Thursday, July 20, 2017


It’s not false modesty…it’s a recognition of reality                                                 


One sort of nice thing that accrues with age is self realization…an ability to look at one’s self with some degree of objectivity.  There are several aspects to this exercise, some pleasant, others not so pleasant.  But they all point in the direction of honesty, self awareness and most important, I think, self  EVALUATION.

The latter can be rewarding or it can be hurtful.  But it is always enlightening.  And it may not come to a person all at once.  I am going to use myself as an example, not through any sense or delusion of infinite wisdom…just because I am the only person on earth who can relate to how it feels for ME.  I think I am probably as typical an example to which others might relate.  And in saying that I do so in an admission that I am a very common type of individual in many ways…and that in itself comes to me as a light but perceptible blow to my ego.

At this point in my life, I’ve settled into doing just a few things which give me some sense of identity.  Along the way to this point, there have been many waypoints which have taught me how to accept, reluctantly, the truths about my physical and mental limitations.  And I think that sooner or later, a person will come closer to a sense of well being and self satisfaction if he or she faces those limitations and moves on.

When I was a kid, I loved baseball.  I think I was not unique in seeing myself as a big league baseball player.  At the age of 20, I was in the Navy and stationed on the Guantanamo Naval Station.  Guantanamo is actually comprised of several distinct bases; The actual Naval Station, a Marine station, a Naval Air base, a Naval Hospital.  I might have missed one or two, but that isn’t important.  Each area had a team, and we played in this league.

I was on one of the teams…the worst one.  It’s important that I mention that.  We were to play a Cuban civilian team.  The rules were that each of the base teams must have at least one representative on our All Star team.  Well, I was the ‘best of the worst,’ and was selected.

The game began.  My baseball career ended.  I came to bat twice.  I watched and occasionally waved my bat at a total of six pitches…all strikes. 

When I was a young married man living in Caldwell, New Jersey, I was active in some fair housing civil rights organization, and was asked if I would be willing to run for Town Council.  This was a town that had not elected a Democrat since FDR…a Republican Bastion.  But my ego forced me to accept.  I had received unexpected backing from our weekly newspaper, (the only liberal entity in town) and silent backing from the Dominican Nuns whose world headquarters were in Caldwell.

So I began to think I could win.  I began diluting my wild liberal ideas in an attempt to lure some Republicans to me.  During the process, I began to see myself not just as a town councilman…no, this was the first step to the White House.

On election day, one precinct looked like the south pole…and I was reasonably certain that all those beautiful black and white penguins, (Dominican Nuns!) were voting for the only non Catholic in the race.  I won that district, but lost every other one in town.  My political career was over, although laterI did a lot of writing on behalf of others.  I was pretty good at that. 

Having my presidential ambitions pretty much shot to hell, I did the next logical thing.  I took up the five string banjo.  It was the height of the 1960’s folk revival, and I wanted to be part of it.

The two things that have lasted for me are my love of the folk banjo and the ability to put words on paper in a reasonably cogent and readable manner.  But now I must look at both of those abilities with a sense of honest and detached  realism.

I have become a competent amateur folk banjo player.  But it has been through grit and perseverance, not a particularly good sense of music or inherent talent.  That is not false modesty;  it is a statement of truth.  I know of people who seem to have those qualities built in, and it shows in their execution of music.  Again; I can do a credible performance of playing and singing folk music.  But it through painstaking effort, not inherent talent.  And to be perfectly clear, I think that’s GOOD ENOUGH!  It would be unrealistic and ultimately heartbreaking if I had not long ago let go of the idea that I was of professional quality.  Some never accept those limitations and are destined to live lives of disappointment. 

I do think I have some inherent talent in writing.  But even that has limitations…it took me years to come to the realization that my forte was the essay was my vehicle…not a novelist or a poet.  I can write an editorial with the best of them.  I can write and deliver a twenty minute talk in the guise of a sermon, and that ability has been well received.  But those come easy to me.  Trying to write a novel or a piece of poetry…not me!

Acceptance of both my limitations and my talent with the ability to discern the difference has put me in a comfort zone.

As I write this this morning, I await two visitors; a novelist and a poet.  And there is a sense of awe in hearing them.  I am incapable of jealousy…I love to play music with REAL musicians, and I love the company of REAL writers..  

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