Enjoying the New and Remembering the Old

Good evening from the study in my house,

It is not quite 9:00 and I am completely spent. I think part of that was not getting home from the Mannheim Steamroller concert until almost 1:00 a.m. and being up and out before 8:00 this morning. Once upon a time I managed those hours and more on a daily basis. I think those days are long gone. The classes for the semester are completed and it has been a bizarre semester, at least from my perspective. It has gone by with amazing speed, but on the other hand, it seems like an eternity since we began in August. I also think part of that is also the changes that have occurred in my life since the end of the summer.

While there is always an evolution of sorts – indeed, you cannot step in the same river twice – some of those changes were more drastic than I expected, in spite of warnings or admonishments to the contrary. Probably the greatest change is in me; I am feeling content with the situation and the armor that was penetrated has been retooled and is probably stronger because of the experience. It is interesting that one wrote me that this year was destined to be a good year. Ultimately, I think that might end up to be an accurate prophetic statement, but for very different reasons. Without a doubt I am certainly grateful for the gift of a surrogate family, one which has provided me so many fortunate experiences, but also an unequalled wealth of cultural awareness from language to food to an intimate understanding of a family. Never in my life have I been so blessed to experience and learn so much so quickly or completely. It has changed my life in more ways than I could have imagined. It is also interesting to me what I have learned about each person and how my understanding and perception of each family member has been transformed from this cumulative empirical experience, both together as well as individually. Regardless the consequence, I have been a very fortunate person because of their presence.

On the other hand, I have had the opportunity to experience some things that have brought back some really amazing and significant recollections of my earlier life. Visits from some of the most beloved people in my life were unbelievable gifts this past summer. Those visits blessed me, overwhelmed me, and even frightened me. I am sure that I was stunned, and even unprepared, at times by the care that was extended to me. Of course, that goes for most every area or place from which I experienced such care. It is hard for me to manage that care because I feel unworthy. While I know it was given genuinely, or unencumbered, I know when I trusted it, I have found it to be less certain than I believed. When I put less hope in it, it was more unconditional than I anticipated. In either case, it was my interpretation that affected it in some manner. I guess as I look back at it, there were just more things and experiences by which I have been compelled to learn still new things.

It is now Saturday evening and I am hiding away in Jim Thorpe both enjoying the ambiance of a Victorian setting and grading away. During the morning I prepared a leisurely breakfast and graded. I did some small item shopping and graded some more. This afternoon I attended the Bach and Handel Chorale concert and this evening I had a very nice dinner at Moyà, another great find for culinary experiences in Jim Thorpe. To spend the time with two of my surrogate daughters, Becca and Cassey, was delightful and I think they enjoyed their time also. Today was a day that I pondered the various elements that have created the tapestry I call my life. When I speak with people, I often hear the phrase “you have crammed so much into your life.” and yet I seldom have that extraordinary feeling about my life. Being almost 60 I have had a long life, so having a lot of things does not seem that amazing. I also know that 59 is not that old in the larger scheme of things, but with one sibling passing at 26 and the other at 51, I am the old man, as Melissa has called me, in a less than endearing tone. I have certainly been through a lot of changes, but again, at this age, I cannot see why that is so extraordinary. Perhaps if anything is a bit outside the average experience it is the variety of places or skills. I have been able to live in so many different locales or to accumulate such an extreme repertoire of requisite capabilities. Perhaps most importantly, it has required that I keep thinking and learning.

During the past week it was, not surprising music that caused me to ponder the past as I anticipate the future. At the Mannheim Steamroller concert on.Wednesday, they played a group of pieces from their early Fresh Aire albums. I was transported almost instantly back to hallways of Holling and Rasmussen Halls and my first experiences with the albums. That music was 40 years old. As they played music from the first Christmas album, I could not help but sense the irony that I had used that music in my first Christmas Eve monologue when I was a pastor at Trinity Lutheran Church, which was barely an hour away from where I was listening to the concert. I could not help but consider that the venue i was in had been the steel mill where some of those same parishioners worked. Indeed that first Christmas album was released 30 years ago. As I attended the concert with my former colleague and good friend, Nicole, it was fun to tell her about some of those memories with the MS music. I can remember, as if it were only weeks ago, the first sounds of “Toccata”, the opening track of Fresh Aire Iii waifing through the hallways my first week at Dana College and the sense of needing to know what this music was and who had created it. That was 35 fall seasons ago.

What is it about music that transports us to those former times? This past year I have been provided new musical experiences. Some I appreciated more than others, but I am not the person to instantly discard the new. There are thee things that come to the fore musically for me this past year. First, probably John Legend and the way that both Jordan and Melissa were enamored with his music. He is certainly talented and I do appreciate this music, but not to the degree they do. I am glad they got to see him in concert. Also, while I do like so,e of Coldplay’s music, again it does not cause me to see stars. Second, I think the entire move to DJs and remixing has intrigued me. One of the most revelational conversations I had all year was at the table with Melissa about the Electric Daisy Concert (EDC). And what all of that meant for issues of composing, intellectual property and such. That conversation stunned me in terms of understanding music and culture. That was the reason I wanted to hear more from her in a later conversation. I had, and still have, so many questions. Perhaps that might happen some day yet. Third, the most significant musical memory of this year was merely listening to various songs from a variety of artists when Melissa would be either playing music in the house or in the car and she would sing along. Perhaps the greatest musical memory of the year is remembering her amazingly beautiful and talented voice. It is what I miss about having her around more than anything. Her singing brought a joy into the spaces whenever her voice filled the aire (spelling intended). She was my current fresh aire.

Music has always been and will always be a major component in my life. I think it is because of its ability to permeate our existence to the most elemental spaces of who we are; yes, to the core of our being. Luther once said, “Next to the word of God, music deserves the highest praise.” I think he was right. Keep listening and thanks for reading. Back to grading.

Dr. Martin

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