Saturday, December 9, 2017

WHAT'S THE POINT IN DYING: A BUSKER'S LAMENT

ALEIYA AT THE MALL

Humans last around 100 years; whereas vampires, our incestuous cousins, can live forever.   HYDRAS (fresh-water organisms) and TURRITOPSIS NUTRICULA (from the jellyfish family) are biologically immortal.  Greenland sharks can live up to 400 years.  Tuataras and giant tortoises and bowhead whales can live up to 200 years. 

Factoid:  In 150 years from now it is a sure bet that the humans alive today will be dead, but whoever wins the bet won’t be the one collecting on it.

The cosmos is all that is or was and ever will be (Carl Sagan, Cosmos, 1980); and yet humans, during their speck of time spend only a hundred years breathing and living.  No wonder we think our time so precious and our lives so significant! 

Another factoid:  If time were not an issue and death were not inevitable, nothing would be of importance.

Just think about it.  Nothing would be important because nothing would be urgent.  Learning guitar?  Learning to sketch?  Learning a language?  Finding that perfect job?  Finding that perfect mate?  No problem, lots of time!  If death were not inevitable then the concept of time would never be a concern.  If we could live forever everything we ever imagined to accomplish would eventually be achieved!

Presenting this everlasting argument about urgency in life, our fear of death could be either a motivating or demotivating force.  Bucket lists, for example, are the metaphorical motivating rage for listing a number of experiences or achievements to be accomplished during one’s lifetime, before kicking the bucket.  Fuck it lists, in reverse of the bucket lists, represent a rage of contentment to die happy while accomplishing zeroth.

Attempts at extending our lives have us sign onto fitness plans, feed on nutritional torments, and self-medicate and meditate to relax.  Studies show that clich├ęd and contrived miracle cures for immortality, eating an apple a day or drinking a glass of red wine a day, will add life to our years but not years to our lives.  We can postpone fragility and general debilitation and death but we cannot stop any of it.  As we age our parts gradually wear out until they just stop working.  And then we’re done.

Factoid:  We are afraid to die.  We do not just strive for longevity; we yearn for immortality.  And even when we are old we are still afraid to die.

Cybernetics is making a quick (pun intended) headway within the human condition.  Pace-makers for our hearts, cochlear implants for our ears, transplanted retinas and kidneys and lungs, newly attached prosthetic arms and legs, and implanted antennae for sight, are becoming commonplace.  Over the next hill on the human horizon we’ll be inserted with artificial intelligence.  Eventually we will be completely assimilated.  We’ll be the final machination, the combination of consciousness and cryogenic uploads.  We will be cyborgs.

We are designed to die.  Is reproduction really the name of the game of life?  Though the act of continuing the species is always an arousing experience, is it worth dying for?  And right after we recreate is it fair to say that our bodies are simply left to spent and deteriorate?

In our youth we imagine aging gracefully into our golden years, living the good life, a million moolah in our retirement funds, California baking on sandy beaches and soaking in salty water.  And we imagine, as early adults, being so proud of our offspring who have grown and become leaders and teachers and other important cogs of Corporate America.  Is this really a good end to a life?  Or should a good end measured by other standards?

Rather than longevity, perhaps the good(s) in our lives ought to be measured by the things we do or the company we keep.  But, if long life is the measure of a good life, then most of us, statistically speaking, will play out our one hundred years and be done with it. 

But if the good life is measured by our deeds and the company we keep, there is a prescribed fountain of youth and vitality in which we can splash to extend our doing of deeds and greeting new people.  The acronym is simply D E A S (not to be confused with D E A D) and an adherence to these, is all that we can do to take the optimum care of ourselves:

  • DIET (eat nutritious food)

  • EXERCISE (be physically active)

  • ADVENTURE (experience new things)

  • SLEEP (eight hours give or take)

Except for those aforementioned and never-to-be-damned hydras and jellyfish, all life forms age and die.  Driving down the freeway to death we suffer disease, the loss of mobility, never mind the loss of hair and the added wangle of wrinkles.  It’s hard to appreciate being when you come to realize that your years to date have literally sucked the life out of you.  To live is to suffer (the skinny of Zen) and therefore the longer we live the longer we suffer. 

Perhaps after decades of suffering, some of us do eventually embrace the conviction of death, resigning, I suppose, to the eternal peace it can possibly provide.  And especially for those with a strong religious faith in a forever afterlife, such a resignation to death certainly seems more apt.  Whether we believe in Heaven or Hedonism, Evolution or Existentialism, each coming season puts us closer to the grave.

Dying and death, I think, is more on my mind than need be.  Metaphorically I am in wintertime and  subject to the chilly winds that come with.  One of these winds is that I am continually woolgathering.
 
MY OLDEST BOY, BARON, AND SELF SUMMERTIME BUSKING IN BRUNO, SK, CANADA
Factoid:  I am in the wintertime phase of my existence.  I am 66 years and the X marking my spot on the linear lifetime continuum is closer to my death than to my birth.  Though I mentioned atop this essay that humans can live to around a hundred years, the actual western statistics evince that females have an average longevity of 82 years, and males 78 years.  However, since I’ve surpassed 65 years, I’ve been elevated into another and higher than average statistical longevity to which I can jump into play (pun intended).  

And so I've a few years left to be living the dream to be a planetary portrait (and guitar and didge) busker!  Yearning and ever preparing for this future plan, in wintertime I keep my pencil sharpened and continually sketch portraits at the market malls, improving my drawing techniques and shortening my vis-a-vis time to ten minutes with my consumers.  I charge only ten dollars, and so ten minutes (one dollar per minute) is my mercenary goal.  (See ALEIYA AT THE MALL at the beginning of this blog entry.)

To close … Life and death is Yin and Yang.  You cannot live if you cannot die. 
If ever by chance I get to choose between stayin’ alive or being dead and gone … 
I think I’ll pass.

Here is a song I wrote about an aging busker, a song I wrote about ME:

CANTERBURY STATION

INTRO:  C F G Am

Verse 1

 C                                 F
Girls at Canterbury Station
      G                           Am                C                        F
Are flick'ring drooping eyelids, while clinging to their boyfriends
               G                     Am
Who are clapping to my tunes
        E7                                              Am
And tossing coins, toward my redemption.  [X3 at end]

[chorus]

F                       Em      
Gonna play and sing            [X2]
F                         Em
Gonna do this thing
F              G                         Am
Until that last train comes in.

Verse 2

C                              F
Girls at Canterbury Station
G                      Am                     C                     F
Nibble on their French fries and sip their frigid beers
     G                            Am
Beneath the courtyard clock.
          E7                                                                                   Am
And I hearken to the tickings, reckon my beginnings once again.

[chorus]

Verse 3

C                    F
I am but a busker
   G                Am      C                      F
A customary hustler slinging my guitar
            G                     Am
Where certain people gather
     E7                                                                                                Am
At Canterbury Station, where they toss a coin or two for what I do.

[chorus]

CANADIAN BUSKERS (BARON AND SELF) PLAYING POND HOCKEY IN 30 DEGREES BELOW ZERO!
  CHAUCERIAN PARADE:

It's Christmastime and I'm thinking of my Slovakian friends I met while busking in Dublin, Ireland.  This was a few years ago and we still keep in touch.  Currently Ivika and and Peter have married, have son, Stephen, and have returned to Slovakia.  (I am hoping to travel to Slovakia in the New Year to see them.)
IVIKA AND PETER, SLOVAKIAN BUSKERS PERFORMING IN SWORD, IRELAND



Sunday, December 3, 2017

LIFE IS A CODDIWOMPLE: A ROAD OF EXISTENTIAL DREAD



DRAWING VAUGHN, MY COLLEAGUE, IN TEN MINUTES!


























CODDIWOMPLE ... to travel in a purposeful manner towards a vague destination.

My desired vague destination is to be a planetary (guitar, didgeridoo, portrait) busker.  Meanwhile back at the ranch, my last specific destination to date has been:
"Another special edition of WEDNESDAY NIGHT FOLK NIGHT at the Bushwakker!  Veteran Regina wordsmith, Neil Child, kicks off the LATE LATE AUTUMN SINGER/SONGWRITER SHOWCASE.  Enjoy veteran and up-and-coming performers until 10:30 tonight!"
(Bushwaaker Brewpub Wakker Weekly)

How I got to be strumming and singing on that Bushwakker stage, en route to my vague destiny, is the theme of today’s blog entry.

SELF AT BUSHWAKKERS THIS PAST WEDNESDAY
Abraham Maslow’s theory of Hierarchy of Needs insisted that ideally we are all striving for self-actualization.  Self-actualization, supposedly according to Maslow, is everyone’s life goal, but to get there is now regarded as regrettably and practically unattainable.  

Different personality types take different approaches; this means different people traveling different life paths.  According to Grant H. Brenner (8 Paths in Life, December 3rd, 2017) each of us can venture down one or more of several options.  I’m not a “journey” metaphor fan, but the “path” metaphor is apropos enough to suspend me as a believer, for at least as long as the length of this essay.

A number of blinks ago I was definitely on Brenner’s NOT OVERTHINKING IT path, but not anymore.  When we were raising children I had no choice to not overthink anything.  I was always in a buzz mode, twenty minutes to mow the lawn between soccer practices for example.  When we were raising our kids I had only time to model behavior and pay the bills, evolution at its finest, enjoying our children's attachments to me before they detached as adults.  Those days are past and I’ve loads of time to overthink anything I do.

Another tactic, according to Brenner, is the INTUITIVE APPROACH.  Trusting my gut has never worked for me, I’ve always been too impulsive.  If I were to follow my intuition I’d be hopscotching vertically and horizontally, backwards and forwards.  Perhaps at my current age I’d be more trustworthy toward myself, but also at my current age I know that ev’rything does not come up roseate.   Intuitiveness is not my approach to wherever I’m going.

COMMAND-AND-CONTROL is another of Brenner’s suggestions.  Humans do tend to determine time and events in linear fashion and so taking command, setting goals and dates and ticking these off as we go does make a certain military sense.  I’m not rock-ribbed enough for this.  And for those that are should be watching out for the inevitable wild cards yet to be dealt.

COLLECTIVE IDENTITY is another route toward destiny.  Going with the flow is always the better bet.  And with little sacrifice, one can always pay for the more privileged but still popular toll road, which is the best bet.  Following opinion is surely the drive of least resistance.  Social conformity is safe, safe, safe but at the end of road one could be sorry, sorry, and sorrier with regret.

AUTHENTICITY another of Brenner’s suggested paths.  On this path, passion would be the highlight.  Authenticity requires resistance from all other persons and trails.  Authenticity requires reflection, introspection, and heroic protagonists.  There are certain character prerequisites to travel the path of Authenticity, gregariousness and gumption to list just two.  The path of Authenticity means to ride off into the sunset alone, having an above average social intelligence and the necessary practical survival skills to do battle with anything that may confront by happen-chance.    

Just as we tend to determine events and time in linear fashion, we tend to bracket notions of philosophy into groups such as those mentioned above.  Authoritarian or anthophilous, any group-to-group comparisons always hide the person-to-person contrasts, not only between the groups, but among each group’s members. 

Whether you believe in fate (out of your control) or destiny (what you are designed to do) or karma (effect from cause) or calling (an inner urge) or chance (a range random possibilities) … 

Life is truly a delusional and self-designed coddiwomple, and all actions therein merely coping mechanisms for the existential dread ever pestering each of us.

And as I coddiwomple along the trail toward my imagined planetary-busker destiny to avoid my constant life theme of existential dread, I shall continue to be SCRUBBING THE BUSHWAKKER DECKS WITH BOWS OF HOLY! to this week’s marchers in my CHAUCERIAN PARADE, those guitar-slingers who shared the stage with me at the Bushwaaker Brewpub.

REGAN AND JADON
TRENT
TOM
KATIE 





JOHN AND BRANDON











Sunday, November 26, 2017

XMAS CARDS: MY SIGNATURE SANTA EXPRESS



THE VERY FIRST XMAS CARD

First, dear reader, my employment of X …. Or rather the utility of my X:
X comes from the Greek letter Chi, the first letter of the Greek word for Christ.  The mas is from our Old English word for mass.  A common (Christian) belief is that Xmas originated as a secular attempt to take the Christ out of Christmas; whereas in fact, this practice dates back to the 16th Century.  As for me, neither exclamation rings seasonally true.  I am just a short-cut secular snappy-title guy (note my repetition as the literary device employed in XMAS and EXPRESS within my blog title).

Every Xmas I make up a dozen or so personalized cards to present to my favorite people.  And each Xmas I design a new card.  Last year I drew Santa doing a selfie in his IPhone; the year before that I drew Santa playing a guitar; and the year before that I do not remember.  (I never keep any of my past cards; the supply is always depleted before New Year’s; I’m that generous!)

Not so strangely with these cards, I do not like to call myself a craft person.  With regard to my Xmas cards, they are crafty but not commercial -- I don’t sell my Xmas cards.  I’m quirky that way.  And not so strangely, too, I do not refer to myself as a portrait artist.  My preference is to be recognized as a portrait busker.  Give me ten minutes and I can draw your visage, and that’s that.  The longer I linger on a countenance, the more my customers expect. The more minutes it takes to draw someone, the more that someone expects a photo-like print.  

Today my blog entry is a how-to on how I do … Xmas cards.


The very first Xmas card (shown atop this blog entry) was created by Englishmen, Sir Henry Cole, and his artist friend, John Horsley, in 1843.  Two batches of that original were printed (2050 cards) and they were sold for a shilling apiece.  

For this year’s card, I started by drawing my own hand.


Like this.


Then I draw Santa.


And then I create my Santa card express line.


After all is drawn I start adding color.



When the coloring is completed I personalize the greeting and closing on each card.  This, by the way, is the only time of year that my longhand is legible.


For my signature greeting or salutation on each card I write “MERRY XMAS, ______!” Usually I write MERRY in red and XMAS in green.  For the valediction I write, “From your favorite busker!  Or sometimes, depending on the recipient, the complimentary close will be “From the Child family!  This is usually written just in pencil black or grey.







































There you have it.  These Xmas cards have been on my mind all week and finally they are close to finis.  I just have to color and address them, and then dole them out.   
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas
 
VIEW FROM MY BALCONY
ALL ABOARD THE SANTA EXPRESS!