i-i me-me mine

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As I read my "blog" and the the blogs of others, I'm struck by one salient, recurring feature:

The sheer volume of usage of the two words "I" and "me".

There's something wrong with me, and with most of us. We think way too much, or not nearly enough, but when we do think at all, it's usually of ourselves.

And it's true that not one of us is going to live forever. Many of us will be gone within a year, or five years, or ten years, or twenty.

And yet more than a few of us (and I don't exclude myself from this very human habit) hold on to hurts and pains and old wounds and self-imposed fears and boundaries that prevent us from seeing life clearly or living life fully.

It's pretty difficult to write about your life (what you know) and not use the personal pronouns "I" and "me". But it's not hard to see that there is a paucity of usage concerning the words used to pertain to others, particularly if the words are good, positive, supportive, and loving words.

I read my writings about my great heroes, heroines, and teachers (Mary Lou Williams, Tony Williams, Philly Joe Jones, etc) and those articles are full of love and admiration and respect.

But I should add some names here, names of people whose small (or not-so-small) acts and words of kindness or generosity or just plain decency stuck with me and will go with me to my death:

Elaine: there are no words.

Tim: beyond words. I can't imagine the world without you.

Pat: so much of a surprise, so gentle and so driven to do good.

Gary Bartz: you're a very big man.

John Handy: you're another brave soul.

Victor and Ray: you've given me more than Music.

Dave and Mel: you're both amazing musicians and honorable men.

Abbey Lincoln: your smile was of an angel.

Diane: your gift is your self.

Sandy: please live forever.

JoAnn, my next-door neighbor: I hardly know you and you give so much to me.

...there are many more names, people I hardly know, people I know well. I'll add more over the next year.

And then there are the people that might think I don't admire them or understand them or approve of them. They're mostly mistaken. Hey! You know who you are.

Firstly, it doesn't matter what I think of you. That's my problem. And it doesn't matter what you think of me. That's your problem. Please be assured that if there is resentment or darkness in my heart, I'm working to root it out. It's my project, for my own health, and for my own good.

In any competitive field such as Music, or Art, or LIFE, we get the positive and the negative. We get strokes and we get smacked. Paraphrasing Mingus, we "git hit in our soul" and we are simultaneously pleading, "don't drop that ole' atom bomb on me!"

If we hold on to the smacks and forget the strokes, we wind up hurting. Believe me, I know. And so do you.

And if you find yourself thinking to yourself, "aha... she's hurting. She's getting hers! Goody goody!" ... well, these words I write here won't help much.


Our world is torn with prejudice and hate, poverty and disease, sadness and death.

It's also vibrant and alive with beauty and birth, creation and excitement, love and mercy.

And, in our little corner of the world, where we sit in our warm houses and reap the incredible benefits of freedom that committed men and women give their lives every day to ensure and protect, we become hypocrites every time we forget about the feelings and the longings and the inner lives of other people.

There is no higher calling than service to humanity. Regardless of what the frigid philosophies of "Objectivism" and "Survival of the Fittest Economic Policy" may stubbornly proclaim, most of us would still take Mother Theresa over Howard Roark any day.

Most of us would take the teachings of Jesus (whether we're Christian or not) over the rantings of a political pundit or a cold-hearted bigot. After all, wasn't the message Jesus brought to us about love?

Knowing all of this is a mighty goal. And remembering it is an even mightier one.

My New Year's Resolution is to work hard on being more of what and who I know I can be and, if necessary, less of what and who our culture expects me to be. That's the only way to change the culture, I think. That's the only way to make the world fairer, and quieter, and more loving.

My heart tells me:

Be the dream you have for your world. Dreams have great power. And the Dream has to put other people's hearts and feelings and loves and weaknesses and pain and joy right up there with your own.

We're all one, I said, long before I knew that it was true.

Well, it was, it is.