Thoughts on Life

There used to be a hotel in Manhattan, NYC, U.S.A. It was a large, 5 star Marriott and it connected the base of the twin towers of the World Trade Center. 17 years ago it was destroyed, the towers were demolished, and citizens were murdered in a horrific attack by men who themselves gave their own lives motivated by almost equally horrific intent, in a desire to bring this country to its knees.

In May of that year, I stayed in that hotel. Later, after 9/11, I was attending a conference in Washington D.C. Before departure from the airport to travel to Dulles, I was checking my pockets for any metal items and felt something in an inside pocket. It was this:


It is my room key, and I still have it. I can hardly return it, so I keep it in a box along with a few other choice items. This post is about that only obliquely. But:

Here’s to those who died in the attack in NYC (not those who committed the crime). 

Here’s to the first responders and those who also died in heroic efforts to save someone, anyone.

Here’s to those who came later. Quickly, they came, and they offered all aid without question.

Here’s to the great city of New York and her resilience, her tenacity, and her looking to another future. Immediately, cleanup and rebuilding began, and she showed her true character as she kept working. 

Life is like that, done properly. It is symphonic in tone, shifting from one movement into the next. There is no quitting, no giving up. It does not end until the finale, always grand in one way or another. Never an Eliot whimper, no the symphonic life ends with, if not a bang, then a triumph.

And, unlike any musical symphony, the symphonic life never actually ends at all . . .

Today was something like symphonic in tone, I felt. The music I listened to as I worked—easily I worked today—was largely symphonic and everything I did seemed to have meaning to accompany it. I was doing what I always do, making it in the shade on Shade, but it had a more firm, a more clear purpose. The entire station was told to have 8-hour days with no overtime, except for four of us ODLers, who would play cleanup at the end of the day. And, even with that cleanup, I was home by 5:30. It may be the last time for a while, but it was nice.

And then, musically (I tuned in to the same station when I got home), there was another shift in tone. It was delightful, the sounds that filled my place as I puttered around. Very pleasant, smile-inducing music was resounding in ultra-high fidelity and I smile now even thinking about it, although I am playing a record now (the Toshiko Akiyoshi trio). Analog always makes me smile. The record has ended, the spiral grooves tracked by the tip of a diamond stylus perfectly. And that spiral ends in a loop at the center. It is now quiet with only the faint sound of a diamond in a loop cut into a disc of vinyl that is so clean I’d have to turn the volume up to half even to hear a microscopic dust particle.

I should tell you that the following year, in 2002, I was in NYC again on the Staten Island Ferry sometime after midnight. It’s free, always, and I was going out to the island in the middle of the night, then I’d return to another hotel in Manhattan. I went to the back deck and gazed at the receding skyline of Manhattan in the distance. My stomach took a turn at what had been forever altered. It was a breathtaking difference.

The symphonic life may also give way to, or at its best, incorporate another kind of life. Using a similar music analogy, it is a life together (mysterium convivium) where certain players are featured, sometimes in tandem, sometimes as individuals, often yielding to one another in prominence or deference, always intertwined themselves with the orchestra. It is both a symphonic life and much more. That is the life to rebuild upon.

Just as rebuilding began in NYC 17 years ago, we can rebuild anytime, anywhere in such a life. Interwoven with the symphonic, such a  life becomes a glorious concerto . . .