

I mentioned my blogging to someone else and he suggested that maybe I’ll eventually be able to pull together the material of old posts to flesh out a book.    I don’t expect that to happen.   These blog posts have only a very narrow focus of expressing what is on my mind for the single sitting either in the morning or in the evening.   The post ends mostly because I get tired of sitting.     I do admit that some ideas have begun to become better developed but if I were to write about them, I’d start from scratch rather than piece together old posts.

I somehow hope that perhaps one day I’ll cross some boundary and suddenly find reason to be optimistic in these endeavors.   Perhaps one day I’ll convince myself that maybe I really could play a musical piece keeping the proper and steady beat and hitting the right rhythm.    Similarly, perhaps one day I’ll convince myself to write seriously with a goal of writing a coherent composition either as an essay or a short story (or longer).   That’s not today.

Today, I write when I write or I practice when I practice because it is that time of the day when I do those thing.   The days go by so fast because they are so predictable in their schedules.    Now it is time to write, for example.    I do this every day out of stubbornness without any optimism that it will go anywhere.    I keep up this stubborn routine with an awareness that there will come a time when this schedule will have to come to an end and I’ll have to find a more productive use of my time.

I’ve modeled the post as a response to the general theme of the stories in Celestial Navigations.  Those stories had odd messages and optimism in that oddness.   My response is that I identify with the odd but not the optimism.    However, I wanted to mention that the reason why Celestial Navigations caught my attention was because I was impressed earlier with two other radio shows.

One of those shows was Ken Nordine’s Word Jazz.   I listened to his show a lot in the early 1980s and even though I haven’t sought him out since then, he left a great inspiration of being creative in applying the improvisation of jazz to spoken words.    I saw an echo of that in the Celestial Navigations despite the latter having a more composed feel.    It helps also that he had a great listenable voice.   In yesterday’s post I mentioned being a fan of new innovative performing arts and this was another example of what I meant by being innovative.

The other show was the BBC radio show My Word!.   Like Word Jazz, I haven’t listened to it since the mid-80s but I was a fan at the time.  My Word! was had a game show format where the regulars would work though word games.   My favorite part of the show was the end when they would improvise the origin of certain words or phrases and get awarded points on who was the most entertaining.   I was inspired by the innovative format even though apparently the show had a long history before I heard of it.

In all three cases, I liked the idea of doing something different with words.   By different, I mean different from what was taught in English classes in school.   English classes taught words the way they are to be used in fiction or non-fiction prose, or in poetry.    There was a little emphasis on the spoken word in terms of acting in plays, reading poetry, or giving speeches.  But even these were presented as spoken version of what almost always was already written.    I didn’t have much opportunity to do spoken word exercises.  Most of my educational opportunities was in writing.

So throughout my growing up years, I learned that language was something we use when we talk casually among people we meet, or something that is composed as prose or poetry.   Both of these forms were extensively practiced in school.   However, there is a third form of language that was not taught.   That form was verbal story telling.

Among my youngest memories is the lesson that story telling was a lost or dying art.   It existed but it was extremely hard to find.  I think story telling may be experiencing a recent revival but my recollection was that story telling was essentially lost when I was growing up.

A story teller is someone who would sit without a script or notes in front of him and start to tell a story, using only his vocal skills to add drama to the story.   There may have been some memorized or practiced script, but often it seems that the story was being invented or at least embellished as the story progressed.   The audience participated in the evolving of the story if by no other input than their reactions and responses.   If the audience seemed more prone to laughter, the story would be funnier.  If the audience seemed intensely attentive, then the story dived into deep details.    At least that is how I imagine the art.

There is art, performance art, and performing art.   The first is the art of the painter, the sculptor; art done in a private studio and displayed in its final form in a gallery.  The second is the art of the musician, the dancer, the actor; the art practiced and rehearsed in private and then performed in public.   The last is the art of the story teller, the improvisation arts; what happens in performance offers a level of surprise to both the artist and the audience.

Celestial Navigations, Word Jazz, My Word! share in common a strong element of improvisation or making it up as they go along.    That concept was inspiring to my younger self.   That inspiration lingers to this day.

I wish I could be like that.  To be able to make it up as I go along, and yet to do so as if I had it all planned out and well practiced ahead of time, giving the impression that I knew from the start what I was doing.

Maybe a year from now I’ll look back and point out how my stubbornness without a cause was really very clever.

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