Saturday, March 29, 2014

On the Importance of Doing Something Non-obligatory and Life-affirming (1000th Blog Post)




I am the same age as Maynard James Keenan, the lead vocalist of the bands Tool, A Perfect Circle, and Puscifer. Within a few months, any way. Because of my personal history of music that's made an impression, and even my personal history itself, it seems inevitable that I'm a fan. When he moved to Arizona and wrote some songs about the Verde Valley, the connection I feel with the music grew stronger. My brother is also a big fan, probably for some of the same reasons as me and for some of his own. When we heard that Tool was playing in Phoenix, he decided to fly out to see my family, and to go to the concert with me. 

Considering that getting tickets for good seats would be a little more expensive than common sense would dictate, in addition to the cost of flying to Phoenix, I asked him if he was sure he wanted to do it. He told me that he thinks that it's vital that we do something non-obligatory and life-affirming on a regular basis, so that became our theme for the concert.

In a sort of preparation for the concert, we woke up at 5am and hiked down to the Verde River before sunrise. I've done that a few times before, and told him about it, so this time he wanted to go, too. As we neared the water in the morning quiet which was stirred only by the songs of early birds, we heard what sounded like a bowling ball being dropped into the water. "What was that?" he asked me. "I would guess it was a beaver slapping its tail," I replied. "Let's go look."

We pushed our way through the dense brush and reeds to get to the water's edge. There were several beaver-gnawed trees about. Scanning the water which was lit by sky-glow from the rising sun, we saw nothing moving for a few moments, then spotted the wake of a beaver swimming toward us from a direction opposite of the sound we heard. More than one! He paddled right in front of us, then slapped his tail and dove.

Being Maynard's age has made me think a lot about matters like health, stress, vocation, being a good parent, even retirement (or not?), and with all that I suppose also meeting my obligations. You don't gather so many years under your belt without having many of those. Sometimes they feel weighty, but that's all relative and I can snap that right into perspective. Still, I have to go along with my brother: sometimes it's very important to do something non-obligatory and life-affirming. Sometimes it is vitally necessary to do an unnecessary life-affirming thing of your own free choosing.

I didn't intend the 1000th post to be about Tool or Maynard or midlife in particular, but it turned out to be where I'm at and what I'm thinking about now, so into the blog it goes. The concert was incredible. Hearing "Third Eye" live was mind-blowing in no small part because Maynard held nothing back from the difficult vocals. Throughout, Danny Carey, the drummer, who is three years older than Maynard and me by the way, appeared tireless and driven by the rhythm gods to burn up the deep-seated steady pounding neurons of my ancient lizard hind brain with rapid interwoven and multi-layered waves of staccato intention. It's possible that in the final show of the tour they put forth a full effort. I strapped in, and was sated.

I actually planned in this post to write about a Saturday ride to my thinking spot to make an important, life-affecting decision. As it turned out, the non-obligatory life-affirming concert experience and the decision-making are intertwined and interrelated, affecting and affected by each other, so they're both in here.

Parking at the thinking spot

I've ridden to the same spot at key points in my life over the last 25 years to sit and think things over. I've made some major choices sitting right here, and they have turned out to have been the right ones, in retrospect, so I feel drawn to come sit here a while when a decision is weighing on me. I went there on Saturday to make a major decision, and then realized that in going there I've already made my choice, and already begun the process by taking the first steps without thinking about it. My gut has already decided; my heart has already made plans for what's next. I needed to spend less time here than I thought, once I figured that out, which gave me more time to ride along the canal and still make it home before dark.

A palo verde tree of great blooming and illustrious form along the Arizona Canal (a vision of happiness for the bees)

In the waning light, I glimpsed Amur catfish swimming up and hovering near the side of the canal at sunset making ripples on the glassy surface with their tails, appearing as dark streamlined torpedo shapes just beneath the surface. For the end of this one thousandth post, in closing, I note that riding my bicycle in general, pausing to do things like observing fish in the canal and riding out to look at art, and commuting by bicycle in particular, are important, non-obligatory, and life-affirming activities for me. Perhaps blogging about them is, too. 

As I ponder the road behind me, the pile of years beneath me, and being an old man like Maynard, I also note that my thinking place has graduated to the status of being my decision confirmation place, that sunshine on my skin and my legs powering my bicycle still feel good beyond all reason (in spite of adhesive capsulitis in one of my shoulders, good lord what's going to break next), and for that matter that loud progressive metal rock concerts still do some good for my aging soul. Having made my choice, I will keep going down the particular path of my choosing with enthusiasm, knowing that I'm good at that, and fascinated by what will happen next.

I want to thank you very much indeed for reading this blog, too. I know it's not for everyone, and I don't think I intend it to be. I like to think that we're here in this space for these few moments because we want to be, though, and because we affirm life. That underlies these words and pictures. In the middle, right here, I'll conclude how I started, with this small suggestion: get up. go ride.


10 comments:

  1. 1,000 beautifully written, fascinating (to me) posts! Congratulations on all life affirmations.

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    1. Thank you Candace, I like to believe that your photos and some of mine give the world a view of Arizona and Phoenix that they might not otherwise get.

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  2. Getting older has a way of making us thankful for what we have but also makes us ponder, consider how we want to live out our remaining years. The Life's Too Short phrase may be contrite or overused but nonetheless sends a powerful message. Thank you for your thoughts, writings, and photos. Pedal on, John.

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    1. Pedal on, Annie. As the days grow proportionally smaller to the total, I feel the best response is to seek to derive greater richness from each of them. That's not an easy thing. But I see possibilities and options, and exploring those for the sake of that richness is a worthy endeavor, I have to believe. Bicycles enable that for me, and maybe you and I share that.

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  3. I haven't read a post of yours or anyone else's in a while. Having read that one, I can't figure out why I stopped. Always a pleasure, JRA. Congrats on 1000th post for sure, but more congrats on lifting me up a little over and over and over.

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    1. Thanks, RANTWICK. I think we should design and build a fixie commuter covered in technology, cameras, and sensors. If bicycles were free wireless access points available to car commuters stuck in traffic maybe they would give us three feet. Which is weird, because you would think all that it would take would be the law, common sense, and a recognition that exercising due care towards other humans is an essential duty, but if it takes Free Internet to accomplish that, let's do it and never look back.

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  4. Mostly, you have to blog to what you yourself like and simply hope that some of the rest of us agree with you. Congrats on 1000. I'm still a ways off from that.

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    1. Thanks Steve, your blog kept me going on many occasions, both blogging and commuting by bicycle. Stay steady, is a simple and powerful lesson in all that we might do, and I appreciate that.

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  5. Desert island blog for sure.
    Well, yours and mine of course.
    Steve A. too.
    Maybe.

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