The Boat Ride to Sorrow

The man whose life and work I most admire died on this day in 1893, at the same age that I am now, in the prime of his life. He was one of the most famous composers in the world, even more so outside of his native country, which sometimes failed to recognize his genius. He had visited America for the first and only time just two years prior to his death, where he was lauded from New York to Philadelphia for his prodigious musical talent (he was the star attraction at the opening of the brand new Carnegie Hall, where he led concerts of his own music during the week of his 51st birthday). He had just written the magical and wondrous music for The Nutcracker that year – some of it coalescing during the long boat ride to America – and had given the first performance of his manic-depressive Sixth Symphony only nine days before his untimely death, from cholera, at age 53. This was a man who certainly had more to say, but never had the chance to say it. His last symphony seems to eerily foreshadow his death, ending – no, dying – in a whisper that trails off into silence, surely one of the more unusual endings in the symphonic repertoire (he used the unprecedented musical direction pppppp, basically meaning extreme quietness, which many conductors interpret by observing a moment of silence before lowering their batons to a hushed, stunned and emotionally-drained audience).

My fascination with Tchaikovsky began in 1987. I was in college, and my psychology professor had a habit of digressing wildly during his lectures, often talking about music and literature, two things that interested me far more than psychology. The rest of the class grumbled, but I found it fascinating. Tchaikovsky was a favorite topic of discussion, and my professor would point out the resigned drudgery of the opening to the Fifth Symphony as emblematic not only of the hardness of Russian life, but also of a palpable despair that paints a vivid picture of the composer’s emotional state  (if there’s one thing Tchaikovsky excelled at, it was conjuring ready images and feelings with his music). Being no stranger to feelings of despair, I was highly intrigued and had to hear this mysterious symphony that promised emotional depth, brooding and introspection. That’s when the love affair began. It certainly wasn’t the usual point of entry to Tchaikovsky’s impressive opus (that would be either the delicious Romeo and Juliet Fantasy Overture, the triumphant 1812 Overture, or the aforementioned Nutcracker), but then I was always drawn to the more serious things in life. It seemed that in Tchaikovsky I had found a fellow introvert, a man after my own heart.

It is music like the Fifth Symphony, and especially the expansive and ethereal second movement, that makes me thankful I am an introvert, and that I have a special appreciation for the deep, the serious and the reflective. I consider this movement to be one of the most beautiful pieces of music I have ever heard, and the first sixty seconds are surely among the most somber sounds ever consigned to an orchestra. While I know some might find the emotional heaviness of this music depressing or be unable to sit still long enough to listen to it, to me it is rapturous, healing and sublime. I have heard it countless times in my life, yet it still manages to slow my pulse and bring a tear to my eye every single time. The live performances I have been privileged to attend I count among the most eye-opening moments of my life – those experiences when time stands still, every distraction vanishes and I feel so present that I marvel at how I’ve been living in the fog for so long. When I listen to the movement while also being mindful of Tchaikovsky’s turbulent life history and struggles, it takes on a whole new dimension. This man poured his heart and soul into his music, and his works closely echo the vicissitudes of his life experience. While I have sometimes fantasized about what it would have been like to meet him, I know that no in-person encounter could possibly match the depth of his spirit that he has communicated through these notes. This is his voice crying out from the grave. He is speaking to me in a language that not everyone can understand and appreciate, but I’m extremely glad that I am able to. It may be a one-way conversation, but the lesson is so profound that I am speechless anyway. The poet Heinrich Heine said, “Where words leave off, music begins.” Indeed, the output of Tchaikovsky’s pen cannot be described. It must be experienced.

In that vein, and in honor of this man who never felt accomplished enough, who achieved worldwide fame yet was often lonely and despondent, who felt compelled to run from his homosexuality (a punishable crime in 19th-century Russia, and a sure disgrace for one of its most famous citizens) by entering into a disastrous and short-lived marriage and then trying to kill himself, and who had a remarkably facile gift for expressing depth of emotion in music that few have equaled, I invite you to listen to the musical passage at the top of the page. It’s a fifteen-minute commitment. You’ve heard people say of a disappointing experience that it’s an hour of their lives they’ll never get back. This experience may pay it back. It’s just one of the four glorious movements of his transcendent Fifth Symphony (he wrote six symphonies; all are excellent, with the last three generally recognized as masterpieces). Turn off the lights, close your eyes, and listen closely. Empty your mind of thoughts and focus on what the instruments are saying, on what Tchaikovsky is expressing. Turn the volume up some, as the opening is very quiet but oh-so-important, a somber segue from the distractions of everyday life to the oft-neglected, deeply buried inner self. You are off on a journey to another world, much like Disney World’s boat ride to the Magic Kingdom symbolically transports you to another place and time. You may become a bit uncomfortable, as this music is so evocative it can stir painful feelings, ones that we normally avoid, at our own peril. There is sorrow in life – untold sorrow, as the U.N. Charter puts it – and it must be felt. Unfelt sorrow turns to dysfunction, to anger, to crime, to drugs, to war (perhaps I did learn something in those psych lectures). Money is not the root of all evil, ignored emotional pain is, and Tchaikovsky was a master at expressing and exorcising it through his music. If you aren’t moved by his pleas, if you don’t shed a tear for his struggles and your own, if you don’t feel a transcendent catharsis by the end of this piece, then you didn’t really hear him. But when you do, you will have discovered an emotional depth that will enrich your life and that you can return to whenever the need arises (recorded sound was just being invented when Tchaikovsky died, but we now have the luxury of his entire output at our fingertips).

Thanks to my psych professor and to a Russian man whom I never met yet feel that I know, I discovered the Fifth, and I will never be the same.

(The Fifth Symphony isn’t all sorrow and despair. Tchaikovsky often juxtaposed great sadness and great joy in the same work, perhaps a statement that working through one leads to the other. This symphony actually ends in thrilling triumph and exuberance. The whole delicious work, in a measured and loving rendition by my favorite conductor, Sergiu Celibidache, is linked below for your enjoyment).

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When instruments speak

https://i2.wp.com/gdb.rferl.org/9542C773-E1C8-4012-80B4-850582D84D29_mw1024_n_s.jpg

Today is Tchaikovsky’s 174th birthday. My earliest remembrance of hearing his music is at Christmastime. Like many people, this was my first introduction to classical music of any kind (aside from Saturday morning cartoons, which favored the composers Rossini and Mendelssohn). The tunefulness, the orchestral richness, the evocative nature of the images conjured by The Nutcracker Suite are all hallmarks of Tchaikovsky’s genius. His phenomenal ability to express emotion and paint images with music are two of the things I most admire about him. While the thrilling music from The Nutcracker (much of which is to be found in the full score, not the shortened Suite that most casual listeners are familiar with) may be so common today as to be taken for granted, critics of the day called it “from beginning to end, beautiful, melodious, original and characteristic.” It was one of the last things Tchaikovsky wrote, and destined to be his best-known work. It is not unreasonable to say it is one of the most recognizable pieces of classical music in the Western world, right up there with Beethoven’s Fifth and Straus’s Also Sprach Zarathustra.

It wasn’t until college that I became aware of the composer’s wider range of work, a serendipitous event that turned me on to the much larger world of orchestral music. My college psychology professor was fond of digressing during his lectures, and often these digressions turned to Shakespeare and Tchaikovsky, both of whom he liked to psychoanalyze. I adored these digressions. It is probably no coincidence that these two men are in my pantheon of most-admired creative geniuses (the others being Dickens and Beethoven). While Shakespeare I admire for his incredible command of both the human psyche and language, Tchaikovsky managed to do the same, but with music. He was fond of the German poet Heinrich Heine’s remark that “where words leave off, music begins.” Tchaikovsky went further than Shakespeare and said what couldn’t be conveyed in words, no matter how eloquent they may be. When my professor hummed the grudging, lethargic, resigned opening notes of the composer’s Fifth Symphony that intimate the harshness of Russian life (and of Tchaikovsky’s), I was passionate to hear the rest. I hurried out and purchased the first recording of this brooding yet hopeful opus that I could find, and my musical world has never been the same. I am reminded of Dante’s comment on rebirth: “In that book which is my memory, on the first page of the chapter that is the day when I first met you, appear the words, ‘Here begins a new life’.”

Suddenly someone understood the depths of my soul, depths that I had kept hidden from myself for fear of what I may find. This affirming and inviting music gave me license to be who I was, to feel what I felt, because I wasn’t alone: someone else had been where I was, and even if everything didn’t turn out alright, at least I had company. The opening phrase of the second movement (video below) was so beautiful, so haunting, so full of despair and longing and anguish that to this day when I hear it, it brings tears to my eyes though I’ve listened to it hundreds of times. It is the most sublime sixty seconds of music I know. I cannot listen to it without drawing a deep, sobering breath, without becoming instantly aware of my vulnerability and the fragility of life, without experiencing present moment awareness more fully than a Zen master. Could anyone listen to this and not be moved, I marveled? (actually, I think the more pressing question was, Why isn’t everyone listening to this?) Like many of Tchaikovsky’s symphonies, the palpable pathos of the second movement eventually resolves itself in exuberant triumph in the closing movement, rising above Shakespeare’s “sea of troubles” to find that there is indeed “nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” We are the interpreters of our fate, and Tchaikovsky often explored this in his works, especially the Fifth Symphony. It basically asks, Am I going to stew in my sorrow (first and second movements), or deal the hand I was dealt and live my life (third and fourth)? Carpe Diem!

Shortly after my new-found admiration of Tchaikovsky I began attending outdoor concerts at Tanglewood, the sprawling estate in the Berkshire Mountains of Western Massachusetts where the Boston Symphony spends its summers. The round trip required four hours of driving. I usually opted for an expensive seat right up front, often went alone, and savored every minute of this guilty pleasure. A place where everyone sits rapt and pensive, pondering the big questions of life in a darkened auditorium is an introvert paradise. Tchaikovsky’s notes cried out plaintively on those cool summer evenings, echoing off the hillsides and disappearing into the mysterious night. I devoured more and more of his works at Tanglewood (recordings can’t match a live performance), and there wasn’t much I didn’t like: his bombastic fourth and cathartic sixth symphonies, his innovative violin and piano concertos, his dramatic overtures. He infused everything with emotion and intensity and a desire to either celebrate or bemoan life, often in the same piece. This was a conflicted man, a man of extremes with unbridled passion who tried to make sense of his life, but never quite succeeded. He composed the most famous and rapturous love theme ever written, yet love largely escaped him. He was one of the most popular composers in the world in his lifetime, but one gets the sense that he never felt satisfied or successful. Modern listeners can certainly relate to that conflict. He wrestled with life’s frustrations and tried repeatedly to work them out in his music. It was therapy for him, and for me. My psych professor would be proud of us both.

Music is a very personal passion for each of us, and I can’t expect everyone to understand how Tchaikovsky’s eloquent expression of life’s vicissitudes makes me stand up and cheer inside, gives me faith in humanity or helps me make sense of my own life. Eckhart Tolle says that life has no inherent meaning, that we bring meaning to it. The works of Tchaikovsky bring meaning and richness to my life, even if they failed to do so in his own. This is his collateral gift to me. Tchaikovsky best personifies one of my favorite quotes, from the poet Robert Bly: where your wound is, that is where your genius will be. Tchaikovsky took his struggles (for one, he was a closeted homosexual in a society that would have shunned him for it) and inner demons and exorcised them through music – whether consciously or not – and we are the lucky beneficiaries of his turmoil.

My words, like Shakespeare’s, cannot conjure the composer’s orchestral poetry. I therefore recommend a close listening – no talking, no distractions, as if you were sitting in the audience yourself – of the heartfelt performance of the Sixth Symphony posted below. I engage in this ritual every year on the day of Tchaikovsky’s birth (May 7) and death (November 6) to reconnect with myself, to remember who I am. It is a masterpiece of emotional catharsis. It is not for everyone, and those not accustomed to serious introspection may find the journey unsettling and become anxious. This is one symphony that does not end in a triumphant bang. Tchaikovsky based it on his life struggle, and died just nine days after conducting its première in 1893. Ars longa, vita brevis (art is long, life is short). It requires an hour of your own life, which is asking a lot in a fast-paced world of endless distraction and brief attention spans, but nothing worthwhile ever comes quickly. It is an hour that will send your soul soaring in delicious rapture and, by the end, wallowing in the darkest despair. Beginning at time stamp 40:25, you’ll discover what it sounds like when an orchestra openly sobs. It is a journey you won’t soon forget. You will be as emotionally drained at the sobering conclusion as the empathetic and stunningly aware conductor (Chung Myung-Whun with the Seoul Philharmonic) . But you may, as a result, see life more clearly than you ever did before, this life which Shakespeare called a “walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage, and then is heard no more.” Tchaikovsky couldn’t have said it better himself in words, but he sure did in music.

 

Where words leave off, music begins

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

Where words leave off, music beginsHeine

Lush. Passionate. Anguished. Triumphant. Melancholy. Joyous. Despairing. These words all describe the music of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (May 7, 1840 – Nov 6, 1893), the great Russian composer whose birthday is tomorrow, and who has long been an idol of mine. His music, like that of my other idol (Neil Diamond), is full of deep emotion, expressiveness, introspection and – in keeping with this blog’s topic – introversion.

Am I a little obssessed with my musical idols? Yes. Their creations speak to me like nothing else has. I first was exposed to Tchaikovsky (aside from the Nutcracker excerpts that everyone knows) in college. My psychology professor had a habit of talking about Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony in his lectures, mimicking the notes of the first movement and telling us how they expressed the hardness of Russian life. What did this have to do with psychology? Nothing. My professor talked about everything but psychology, but that’s why I loved him. He talked about great music, and literature, and Shakespeare, and all the things that interested me more than psychology did. He even was kind enough to take me seriously when I inquired about musical instruction, as it was my dream to be a conductor. This, of course, was preposterous since I had no musical talent or training, but he contacted the prestigious Hartt School of Music on my behalf anyway.

Being a curious sort (an introvert trait) I dove hungrily into Tchaikovsky’s symphonies, losing myself in their rich layers of sound, in their lush orchestration and beautiful melodies. They spoke of triumph and despair, of acceptance and resignation. After I read a few books on his turbulent life, I realized these symphonies were his diaries, his most private thoughts laid bare. He had no outlet in life to resolve his conflicts, so he worked them out in music. I wrote a paper on his autobiographical Sixth Symphony, delineating what I thought Tchaikovsky was saying at each stage of this richly expressive work that may in fact have been a sort of musical suicide note. He had a gift for speaking through music, and was fond of the quote, “Where words leave off, music begins.” Some things you just can’t put into words. His music solves this problem.

But it’s not just his emotional life that we see worked out in his music. He had a talent for vividly portraying whatever musical commission he was given. When asked to write a piece commemorating the Russian victory over Napoleon in 1812, he produced a vivid historical account in music in a mere six weeks. When setting Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet to music, he produced such a perfect musical expression of the rapture of romantic love that it is still unequalled a century after his death. In fact, it is one of the most recognizable tunes in the world. His music for the children’s tale The Nutcracker captures the magic and wonder of childhood like nothing else I have heard. Once, at a workshop, I was asked what work of art I would want to become one with at the moment of my death. I immediately knew the answer: The Forest of Fir Trees in Winter from The Nutcracker. Could the music in heaven be any more celestial or peaceful?

Tchaikovsky was not a particularly happy man. I suppose true introverts rarely are, and Tchaikovsky definitely was an introvert. He was extremely introspective and analytical. He was racked with self-doubt. He was a nervous wreck in public, to the point of fearing that his head would fall off his shoulders while he was conducting. He suffered from frequent nervous exhaustion that required him to take long periods of R & R. He didn’t like the spotlight, which became more of a problem as his fame increased. And he lived in constant war with himself over his homosexuality which, in nineteenth-century Russia, was a crime punishable by the loss of all civil rights and banishment to Siberia – a potential disgrace for the nation’s preeminent composer. Tchaikovsky wrote to his brother:

“There are people who do not despise me for my vices only because they began loving me before they suspected I was a man with a lost reputation. Among them, for instance, is Alexandra (his sister). I know she guesses everything and forgives everything. So it is with many of those I respect and care for most. Is it not a bitter thing to be pitied and forgiven when, truly, I am in no way guilty? So it has been a hundred times, and will be a hundred times more. In a word, I should like to marry, or by some known liaison with a woman shut the mouths of all despicable gossips for whose opinion I do not care a bit, but who can hurt people close to me.”

Tchaikovsky did make a disastrous attempt at marriage, selecting a totally unsuitable wife who caused him no end of grief and suffering. He ended up making a half-hearted suicide attempt by walking into the Moscow River in the dead of winter, hoping to catch pneumonia. He was unconscious for two days. From this ordeal came his masterful Fourth Symphony. His wife refused a divorce and attempted to extort money from him. She was eventually declared insane, and though they remained married until his death they had no contact with each other.

Tchaikovsky’s one source of solace was his wealthy patroness, Nadezhda von Meck, who was a sort of emotional wife and mother to him. She was a great admirer of his music, and a kindred spirit. She provided him with a generous stipend, allowing him the freedom to concentrate on his music without the constraint of worrying about supporting himself. The two corresponded for over a decade, but she stipulated that they never meet. They exchanged over twelve-hundred letters. On two occasions they accidentally crossed paths, but did not speak to each other. They shared their most intimate thoughts, and were closer to each other than to anyone else in their lives. It is through their letters that scholars have learned much about Tchaikovsky, including his detailed description of the meaning behind his Fourth Symphony, which he dedicated to von Meck.

Tchaikovsky’s fame continually increased, though his music was not always immediately appreciated. It was quite different from the traditional, nationalistic music of other Russian composers, and in this sense he was a trailblazer. Critics in the West thought Russian music barbaric, but Tchaikovsky’s was nothing of the sort. He embarked on a very successful tour of America in 1891, and was the headliner at the grand opening of Carnegie Hall on May 5, 1891, two days before his birthday.

Near the end of his short life, Tchaikovsky had some considerable success, including the granting of an honorary degree by Cambridge University in recognition of his great accomplishments. In the last few years of his life he wrote The Nutcracker and one of the most successful of his ten operas, The Queen of Spades. He died rather suddenly at age 53 from cholera, the same disease that had taken his mother from him at a young age. There is much controversy surrounding his death, including speculation that it was either an active or passive suicide. He had consumed an unboiled glass of water during a cholera outbreak, something he certainly knew was unwise. However, given his recent successes it seems odd that he would choose to kill himself. There was also speculation, however, that his sexual orientation was about to be exposed which, in light of those successes, would have been unbearable. He had conducted the premiere of his Sixth Symphony just nine days prior to his death, a very personal work that he was quite excited about. It, perhaps like his life, ends in despair and dies away into nothingness.

Suggested starter works:

Symphony Nos. 4, 5 and 6
Romeo & Juliet Fantasy Overture
1812 Overture
The Nutcracker (highlights)
Capriccio Italien
Marche Slave
Piano Concerto No. 1
Violin Concerto

I have made a tribute to Tchaikovsky which is currently on YouTube. It is in 5 parts, only two of which are completed so far. It contains short samples of over 50 of his works, and some history behind them. It’s a great introduction to his opus, with something for everyone. These tributes will be available here on my blog soon, but for now here are the links:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tvJhw5vJOQI

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LQ28m7CjwUo

If you search “Tchaikovsky” on YouTube, you will find complete performances of many of his works, including the later symphonies.

Tchaikovsky (Russia, 1972)

I came to this movie as a great admirer of the pathos of Tchaikovsky’s music and of his life story, both of which I relate deeply to. I hadn’t known about this film, though I had seen “The Music Lovers” and the 2007 BBC docudrama “Tchaikovsky”, both of which left me wanting. Nobody seems to get the Tchaikovsky life story quite right, though each has admirable elements. But “Amadeus” and “Immortal Beloved” are much more inspiring portrayals of Mozart and Beethoven, respectively, than this film is of Tchaikovsky. Had I not already been a great admirer of his, I don’t think this film would have made me one.

Overall, I liked the sullen mood of the film as it seemed to fit its subject, though at times he seems a bit too morose. This is made all the more annoying by the fact that the film doesn’t delve into the possible reasons for Tchaikovsky’s melancholy, and doesn’t seem to care to. Certainly his sexual orientation, in a society where being gay was considered shameful and worthy of banishment to Siberia, played a considerable role, but this was summarily ignored. And I find it hard to believe that there wasn’t some joy in Tchaikovsky’s life, especially when he was being lauded for his brilliant work. He was the most famous composer in Russia, if not the world, even in his lifetime. His letters indicate great pride and satisfaction at key moments in his life, but in the film he rarely cracks a smile. This gets tiresome. Nobody is morose all the time. His trip to America near the end of his life, which was highly successful, is ignored. The theme from the Romeo & Juliet Fantasy Overture, arguably the greatest musical expression of love in the world, is also ignored. The 1812 Overture is not mentioned. These are some of the composer’s best known works, though admittedly they may not have been while he was alive. Nevertheless, their absence is notable.

This film does a few things very well. The cinematography is appealing and painted on a large palette, with intriguing locations, grand scenes, and an authentic feel for Russia and Tchaikovsky’s world. But perhaps its most striking credential is the amazing physical resemblance of its star, acclaimed Russian actor Innokenti Smoktunovsky, to Tchaikovsky. It is haunting. I felt as though I were watching actual physical footage of the great composer (of which none exists, of course… he died in 1893), and found this mesmerizing. It lends the film an intimate feel, as though we are actually in Tchaikovsky’s world because it is so easy to believe that the man we see on the screen is indeed him.

Yet ultimately, what I find most annoying about the film is the cheap, tinny sound it gives to Tchaikovsky’s incredibly beautiful music. It is treated with all the dignity of a carnival merry-go-round, feeling rushed, comic and casual. What a great disservice this does, and this more than anything else hurts the film. Were the music handled with the glory and richness it deserves, the film would have much greater impact and feeling, and would easily win converts. If I were a Tchaikovsky neophyte, I would not rush out to buy a CD after seeing this film, and that is a great shame. A film about this man must, by definition, give one a passionate connection to his music, because it was such a huge part of how he expressed himself.

There is one poignant musical scene, however, the likes of which the movie could have used much more. Tchaikovsky borrowed many of his tunes from folk songs, mostly of Russia, but also from his travels abroad to Europe. In the scene in question, the composer is having lunch in Paris while we hear accordion music coming from the street below. Astute listeners will recognize it as the melancholy tune from the slow movement of Tchaikovsky’s fourth symphony. This subtle fact may be lost on the uninitiated, but I found it beautifully executed.

There is also a revealing and poignant (and imaginary) scene on a train between Tchaikovsky and his wealthy patron, Nadezhda von Meck. The two corresponded prolifically for over a decade, but never met (at her insistence), and were perfect soulmates for each other. Their exchanges were often quite frank. She wrote to him, “I am very unsympathetic in my personal relations because I do not possess any femininity whatever; second, I do not know how to be tender, and this characteristic has passed on to my entire family. All of us are afraid to be affected or sentimental…” No wonder she adored Tchaikovsky’s music: it exquisitely said what she could not. We feel for her, and instantly realize that Tchaikovsky suffers from the same affliction.

This film could have been so much better, but it contains enough worthy elements that I decided to purchase it. The striking physical resemblance of the actor to his character, the glimpses of Tchaikovsky’s genius, the Russian landscape, and the healthy dose of “Queen of Spades” (one of my favorite operas, and one of Tchaikovsky’s most successful) all bode well for future viewings. But when I want to enjoy the composer’s glorious music, I’ll pop in a CD instead.

A blog introduction: passions, intentions and introversion

Blogs.   Do people actually read them in today’s endlessly busy and distracted world?   I will soon find out.   But whether anyone reads or not,  I have always found writing to be an endeavor that mostly benefits the author.  If others benefit as well, then that is an added bonus – and a gratifying one.

This blog will be loosely structured with many topics, all from my particular perspective.  Therefore, it would seem prudent to share a little about myself.

I am a 48-year old single gay male living in Eastern Connecticut, where I was born during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 (the famous “missiles of October”).  I was a somewhat troubled, melancholy, lonely child who often felt like I was living in a semi-autistic fog, and those old feeling states have occasionally plagued me into adulthood.

I am a lifelong introvert, something I haven’t really appreciated about myself until recently.  It was a bit of a revelation when I read the textbook definition of introversion and almost every trait rang true.  I am overwhelmed easily by too much contact or stimulation.  I recharge my batteries by being alone, and strongly crave alone time after a few hours of being social.  I usually abhor chitchat, cell phones, cocktail parties and interviews.  I don’t like being interrupted or put on the spot, because it can take an introvert time to focus and I need time to process my thoughts and form a response.  I express myself much better on paper than in person.  I have been praised since grade school for my writing skills.  I have few friends, and the few relationships I have that I enjoy are the deeper ones.  I dislike surface contact.  Things have to have meaning and make sense or I have little patience for them.  I’m a good listener, provided what I’m hearing has some depth.  I am drawn to introspection and reflection.

I am also a lifelong entrepreneur, having started my own business when I was 18 and keeping it for almost 30 years.  Working for myself appealed to me greatly as I dislike authority figures and taking orders.  I am self-motivated and don’t need someone barking at me.  Since I now work for someone else (long story for future post), I have to endure some barking.  Hence the bumper sticker on my car:  “Wag More.  Bark Less.” Praise goes much further than criticism, yet seems seldom used in the average workplace.

Some interests/passions of mine include music (symphonic, esp. Beethoven and Tchaikovsky; opera (Puccini, Gilbert & Sullivan); Neil Diamond, who I have seen in concert a dozen times and whose music I have a deep affinity for; reading (a true introvert passion!  Love Shakespeare, Dickens, King, Koontz, Preston/Childs); American history, the presidency, quantum physics and the true nature of “reality,” consciousness studies, metaphysics, and basically the notion that we create our own reality.

I greatly admire those who manage to creatively express themselves in ways that others relate deeply to – especially, those who take their pain and torment and create something divine (Tchaikovsky, Beethoven).  I consider Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony to be the greatest work of art I have ever experienced, and have a separate blog posting about it.  As Robert Bly observed, “where your wound is, that is where your genius will be.” Tchaikovsky is another hero in this department.

I hope you enjoy my posts and find something that strikes a chord or two in you.  To quote a passage from my favorite movie, Shadowlands, “we read to know we’re not alone.” I hope I make you feel less alone.