Have you ever been so scared that you were not sure you could reach inside yourself and drag out that next breath? I have — I’ve spent the last month on a roller coaster where things like breathing, sleeping and perhaps dreaming were almost too hard. I wasn’t sure I could write this or anything else. As we’ve stumbled through, I noticed several patterns emerging. First, people are never prepared — the conversations are hesitant, sincere, and awkward — and that’s OK. Who wants those discussions ever to be commonplace? Next, for an awful lot of people there’s some unknowable reason events happen. We will come back to that… And finally, for all those who “hate people,” or think humanity, hell and hand basket are synonymous, people are generous, amazing and eager to share kindness. Let’s talk about that as well. From Ecclesiastes, which posits that everything happens in its season with a “purpose under heaven,” to Aristotle’s entelechy, the idea that each & everything experienced is part of the journey to fulfillment as a person, people seek to understand life’s events in some cause/effect spectrum. I struggle with that as a concept, finding more relief in the idea that “rain falls on the just and unjust.” Much of the Old Testament tells Talmudic stories of life wisdom, serving to explain a harsh, uninviting environment to an emerging agrarian world. Job, the poor unfortunate soul who is God’s shuttlecock to Satan’s racket, models patient acceptance as his life crashes all around him. While thousands of analyses parse every sentence for some theological depth, one of the more sensible explanations for the bad country song that Job’s life becomes I discovered several years ago. The reason, according to the scholar (and why I didn’t source it at the time!?), was to acknowledge life’s randomness. The trick of the story wasn’t that Job suffered for any particular reason — just that he handled it. A more overt doubt of the “reason for everything,” can be found in my darling Voltaire’s classic Candide. There is a delightful character in the book named Dr. Pangloss (thinly veiled Leibniz) who believes, “in this best of all possible worlds, everything happens out of absolute necessity, and that everything happens for the best.” So, as the characters careen from disaster to disaster, the good doctor keeps offering increasingly random optimism. For example, as they witness the devastation of the Lisbon earthquake (the largest natural disaster of 18th c. Europe), Pangloss cheerfully notes at least since it happened in Lisbon, it happened nowhere else… If reason exists in this madness, it’s to remind me and those I love of the “better angels” around us. One of the common after dinner conversations, I’ve had over the years involves the percentage of people one finds attractive/appealing in the world around them. I can’t do just physical, though everyone has something whether curve of a cheek, gnarl of a hand, twinkled eye that inspires beauty, the demeanor and kindness of the people matter too. And I usually get teased, because I go all Blanche DuBois, and suggest that some 93.78% of the population is innately lovely. Recently, I have begun to feel validated in my optimism (not quite to Panglossian levels). So many people, that I haven’t seen or talked to in years, and those I see every single day, have contacted me offering kindness and commiseration. I am not very good with asking for/accepting favors — yet, the sincerity and genuine good will has shown me those better angels. What I take away from this is two joys (and I look for little bits of it anywhere, these days) that come from the knowledge 1) the community we have in this world is not limited by geography, or moment of time, — which is just neat, and 2) there are people, like my girls, that inspire love and kindness from others because they are “light-filled,” and draw people into their warmth — which makes me inordinately proud (mom moment, indulge me please). OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA angels & reason:

  • With a Little Help from My Friends (the Beatles) — this iconic song has been chasing itself round my brain, as I treasure each kindness that finds us on this journey.
  • All the Right Reasons (Jayhawks) — “you’ll always be my morning star,” seems to be a valid reason for anything — the Minneapolis alternative band had a great growly sound that makes you really listen.
  • Change the World (Eric Clapton) — there are moments in any mom’s life where this song is the most perfect — when they were little you could make everything better, it’s not so easy now — but if you could….
  • Misguided Angel (Cowboy Junkies) — one of the most perfect recordings ever made, the Trinity sessions, offers pure music in a perfect venue
  • Don’t Ask Me Why (Billy Joel) — “don’t wait for answers, just take your chances….” we’re all figuring it out as we go
  • Angel Tonight (Leigh Nash) — once in a while someone calls, texts, messages and they are just the perfect person to “help you find the light again”
  • Eyes of the World (Grateful Dead with Branford Marsalis) — the coolest thing about the Dead was how completely they enjoyed playing live. When they had people who came in and joined them it could be magical. The show at Nassau when Branford joined them was epic and I’ve only listened to the live cuts – I would have loved to be there.
  • Don’t Know Why (Norah Jones) — Norah Jones could sing the phone book and it would make me feel better….
  • Angels (Robbie Williams) — this song was a phenomenon in England, and for a while recitals had lots of angels fluttering about….
  • Because we Can (Bon Jovi) — I want to be one you run to when you know you need a shoulder…. such a nice concept, wouldn’t you love to be that person….
  • Angels (Owl City) — lyrical little pop band — the melodies can be a smidge cheesy — but the lyrics are quirky and leave you smiling.
  • Back in the World (David Gray) — English Indie singer, who edges into pop — but some of his songs are just fantastic
  • Even Angels Fall (Jessica Riddle) — fell in love with the song on the 10 Things I Hate About You soundtrack, which the girls and I have watched, perhaps 735 times….
  • The Seeker (Shelby Lynne) — this cover of the Dolly Parton classic is beautifully nuanced and utterly joyous. I also need to say every time, I see the title — I think she’s going to break into the Who song, and I have about 2 bars of disappointment kick in before I go back to my enjoyment
  • Best of all Possible Worlds (Little Willies) — Norah Jones and friends in one of the loosest jam bands out there with a perfect Panglossian feel
  • Ace in the Hole (Paul Simon) — everybody’s got their something, and find comfort in something or someone
  • Waiting on the World to Change (John Mayer) — he’s a jerk, and I generally avoid his songs on principle — but this one weaseled its way into my appreciation and I just like it
  • Calling All Angels (Train) — many will dismiss him as utterly pop, and not wrong — he’s just a really good performer, listening to him do an acoustic set is a revelation.
  • Living in Another World (Neon Trees) — one of the girls and I saw them live this summer and they are another group that surprises you with their depth — and their opening acts were fantastic
  • Be the Miracle (from Evan Almighty) — how many times can you watch a movie, and it still make you laugh!
  • Sending Me Angels (Delbert McClinton) — when my oldest was a baby, being an ingenious mother I would set the baby monitor in front of the stereo and bring the receiver onto the porch where the baby girl and I would be rocking in the porch swing….  this song reminded of my girls and to this day I play it and picture them as infants cradled in my arms

“When in the why and the wherefore is neither rhyme nor reason?” –> Shakespeare’s A Comedy of Errors Take care, Aly

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