I was watching an old blurb on PBS the other night and Steven Sondheim was center stage. It was a celebration of his eightieth birthday and the publishing of his new book. Steven is one of the great lyricist of the twentieth century.
Listen to Send in the Clowns from A Little Night Music. Done in the 70’s it is still incredibly poignant. Anything from West Side Story where he collaborated on the score with Leonard Bernstein is beyond relevant. Sweeney Todd. This guy knows how to write words that rip your guts out or have you humming.
As I write, I listen to opera or classical music. I am not really so clever that I know the story line, the words of a particular aria or what movement in E flat this is. I don’t care. It sounds great. And really gets my juices going.
Think about Mozart, Beethoven, Puccini, novelists, epic journalists. The Beatles, The Who, Paul Simon, Billy Joel. Safire, Woodward. Dali, Reubens, Da Vinci. I just get blown away by the creative arts. They are so good at putting everyday in the realm of the spectacular. Moreover their reach is universal.
How do we raise creative kids? One of the best things for us was Genessee, Colorado. Just outside of Denver we lived there in the early eighties. Cable hadn’t gotten to us and we got two Denver channels that were fuzzy at best. Our kids had to make up their own games, forts and plays. It was twenty minutes to a grocery store.
It was pretty beyond imagination. We skied on weekends and the kids walked to the pool. I think they were bombarded by color and nature. The nights were silent but deafening with nature noises.
I think I have told many of you of the book “How to Think Like Leonardo DaVinci. Maybe we are too far gone but our kids and grandkids could sure use it. The basics are to engage your five senses in everything you can. By doing so you engage so many facets of your brain. It literally jumps alive.
They took two groups and taught them a detailed task. One class was well lit with beige walls and fluorescent lighting. The other had fresh flowers, vibrant colored walls, classical music and soft fabrics. Who do you think learned better and faster ?
Lastly is the whole concept of rote. Our educational systems today rely on measurements of what you retained but not what or how you thought. You are taught to give back to the teacher the answer he or she is looking for. What if there are two or three right answers?
Kathy and I might be hacking around, talking about this or that and somehow I get a funny idea in my mind. I start taking off saying this, that leads to that. Easy everybody I am talking about jokes here. All of a sudden we are laughing. As she says life is never dull with you, Ted.
I try to be cogent in my writings. To follow a theme, structure and basics of development. But then sometimes I just want it all to spill out. I just start ripping and it all comes out. Don’t stay within the lines. It’s more fun out here. I guess that is what they call stream of consciousness.
I wrote something once. I shared it with my dear departed older brother. It was crazy spoof on a friend of ours. Sarcasm and satire oozed. He asked me how long it took to write it. I said, “about twenty minutes”. He marveled and I shrugged my shoulders.
But you see I don’t feel like I am anything special. Sure I can twist a word or a phrase. Maybe I see irony or meaning in something stupid but so do you. You just need someone to point it out…or better yet you just have to look.
We spend our lives too often in aimless wandering. We have an appointment or a game in two or three hours and we wonder how we are going to “kill time”. We gaze blankly at the Olympics to see if we won. We miss the beauty of striving and defeat. The sheer humanity of failure.
Look outside on this beautiful summer day. It could be sunny or raining but it is alive with color. Walk down the street or look over the golf course and tell me how many different shades of green you can see. And then in your mind just cogitate that my green is different than the one you see. Simply put, we all see life differently and that is marvelous.
We all want to be right or left or black or white. We passionately want people to agree with us when our strength is our diversity. Don’t agree with me but please, oh please just hear me out. Try to take one little strain that might make sense and just consider it.
I have had so many life experiences over the last few days I kind of scare myself. Some horrible. Some heart wrenching. Some euphoric. Some so simple. All have touched my soul. It really is great to be alive. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Ted The Great
Google “Send In The Clowns” or West Side Story. Listen a bit. Dream a dream. Be Wistful. Glenn Close’s version of “Clowns” is particular. Not really a factoid but what the hell?
Gracenote has 97,206,484 songs in the data base. Some are different renditions of the same song but we go a lot of listening to do.
Again…How to Think Like Leonardo DaVinci by Michael Gelb. Better than Montessori or advance placement classes for your kids.
Da Vinci was left handed dyslexic and a procrastinating perfectionist who left many of his paintings in sketch form or unfinished. There is hope for us all.