Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The Final Score


Last week was the introduction of the fictional character, Count Zero, by Simcha Wasserman, with “The Mark Of Zero”; this week, the series continues with “The Final Score.” It is a story about boys who play sports, and about much more, including on the nature of competition and cooperation.

by Simcha Wasserman

Already as a young boy, Count Zero was unusually self-effacing. He would rather pass off to another player than score himself. In one game of ball hockey, he had control of the ball and could easily have scored, but he instead hung on to the ball until a teammate (who was in a slump) was in position to score, passed it off, took a hard bodycheck that left him dazed, while his teammate scored.

After the game, the Coach took the Count to task in front of the rest of the team. "Young man, the idea is that you score when you can, and not try some foolish, self centered stick handling! Who are you trying to impress?"

The Count did not answer.

"Have you nothing to say for yourself!?", demanded the Coach, his voice growing louder.

The Count remained silent, looking down at his feet.

The Coach turned red and screamed, “You're nothing but a fool! If you continue like this in life, you'll never amount to anything, mister!!!”

At that, the Count looked up, and with the trace of a smile, said, “Thank you.”

“Thank you!?!” roared the Coach, “Thank you!?! Are you completely crazy?”; and he stormed off, snorting like a wild bull. But turning to look back at the Count, he saw something extraordinary.

The entire team were walking by the Count, smiling and gently clapping him on the shoulders, without saying a word.

The group of boys, at that moment, became a formidable team, which went on to lose only two games all season on their way to the league championship.

In his speech at the championship banquet, the Coach thanked all the players on the team, and was about to single out the Count for special recognition until he saw that now familiar smile; and so moved on in his speech, to praise his wife for all her support and dedication.

There was boisterous applause for the champions, as each player received a trophy and a hearty handshake from the Coach. But it was interesting to note that one player in particular, in addition to a trophy and a handshake, also received, what appeared to be, a very subtle clap on the shoulders.

Next week, “Bikur Cholim”

Simcha Wasserman is a Lubavitcher chossid living with his family in Toronto.

Copyright ©2015. Simcha Wasserman. All Rights Reserved. The story is published here with the author’s permission.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Yesterday At Edwards Gardens

Public Gardens

Mother & Father Goose & Family
Photo Credit: ©Perry J. Greenbaum, 2015

We went yesterday morning to Toronto’s Edwards Gardens—a public venue part of Toronto Botanical Garden—for the first time this year; among the sights was a family (or was it a gaggle?) of Canadian geese (Branta canadensis) consisting of a male (a gander), a female (a goose) and their chicks (goslings); there was of course the flowers, shrubs and trees that are well within bloom. Beauty always uplifts the spirits.

The Flowing Fountain
Photo Credit: ©Perry J. Greenbaum, 2015

Flowers In Bloom
Photo Credit: 
©Perry J. Greenbaum, 2015

A Public Garden
Photo Credit: ©Perry J. Greenbaum, 2015

Monday, May 25, 2015

A Personal Forgetting Of The Past

On Memory & Meaning

“To be able to forget means sanity.” 
― Jack LondonThe Star Rover

DARPA Memory Program: The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, a military-research agency of the U.S. government, is working on devices that would aid in memory restoration; it says on its website the following: “DARPA has selected two universities to initially lead the agency’s Restoring Active Memory (RAM) program, which aims to develop and test wireless, implantable ‘neuroprosthetics’ that can help service-members, veterans, and others overcome memory deficits incurred as a result of traumatic brain injury (TBI) or disease.”
Image Credit & Source: DARPA

There are some personal memories, some recounting of personal decisions, some reminiscing of personal disappointments of the past that require a conscious and voluntary forgetting, a determined dismissal of their importance. The reasons cannot be more clear: such is a way to move on, to move forward, to not live in unpleasant times where a grievance is often nursed for no particular benefit—in short, to allow good and healthy living today. Mental health and one’s sanity depends on it.

If we remember as not to forget, it is also wise to forget as to not remember. In this argument for forgetting, there is a counter-intuitive idea that says that not all memories are worth keeping, worth remembering, worth telling and discussing. In an age that deems equality as paramount, it might be disheartening to admit that not all memories are equal; that some are better than others.

Yet, it is the rational thing to do, is it not? After all, there are some memories of a personal nature involving failures in family relationships, failures in business and professional pursuits, and failures in social activities that after a period of reflection and analysis that ought to be put to rest and forgotten; in short, if it is at all possible, such memories ought to be put away into the land of oblivion.

Forgetting is sometimes not only good, but also necessary, acting as a quiet forgiveness of self and of others, notably of our intimates. Personal slights, personal insults and personal failures can be debilitating, and more so when we impart meaning to these events, these markers in our lives. It is human to do so, very human it seems. It must be a private hell to remember everything.

The older we become, the more we store memories of the past, and the greater meaning we often ascribe to them; we try to understand our present selves in relation to the decisions our past selves made. It is true that memories are not always reliable, but this is not often the important point about memories. Memories define who we are as much as anything tangible. Or so it becomes when amnesia strikes, or a person is struck down with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, and thus suffers irreversible loss of memory. This is different, however, than voluntarily deciding to forget.

Or placing emphasis on one memory over another. For example, if we can change or memories, we can perhaps change our selves, our core being. If only we can alter this decision, this course of action, stop ourselves from doing this or that... perhaps our lives would be better, our relationships richer, our misery less pronounced. We have all entered this realm of thinking. Yes, the past influences the present. To what degree varies, of course, but there is a prevailing and present influence. The memory is the conduit of the influence; the highway and byway of both good and bad thoughts about ourselves and how we conducted ourselves in accordance to our personal morality.

So, yes, a conscious forgetting of past hurts makes it easier to reside well in the present. But what about the need or desire to recover the self from the past? In Marcel Proust’s À la recherche du temps perdu (In Search of Lost Time), published in seven volumes between 1913 and 1927, human memory plays an important, if not central role, in the tension between who we have become and who we (thought or remember) we were in the past:
People claim that we recapture for a moment the self that we were long ago when we enter some house or garden in which we used to live in our youth. But these are most hazardous pilgrimages, which end as often in disappointment as in success. It is in ourselves that we should rather seek to find those fixed places, contemporaneous with different years.
Yes, disappointment. This happens often, more often than we would like to admit. First to ourselves. Nostalgia, it would seem. operates in this manner, and it has a hold on our memory; we remember our childhoods as we would like them to be, seeing the past as better than it was—we do this by selecting the events that confirm our current views. It becomes more poignant if we do not like the way things have turned out, if we do not like or enjoy our present self, our present life and the “hand that fate dealt us.” This might explain the power and importance of forgiveness and acceptance in allowing us to move, without the encumbrances of the past weighing us down. We might remember, but the power it has on our today is diminished, less so and weaker than what it is without the conscious act of forgiveness.

This is most liberating, as is the knowledge of living with not too much regret. Proust’s long meandering 3,300-page literary opus of more than one million words is much like a recounting of life’s living; it is interesting to note that it was originally given the title, in English, of Remembrance of Things Past, which suggests memory rather than time lost, or squanderedOr wasted. Can time be really wasted, if what you are doing is enjoyable at that moment? I don’t think so; I hope not.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Elton John: Rocket Man (1972)

Elton John sings Rocket Man in this 1972 performance; the song is on the album Honky Château, which was released on April 14, 1972.

The song, written by Bernie Taupin, was inspired by science-fiction writer, Ray Bradbury, and his short story of the same name, Wikipedia says, it describing:
a Mars-bound astronaut's mixed feelings at leaving his family in order to do his job. Musically, the song is a highly arranged pop ballad anchored by piano, with atmospheric texture added by synthesizer (played on the recording by engineer Dave Hentschel) and processed slide guitar. It is also known for being the first song in John's catalog to feature what would become the signature backing vocal combination of his band at the time, Dee Murray, Nigel Olsson and Davey Johnstone.
"Rocket Man" was ranked #242 in the 2004 list of Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. It was later changed to #245 in the list's 2010 revision.
In the 1960s and ‘70s. space flight caught the imagination of the world, but all that changed after the Challenger Space Shuttle accident (January 28, 1986) in the United States, which made many not only question the validity of space travel, but also retain less confidence in NASA in particular and space exploration in general. Some excitement remains, notably with the planned mission to Mars, but not to the same degree of excitement and wonder that was evident when this song was written and performed. You can’t go back to the past (not yet, at least), but you can enjoy its memories and what they collectively represent.