Friday, January 2, 2015

A song sung

Dave Keeney is a friend of mine, who happens to be brilliant, though that's not a word he'd likely use to describe himself. He's an apple farmer, a musician, a story teller, a mensch.

Dave on the left, Old Town, New Year's Eve
(photo by Derek Daniel)

First time he met my Dad, my Dad (once a fighter pilot) was in bad shape after a series of strokes that made him pretty much unintelligible. Except to Dave. After trading stories, Dave got out his guitar and sang one of the funniest songs I had ever heard, "John Denver's Last Flight."

Later, after dinner, I asked Dave to play the song again. He would not.
"Why not?"
"Don't remember it."
"But you just sang it, how could you forget something you know?"
"I made it up."
What's ridiculous (and telling) is that I still regret not ever hearing that song again, and Dave never gave it a second thought. The song is a song while sung, and that's more than enough for Dave, even as I (and I am embarrassed to say it), thought of the song's potential commercial value..

If the product is the goal, then we lose the "we" in this thing we're doing, whatever this thing we're doing happens to be.

Once an object is made, a song sung, a story scribbled down on the back of of an envelope, it's no longer us, merely an artifact of who we were. We become machines, we are machines, in our relentless chase to create the perfect product, make perfection a standard in whatever we do. We want everything to be professional, the new code word for standardized.

The us is in the process, the joy is in the doing.
A song is a song only as a song is being sung.

Fuck professionalism, it's no way to live nor love.
I'm going back to my ancestors' world of artisans,


Kate said...

My daughters are writing their college application essays, and I am struck by how this post reflects what they are struggling with - the need to sum themselves up as a product. Most schools want to know, "why us?" Many ask, "why should we choose you?"
And they look at their artifacts - their transcripts, test scores, essays - and they know that they don't begin to picture who they are and what they want.
There is no way to explain or show the joy of singing together - sister voices blending as only sister voices can, the thrill of performing in a play, the joy and exhilaration of a perfectly executed drop on aerial silks, the pleasure of arguing some point of national importance around the dinner table.
And as a teacher, why do I have to give grades? Do you really want me to grade your child's fiction or poetry writing? Isn't it enough that they wrote the story? Aren't we thrilled that they wrote the poem that (inadvertently) told us everything we need to know about the insecurities and fears of the thirteen year old boy?
So let us all sing the song. I'll take the high harmonies.

doyle said...

Dear Kate,

I do not remember my college essays (if I even wrote any), but I do remember the one for medical school.

I wrote about building a stone wall, a wall that likely still exists (and will exist for a long time). It was the only part of the whole process that felt real, and I am glad that I was given the chance to say something about who I was.

Different time then, in some ways, not so different in others, but since artifacts were so much more fleeting before hard drives could store everything forever, I think we were blessed with moments that too many young folk can only imagine now.

Been wrestling with the grade issue, and for now, well, it's easier to do them than to explain why they do not matter. But I will be singing more now.

A lot more.