HTG Podcast #25: Connection

In this episode of the Head The Gong Podcast, I reflect on my recent holiday travels and come up with a theme for the new year: connection.

Media referenced in this episode:

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HTG Podcast #24: This ride

In this episode of the Head The Gong Podcast, I continue to struggle to live a creative, meaningful life.

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Letters to Old Bob: #4

September 23, 2017

OB,

It’s been too long. From my perspective, anyway. For you, it might just be the next letter in the stack. Months just vanish, swept away in a series of flailing attempts to “get stuff done.” Then the dust settles and I’m finally able to find a quiet moment to consider what has happened, not happened, gotten done, or been forgotten about altogether. Most of my days have been spent tending to elementary school children as they mourn the loss of parents and pets, protest against unfair treatment from teachers and peers, and remind me of the funniness of farts and poop and any unexpected event that happens along to relieve the boredom of becoming educated. One morning a little girl found a loaded handgun on the playground, buried in the sand. She picked it up and walked it over to the teacher. Curiously, this event never made the local news. Some mornings there are homeless people sleeping in the play tunnels on the playground. Needles have been found. Last week we had to lockdown the school after a local man threatened to “shoot up” a neighboring school a few blocks away. After they apprehended him, he explained that he was simply angry about the ways people in this town have been mistreating him.

Anyway, I do enjoy the job. It keeps me on my toes. I know I’m contributing something. Making a difference. And yet, I still resent how tired it all makes me. Every morning, dragging myself out of bed. Every afternoon, slumping on the couch as I catch up on the day’s news. Hurricanes. Earthquakes. Another North Korean missile launched over Japan. Another outrageous tweet by the president. It’s all making me tired. Something’s making me tired, that’s for sure. Maybe my testosterone levels are dropping. Yours must be off-the-charts low by now Old Bob. Hopefully you’ve found an alternative source of élan vital, perhaps a spiritual source that you tapped back in 2017, just when you were about to resign yourself to the continual dimming of your inner flame.

*

Just returned from a three-mile run with my wife. Our wife. What a peach. I don’t need to tell you that, OB. While we ran I whined about my woes, and she suggested that I carve out some time for the tried and true things that never fail to feed my soul. Singing in the bathroom with my guitar. Writing. Meditating. Of course she’s right. She even offered to take over more of the chores, to free up some “Bob time.” You remember Bob time, don’t you OB? Maybe that’s all you have right now, all snug as a bug in my bright future. Tell me you finally made it there, OB. Tell me your soul is well fed, your heart singing.

Reminds me of the story I read to the first-graders this week: Howard B. Wigglebottom Listens to His Heart. It’s about a rabbit who loves to dance, but gives it up after being made fun of by the other kids as school. Eventually he finds his wiggle again, with the help of Grandpa Sammy. It’s funny how all these little social-emotional learning lessons I teach to the kiddos are often things I continually forget and need to revisit myself. How many times have I lost my wiggle, OB, and then found it again after rediscovering the same old nuggets of wisdom, which are always hidden in plain sight. Anyway, OB, I hope this particular lesson finally stuck at some point and you were able to move on to bigger and bolder adventures. In any event, the next time you’re singing in the bathroom, try busting out True Love Will Find You in the End by Daniel Johnston, or else St. Anne’s Parade by Shovels and Rope. When you glance over at the bathroom mirror, you just might snap back to “2017 you,” the same way I sometimes snap back to “1994 me” during the chorus of Pearl Jam’s Alive, or “2000 me” during the closing lines of Neutral Milk Hotel’s In the Aeroplane Over the Sea:

Can’t believe how strange it is to be anything at all…

See you in that mirror.

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HTG Podcast #23: Little pep talk to myself

In this episode of the Head The Gong Podcast, I push the red button and make noises with my mouth.

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HTG Podcast #22: Summer reboot

In this episode of the Head The Gong Podcast, I ramble about rebooting my website and professional life, make some podcast recommendations, and pay tribute to the inimitable musician Brian Hall.

Brian Hall @ The Music House, circa 2001

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The wake of a dream

It’s been a strange summer. Strange in the sense of a vibe, a mood that has permeated my consciousness. I have not lived particularly well these past few weeks. I stay up too late, passively consuming distracto-tainment until I can’t stomach another bite. My sleep has been shallow and restless. I’ve burned days obsessing about trivial matters, all the while in full-on avoidance mode, ignoring whatever intentions were set down on the previous night’s to-do list. I’ve had time to burn, and I’ve burned it, but not well. Not with gusto. But there’s always a new day, today, this morning, right now. I’ve missed myself. Missed the man with the fire in his belly, forever striving to get at the meat of the matter.

The night before last I was suddenly pulled from a dream in which I had been holding my younger brother in my arms. He was having seizures, one after the other, each one more threatening, more violent than the last. I got down on the floor and wrapped myself around him, trying to prevent the convulsions from breaking his neck. My mother was in the room, looking on in horror. The seizures would not stop. At a certain point I understood what was happening. He was going to die at any moment. I cried out with every drop of fear and anger I had left within me. “He’s dead!”

The emotions were so intense that some sort of oneiric panic button was pushed, summoning an invisible hand to reach down into the depths of the dream, grab hold of me, and pull me up through the layers of consciousness and into the bed. The dream extraction happened so quickly that I was still in the process of crying out, and I woke to the sound and sensation of a monstrous whimper squeezing itself through my face, which was still frozen with sleep paralysis. My first clear concern was whether or not my wife had heard the noise. She has heard me whimper in my sleep before, and I find these incidents to be somewhat shameful. She seemed to be sleeping soundly, so my mind then turned to the wake of the dream, and as it faded into oblivion, an idea began to crystalize in my mind through a series of associations.

You become what you take in… What you attend to determines what you are aware of… If you consume chaos you become chaos… Patterns of attention become states of mind… When your attention is captive, you are captive… When your attention is free, you are free.

I don’t know what any of that has to do with my brother dying, or the strangeness of this summer. It just seems important. Important enough that the invisible hand made sure I would see it, think it, write about it.

And now, the day.

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HTG Podcast #21: Time Well Spent

In this episode of the Head The Gong Podcast, I share my thoughts on Tristan Harris, his Time Well Spent movement, and the struggle for ownership of my attention in this age of digital distraction.

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HTG Podcast #20: Brain dump

In this episode of the Head The Gong Podcast, I scramble to get back on the podcasting horse. Again.

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HTG Podcast #19: Farts, walls, shovels and rope

In this episode of the Head The Gong Podcast, I search in vain for a novel perspective on butt-trumpeting, run into walls of creative resistance, and perform a cover of a Shovels & Rope song.

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Letters to Old Bob: #3

2-27-2017

OB,

How’s it hanging, homie? At this point your balls must be about knee level, eh old boy? Just razzin’ ya, dude. Truthfully I feel for you. Already at 46 I’m struggling to accept the slings and arrows of time’s ruthless onslaught. If you’ve actually made it to your mid-eighties, I can only imagine the indignities you confront on a daily basis. I’m reading “Henry Miller – The Last Days”, by Barbara Kraft. She just happened to strike up meaningful friendships with both Anaïs Nin and Henry Miller as each was living out the last year or so of their respective lives. I’m at the point in the Miller book when Henry is starting to decline pretty rapidly, right around his 88th birthday. There’s only about forty or so pages left in the book, and there’s only one way this thing is going to end. Even though I know it’s going to happen, that it already happened in fact, it still has me feeling uneasy. It’s hard to read about the dying of a man who, to me, represents life lived to the absolute fullest. If Henry couldn’t overcome the inevitable, no one can.

I wonder if you remember this, OB, this thing that I do every now again as I’m falling asleep next to my wife. I’ll imagine a future me, a very old man like yourself, who is lying in bed alone wishing more than anything in the world that he could experience just one more night spent holding his dearly departed wife. I then imagine that this old future me is granted the power to travel back in time to experience that one more night of marital bliss. Of course, the precise moment in the “past” to which this old me travels turns out to be the present moment, wherein I am actually and already in bed next to my wife. Suddenly the normally taken-for-granted comfort of spooning takes on a level of intensity that is usually reserved for long-awaited reunions. Pretty weird, huh? But probably not any weirder than writing letters to oneself.

There’s no way for me to know whether or not she is still with you, OB, so I apologize if reading this is painful. I often remind myself that I must commit to the highest level of self-care, so that if one of us must experience the pain of losing the other, I am making it more likely that it would be me. I just can’t bear the thought of my wife having to go through that ordeal. I know, of course, that I have no ultimate control over such things. This drive to survive is hard to reconcile with another tendency of mine, which is to want no part of modern medicine. Left on my own, I think I would be disinclined to prolong my life through artificial means, should I become say, stricken with terminal cancer. I know, I know, OB… It is pure madness to speculate about such things, but I can’t help but be curious about how you are dealing with all the terrible things that come with the territory of oldness. Miller seems to have dealt with it all with the utmost courage and dignity. Still, there’s no sugar-coating it: being really old seems pretty awful.

I’ve got to stay focused on the challenges of 2017, OB. I found out the other day that, due to excessive state budget cuts, I may get laid off from my job in a couple of months. Everybody at work is freaking out, hoping that they won’t find themselves on the chopping block when it comes time for the cleaver to come crashing down. Me, I’m fairy chill about it, given that I don’t really like the job all that much anyway. I do need the money though. I wonder, OB, what your perspective is on such matters at this point in your life. This whole orientation toward the future, the worrying about it, preparing for it, dreading it, aspiring to it, worshipping it. What happens to all that when the future shrinks down to a tiny slice of borrowed time? Once the jig is up and your goose is cooked, where does the mind wander, if it wanders at all?

Maybe I will get an answer from Miller somewhere in the final forty pages.

Until next time,

Young(ish) Bob.

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