Musings of an Irish-American

Sometimes I think about stuff, and then I write it here…

Monthly Archives: December 2008

days go by

I was thinking about the future (and the past), when Keith Urban’s “Days Go By” started playing, and a lyric grabbed me:

“We think about tomorrow
Then it slips away
We talk about forever
But we’ve only got today”

It reminded me of a lot of the really existential stuff we started talking about as Music History started to wind down (those of you who took it this past semester know exactly what I’m talking about). Dr. Balensuela would bring up how the routine of everyday life was  really insignificant and that we should be striving to find something notable about our lives to live for. He also made me think about how everyone doesn’t live a drastically earth-shaking life, and that some people are okay with that.

I am not.

I recently wrote in a Facebook note about myself that “sometimes I get this weird feeling that I’m never going to accomplish anything noteworthy in my life”. And I do. But I’ve been thinking lately about exactly what that means: what is noteworthy? 

But I digress; perhaps, instead of worrying about my future, I should go ahead and live tomorrow, and the day after that and see where it takes me.

Who knows? Maybe I’ll end up somewhere.

-MJH

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great tidings

This has been a somewhat reflective holiday for me thus far.

After going to see the movie “Yes Man” (and, yes, a Jim Carrey flick can have some meditatively redeeming value) I started to look at how I treat my own life. Just the day before I went to see it, I got a call from some friends of mine asking to hang out and I claimed I was sick and couldn’t go. However, they were extremely persistent and also had a car, so I went with them. Turns out I had an excellent time. The beginning of “Yes Man” shows Jim Carrey’s character Carl making excuses to not hang out with his friends, and shows how he dictates his life by not taking advantage of any of the opportunities at his disposal. Of course, he becomes a “Yes Man” and starts to do many ridiculous things (like sing “Jumper” by Third Eye Blind), but realizes that it’s about striking a balance: not saying yes to everything, but to open himself up to opportunities and ideas. It made me really question how I’ve been living my life.

Then, I decided to write a “16 facts” note on Facebook. The concept is simple: once someone has tagged you in one of their notes, you write 16 “random things, shortcomings, facts, habits or goals” that people don’t know about you. So, among the 16, I wrote a few that I’ve been kicking around the past few days, and they are:

1) I’m a very passionate person, even to the point that sometimes I get worked up about things that don’t really matter and really worked up about the things that do.

2) I think way too much about life in general: what has happened, what is happening, what might or could or would happen

3) Sometimes I wish I’d step out of my own comfort zone

4) I’m way too insecure for my own good

I have no want to change #1, but it does concern me sometimes because there’s really no use in getting worked up about things that don’t matter. I would like to change #2, but I’m a thinker, always have been. I think 3 & 4 go together and I wrote them because of how I’ve thought about the ways that I limit myself sometimes. I’m a very careful person, and I think that has its benefits, but I also think that it’s caused me to miss out on some chances that I might never get again.

Which leads me to Christmas and the events preceding it.

I went to confession on the morning of Christmas Eve and one thing I mentioned was that I felt sometimes I didn’t feel anything when I went to church, and I was told that the fact I was going to church was a good sign, and that I should try to find some meaning and reflection when I go to Mass. After the fact, I thought of a friend of mine who had written her own “16 things” and mentioned that she felt she had weak faith, which leads me to…

Mass Christmas Eve and at Midnight. They were both at the same church, and the homily was given by the same pastor. They were remarkably similar and yet totally different at the same time. However, I took some important thoughts from it overall. First of all, he mentioned how, as Catholics, we had been trained to be “spectators”, and he actually called out the old Latin rite, saying that that’s how a lot of people grew up worshipping: not knowing what was going on because it was in Latin and just watching the priest do it. This goes along with his second point that we’ve been taught to live inside our heads. That said, he points to how a lot of people (myself included) pray: you say it in your head, and it’s memorized so it just spits out like rapid fire. He kind of ripped the memorization part, as he indicated that it took a lot of meaning out of the prayer. A good example he gave was about when he used to teach in a  Catholic high school; when he couldn’t get them to shut up he would start reciting the Our Father loudly and they’d all join in. What I thought was more interesting was his discussion about those people who weren’t “taught to pray”, because their prayers are still prayers, but they’re from their guts. He said “if you’re on the street, no food, no house, you’re gonna pray; if you’re getting shot at, you’re gonna pray”, whether or not you have the Our Father, or the Hail Mary or the Apostles’ Creed memorized. I guess what resonated with me was that, a lot of the time, we pray when we’re in need, but we don’t pray when we don’t need, even though he mentioned nothing about this, it seemed to pop up; all I know is that I don’t want to just pray when I need anymore. This all led him to his main point: Christmas is supposed to happen every day of our lives. That’s not to say that every day we’re supposed to listen to Trans-Siberian Orchestra or watch It’s a Wonderful Life (or White Christmas or A Christmas Story or Home Alone, etc.) but that we’re supposed to be able to say yes to those opportunities that present themselves that might scare us or that we don’t understand, much like Mary and Joseph did at the thought of the birth of Jesus, because, as much as they didn’t understand and were afraid, they still said yes. One really poignant thing I thought he said was that they weren’t looking for reasons to not participate, which rang true to me, because, as you see, this is all connected. Life is funny that way.

So, I’m gonna try to say yes when I need to, and when I don’t understand or when I’m afraid, I’ll be there to say yes….especially now that I’m done with Music History.

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and a healthy and happy New Year.

-MJH

such sweet sorrow

I have learned a couple of things in the past two days:

1) I have really bad timing 

and

2) dying sucks.

I mean that in total honesty; sometimes you take a chance and it works out, but the timing is so ridiculously awful you feel kind of dumb at the end.

I went to Sammie’s funeral yesterday and I can honestly say this: Black people sure know how to hold a funeral. That’s not racist at all; what I mean is that it was more a celebration of Sammie’s life than any funeral I’ve ever been to. Being a Catholic and a cantor, I’ve been to my fair share of funerals and you can’t help but feel so depressed when you leave. (A favorite comedian of mine described Catholicism like this, “If it’s fun…stop.”) Yesterday’s service was a touching memorial to a man that clearly made many many friends in his life and touched each of them in different ways. One huge difference was that there was a part of the service when people could go up and say something about Sammie if they wanted to (like an abbreviated eulogy). Catholics aren’t so big on the eulogies, so it was nice to hear people go up and share so many stories about how Sammie had brought some kind of light to their lives.

Then we went to the cemetery, and that’s when everything became very real. I mean, I could barely stand to look into the casket of this man that I had known my entire life, but to go to the graveside and see that casket lowered into the ground was an entirely different proposition. I didn’t cry when it happened, but a small part of me went with him when I saw, as the casket was lowering, his wife start crying. At the funeral service, she had done a commendable job of keeping her composure, but I knew things had gotten very palpable for her when they lowered his body into that grave. I hope she’ll be okay, because I’m sure it’s the hardest thing in the world to lose a person that you love so dearly. Rest in Peace, Sammie; I love you and miss you.

I hope the joy of this Christmas season brings peace and joy to you and all of your families.

-Martin

in memoriam

Sometimes I wish I had a chance to feel…

I was at lunch with one of my very dearest friends (Tim Fox; theboynamedfred.livejournal.com) when I received a call from my dad.

He was calling to inform me that Sammie Williams had died.

For as long as I can remember, whenever I’d go downtown to visit my dad at work, there would be Sammie, a very pleasant, very wonderful African-American man who worked for the security company that provided the security for the building where my dad works. He and my dad were “as thick as thieves”, as they say, always talking about their lives. Sammie worked with my dad until a couple of years ago, when his diabetes became so unmanageable that he couldn’t work anymore. Within the past two years, my family and I would visit and talk with Sammie when we got the chance.

Sammie tried calling my dad the other day, but my dad missed the call. My dad had intended on calling him back, when he found out today that Sammie had passed away of a heart attack. My dad told me how horrible he felt that he didn’t get a chance to call Sammie back, which just made me feel sad about Sammie and sad for my dad.

As I hung up the phone, I cried. I’m glad Tim was there for me, as he’s always been able to pick up my sprits; I still had a piano jury, a skit performance, a rehearsal and a voice jury to get through. Without him, I don’t know if I could have made it.

It’s so sad to think that this man who I had always seen as a constant in my childhood has now left this earth. It makes me aware of my mortality, my shortcomings, my regrets, my fears…

What makes me feel worse is that I had to grieve, and then almost immediately move on…

R.I.P. Sammie, I’ll miss you.

-MJH

patterns

It’s really hard not to start to feel the same way about things as I have in the past just because much hasn’t changed.

We all fall into patterns of sorts…

Patterns of unproductivity
or destructiveness
or complacency
or disappointment
or expectation

It doesn’t really matter what it is, because, when it comes down to it, we all fall into old patterns once again.

The pattern I’ve fallen into is
One of disillusionment
Mainly because, these days,
The only thing I’m certain of is
Uncertainty itself.

-MJH

great expectations

I was walking to class today when I started thinking about expectations. For some reason the question popped in my head, “What would it be like to live without any expectations at all?”

It’s a somewhat paralyzing proposition, if you think about it.

Does not having any expectations mean you don’t have any goals or motivation? I mean, isn’t that what motivates us toward bigger and better things, our own expectations?

Then it got me on a personal line of thinking…is it possible that one’s own expectations could be too high for what is achievable for that person?

Most people would say, “Yes, of course we all have expectations that are too high at one point or another.”

I say, “No, it is never possible to have expectations that are too high; it is only possible to not have enough ambition or initiative to achieve those expectations.”

Perhaps that’s ridiculous (and it very well may be), but I know that, in a lot of cases, I have had expectations for myself that I have not been able to attain, but, in retrospect, it was never the expectations that were too high, it was my own motivation and initiative that were lacking.

Unfortunately, one can be aware of their own shortcomings and still not be able to overcome them. And this has nothing to do with expectations, but rather dealings with others. However, I’m starting to think it’s not my own shortcomings that are interfering with my interactions with others, but really the shortcomings of those people I’m trying to get to know better that are starting to frustrate me.

But what do I know? 

-MJH