Laughing at Mistakes

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Good Monday evening,

I am in my study after a rather random weekend. As I noted in the last post, I did attend the Art Garfunkel concert Saturday night. While I went by myself, I did find out that another person I knew was headed to the concert also and she and her friend actually sat almost directly in front of me, we did catch up afterwards for a cup of coffee and a nice conversation. The concert was very nice, rather intimate, and, unfortunately, a bit short, but in spite of its length, it was certainly worth the time and the money. I still remember the first time I was listening with regularity to Simon and Garfunkel. I was in late elementary school or junior high and I had the Bridge over Troubled Water album. I think I had every track memorized and it is one of those albums that instantly puts me back into the time in my life. I think I was out of the service and back in Sioux City and I bought the Breakaway album, which is the only Garfunkel album I think I ever purchased, but, once again, I think I had every track on the album committed to memory. I think Art Garfunkel might have one of the purest voices I have ever heard.

While I was, at least, vaguely aware that he had suffered a vocal chord paresis a few years ago, I guess I did not really consider that fact when I found tickets available. I will say that his voice has certainly lost some of that phenomenal quality that I remember, it was still quite amazing and a combination of his songs, the songs made famous by the duo, and the intimate setting of just him and an acoustic guitar was quite impressive. What I did not realize what how important poetry was to him. I guess it makes sense as a song writer, but what he did throughout the concert was to interject the reading of one of his poems. There were two interesting elements here. First, each poem seemed to be scribbled on a  business size mailing envelope; and second, the poetry was very good. It was always introduced to provide some context and then he would just read it.

There was a certain vulnerability in his work both in that fact that his voice was not what it once was and that he shared such personal insights through his poetry. At one point that vulnerability took on a different aspect when he was in the middle of a song and he forgot the lyrics. It was rather amazing as well as a bit amusing. As someone who once did his own guitar and vocal gig, I know of this difficulty. That is why I always had the lyrics in front of me. I had no doubt that I would forget something and look monumentally foolish. He was about a third or more through the song and, at first it seemed that he had merely missed the timing and as such an entrance into a next verse. He got a bit of a puzzled look on his face, but soon that look became ever more concerned. After 45 second or so, he got up off the stool upon which he was sitting and looked at the crowd and simply spoke, “I forget the words.” Everyone clapped and was gracious as was Gunfunkel himself.  It was quite amazing to see such a famous person with 50+ years on the stage forget lyrics, but it also made it more real and honest. All-in-all, it was a very enjoyable and nostalgic evening.

As I noted in the title, I think it is necessary to be able to laugh at our mistakes. Perhaps more importantly, it is necessary to be able to admit them. If we learn from our failures, I am not convinced they should be called mistakes. I think they are learning moments or life’s lessons, and yet I hesitate to use those terms because they seem cliche. Yet, if we learn from our mistakes or take things in a different direction because of them, then they are still a positive thing. Perhaps we need to see them as strengths and weaknesses, but more importantly we need to be able to not only admit them, but be comfortable with them. Can we be comfortable in our own skin? Most often, I think the answer to that question, which is not intended to be merely pondered, is “no”. We are not comfortable when we feel that something reflects less than brightly or positively upon us. The consequence is we hide behind our frailties and our seeming inadequacies, most often afraid to consider or confront them. We ignore the things we should perhaps most often ponder and when we perceive someone else is pondering those things about us we either become defensive, soon to be followed by angry, or we merely avoid and run away. The consequence of that is a lot of unnecessary pain.

I spent more than an hour on the phone with a student about whom I care deeply this morning. At the end of two semesters and a summer in college, because of remedial work, he has less than a semesters-worth the credits and that GPA is abysmal. To go along with that he has probably 15K worth the debt, and people are trying to convince him he needs to come back to college. Certainly there are other factors that play into those decisions, but what is fair to the student? What is possible for this student? Who decides? Who will be honest with the student? Too many times, I believe the academy is selfish and self-centered. They receive financial aid for a student, but is the student really capable of doing the work? I think it is unconscionable and it is certainly not ethical. Of course, there are the stories or the reasons given for less than stellar grades. Too often it is everyone’s fault except the student. What a crock!! I know this all too well from my own beginning semesters of college. I was pretty damn worthless, at least as far as my performance as a student. I remember being sent home. It was something that needed to happen. In speaking with another person yesterday, we chatted about falling on our noses and then picking ourselves back up. That is an important thing to learn. It is such a fine line and it is different for each person. How much do you help and when do you allow them to fall? I am not comfortable with the one-size-fits-all approach, but it is something that most need to learn. Again, can you laugh at those learning moments, those AFGEs, as we called them in seminary? That acronym stands for “another F$*()$ growing experience”.

Well, today is the first day of my summer and I am working on a schedule and a plan for the weeks. The relaxation I spoke of in my last post is something to ponder for another time. I do want to build in some down time each day and I still have plans for the summer. However, another option has presented itself over the weekend that I want to manage. I am working through that at the moment. More on that as it transpires. I am not sure what I even have here today, but I do know that the weekend concert was a really significant event for me. It brought back childhood memories; it reminded me of our humanness and how we often take things for granted. No voice when you are a singer is an issue and Art Garfunkel picked himself up and did not quit. There is a lot to say about that. It is always interesting when we are hit with things that create substantive changes or require us to carefully consider our humanity.

Thanks as always for reading.

Michael

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