Monday, September 14, 2009

The Packrat of Provo

I have been working at cleaning out my house for the past couple of weeks. I know that most people out there go through the cleaning process and don’t worry about it or think about it in the same way that I do, but as I’ve thrown out items that held value one time in my life a couple realizations came to me. First, I’m a packrat; and Second, I’m a collector.

I think probably the collector is the reason why I’m a packrat, but there has to be something else, some other drive. I grew up learning from my parents that you never throw away a gift. I remember my mother telling me that a present was someone taking a moment to think about you. “What if they came over and asked ‘where is the thing-a-ma-jig?’ What would you do if you couldn’t show them?” Now I know I could probably break the habit, but what do I tell my mother if she asks me, “Don’t you keep the gifts? What did you do with the lesson that I taught you?” So I keep things … everything … that people give me whether I need them or not. And I have a lot of things I hold dear just because people have given them to me. It makes for quite a mess in the house at times.

But the collector, now that’s gotten me into more trouble than my mother’s voice in my head. Recently I’ve discovered the collector mentality that I have. When I get into a music group I have to buy all their CD’s. When I get into an Author, I have to buy all their books. When I get into a Director I have to buy all their movies. <sigh> It makes me sound like a compulsive personality, and secretly I know I am. But these compulsions are only driving focuses when the opportunity arises. Sometimes these compulsions have made me spend lots of money on items that really aren’t fantastic, but because they complete the series I need to get them.

I have many items in my house that are completions and not items of worth. This thought came to me when I was organizing a set of CD’s I have been working on for over 15 years. Sony Classical created a series of classical music called the Royal Edition in 1991 & 1992. They are all conducted by Leonard Bernstein and the covers are all water color paintings by Prince Charles. There are 100 CD’s, most single discs, some double and some triple, of which I have 87 of them. Now the CD’s are out of print and can’t be found anymore, but occasionally one appears and I have to search desperately for the money to buy it.

So this realization popped into my head while organizing my set: “I collect things and get quietly obsessed about these different collections!” My greatest epiphany was not the collection of items, but my obsession for the collection of ideas … the collection of thoughts.

I collect memories. This act is not horrible, but at times these collections make me think life should always be the way of the past. There are the outlooks and thoughts about life that I have loved. There are the dark moments and mistakes that dwell there as well. It is these moments in my history that can occupy my life and make me think I am doing better or worse that the reality of the present. The trick about these collections is knowing what is important and what doesn’t matter. It’s taking the time to clean out my head’s attic so that better things can occupy my mind.

I heard from a person I admire, Ron Zeller, about a trick to getting your house in order. Clean a drawer in your dresser like God, Buddha or Jehovah himself was coming over to inspect that one drawer. The mere thought of doing that helps you start down the path of organization and cleaning that can put your life in order. So now I take that one step further for me as I have been cleaning my life, I mean house. Clean your collections so that Heavenly Father is coming to inspect them. The tangible collections and the collections of your mind, the memories, the mistakes. I’ve found out that those things I dwell, those things that have held me back are dissipating. All because I’m starting to break-down the packrat that I am.

Of course I still have the robot dinosaur that was given me by my friends. But those friends are important collections that I don’t think Heavenly Father wants me to give up. Plus … the best thing I can say to my mother when she asks “Why do you have a robot dinosaur?” is "You told me never to throw away a gift!” Gotta love mothers. :)

Monday, July 27, 2009

When I turned around 33 years had past

When I was a little boy I remember dreaming about what I was going to be when I grew up. I thought I wanted to enter the world of robotics, electronics and cybernetics. Even as a 6 year old I thought that the idea of cyborgs were so cool that I needed to be a part of that field. I needed to build a robotic dog pal that would travel the world with me. I needed to be a part of something that could not only benefit mankind, but could create an entity powerful enough to make the world tremble. That power shouldn’t just be left to mad scientists, but should be in the hands of mad children as well.

Then something happened. I entered High School and started singing. Almost everything I did after freshman year was centered in vocal music. I fell in love with Chorales, Oratorios, Musical Theater, et cetera, et cetera. The infatuation of servos and electrodes were replaced with intonation and breath support. My peers in High School would know me as the “vocal” guy. Behind the scenes I was still a techno-geek. I still played with computers and attempted to take over the world in “mad” style, but usually humming show tunes as I did it. (Maybe that was the truest sign of being mad).

Then I went to college … University of Hartford’s Hartt School of Music. Luckily, I went to school on a vocal performance/music education vocal scholarship. My computer joined me on the journey and I was able to start composing (using MusicTime, a program that doesn’t exist anymore) and singing using electronics. I wasn’t taking over the world, but I was trying to utilize technology. Most of my “music” friends didn’t have a clue what I was doing. But I was ok with it. I had my music friends on one side and my computer friends on the other. Sure we didn’t tread on the same road, but I wasn’t worried.

But that didn’t last. Something broke in me at Hartt. I needed to take a break. I dropped out of school and headed out west. Who knows what I was trying to pursue …. certainly I didn’t. All I know is that when I got out here I ventured into computers again. I got back into programming and started developing systems for people that now have become common place, but at the time … was very new. I stopped singing. Most of the “singers” I met in the west made me so frustrated that I completely lost the desire. And the hope of cybernetics? That was left to the child back in New Hampshire that was bright eyed and bushy tailed.

What happened to the dream? I think it was the strength of necessity that made me stop. I needed to pay the bills and I ended up falling back on a skill that was worthwhile … the skill of knowledge. I still dream of working in robotics, but for now it’s a dream. I watch science fiction in hopes of living near the reality, but unfortunately my current skill set has not lead me in that direction … except …

I use computers on a daily basis, and I show how others can utilize those computers in their daily activities to be more efficient and successful. Granted it’s not an implant in the body or a “little buddy” that they can converse, but it is pretty close to that idea. My days are spent looking at the weaving melodies of needs and wants, dreams and realities and multiple personalities of clientele. Interwoven with those melodies are the underlying themes of “efficiency” that electronics can contribute. So possibly, my original hope is not entirely out of my reach. Or even better … it’s there in another insight and moment.

When I feel a little down in my life for not achieving as much as my friends of old I think of that little boy wishing for his robotic dog to pal around the world with him. I think of him; tell him what I’m doing now; and hope that he smiles just a little. Sure my robot dog is a laptop computer. And my building of cybernetics is the building of successful infrastructure. But in the end we both are doing what we wanted to do … Benefiting mankind by being slightly “mad”.

Now I’ve just got to figure out how I’m taking over the world.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Overcoming the Realm of Distress

There comes a point during times of great duress that I look at traveling back to my old homestead. I love New England and, yes, even New Hampshire. I miss the trees, the foliage, the humidity (I know I’m crazy for saying that) and the ocean. Living in the schizophrenic weather of Utah makes me pine for the days of green and wet. It is so easy to live here in torrential downpour one minute and then bright daybreaks the next.

Interestingly enough, my moods and mindset seem to lean more towards the nature of Utah weather than my old NH. Since I was very young I have had problems with “dark moments” in my life. I know that people term my condition “depression” but I tend to disagree. I don’t feel depressed … I just feel tired. And almost beat down and worn out. My tendency during these times is to look at the bleakest outcome and think that is the most likely situation I’ll find myself. (I know this is typical “depression”, but I don’t like labels.) And it’s interesting that during these times of duress I look at returning home and thinking that will solve all my problems.

Home … I still call NH home, even though I haven’t lived there for over 13 years. I guess I’ll never get the thoughts of fresh air and trees out of my mind. I like where I live, but I think back of days at Beaver Lake, Adam’s Pond, Crystal Avenue and Shaw’s as fond moments in my life. And when I sit in a “dark moment”, those moments of reflection in the past will usually bring me out into the light.

Why write about this? Because something happened over this past weekend that made me see the error of my ways. And the simple resolve was this … nothing can get you down unless you give allowance to bring you down. Pardon me while I get spiritual, but if all good things come from Heaven above, then this “depression” is the work of a vile source to hold me stagnant. Only through my trials and tribulations will I be able to become a stronger person that is needed in this world. Isn’t that what growth is? And only by growing and progressing can I truly become that person the world needs me to be.

So, I’ve held myself back. Not only because I have been in this great funk for the past couple of weeks, but because I have held on to dreams of the past as realities of the present. I have let myself find the morass of pity feel more comfortable than the pains of strength. I have found it easier to sit with apathy than to well up in myself the fountain of power I know I have. I have lived in my mind instead of introducing myself to the world.

Memories are moments to treasure, but I need to remember that they are also the past that will never be relieved again, even if I could orchestrate the same people and situations. The present needs to be full of new moments to treasure. Either with friends, family or just being by myself. I will never forget my past memories. Sure they are gilded with gold when I look at them, but now … what is needed right now … is for me to gild the future.

Look out world … I don’t know what’s coming, but I’m sure it’s something memorable. Even if it’s just me falling on my face again. :)

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