It's a shame I don't get invited more often to parties because I'm a party game wrapped in one rotund package. I have the ability to turn just about any conversation into a musical or sexual reference. I'm not saying my gift is unique, just that it exists. Even when it fails to entertain others, I'm often able to entertain myself. See? I can turn that last line into a sexual reference and can even find a musical one for it, as well. It may not be all that rare but it's a gift that has served me well over the years, even if I'm only talking to myself.
That's just it, though. The music isn't something that just passes through my ears, soon to be forgotten- at least not the best of it. It worms its way in my head and it stays there until its needed, for whatever purpose. When a song becomes part of me, it joins with other songs and becomes part of an ongoing internal dialogue I'm having with myself. Here's an example:
A couple years ago, TheWifeToWhomI'mMarried had just taken her literature final and was telling me about some of the short stories she liked best from the now-complete semester. One of those was "A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings" by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. As she was telling me about the story, I found myself humming Pearl Jam's "Given to Fly." It just seemed appropriate. She really liked the story and I really like Pearl Jam, so I went and read the story on my own. The connection really seemed, to me, to fit.
Some days later, I was listening to an old podcast of Tony Kornheiser's radio program and was moved by how moved the curmudgeonly host sounded when talking about watching physicist/author Stephen Hawking experience zero gravity.
I don't know much Hawking, but the fact I know anything at all speaks to his place among the physicists and intellectuals of our time. In addition to being one of the smartest human beings on the whole damn planet, he suffers from ALS — more commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease. He has been wheelchair bound for more than four decades and can no longer speak without the assistance of voicebox technology.
Our culture has cheapened emotion to the point where contrived easily passes for the real thing. I found myself overwhelmed by the power of the real thing as I heard about this incredible story. This is what it feels like to feel inspiration. It's an amazing thing to feel something so deeply and then to experience the feeling of not being able to describe that feeling.
The look on his face is the look of pure joy. Hawking is a prisoner of his own body, but for a few moments his soul and spirit soared higher than most of us will ever reach in the physical and I daresay in the spiritual sense. Once again, Pearl Jam's "Given to Fly" came to mind.
The eruption of music and the emotion in Eddie Vedder's vocal — I'm not saying it captures moments like this, but it comes about as close as word and sound are capable. I've always loved this song, but I wonder if I will ever hear it the same way again. I hope not.
"sometimes is seen a strange spot in the sky
a human being that was given to fly…