SECRET OF HAPPINESS:
Have VERY FEW RULES about how people need to be,
and how life needs to be,
in order for YOU to be happy!
I feel the capacity to care is the thing which gives life its deepest significance. – Pablo Casals
Architects create environments, and we each create our own environments (of mood) by the choices we make: what to think about, what to let go of, where to go, what to do, what to say. As I was running an errand on the way to the office today, feeling a bit anxious about tomorrow, I popped on the AM news channel (to see if the world was still safe), but they were running a commercial involving sky diving, of all things, so I quickly flipped to Sirius XM Symphony Hall, and was fortunate enough to catch the last half of Mozart’s Symphony #20 in D Major, performed by the Academy of Ancient Music (who I’ve seen perform live once). Thanks Mozart, once again, for architecting a paradigm shift; a transformative experience of mood, one that transcends space, time, and circumstance. I have had this experience with Mozart many, many times. His music creates a “mood environment” that reminds me of beauty, of the nobility of human spirit, of the capability of a genius to create something perfect (a work of art, writing, music) that can in fact, instantly uplift, just by its existence. Symphony # 20 was composed when Mozart was only 16. It has simplicity, delicacy, and feels light yet triumphant. Just right for today!
Today is a lot of things. It is the anniversary of my mother’s death. It is the eve of the tenth anniversary of 9/11. It is a working Saturday for me (ugh). But, it is also the day my business partner became a grandpa for the first time (congrats to the whole clan on the arrival of Alison!). But, the economy is still bad, and politicians have the country more polarized than ever. But, the clouds played a rousing drum solo (thunderstorm) this morning, and rained and hailed (in September in CA!) to remind us that many things both scary and wonderful are beyond our control. It is indeed hard to remember to reframe things.
Last night, at a Synagogue Shabbat Service, I was asked to read this brief piece, which is an edited excerpt of a larger piece written by a real 9/11 survivor (you can find the larger piece by Googling “My name is Usman Farman”):
My name is Usman Farman. I graduated from Bentley with a Finance degree last May. I am 21 years old, turning 22 in October. I am Pakistani, and I am Muslim. Until September 11th 2001, I used to work at the World Trade Center in building #7. I had friends and acquaintances who [also worked in there]… Some made it out, and some are still buried under the rubble.
We were evacuated to the North side of building 7. Still only 1 block from the towers. The security people told us to go north and not to look back. 5 city blocks later I stopped and turned around to watch. With a thousand people staring, we saw in shock as the first tower collapsed….. The next thing I remember is that a dark cloud of glass and debris about 50 stories high came tumbling towards us. I turned around and ran as fast as possible and I fell down trying to get away.
I was on my back, facing this massive cloud that was approaching… everything was already dark. I normally wear a pendant around my neck, inscribed with an Arabic prayer for safety. . A Hasidic Jewish man came up to me and held the pendant in his hand, and looked at it. He read the Arabic out loud for a second. What he said next, I will never forget. With a deep Brooklyn accent he said “Brother, if you don’t mind, there is a cloud of glass coming at us, grab my hand, let’s get the hell out of here.” He helped me stand up, and we ran for what seemed like forever without looking back. He was the last person I would ever have thought, who would help me. If it weren’t for him, I probably would have been engulfed in shattered glass and debris.
Today is a lot of things. What is it for you? What are your thoughts on the eve of 9/11 x10? We can hate or we can love. We can help or we can hurt. Usman Farman closed out his brief essay / speech with this thought: “The one thing that won’t help, is if we fight amongst ourselves, because it is then that we are doing exactly what they want us to do, and I know that nobody here wants to do that.”
The President would like tomorrow to be a day of service. I will be focusing on “homeland security” – literally – installing child safety gates, door locks, bed rails, etc. for a new phase of grandparenting – having both an almost 3 year old and a 5 month old at our home regularly for child care. It will be both a chore and a pleasure, a pathway to the incredible joy I have at being a grandfather.
Today is also Christopher Hogwood’s 70th birthday. Christopher is the founder of the Academy of Ancient Music, who I thank for giving me perspective this morning with their wonderful performance of Mozart’s 20th Symphony.
Today is death and birth, like every day. I hope you all have peace, and can “architect” a positive mood tomorrow, and if you have grandchildren, or someday will, that we can pass along this peace for generations to come!
It takes a lot for me to post a movie review, and this weekend I saw Breaking and Entering, a 2006 film (that you probably never heard of) by the late Anthony Minghella (The English Patient, Cold Mountain, The Talented Mr. Ripley, Truly Madly Deeply), that I thought was profound. The themes of barriers, within ourselves, that we establish to others, and those set up by society and situations, is juxtaposed with the intrusions through the barriers, also that we do within ourselves and are done by others. This juxtaposition had a rhythm that was almost symphonic to me. All the relationships are interdependent and systemic to the theme, and no individual in the movie is without significant flaw. Who is the criminal and who is the victim? We are constantly asked this question, and in the end, you may feel that tables are turned. Jude Law stars as Will, a British Architect who is transforming the King’s Cross section of London, and Robyn Wright is his long-term girlfriend (also the mom of an autistic teen). Will’s office is repeatedly broken into by a wayward Muslim refugee (whose mom is Juliette Binoche), and Will’s resulting actions surprise everyone, including himself. This is billed as a “thinking person’s” movie, and I found it did challenge me to think beyond the obvious plot points. I won’t give you a spoiler, but I did find a redemptive feeling at the end. The box office was so meager, that I know NO ONE I know has seen this – so Netflix it today!
OK, I may be a grandfather and a food snob (not really), but I am also a Lady Gaga fan. The new video for Born This Way is brilliant! Gaga takes the human condition: our hopes, dreams, fears, anxieties, and gives them voice – she commits to telling it like it is. She gives us a different lens to see it all through, or maybe holds up a mirror. And, she understands the Tao Te Ching! She knows that you can’t fully understand Good without also understanding Evil, and that in some ways we are all just passengers watching it happen. Gaga may be inspired by Madonna, but she takes her own ideas to a whole new level. Looking forward to the rest of the new album!
Listening to “Coffee House” on Sirius XM, heard this great guitar version of Stevie Wonder’s Superstition, and looked up the playlist to discover this guy, who I’d never heard of, Adam Rafferty. He has several acoustic guitar albums, and from the pieces I’ve heard so far, he is great. Lots of covers (really very original arrangements, IMHO) of Beatles, torch songs, Bill Withers, Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, and his own original compositions. He even TEACHES how to play this stuff! Give a listen.
I’ve added a new category to Purely Consumed – Art & Music. Great art is a gourmet treat for the eyes, and great music is a gourmet treat for the ears. Both can stir emotion much more than food and wine. These subjects belong in Purely Consumed.
In art, I love the Impressionists, and in music, I love everything Mozart and much other classical, but can be moved by pop and rock artists as well.
Recently I’ve been thinking of two particular pieces of art. One is The White Orchard, by Vincent Van Gogh (1888), which I stood in front of at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam in June. The whole museum moved me tremendously, to the point of shaking, but this painting brought me to tears. It is relatively unknown, it doesn’t go on tour. It is an undistinguished subject. Van Gogh painted it as part of a three-painting landscape series, and his purpose was commercial – he wanted to paint something that people like, and would buy! I stood in front of this painting for a long time – kept my wife waiting. I saw the full range of Van Gogh’s emotions and talents in this work. The gnarly twisted tree trunks, the delicacy, brightness and beauty of the flowers reaching for the light, the turmoil and excitement in the sky, the ruts in the land. It is a work of profound emotion for me.
Another piece that stirs completely different feelings is The Roofs of Collioure by Henri Matisse (painted in 1905). This painting is from Matisse’s Fauvist period, when he was experimenting with pointillism, “divisionism”, and other brush techniques. What gets me is the attitude. This is the quintessential example of looking at life through rose-colored glasses, which is a good thing. Matisse made lots of very basic, even tedious things look really good. I have that choice every day.
So the view of a tortured soul (Van Gogh) and the view of perhaps an optimistic soul (Matisse) are what Purely Consumed is pondering this week.