In my most elemental core, I’m not an optimist. I can see the dark side of most everything and it’s not something I’m proud of. It would be like not being proud of freckles or red hair or a big nose. I can’t easily change it and I certainly would if I could.
My wife accusingly teases me of living in the past. She’s right. I do live in the past. I have way more past than future and it’s only natural to gravitate toward times of youth, times of wonder, and times of less worry. I’m not one to say the old days were better ( I don’t believe that) but I do believe that some old days were better. For me, anyhow.
But when I’m at my optimistic best, there are a few touchstones that I gravitate toward. Music, family, laughter, food, courage and resilience.
I haven’t travelled extensively but I’ve worked with people from all over the world, from every habitable continent. And I’ve learned a few things. Everyone loves music. Maybe not the same kind of music but music lifts souls across the globe in ways that are indistinguishable by geography.
I’ve seen African, East Asian, South American children in their strollers on the bus, cared for by tired mothers and the children laugh and cry in the same language. They love hugs and kisses, distractions and tickles. We’re all the same. It’s ridiculous that we spend our youths and adult hoods learning about our differences instead of the innumerable amount of things we have in common.
Music is a difficult thing for me. At times it’s the most personal language I can speak. And I feel like I’m the only one who completely understands that language. At other times, I think of it as the most inclusive, universal language we’ve invented as humans. I believe that music and mathematics are two sides of the same coin. Twins, they are. One’s the analytical one and one’s the creative one. And from day to day that assignation is reversible.
I love the group Choir, Choir, Choir. It brings people together in a way that nothing else does. Everyone is a singer. Everyone is soulful. Everyone feels it. Check them out. It lifts my spirit.
I read a book recently that had the Battle of Vimy Ridge as a plot point. And the Canadian kid, who was of German decent, could hear the Germans in the nearby trenches talking to each other. He understood their words and understood that they were speaking of the same things the Canadian kids were speaking of in the trenches. Girls back home, mom’s cooking, the bible, music, love. We’re all the same.
I’m going to the war museum tomorrow and I’m going to think about my ancestors who gave up their youth and their lives but I’m also going to think of the boys on the other side who gave up everything as well. They all gave up the same things because they all loved the same things. The only difference is the colours they died for. And the prayers they said as they breathed their last breaths.