In the Spring a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love. ~ Lord Alfred Tennyson, Locksley Hall
I’m thinking Tennyson’s words do not only apply to men, and certainly not esclusively ‘young’ men. I think we’ve all experienced that rush of springtime ‘I’m in LOVE!‘ euphoria. There are many different explanations of why this happens in spring. According to Dr Frank Bronson, a biologist from The University of Texas at Austin, in his book Mammalian Reproductive Biology, spring fever in mammals is, in part, regulated by sunlight. (Sound damn romantic, doesn’t it?!) Bronson goes on to say there are both direct and indirect photoperiodic cues which increase the amorous air this time of year. Simply put, the change from winter to spring brings more sunlight, longer days, better moods, (less clothing!), and a better all-around climate for romance in mammals, including humans. The change in season also means plants and insects will begin to do their thing again, which has a positive effect up the food chain and creates an environment suitable for procreation. In us humans the procreation part is, of course, purely optional. (And, in my opinion, highly over-rated.)
So this explains why we do it, and why it seems to happen more often in spring. But, why does it make us feel so freaking amazingly good? For this I turned to the guys at AsapScience, a weekly updated YouTube channel featuring fun, interesting, and informative science on a variety of scientificy topics. Here’s what they had to say on the subject…..
Well, THAT certainly explains a lot! And it, without question, puts a wide smile on my face. What’s more — what science CAN’T explain, Louie Armstrong has no problem at all in doing so!
I agree with Louie, let’s do it! Get out there and fall in love!
I woke this morning with the intention to write my weekly Things I Loved piece before running off to the office. Then something happened.
I’ll start by stating I was not feeling ‘good’ about writing the piece. The past week was a very hectic one, and I hadn’t nearly the time to give attention to the blogs I’ve come to enjoy or to seek out new ones. So it was with this ‘bad’ feeling that I sat down fully intending to force myself to do something I was determined I would not enjoy.
I sat at my desk with my coffee and opened my email inbox. This is an act I’ve dreaded all week knowing my box would be loaded. And as anything which we focus on and convince ourselves will happen…the enviable happened, my inbox was over-flowing. As I sat there looking at it, and trying to decide if I should just give up and not write anything at all, a new email popped up. This one from Antonio Pinon and titled…The Gift of Story: The Art of Living Every Minute of Your Life.
Antonio posts very interesting and educational videos covering a range of topics…and they are always good. This particular one didn’t ‘call’ to me, it ‘screamed’ at me. There I was feeling crappy about not having time all week to do the things I love, and I was about to ‘rectify’ this by forcing myself to spend more time doing more things I did not love. Coffee in hand, I clicked open the post. My intention was to take a quick look and then bookmark it for later viewing. I ended up watching the entire 60 minute video. Not only did I watch it, I then emailed a link of it to a friend, called in to work to say I would not be in today, and watched the video again.
I am not a fan of ‘Inspirational’ or ‘Motivational’ videos. Sure, they’re great while we’re watching them and they may stay with us for a few days, but they rarely make any real difference in our lives. We watch the very inspirational guy or gal give their talk, we awe at their million dollar personalities, their million dollar smiles, their million dollar enthusiasm and determination, and their million dollar life-styles. They make it seem so simple to ‘be like them’. Then we always fail at following through. We fail because each of these methods of ‘living life to it’s fullest’ require us to change in fundamental ways. Change is inevitable, it happens whether we like it or not. However, forcing change to occur the way we’d like it to is very difficult and no amount of cheerleading can push us down the very long road to perfection.
Rachel Naomi Remen, M.D., UCSF School of Medicine, is not a cheerleader. She doesn’t flash a million dollar smile or whoop us up into a state of ‘Yes, We Can!’ frenzy. What she does is quietly, and humbly, share her experiences in years of working with terminally ill cancer patients. You would think this to be depressing, but Rachel is anything but.
Her talk caught my attention with the title The Gift of Story. Here on wordpress, whether we’re writers, photographers, or artists of any kind, we all tell stories through our work. Rachel uses her skill of story-telling to, quite elegantly and clearly, illustrate what she refers to as The View From the End of Life. She eloquently reminds us that at the end of each life…this is all anyone has, their stories.
Her message is honest and powerful because she doesn’t advocate the need to change our lives. She thinks we, and our lives, are just fine. What she does advocate is finding meaning and satisfaction in the lives we already live. In other words, put the focus on what we like about ourselves as opposed to futile attempts at forcing ourselves to change what we don’t like. As with anything, the more focus you give something, the stronger it becomes. This is why we’ll never match up to these ‘Inspirational’ speakers…the moment we start to fall short we begin to pay more attention to the failure than to the goal.
Rachel explains to us the importance of finding meaning in our lives, in who and what we already are. Meaning has the power to not change our lives, but change how we experience it. In fact, finding meaning is not about change at all. It’s not about doing things differently, it’s about seeing and thinking about familiar things in different ways. The meaning is already there, we only have to decide to pay attention to it.
Working with people who knowingly have come to the end of their lives, Rachel equates this end to shuffling a deck of cards. When the cards are given the final shuffle rarely do the ones we seem to pay so much attention to end up on top of the deck. Cards such as ‘perfection’, ‘power’, ‘possession’, and ‘pride’ rarely hold meaning when all is said and done. In the end, the top card is always love. Think about it, if you knew you were to die tomorrow…how much attention would you pay to those 10 extra pounds, or that sink full of dishes, or meeting a work deadline? Yet these are the very things which consume our thoughts, stress us out, and make us feel like failures. Ironically, it’s our own focus on the meaningless which gives it meaning. Even those who’ve somehow managed to achieve ‘perfection’ often find very little actual meaning or happiness in it.
Rachel’s patients and their view from the end of life is so much clearer than the view most of us have today. Their view shows us how very few things actually matter to us and, most importantly, how deeply those very few things really do matter. Should we wait to the end to realize that the ‘life’ we spent our time pursuing really doesn’t matter at all? What does matter, to risk sounding ‘inspirational’, is simple and accessible to each of us. What matters is who and what we touch, who and what touches us, and what we leave behind in the hearts and minds of others. What matters is we already do this every day, we don’t need to change a thing to do it. All we need is to realize we ARE doing it. We do it with our blogs, through our photography, through our words, through those we love and those we interact with each day. The more we realize and appreciate just how much we do it, how often we touch others, the better we become at it and the more we appreciate it.
So there will not be a proper ‘Things I Loved’ post this week. Do I feel guilty? Do I feel like a failure for not doing it? Not really. I do, however, thank Antonio and Rachel for reminding me to only focus and give meaning to the things I love. I greatly encourage you to make the time to watch this video which can be found on Antonio’s blog. Rachel is a MUCH better story-teller than I will ever be.
…why they will ALWAYS be happier than us Americans.
Remember when you were a kid riding your bike down a steep hill and, if you were coordinated enough, you’d release your grip on the handle bars, hold your arms out….and you’d fly! Remember that feeling? That freedom? And that absolute knowledge that nothing else mattered except this fucking moment. Then…the next day, the very next day, you woke and you were an adult. You woke with bills, work, obligation, and responsibility…and you lost the ability to fly.
For anyone who does not speak Portuguese (and shame on you if you don’t!) ‘voa’ means ‘fly’. Voa tells the tale of someone who is unloved, but still loves, someone who doesn’t spend a moment focusing on unhappiness and as a result finds happiness everywhere, someone who gratefully accepts the moment for just what it is, someone who accepts the people in his life for exactly who they are, someone who’s never lost the ability to fly….no matter what.
I feel so light, I can not believe….fly! Fly! Fly!
The choice to be happy…is ours. The choice to focus on the things we love, and not spend a second focusing on anything else… is ours. The choice to simply let go of anything which stops us from flying…is ours.
I LOVE…..Stalker Songs! With the sweet taste of Valentine’s Day still in our mouths, and my sympathies to any guys out there who didn’t quite spend enough on balloons, chocolate, and flowers to completely validate their honey’s fragile egos, lets now turn our attention to the darker, and far more interesting, side of love…..obsession. Particularly, the Stalker Song….
The Stalker Song comes in a couple of forms. It may be a song which on first listen seems like a sweet ode and exclamation of undying love and admiration…’undying’ being the key word. Or it could be just flat out creepy, no matter how many times one listens to it.
My first Stalker Song selection is a song which has….well, special meaning in my heart. I once came home to find a seemingly blank music CD tacked to my door…yes, a large tack placed through the hole in the CD and then driven into my door. Strange enough on its own, yes? However under the CD was also tacked a black and white photo of….me. The pic had been taken, without my knowledge, at an outdoor music festival I had attended the previous weekend. It was not a crowd shot, but a close up of me….at the festival…in black and white. There was no note or anything written on the CD. Creepy? Well….kinda, yes. There was only one song on the CD….and this was it….
My first thought, as I’m sure would be anyone’s, was…..’Fuck, Kim Deal plays the HELL out of that bass!’ And no, I never found out who this person was, obviously he lost interest shortly thereafter….or, as a friend suggested, I possibly started dating him without realizing him to be the ‘Door CD Tacker’. Whoever he was…he had GREAT taste in music (not to mention women!), and was a damn fine photographer.
My second Stalker Song selection comes from one of my favorite songwriters of all times, Elvis Costello. No one quite spits out the bitterness of cold, unrequited love as eloquently and venomously as Costello. This song actually causes the hairs on the back of my neck to stand up. It’s cool, creepy, chilling and completely delicious.
My third Stalker Song selection is Don’t Say A Word by Sonata Arctica. Yes, it’s quite long, and yes, it’s also quite demented and disturbing….and yes, I do now feel I need a shower….
This post was unintentionally inspired by a comment made by sinnercycling on my Happy Valentine’s Day post of yesterday…who I’m quite sure is thrilled with being linked to Stalker Songs. Great blog though…cycling, sinning, skiing…check it out!
~You should keep diving in, Alex. This is your specialty, your focus, your dedication. – Eric Murtaugh ……who’s awesome blog can be found here - http://ericmurtaugh.com/
I LOVE…Diving In! I once had a friend refer to me as ‘fickle’. This was because during World Cup 2010, when he asked me which team I liked I went on to tell him which team I liked in each of the 8 groups. The conversation went something like this..…
Him: No, no, no! You can’t have a team in each group. You can only have ONE team!
Me: (Quite stunned.) Why can I not have a team in each group? What’s the fun in that? What if my ONE team isn’t playing…or gets eliminated? I need options.
Him: You need options? No, you need a reality check. You’re too fickle.
Me: I am not! Explain to me why I can’t be completely excited about Brazil one day and then completely excited about Portugal the next.
Him: What the fuck?! Brazil!? Portugal?! They’re in the same group!
Me: I know. So?
Him: Didn’t you just say ONE team in each group?
Me: I’ve changed my mind. Two, I want two teams in each group.
Him: Two in each group? That’s half the teams playing in the entire fucking Cup! You want half the fucking teams?
Me: Yes…and you can have the other half. Woohoo! High-five!
Him: No, no high five. I’m not high-fiving you and your SIXTEEN fucking teams. I have one team.
Me: You can have Korea and Côte d’Ivoire….
Him: You have no conception of the word ‘loyalty’.
Me: I’m extremely loyal…
Me: To whatever I’m excited about at the moment.
Ok, so some may call me fickle or erratic, but I prefer to think of myself as curious, excitable, and fascinated by things around me. I do ‘dive in’ and I do it with both feet. I dive into romance, love, music, conversations, nature, exploration, discovery, the universe, and I can certainly dive into a large pizza with the works! (But no freaking anchovies!) I love learning and I absolutely love feeding off the passions of others….
You: I love popsicles!
Me: Me too!
You: Do you really?
Me: Well…I do now!
If someone is excited about something, I can’t help but feel that excitement and dive right in along with them. And I don’t want to go for a quick dip, I want to really experience it. I want to find, and revel in, that passion and excitement they feel. At this point some may be thinking that I have no convictions, no ideals, and no opinions of my own….but that’s not true. I’ve lots of them! In fact, that’s pretty much the entire purpose of this blog….things I LOVE. While I have tons of opinions, what I have very few of are rules….and the few I do have I’m very flexible with. I’m constantly changing the rules. Why go to all the hassle of breaking a rule when it’s easier to just change it? In my opinion, if you break a rule….it was probably a lot of fun, so eliminate the rule, eliminate the guilt, and enjoy yourself. Of course, there are some things I will not dive in to, some rules I will not break no matter how much some one else enjoys it….
You: I love anchovies!
Me: Me too! No, wait…did you say anchovies?
You: Yes, I love them!
Me: You’re weird….weird is good…
You: Don’t you like them?
Me: Nope, but…what else do you love?!
You: Quantum electrodynamics….
Me: Hell, yes! Tell me everything about it! You wanna go grab a popsicle?!
I LOVE…Louis Armstrong! Satchmo….the father of New Orleans jazz, the iconic and unmistakable sound of his trumpet and cornet, his instantly identifiable voice. Hearing him play I can’t help but smile. His complete virtuosity with either instrument, trumpet and cornet, absolutely testifies of someone totally in love with what he’s doing, in love with the music, and in love with which ever song he’s performing. He takes each song and owns it, makes it his. There is a joyousness in his solos, a relaxed easy-going feeling of someone who completely accepts things as they are and is happy with whatever that is. I adore his creatively, his style of always pushing his playing to the edge of his abilities, and his way of presenting standards in his own unmistakable way.
But even more than his horn playing, I love his voice. He sang just as he played, with creativity and improvisation, pushing his vocals to the edge, using his voice as an instrument. There is a warmth in his voice which, to me, feels like a warm cup of rich, sweet coffee on a cold and rainy day. There is a ‘feel’ to his vocal style, just as with his playing, it’s a feel of acceptance. When listening to him, I can almost picture a man determined and happy to be himself, no matter what. A man content to walk down any road and to do so happily. His voice reminds me of the guy who at the end of the day shrugs, throws his jacket over his shoulder, and walks away with a smile on his face knowing….there must be a way.