BRING. BACK. ACE.
Ruth Ann Scanzillo
February 21, 2021.
BRING. BACK. ACE.
Ruth Ann Scanzillo
February 21, 2021.
I just spent about four minutes scanning a Yale professor’s piece on the nature of genius. Nothing really grabbed me until he touched on gender bias. Women seemed less interested in competing for intellectual superiority. (As if such were even possible, in a woman’s world or any.) When I reached the professor’s self-devised formula for defining genius, I stopped reading.
Apparently, in his equation and in order to qualify, one’s life had to have the fated S. You know, G = S + whatever. S stood for Significance; one life contribution had to reach a wide swath of other people, such that its influence either affected social change or altered the course of history.
Don’t worry. I’m not about to make any claims of cerebral superiority; my elder brother wears that mantle. Plus, all the sugar consumed since retiring from public education has likely dissolved much of whatever there was of pre-frontal cortextuality.
What struck me was the term. “Significance.” That’s really what I’d been seeking. Not Recognition, or even Affirmation. Just the feeling associated with having done something to make being on the planet worthy of breath.
Just under four years ago about to the day, I’d embarked on loving somebody. What made the decision so jarring was just having come off perhaps the peak of my performance career, a collaborative piano recital garnering the, okay, affirmation of those I’d clamored after for decades – full professors of music, whom I’d called colleagues in the privacy of my mind. Had I stayed on that new plateau, really traveled across its terrain, I might not be sitting here in the silence of my house typing this story at all.
No. Instead, I arose the morning after that concert and met up with the man. We walked his dogs. We talked. He would have kissed me, as we parted. He came back, instead. And, we were off.
Off, that is, to pursue and indulge and submerge and strive and cleave and hew and cry, then wonder and fret, antagonize, apologize (me), modulate, recapitulate. The song was way too long. The theme was nothing new, and the composition simply would not hold itself together.
Yet, the whole time, I told myself I was loving somebody.
Somebody, other than myself. Not the artist, the creative, the somehow talented younger sister of the celebrated family genius. Some one other person, alone in the world, fraught by a history only a handful could claim, really difficult to crack open, the ultimate challenge of other-directedness. This project would elevate my life beyond petty competition for rank or station. This would transcend securing a position as staff pianist for a university music department. Choosing to love more than mere aspiration would be a spiritual quest, requiring every facet of human awareness and commitment.
Growing up in the shadow of genius makes a person acutely aware of all the disparities. Not in social opportunity; I’m talking about what’s between people, that which separates them, the stuff that makes people different rather than the same.
I learned early that what I did easily, what drew me, occupied me alone. Nothing I really wanted to do involved anybody else. And, as I grew, my value became about what I could do which distinguished me. By adolescence, my body told me that this would never be enough. I looked outside of myself, and discovered a need to feel more than merely the object of curious attention.
We siblings were all taught the same things, but how we made them relevant in our lives was as different as we were from one another. The genius went out, and made the world come to him. I stayed home, and waited for what was born in my imagination to appear. When it only manifested inside my head I relinquished to what I’d been told: if I wanted love, I must first give it.
My attempts to do so were always wholehearted; the results were repeatedly bewildering and, ultimately, heart aching. I poured myself back into my art.
Choosing to try, one more time, coming just as I had finally hit my expressive stride will have to be explained by the one looking on. Veering off a path so clear, the mind specialists might offer, is about a certain fear. Perhaps I had acquiesced to the rule of disparity. Perhaps I could not accept that fortune and artistic satisfaction were my future, and chose instead to give myself away.
Somewhere, the tune changed. Then, the music ended. Everything cliche’d about intention and mutuality played in a loop, on an old cassette recorder in the corner of solitude. Whatever I thought I’d been doing just stopped.
The object of my love wanted no part of my intention. He repeatedly extracted himself until only figments remained in final retreat. Absolute absence left no ripple.
Pianos don’t move; they just wait. I’d been playing, all along, kind of on low grade maintenance as a service; but, slowly, each new piece began to bespeak a strange promise. Today, I played like my life depended on it. And, that piano loved me back, with its own, unconditional song.
Perhaps what we do and why we do it isn’t for us to say. Maybe we really are just a flicker in the flow of life, as insignificant as we can be. Even the genius has a moment or two of wonder mixed into all that grand earth shaking. Ask the child with special needs; even brilliance has its season.
I suppose the Yale professor, and all those whose time is spent observing those on the floor above might have something to say about all this. But, while he and his ilk are figuring out everybody else, you’ll know where you can find me. I’ll just be starting up where I stopped, perhaps differently than anything deemed significant, but loving in the only way I ever knew how.
© 1/29/2021 Ruth Ann Scanzillo. Please don’t parse out this piece, or translate and then publish it. I wrote it, and it represents what was born in my head. You have something in yours. Go, find it. Thank you.
*Author’s Note: Having just completed a final edit on what I thought was [my] definitive piece on tonight’s event, herewith another. It must be the Klondike bar and the two Snicker’s ice creams, still coursing through each synapse. Notwithstanding the caffeinated drive, it’s time.
Who are these people?
They, who turn out in droves – unmasked, roaring, nearly hysterical in their devotion to the man who rails right back in their faces, spewing half or fully fleshed lies never fact checked by any of them, declaring himself their saviour, glory hallelujah, his version of the truth still marching on?
The people. Yes. Who are they?
To my eyes, having either been or worked among every class and station – from floor mopper to dishwasher to short order cook; to server, to clerk, to merchant; machinist, to shop owner, to skilled craftsman; engineer, to architect, to executive; instructor, to clinician, to professor; researcher, to documentarian, to published reviewer; performer, to producer, to artist and visionary…Donald Trump’s people are found to populate three, distinct yet not unrelated groups: a.) the indefatigable Evangelical Christian Right; b.) those of largely deferred intellect who have devoted their lives to the assembly line, and b.) those of incredible, accumulated wealth – who hire them.
Of these groups, taken together, the latter two are inextricably bound; one cannot exist without the other. And, unlike the former ECR, neither is exclusive to any particular race or creed.
What of the military-industrial complex imagined by, who was it, Harry Truman? The birth of the assembly line bred more than endlessly produced mass quantity; it evolved an entire mentality, committed to vapid, repetitive motion for hours at a time, five days per week, every week of every year, minus earned vacation time the breadth of one of them. Only the rare creative had a mind capable of escaping the task into the realm of imagination, perhaps to reserve what scant energy remained at day’s end to apply such pursuits.
The moment, if one can be isolated, is pivotal; every American who covets their job on that line, in that factory, at that counter, and every elite from upper management who seeks to protect a glorious lifestyle comparatively unburdened by the weight of taxation – whether earned honorably, or bestowed – has an interest. A vested interest, heavily invested, that shall not be moved.
No movement, no progression – toward evolving away from assembly line drudgery to supplanting artificial intelligence – engenders anything but abject fear. Fear, of utter loss – their only productive identity melded to and branded by the very work to which they have sacrificed their lives.
The notion that total upheaval of the internal structure of that military-industrial complex, to: a.) accommodate solar and wind power; b.) displace fossil fuels, and c.) replace product materials with the biodegradable and non-toxic can be realized through re-training and upgrading is met with ferocious resistance. Why?
Mentality is entrenched. Re-structuring systems does not a new mentality make. That which is unfamiliar is a perceived threat. Add to that equation the aging of the relevant population and you have a flank of refusal. The door is barred. Rather than endure the rigors of metamorphosis, the shop would rather shut.
The path, therefore, of least resistance is provided for them all. His name is Donald J Trump. No matter that his primary motive is self serving; in a twist of unavoidable irony, his megalomania serves the need of a massive throng, a culture of stubbornness borne of the security of familiarity and acute absence of vision. They who stand at the conveyor from sun up to the horn at day’s end, and those who own them, get to keep that to which they have become accustomed. Any revelation pertaining to the degree to which their actions poison or otherwise destroy the very earth under their feet or the water which sustains them is summarily dismissed, if only because it doesn’t fit their narrative of honorable employment and income.
If leadership for the people by the people shall not perish from the Earth, hadn’t it better be immersed in creating an awakening toward possibility rather than the sting of fright? How people feel, even to those whose emotional response, whose inner life, has been dulled to the point of distant memory, is still a vital aspect on the road toward human health and sustainability.
But, such a leader had better recognize the magnitude and importance of the task at hand, because Donald Trump has captured how the entrenched define their personal worth and provided an apparent path for its continued realization. No matter that he is a dishonest businessman, a shrewd manipulator of systems, and an arrogant ass; he validates those who lack the intellectual reach to imagine a life beyond the one they hold as close to their vests as the next shallow breath they take.
Click on the link below, to hear best selling author, Thomas Friedman, declare the names of the states already IN TRANSITION to alternative fuels and address whether there are jobs for the “thick-fingered” worker:
© 10/21/2020 Ruth Ann Scanzillo. All rights those of the author, whose name appears above this line. Sharing permitted by blog link, exclusively. Thank you for respecting original material.