Friday Musings: Simpatico

Friday Musings: Simpatico

One of the ways of looking at love, romantic or otherwise, that has always resonated with me the most is related to the concept of being a witness. Back in 2017, I wrote a post called Can I Get a Witness? in which I considered this idea in greater detail. I talked about the movie Shall We Dance? and quoted a line from Susan Sarandon’s character that is specifically about the reasons why we marry, but is easily transferable to understanding any deep commitment that we may have with another person. Beverly Clark maintains that what we are seeking from committed relationships is to find someone who will be a witness to our lives, someone who will say to us, “your life will not go unnoticed because I will notice it. Your life will not go unwitnessed because I will be your witness.” We certainly seek these things from our life partners, or from our closest friends, but we can quickly see how these thoughts can also apply to our children, in the sense that we are the witness to their younger selves, and to our parents, who often need us to become their witness in their later years. Or it may simply be that we share a particularly intense time with a person or a group, during which we witness something together, and a deep bond forms as a result. As many of you who read me know, I can go down a bit of a rabbit hole with words and their meanings, and I found myself doing exactly that with the word witness. As it turns out, the term has multiple meanings, some of which are borrowed from the legal field, and while I truly love the Beverly Clark quote, it seems as though the type of witness we’re looking for is fairly specific when it comes to love.

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Friday Musings: Anam Cara

Friday Musings: Anam Cara

On the 18th of February, I wrote a post called Interwoven for my wonderful friend and work colleague Matt Kelley who was grieving the sudden loss of his dad. I offered up some thoughts from the eulogy I’d written for my mom thinking that they might give him a different perspective and a certain measure of comfort. I will admit to you that I poured my heart into that post. I wanted so much to be helpful, and I do think that I was, even if only in a small way. In what feels like a very cruel twist of circumstances, I learned last Friday that Matt had died in the same sudden way as his dad. The post that I’d written for him now became a post that could just as easily have been written about him, and I found myself in need of the same comfort that I tried to provide on that February morning. It seems unbelievable. It seems inexplicable. It seems wildly unfair. I use these words to describe my experience of losing him as my friend, and I know that I am echoing the sentiments of everyone who stood on either side of the bar with him at Recklesstown. What I cannot imagine are the words that describe what his wife and family are experiencing. If those words exist, I do not claim to know what they are. One of the main things that Matt and I had talked about and that I tried to capture in Interwoven, was the idea that death, in one single instant, takes all the deeply loved details of a person’s physical presence away from us. Yes, their spirit remains, but there is an undeniable hole left behind, and we struggle to find a place for all the love we still actively feel. In the case of losing a friend, this same difficulty still applies, but there are also questions for which we seek answers. Because we’re not held together by family ties, is the bond we formed broken, or does the friendship still remain? In what places do we look for it and, when we find it, how do we hold it close to us and continue to honor the memory of the friend we’ve lost?

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Friday Musings: B-sides and Rarities

Friday Musings: B-sides and Rarities

I recently spent a day in Burlington City that climbed all the way to the top of the perfect scale: the company of my favorite person, lattes from Evermore Coffee Roasters, a late lunch at the Union House, and a marathon browse session at the Burlington Antiques Emporium. As you can imagine, I am always on the hunt for really cool glassware, dishes, or other accompaniments for my cocktail photos. As I meandered past a booth packed with old vinyl, there was a stack of 45s, or singles, depending on which terminology you prefer, that stopped me in my tracks. I was immediately taken over by my 11-year-old self and transported back to the record department of Woolworths in 1972, trying to decide which recent radio hit deserved my hard earned three dollars. Unfortunately, and much to my chagrin, it was probably the decidedly awful Alone Again (Naturally) by Gilbert O’Sullivan that ended up being the winner. But this was how we purchased 45s back then. We were focused only on the hit songs and rarely paid attention to what we’d hear if we flipped the record over. It didn’t matter. For the most part, we fell right in line with the record companies’ intentions. We were pulled in by the A-side, or the one that received the most airtime on the radio and thus generated the most sales, and we never gave much thought to anything else. The B-side was usually a song that was not expected to ever be a hit for a multitude of reasons, most having nothing to do with quality, and there are many examples of those that became exceptions. One of the most notable is God Only Knows by the Beach Boys, which just happens to be the B-side that surpassed Wouldn’t It Be Nice? in popularity. As time went on, vinyl fell out of fashion and was replaced by CDs, which had no B-sides, of course, and eventually the term became more about the rarity of particular songs rather than where they were placed on a record. In fact, many artists began releasing entire albums that were filled with new or unusual material. In this way, B-sides allowed us to discover fresh music from our favorite bands, even the ones that weren’t playing together anymore, and they attained a new level of music geek coolness.

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Friday Musings: Hidden Figures

Friday Musings: Hidden Figures

On February 20, 1962, John Glenn was strapped into the spacecraft he’d named Friendship 7 and launched into space where he went on to orbit the earth three times as part of the Mercury-Atlas 6 mission. It was a triumphant day for the United States, and the nation swelled with pride. The goal of the space program, both literally and figuratively, was to push against the unseen boundaries of the earth’s atmosphere and find opportunity and recognition in what lay beyond. The irony was, of course, that the greatest limitation that existed in America in 1962 was not located at the edge of the atmosphere, but could be found 50 miles beneath it where both blacks and women struggled every single day in their own search for opportunity and recognition. In the 2016 movie Hidden Figures, based on the book of the same name by Margot Lee Shetterly, we learn the stories of three black women who made phenomenal contributions to the space program during this time period. Mary Jackson was NASA’s first female engineer of any background, Dorothy Vaughn was the first black supervisor, and Katherine Johnson’s trajectory computations for the Mercury mission were so precise and significant that John Glenn would not launch that February day without her reviewing what the new IBM computer had generated. All three women went on to have long careers at Langley where the success of their work helped to dismantle both racial and social boundaries. Johnson lived to be 101, dying just two years ago after she’d received the Presidential Medal of Freedom back in 2018.

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Friday Musings: Gaslight

Friday Musings: Gaslight

I have to admit that when the word “gaslight” came up in conversation about nine months ago, I wasn’t sure of its exact definition. It’s a term that’s been fairly prevalent in the media for the last few years, and I had a vague idea as to what it meant, but I needed to do some research to find out for certain. Urban Dictionary tells us that gaslighting is “a form of intimidation or psychological abuse, sometimes called ambient abuse, where false information is presented to the victim, making them doubt their own memory, perception and quite often, their sanity.” The ambient abuse part of the definition refers to subtly changing a person’s environment by moving objects around, for example, and responding to the victim’s subsequent reaction by suggesting that it must be their imagination. Once we allow these definitions to sink in, the injuriousness of gaslighting becomes even more apparent. Our memory, reasoning, and perception are among the most powerful, yet often fragile, parts of our being. The idea of forgetting things, or not being able to think through a situation properly, or getting something dead wrong when we were sure we had it right can spark a kind of fear that can definitely unmoor us. The fact that the person stoking this fear is often someone very close to us places this behavior even higher on the loathsome scale. To discover the etymology of the word gaslight, we need to turn our attention to the 1944 film of the same name starring Ingrid Bergman and Charles Boyer. The basic plot line is that Bergman’s character Paula is a rising opera star who falls in love with and marries Boyer’s character Gregory, who only wants her inheritance. In an attempt to gain power of attorney, he tries to convince her that she is going insane. The gaslights literally dim in the film for what initially seem like unexplainable reasons, and thus we arrive at the origin of the word.

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