Obscure Musical Instruments

If you’ve been following my blog for a while, or know me, you know that music plays an existential part of my life and being. I was raised by a mother who majored in music education in college and actually taught music in elementary school when she first started her teaching career (moving a few short years later to teach 3rd grade for 17 years and remedial reading for the remainder of her career). Mom’s children were all “strongly encouraged” to learn a musical instrument and sing in choruses and choirs. My older brother played trumpet, I learned piano and my younger brother played drums for a year or two and tinkered with a guitar. My older brother and I both sang in church choirs. I sang in school choirs starting in 3rd grade and all the way through my time at college. I also pretended to learn to play the French horn so I could be in band in high school. Lyrics of songs I know stick in my head like toothpaste on a toothbrush. Suffice it to say that much of my life has a musical base, and I am grateful to have it. I’m even more grateful that, in what was often a difficult parent-child relationship, my mother passed down the legacy of music and books to me.

Nonetheless, I recently came upon a musical instrument whose name was new to me. I posted it on social media in order to share it with my friends, many of whom I know from our shared time in band and/or choir during my high school year. One of those long-time friends commented and shared with me the names of two other instruments of which I was not aware. I checked them out on the Internet, and I thought it would be fun to share with any of you who either might have a musical thirst or merely wants to know something obscure for future trivia nights with your friends! So here you go!

Waterphone: A waterphone (also ocean harp) is a type of inharmonic acoustic tuned idiophone consisting of a stainless-steel resonator bowl or pan with a cylindrical neck and bronze rods of different lengths and diameters around the rim of the bowl. The resonator may contain a small amount of water giving the waterphone a vibrant ethereal sound that has appeared in movie soundtracks, record albums, and live performances. The instrument was invented, developed and manufactured by American Richard Waters (1935-2013). It looks something like this:

Waterphone

And is sounds something like this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vpix1v2BikQ The next time you’re listening to the music in a scary or horror movie, you may notice this kind of music – and now you’ll know how it’s created!

Glass Armonica (No, that’s not a typo – this is the correct spelling of the name!): The glass armonica is a type of musical instrument that uses a series of glass bowls or goblets graduated in size to produce musical tones by means of friction. It was invented in 1761 by Benjamin Franklin. In its ‘simplest’, if you saw the movie Miss Congeniality, you saw Gracie Lou (aka Sandra Bullock) play a series of glasses filled with different amounts of water by rubbing her finger over the rims to create different notes/tones. The more complicated glass armonica looks like this:

Imagine trying to get off all the water spots after use!

This photo does not show it, but the performer keeps a bowl of water nearby if it’s necessary to remoisten their fingertips while playing. And it sounds something like this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4LP8QFR9Qvc

Theremin: While this sounds like a really good name for some kind of prescription medication, a theremin is an electronic musical instrument controlled without physical contact. When you read those words, you might think it’s something magical and when you hear how the instrument is played, you might well think the performer is, indeed, a musician!

The performer stands in front of the instrument and moves their hands in the proximity of two metal antennas. The distance from one antenna determines frequency (pitch), and the distance from the other controls amplitude (volume). Higher notes are played by moving the hand closer to the pitch antenna. Louder notes are played by moving the hand away from the volume antenna. Most frequently, the right hand controls the pitch and the left controls the volume, although some performers reverse this arrangement. Some low-cost theremins use a conventional, knob operated volume control and have only the pitch antenna. While commonly called antennas, they are not used for receiving or broadcasting radio waves, but act as plates of capacitors.

Don’t worry if you’re creasing your forehead and thinking, “Huh?” I only understand it in the most basic of concepts. Even with just those basic concepts, I honestly can’t believe why anyone would want to learn how to actually play this instrument.

The instrument was created by Russian Leon Theremin and was later pushed into the spotlight by Robert Moog’s creation of the modern synthesizer.

It looks simple in its structure, like this:

Looking at it, it doesn’t seem like much!

As I said, looking at it, it doesn’t seem like much. But when you listen to how it sounds and watch the performer’s movements… Well… this is what it’s like: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PjnaciNT-wQ

Clair de Lune is my favorite ‘classical’ piece of music, so I didn’t mind watching this over and over and over, etc. But I’m still as clueless about how it works, and I still think there must be some kind of magic involved. I’m not sure I know anyone with enough patience to learn to play this instrument!

So now you know about three obscure musical instruments! Doing my research, I discovered names of other musical instruments I’ve not heard of, but I don’t want to overwhelm anyone’s brain – including my own (I’m still trying to figure out the theremin!).

Different Versions of Me

What I’ve copied below was recently posted by a friend on a social media site, and as I got to the end of reading it, I had a moment where life just literally stopped. My mind was blown by the simple truth in these words. I commented on the post that I didn’t know whether to give it the love (heart) emoji or the sad (crying face) emoji. The words were so powerful that they instantly made me see myself in a different light, and that deserved a “love” response. And the words were so powerful that they instantly made me realize how many years I’ve wasted of my life trying to be who I thought others wanted me to be based on my own perception of how they saw me.

I struggle more than I care to admit with trying to reason why anyone would want to choose me as a friend. This goes all the way back to my high-school years, and it exists usually within relationships where I perceive the other person in a way that, for me, makes them well above “average” and, thus, puts them on some kind of pedestal. Of course, that means I’m always below/beneath them, and from there comes my reasoning or lack thereof.

As I’m thinking through this process and typing these words, a comment given (and forgotten) a long, long time ago from a mentor told me that I didn’t get to choose who someone else can and cannot like, and if that person chooses to like me, that’s his/her right and privilege.

I really need to do some more introspection on this and make it a priority to focus on. I’ve started making a list of little quotes and goodies that I need to have in the forefront of my brain (you know, being ‘older’ means it’s time to start making lists to remember things). My plan is to add to the list as needed, and to review that list at least once daily to keep those thoughts in my focus.

This will be a constant work in progress, I’m sure.

And they say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks…

The Three Rs

When I was growing up, the “Three Rs” were known as: reading, (w)riting and (a)rithmetic. These were considered the ‘important’ things we needed to learn in our schooling. Obviously, two of the three of them have been antiquated by technology, and I suspect that, at some time in the not-so-far future, reading won’t be necessary since everything will be converted to audio (like is already done with books).

These days, we still use the phrase the “Three Rs” but now they mean: reuse, repurpose, recycle. Actually, there is an even newer meaning to the acronym – it’s now reduce, reuse, recycle.

I have long been an avid recycler. I have not let the articles about how less than 50% of the recyclable items we place out for that purpose actually get recycled dissuade me. I have used reusable bags for my grocery shopping for many years; in fact, I had to buy additional bags because I gave some of mine away to my brother to use since he has a lot of steps involved in getting his groceries inside! I often grab one or two of those bags if I’m going into a place other than the grocery store, like a big box store or a thrift store.

About a month ago, I caught part of a news clip about how the state of New Jersey (which borders PA, where I live) was banning the use of plastic bags in stores. Customers had to either bring their own shopping bags or pay a nominal amount for paper bags. In theory, I fully support this idea. However, I’m old enough to remember a time when everyone used paper bags (without paying for them) and plastic bags were invented to replace paper as they were much more economical and saved in the cutting down of trees.

I also saw a headline about California getting on the bandwagon to reduce plastic usage. And I’m all for anything we can do.

And yet, there was a big noise made about single-use plastic straws; just days ago, I was voluntarily presented with a plastic straw in a paper wrapper with the glass of water I ordered. It ended up becoming waste, just as it would have if I had used it, even though it sat unopened on the table the entire time it was there. If I had been asked if I wanted a straw, I would have said “no” and saved the earth – and the restaurant – the result of using one.

After the ban on plastic bags in New Jersey, I asked someone who lives there how they will clean up after their dog while on walks. Instead of ‘reusing’ a store plastic bag to pick up the solids to be disposed in the trash, this person bought the most inexpensive box of plastic zipper bags that could be found and will now use them. So, my question becomes, “If all we are doing is replacing one kind of plastic bag with another that still ends up as plastic waste, what are we accomplishing?”

Bear with me on this… What are our trash bags made of? What is the wrap we put over food made of? What are wrappers for bags of bread, muffins, etc. made of? What are the bags available in the produce aisle for putting our produce into made of? What is the film over so many frozen items in trays made of? What is the film that covers the meat on styrofoam trays in the meat section made of? What wraps up most of the pre-packaged lunchmeats and cheeses available to purchase? What do things like cooking oils and peanut butter come in? What is the band that holds together that 6-or 8-pack of soda bottles made of?

And that is why I can only say that, in theory, banning plastic shopping bags is a good idea. But honestly, to me it feels like using your toothbrush and toothpaste to brush the top 4 center teeth in your mouth while not cleaning the remaining teeth.

I know there are mesh-type bags that can be purchased to be used for when you purchase produce. Use, wash, reuse. But we as a society are all about convenience. That’s why disposable diapers were invented. That’s why we use paper towels and paper napkins. We are still making tons and tons of trash that ends up in landfills because we want the fastest way to get something done, and wipe and toss sure beats wipe and wash, dry, fold, put away to reuse.

As I said, I am doing everything I can to recycle – approved glass, plastic, aluminum, paper and cardboard, etc. But to be honest, I’m quick to grab a paper towel to wipe up a small mess rather than dirty a cloth. And I’m not really sure I’m ready to go back to those days long ago where both women and men used cloth hankies, washed, dried, ironed and the reused. And trust me, I use up, on average, three to four boxes of tissues a month (I do break down the sides of the empty box, remove the plastic around the opening, and put the box in recycling. Oh, but there is more plastic I’m throwing into the trash, darnit!).

I applaud New Jersey for its efforts – after all, you need to start somewhere. But if our government wants to make it easy on the consumers, why not provide a certain number of reusable bags, based on the size of the family per the recent census, complimentary? Then, if persons don’t choose to use them – or forget them – or whatever other excuse that can be made – the onus is on that consumer. I believe the law in New Jersey states that people can bring their own reusable bags or pay a nominal fee for paper bags. (I’ve already been to a grocery store that charges 3 cents for each plastic bag used if you didn’t bring your own with you.)

Let’s face it – the fastest way to get someone to change is to make them financially responsible if they choose not to! So that should be in the beginning of this desire for overall change. And then, at least in my opinion, government should be willing to work on finding ways to make wrappings of plastic somehow biodegradable (some smaller companies already do) so that whatever does end up in the trash eventually dissolves. We also need to make it mandatory nationwide that all residential buildings must recycle. We need to find out why less than 50% of the materials set out to be recycled actually become recycled. We need to make it cost effective to companies – and to consumers – to use recycled products, maybe even save them a penny or two for choosing recycled materials.

So, while I appreciate the start on this issue being made by New Jersey and talked about in California, unless the federal government gets involved, there is not going to be a major impact on the problem.

Maybe the Supreme Court should be looking at how this problem has a negative effect on many, MANY lives and quit trying to allegedly save one!

And that is all I’m going to say about that!

We need to do MORE of this!

I Did Not Write This…

I did not write what I’m about to include here. What is stated here is not something I believe is true across the board but does, in fact, speak clearly about many who are a part of the larger group.

An open letter to white evangelicals: We’re done with you.

By North Carolina Pastor John Pavlovitz

Dear White Evangelicals,

I need to tell you something: People have had it with you. They’re done. They want nothing to do with you any longer, and here’s why: They see your hypocrisy, your inconsistency, your incredibly selective mercy, and your thinly veiled supremacy.

For eight years they watched you relentlessly demonize a Black President; a man faithfully married for 26 years; a doting father and husband without a hint of moral scandal or the slightest whiff of infidelity. They watched you deny his personal faith convictions, argue his birthplace, and assail his character—all without cause or evidence.

They saw you brandish Scriptures to malign him and use the laziest of racial stereotypes in criticizing him. And through it all, White Evangelicals—you never once suggested that God placed him where he was, you never publicly offered prayers for him and his family, you never welcomed him to your Christian Universities, you never gave him the benefit of the doubt in any instance, you never spoke of offering him forgiveness or mercy, your evangelists never publicly thanked God for his leadership, your pastors never took to the pulpit to offer solidarity with him, you never made any effort to affirm his humanity or show the love of Jesus to him in any quantifiable measure.

You violently opposed him at every single turn—without offering a single ounce of the grace you claim as the heart of your faith tradition. You jettisoned Jesus as you dispensed damnation on him.

And yet you give carte blanche to a white Republican man so riddled with depravity, so littered with extramarital affairs, so unapologetically vile, with such a vast resume of moral filth—that the mind boggles.

And the change in you is unmistakable. It has been an astonishing conversion to behold: a being born again.

With him, you suddenly find religion. With him, you’re now willing to offer full absolution. With him, all is forgiven without repentance or admission. With him, you’re suddenly able to see some invisible, deeply buried heart. With him, sin has become unimportant, and compassion no longer a requirement. With him, you see only Providence.

And White Evangelicals, all those people who have had it with you—they see it all clearly. They recognize the toxic source of your inconsistency.

They see that pigmentation and party are your sole deities. They see that you aren’t interested in perpetuating the love of God or emulating the heart of Jesus. They see that you aren’t burdened to love the least, or to be agents of compassion, or to care for your Muslim, gay, African, female, or poor neighbors as yourself.

They see that all you’re really interested in doing is making a God in your own ivory image and demanding that the world bow down to it. They recognize this all about white, Republican Jesus—not dark-skinned Jesus of Nazareth.

And I know you don’t realize it, but you’re digging your own grave these days; the grave of your very faith tradition.

Your willingness to align yourself with cruelty is a costly marriage. Yes, you’ve gained a Supreme Court seat, a few months with the Presidency as a mouthpiece, and the cheap high of temporary power—but you’ve lost a whole lot more.

You’ve lost an audience with millions of wise, decent, good-hearted, faithful people with eyes to see this ugliness. You’ve lost any moral high ground or spiritual authority with a generation. You’ve lost any semblance of Christlikeness. You’ve lost the plot. And most of all you’ve lost your soul.

I know it’s likely you’ll dismiss these words. The fact that you’ve even made your bed with such malevolence, shows how far gone you are and how insulated you are from the reality in front of you. But I had to at least try to reach you. It’s what Jesus would do.

Platitudes

I’m going to start this post with an interesting hypothetical question that I hope each of my readers will ask him/herself.

Hypothetically, you work in a large corporation with at least 99 other employees. Some of them have desks near yours and/or work in your same department, so you often have daily interactions and occasionally, share personal information – son made honor roll, spouse got a promotion and raise at work, having an anniversary, etc. Other people who work in the same corporation you know very casually – you see each other quite often in the elevator or in the break room. These people get a nod or a quick “hello” from you when you make eye contact, but you really don’t know anything about them.

Now on to the questions: Hypothetically, Betty, from your department, who isn’t someone you necessarily “like“, although you are always cordial with each other, tells someone else in your department that her grandmother passed away. Like in every office, word makes its way through the grapevine, and you hear about it. Do you make it a point to get a sympathy card for her? Do you make it a point to seek her out and extend your sympathies verbally? Or, do you tell yourself that you’ll share your sympathies with her the next time you run into each other?

And, if and when you do choose to extend your sympathies, do you think it’s appropriate – important, even – to share if you’ve had a similar experience?

When someone is going through a hard time and other people share their own similar experiences, the intention might be to show empathy, but the effect often feels like they’re being one-upped. In times of difficulty, most people just need someone to listen, not to make their struggles feel small in comparison. And yet, our idea of showing empathy makes us share our own similar experience as a way of wanting to relate to the sufferer. Do we really think that knowing how it felt for you to lose your grandparent 10 years ago after a long illness is similar to how we’ve just lost our grandparent – and perhaps by different means? I mean, losing a loved one always hurts, but I believe that the pain is more bearable if we’ve watched someone suffer through a fatal illness than it would be if we got a phone call telling us a loved one was killed in a vehicle accident.

And none of that is even my point. My point is that each and every one of us have been trained to offer our sympathies and often a phrase of “if you need anything…”. And while I believe we’re being genuine in offering our assistance, subconsciously, we know that the chances we will be called upon are very slim. There is an initial outpouring of sympathy, there may be sympathy cards, floral gifts, donations in memory. If invited, people may show up to a viewing/memorial service and to a burial service. If invited, people may join with others for a meal afterwards.

And that’s it. People go home and go on about their lives. They’ve offered their “if you need anything, just ask…” words, so they can comfortably assume that if they aren’t asked, they aren’t needed, right? Meanwhile, the survivor(s) are left to sort through belongings of the deceased and make arrangements for them, first, according to any will and then, in a way they feel is proper. Some survivors take this task to hand almost immediately; some survivors still have the loved ones clothes hanging in the closet a year later.

I’m off point again, darnit! What I’m trying to say is that your ‘platitude’ of “if you need anything, just ask…” is most often a waste of breath. When people are suffering, they tend to recoil within themselves, become less social than is normal for them to be. Grief is a unique journey for each of us, and often a different journey based on our relationship with those loved ones. The deeper the grief, the less apt we are to even allow it to surface when we are around other people. And we will most likely choose to escape from all invitations to be around other people unless it is necessary.

A friend of mine lost his significant other at a very young age last fall. She had some ongoing medical issues and dealt with a lot of pain, but it wasn’t expected that she would die at any time in the near future. They had just bought their first house together, and she was looking forward to finally have room to invite family over for the holidays. Her death rocked all of us who knew her because it was sudden and unexpected. And yes, I made the same comment to Chris about letting me know if he needed anything (It’s an automatic response, I swear!). But I quickly became aware of that habit, and so 30 days after her passing, I contacted him and asked him what he needed. I didn’t ask him IF he needed anything, I simply asked him what I could supply for him. His mind was still reeling – I could tell – and he said nothing he could think of. Before another 30 days went by, I made contact again and asked him what I could offer to bring him or do for him. Again, I avoided the word IF like the plague. He said they were doing okay and offered that he’d let me know if they needed something. So, the third time, I waited almost 50 days before I contacted him, letting him know that I was just checking up to see how he was coping and again asked what I could bring or offer to do for him. He said he was starting to get back into a routine of sorts, and that he was beginning to gather the tools and supplies needed to start the first room renovation they had talked about when they first bought the house. He told me that he’d promised her that he’d make it her dream house, and he had no intention of breaking that promise. And by that, I knew he was starting to move forward.

But still, now and again I reach out to him, 8 months after, and just say hello and let him know he’s still in my thoughts. We live a few hours apart, so visiting isn’t an easy option, but I can tell by the sound of his words that he is smiling when I reach out to him, that it reminds him that people are there for him if he needs it.

And so, the point I want everyone to hear is that offering to be there for someone if they reach out is nice in thought, but impractical in process. My mother died in the month of February. On Mother’s Day of that year, I received a note from one of my co-workers just letting me know that she expected that the first Mother’s Day without my mom was going to be difficult, and she wanted me to know she was keeping me in her thoughts and prayers. My mother died in 1999. I still have that note.

Another example to show the difference is this… When I was vehicle-less for several weeks, my bestie would ask me if I needed, for example, to go to the grocery store, and I would always respond with “only if you were going to go anyhow”. One day, she contacted me and didn’t ask, but told me, she was taking me the next day to Walmart, the Dollar Tree AND the grocery store. For me, it was a world of difference between having to ask or even respond and just knowing that someone was going to make sure things I needed to do got taken care of!

What I want my readers to do is be proactive in following up with someone who is hurting or suffering for whatever reason! We make genuine offers of help, but we need to understand that the person to whom we’re making the offer may have one or more reasons why he/she/they won’t proactively ask for help. And we need to be conscious that we ask what a person needs versus telling them what we can offer… “I can come over and help you sort through clothing and shoes” is of no value to someone who isn’t ready to handle that task.

A platitude is defined as:

If you care about someone who obviously needs or could use help in some way, there are two things to remember. First, do not offer that person the ‘privilege’ to contact you for help if it’s needed. Second, do not offer specific help but offer help in any way that person needs to be helped.

This is advice that I need to take from myself as well as preach to the rest of you. “If you need anything….” is such an automated response and meaningless in its intent. I may not immediately break the habit of saying those words, but I can immediately put my intent by them in action.

And that’s all I have to say about that…

The Donkey and the Tiger

I cannot take credit for this story. It was something I found on social media and shared on my individual page of that social media. It keeps coming back to me as others read and react to it. I’ve decided to copy and share it here as well.

The donkey told the tiger:

′′The grass is blue”.

The tiger replied:

′′No, the grass is green”.

The discussion became heated up, and the two decided to submit the issue to arbitration, and to do so they approached the lion, King of the Jungle.

Before reaching the clearing in the forest where the lion was sitting on his throne, the donkey started screaming:

′′Your Highness, is it true that grass is blue?”.

The lion replied:

“True, the grass is blue”.

The donkey rushed forward and continued:

′′The tiger disagrees with me and contradicts me and annoys me please punish him”.

The king then declared:

′′The tiger will be punished with 5 years of silence”.

The donkey jumped for joy and went on his way, content and repeating:

′′The grass is blue”…

The tiger accepted his punishment, but he asked the lion:

′′Your Majesty, why have you punished me, after all, the grass is green?”

The lion replied:

′′In fact, the grass is green”.

The tiger asked:

′′So why do you punish me?”

The lion replied:

′′That has nothing to do with the question of whether the grass is blue or green. The punishment is because it is not possible for a brave, intelligent creature like you to waste time arguing with a donkey, and on top of that to come and bother me with that question”.

The worst waste of time is arguing with the fool and fanatic who doesn’t care about truth or reality, but only the victory of their beliefs and illusions. Never waste time on discussions that make no sense… There are people who for all the evidence presented to them, do not have the ability to understand, and others who are blinded by ego, hatred and resentment, and the only thing that they want is to be right even if they aren’t. When ignorance screams, intelligence shuts up. Your peace and tranquility are worth more.

Author unknown

(Re-read that last paragraph again, and maybe again after that. It’s what’s keeping me sane and from exploding with vitriol as I watch what is happening around me – and around this country and this world – these days.)

Random Memes – 6/21

Since there have been so many senseless shootings lately, I find myself glad that I’m a homebody who has no need to go out to different places. Lately, I’m suddenly more acutely aware that there could be a gunman in my midst than a person who is positive with COVID. Wearing a mask isn’t going to help when bullets are involved.

So, I decided to look through my gathering of memes and try to find some that resonated positiveness and/or spoke personally to me about where I am in my current psyche.

Here are some I want to share:

I’m 100% guilty of not wanting to expose others to me when I’m struggling.

Another way I need to keep reminding myself that struggling is okay.
My struggle? I can’t forgive myself until I’ve forgiven every other person first.
As I get better at saying “no”, I feel happier even if I make others unhappy.

This is such strong truth that I want it poster-sized on every wall to remind me!
Obviously, I’ve “lived with”, or at least through, all of the choices I’ve made. Now I’m learning how to make choices based on my OWN needs and wants.
I have to learn to accept that at times I need space to pull myself together and give that gift to myself. I’m making progress!

Hope

For the second time in just the matter of a few days, another blogger I like to follow wrote a blog about this thing called “hope”. Both of these bloggers see hope as a positive thing, as something that enriches our lives as long as we have it. And I have to admit, even when we don’t consciously see or feel hope, it’s an intrinsic emotion in most of us, perhaps something universal in our genetic make-up with which we are born.

The irony of the timing of these two blog posts about hope is that both of them were posted while I was reading a book called The Perfect Daughter written by Alex Stone. Based on the information about the book, it’s not the mystery/psychological thriller I usually read, but it was free in Prime Reading through Amazon Prime and something tugged at me to read it.

I don’t want to say much about the story, because it was an excellent read and I don’t want to spoil it for anyone else who might want to read it. But there was a part towards the end that stuck out to me – a conversation between two characters that caught my attention so well that I copied it, intending to use it for a future blog post. Well, it appears that the future of that blog post has come sooner than later.

The male figure speaking: “Hope is a dangerous thing. It is powerful. It makes you a powerful tool. You can achieve amazing things if you have hope. It keeps you fighting against adversity. It keeps you going when everything else tells you to give up. It lets you imagine a future that’s better than the present. A future that could be yours.”

The female figure replies: “The problem is, when you have hope you have something to lose. What happens when that future you’ve been clinging to and dreaming of shatters and dies? You die, too. Not fully. Never fully. But something inside, the part of you that kept you going, that kept you strong, withers a little.”

And I completely related to her response, to the idea that after a while, when the dreams you have keep becoming unfulfilled, time and time again, that the psyche can reach the intellectual reasoning that hope is nice while it lasts. So is an ice cube in a cold drink. But when the ice cube melts and the drink becomes warm again, watering down the drink with the melted water, you wonder if it was worth using the ice cube in the first place.

I have hope – at least I think I do. I hope that no one I love will die from COVID-19. I hope that no one I love will be killed through the senseless brutality that is sweeping our nation with no regard for life. I hope I will always be able to afford a roof over my head and food in my tummy. But the things I think we tend to hope for are all things over which we know we have zero control of. Are we hoping for those things, or are we hoping to be lucky enough to have things go the way we want them to?

I guess I just wonder if we’re pushing hope like a legal drug of sorts that makes us hallucinate and believe things we want are possible with some assurance. If 50% of the nation’s population bands together and commits to hoping that the mass shootings that are continuing to make daily headlines stop, what effect do you think they will have in making that happen? Sometimes, I wonder if we use the idea of “hope” in order to avoid the idea of “earn”, that is, I hope I pass this history test suffices for not studying. And if we don’t happen to pass because we didn’t bother to study, the only blame we have to lay on ourselves is that we shouldn’t have wasted our time and energy hoping.

Obviously, I’m all over the place on this idea of hope and its purpose. I just thought I’d share the jumble circling around in my brain about it. I look forward to any comments on this!

Selflessness

My brother recently used the word “selflessness” in one of his poems, and it brought up a thought process I’d had on that word a long time ago. Some 30+ years ago, someone (I’ve long forgotten whom) suggested I read The Virtue of Selfishness by Ayn Rand. I did so, though it felt very dry to me and took me longer (much, much longer) than the time in which I normally read a book.

I cannot remember more than the basic theory of “selfishness” as seen by the author. But there was one part of it that has stuck in my brain and remains there, obviously, still today, though it is seldom called upon. According to Rand, and some definitions across the Internet, selflessness is giving no thought to yourself and doing/giving to another without getting a single thing from the interaction.

Pretty much my regular readers and people who know me in real life know that I rate fairly high on the list of people who are ‘givers’. But guess what, only once in many, many years of giving to others have I been able to think of an action I performed that was selfless.

You see, while I am very quick to be giving to others, those actions are also a benefit to me. I like to help other people, like to bring joy to other people, like knowing that, in whatever way, I’m making life a little bit easier for someone else. In other words, while I’m giving something tangible to another, I am getting a positive emotional experience in return. That is an experience that happens and that I can count on happening. So my actions aren’t truly selfless.

Only once do I remember doing something that, as I look back now, I consider might fit into the ‘selfless’ list. It was probably 5 or so years ago. I was leaving the grocery store and saw a man in tearful distress practically ripping his car apart on the inside while a younger woman (daughter or granddaughter I suspect) was trying to calm him down. I walked over to see if I could be of some assistance. Apparently, he’d put a folded $100 bill in the pocket of his shorts to spend at the store when he left home, and by the time they got to the check-out, it was gone. He had no other money on him, so the female with him paid for his groceries and kept assuring him that she was okay with buying the groceries for him. After ripping through the car’s interior, he said that he suspected that it had fallen out of his pocket in one of the aisles in the store. I suggested the other female and I walk into the store to look for it. As soon as we were far enough away that he couldn’t hear us, I told her that there was a really slim chance that, if he did in fact drop it in an aisle, we could expect to find it, but we quickly scanned each aisle. When that was unsuccessful, I walked up to the ATM at the front of the store, withdrew $100, handed it to her, and asked her to give it to him and tell him it was a “random act of kindness”. I quickly left the store and proceeded back to my vehicle again, which was parked 3 aisles away. I got in my car and quickly left the store because I didn’t want him to do anything except accept that it was a random act of kindness. The thing is, it was such a spontaneous gesture that I never had a moment to think about what I would be getting in return for it. To be honest, there was no emotion involved in my action – my brain just told me it was the right thing to do and so I did it.

I forgot about the event as quickly as I knew it was the right thing to do in that moment and only by the word selfless coming into focus again made me think about it. It truly is the one time I can remember giving to another without seeking for or receiving acknowledgement that I’ve done so!

Sure, I make some large-sized donations from time to time at our local food bank (or used to before the prices quickly tripled on everything!), and I’ve filled countless boxes of items to donate to non-profit thrift stores as I continue to ‘simplify’ my life. But it’s always in my head, while I’m packing up boxes of lightly used items or carrying boxes of non-perishable foods to the door of the food bank that someone – even if I don’t know whom – will benefit from what I am giving. And that is the happiness that brings me joy.

So, for me, there is a large distinction between being selfish, unselfish and selfless. I don’t give to others so that I can feel that joy – it’s simply a by-product of my being giving. So, I’m not being selfish. But is my giving unselfish if I get a positive experience as a result? And other than that one time I described, I don’t ever recall being selfless.

But, I’m not saying that it’s wrong not to be selfless. Yes, I may get something from being a giving person, but it is never more than what the person who is on the receiving end. Luke 6:38 says, in fact, to “Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.” Honestly, I hope I never need that, but it’s calming to think that I would receive back if the need arose.