Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Rainy Day Musings (Part 1)

In the past few weeks since my Dad's diagnosis I've spent a great deal of time reflecting on all those things one normally does when a serious situation arises. You think about the nature of life, it's fragility, the seeming unfairness that most of us experience from time to time, the randomness of tragedy, and about immortality. And you get a greater appreciation for that which you do have, and get a sense of the proportionality of a bigger picture, that the whole scheme of things is so inner connected and transcends any dogmatic spiritual belief.

Last September I wrote a review of Mitch Albom's book Have A Little Faith, a work that points us in a direction to recognize that religious faith should be a mechanism to unite us rather than fragment our society, and in a larger scale, our world. One of the topics Albom talked of in his story of his friendship with his aging and ailing rabbi was that each one of us dies two deaths, the first when we kick that proverbial bucket, and the second when there is no one left who remembers who we were, what we did, who we loved, and what we accomplished in our lives. I guess part of the appeal of being a movie star or recording artist is that a piece of you lives on for generations.

For the past two months I've immersed myself in music.....most of you know I'm a classic rock dinosaur, so that playlist included the usual suspects; Bruce, Zeppelin, Clapton, oldies like Humble Pie, cult performers like Richard Thompson, Gregson and Collister, and my beloved Fairport Convention.

And then there was Queen and Freddie Mercury. November 24 will mark 20 years since Freddie's passing- and it doesn't seem possible that it's been that long, or even that he has truly died. While listening to some of Queen's later songs like The Show Must Go On, Who Wants To Live Forever, These Are The Days of Our Lives I gained an appreciation of the band's (and Freddie's) sense of mortality in a way I never could before. In their final album with Freddie Mercury, Innuendo, it was clear that Freddie was dying from AIDS; the result was an album that was a curtain call, a farewell, and an epitaph.

But while listening to the songs I was reminded that Freddie Mercury did die that first death (the physical one), but he is far away from the second one- his music lives, and he is far from forgotten. And even to those who wouldn't know the difference between Freddie Mercury and Freddie and the Dreamers, all you have to do is go to any ballpark or stadium throughout the world, and on any given day you will hear the foot stomps of We Will Rock You and the triumph of We Are The Champions.

I thought about my Dad and his 30 years of teaching, and the thousands of lives he touched along the way- there are people who might have known my Dad better than I did at the time, and just maybe he was that special teacher who pointed them in the right direction, and changed their lives. And after retiring from the classroom he spent another 15 years as a fulltime employee- and a state president- of the teacher's union.

Yes, Dad was one of those guys our conservative brethren loved to hate. My father was one of those pesky union activists who helped insure collective bargaining rights for the New Jersey's teachers, and subsequently for those in other parts of the country. Obviously Scott Walker, John Kasich, and professional tough guy Chris Christie are not popular figures with this household, this family, and this blogger.

My Dad spent his life touching lives, and helping to improve them. To see his work demonized by implication courtesy of some bullying political opportunists alternately saddens and angers me. But that should and will be the subject of another blog entry.

To be sure I felt some sense of isolation in the past month or so......but then I looked at the number of people who have visited in the past couple of years, over a quarter million, and that's just since I installed the counter. And I feel grateful that more than 250,000 people have taken time to read my words....and I know that I'm not alone at all.

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