About Brotherly Love

This post is intended to be a sequel to an earlier post.  However, I’ve tried to write it in such a way that if you don’t feel like going back and reading the earlier post, it will still make sense.

A while back, I wrote about how my father’s attitude toward me influenced my choice to pursue a career in the Performing Arts, against his wishes.  But I left out some information about the family dynamics involved.  Partly, I did this because the post would have been much too long.   But also I did not wish to implicate any of my living family members in any way, nor cause them to stumble along their paths.

brotherly love-2After reflection, I’ve decided to make an effort to express something of value that I don’t think would be negative information, should my brother chance to read this blog (which is, by the way, highly unlikely). Hopefully, this information, if it hasn’t crossed his mind already, will be as useful to him as the information in the previous post was to me.

I have already revealed how my father’s desire that I, the firstborn son, follow in his footsteps came into conflict with my natural genetic and God-given predisposition.  I simply was not inclined toward things like electronics, mechanics, and carpentry.  So my father was always disappointed in me, even though I showed strong skills in completely different areas.

My younger brother, however, turned out to be quite attracted to electronics and to scientific matters in general.  As a result, he spent much of his time alone with Dad, in Dad’s special radio room, learning such skills.  He wound up finishing high school in only three years, getting 800’s across the board on Math, Math Level Two, Chemisty, and Physics, being accepted to the technology school of his choice, graduating from college with a 4.0 GPA, getting a Ph.D. in Math from an even more prestigious University, and enjoying a successful career as an electrical engineer, chip designer, and Math research professor.  Needless to say, I am very proud of him.

However, the message that Dad gave me; specifically, that I “could not do anything right,” was painful enough, without it having to be combined with a second message, one that I did not relate in the earlier post.  That message was this:

“And I hate to break it to you, Andy,
but your brother?
There’s no reason to worry about him!

Now, what kind of message do you think my brother would have been receiving all of this time?  Granted, I wasn’t there when he and Dad spent so much alone together.  I was alone in my bedroom, playing the Wurlitzer spinet piano that they had moved there for my convenience.  But it only stands to reason that the message would have been something like this:

“Son, you’re making me proud.
There’s no reason to worry about you!
Too bad Andy can’t do anything right.”

While the impact of my having received a message from a father at an early age that I was incapable of “doing anything right” was hard enough, I can only imagine what the impact of my father’s message to my brother might have been.  What would it be like to have grown up believing that there was no reason for anyone to worry about me?  Again, I can only imagine. 

My brother and I are now in our mid-sixties.  Without going into horrendous detail, I can guarantee you that there are plenty of reasons to be worried about him.   Though he did have a successful career, and I remain proud of him for that reason, he doesn’t seem to get any exercise, he was severely overweight last I saw him; and frankly, some of his personal habits and practices are troublesome.  It would not be very discreet of me to state what these habits are specifically.   Suffice it to say that they are the kinds of practices that people generally find to be problematical.  

So, while I am programmed from an early age to believe that there’s no reason to worry about my brother, that programming is in the process of being shattered — just as much as my age-old idea that I “can’t do anything right” is being shattered.  I also wonder if some of his troublesome behaviors and attitudes are a result of an age-old, unconscious idea that Dad planted in him; specifically, that there is no reason for him to worry about himself. 

There are numerous other facets to this, not the least of which has to do with our Myers-Briggs types.  My brother, like my best female friend, are both INTJ’s.  I will contend that the INTJ is the most self-confident of all the types.   I also tend to get along with INTJ’s better than with any of the other types — hence my best female friend.  But we INFJ’s can find ourselves riddled with self-doubt.  Does this not recall Dad’s treatment of both of us, at an early age?

While I am not, by nature, a worrier; I am, by choice, a believer. So rather than worry about my brother, I choose to pray for him instead.

You see, my brother and I love each other.  There is no doubt whatsoever about that.  And while I wouldn’t exactly want my brother to “worry” about his health, I do pray that he wll cease to overlook some of my quite natural concerns.   But then again, am I my brother’s keeper?

The answer to that would be another blog post, or even an entire book, in itself.

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The Host Awaits

This piece, “The Host Awaits,” is from the musical I wrote between the years 2004 and 2008, entitled The Burden of Eden.  It is also known in certain circles as “Apologies to Peter Pan.”  You might note the Jule Styne references toward the end, if you’re hip.

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Statement of Artistic Neurosis

I’m sorry to have to do this to you guys, but if I don’t submit my statement of artistic neurosis very soon, the neurosis is likely to increase.

My neurosis is most manifested in two recent posts, one which I have deleted, and one which I am about to delete.   The one which I have deleted is Tuesday Tuneup 28.   I will probably compose a shorter and less wild tuneup soon, and post it in its place.   

Secondly, we have the issue of Brian’s Song.  This one I won’t delete until I’ve played it to my satisfaction.   Then I’ll replace it on the same link.  (By the way, since this will probably take me forever, you might as well continue to enjoy it, if you happened to like it the first time.)   To be honest, I was ready to delete it about twenty minutes after the first time I listened to it.  But then, when I went to remove the post, I found that three people had already commented on how much they liked it.  I couldn’t bare to delete it after that, because people had liked it, even though I had not.

There’s probably a psychological term for that form of people-pleasing.  In a lay person’s terms, I would say it relates to my having been brought up as an entertainer.  Please allow me to elaborate.

These days, we hear a lot about people who have been traumatized in early childhood, due to abuse or neglect on the part of parents or other older “role models” in their lives.  My childhood contained nothing of the sort.

Bob Hope
Bob Hope

When I was five years old, my family was calling me the “Bob Hope of the future” due to my propensity to entertain them with original jokes that seemed a bit out of character for a five year old.  

When I was eight years old, I basically kicked the school music teacher, Mrs. Bechmire, off of the piano bench and began to accompany the elementary school choir.

By the time I was about ten, it was not uncommon for news cameras to show up wherever I happened to be playing the piano, as people shouted out requests.

Play Hello Dolly!

I gladly indulged their requests, after which I would tell a few jokes, soak in the applause and the laughter, and go about my merry way.   While other children were being abused and neglected, I was being belauded and praised.   Only one person did not join in that praise: my dad.

While everyone was encouraging me to pursue a career in the Performing Arts, my dad (whom I idolized) was expressing extreme disappointment that his firstborn son was not following in his footsteps.

However, I could not follow in his footsteps, and for two very good reasons:

(1) I wasn’t genetically wired to be good at things like carpentry, electronics, and auto mechanics.   My DNA was heading me in a very different direction, at a very early age.

(2) Whenever he tried to teach me these things, I couldn’t focus or understand what he was saying.   Looking back, there are probably two reasons why this is true:

(a) I had severe, untreated ADHD.

(b) I was terrified of my father’s disappointment.   I wanted terribly to please him, and yet he was the one person whom I could not please.

So, while Dad tried to mold me into a junior form of his own self, I cowered in fear of the words that were soon to come:

“Andy, I’m afraid you can’t do anything right!”   

My father was a Jack of All Trades.   As such, he also happened to be a very fine piano player.  But for some reason, the piano was the one thing he did not try to teach me.  I watched him play piano after dinner between the ages of 5 and 7, and told him repeatedly:

“I see what you’re doing!  I’ve figured it all out!”

At that, Dad would chuckle.  “You can’t learn how to play a piano just by watching somebody play!”

But lo and behold, when I was seven years old, I stepped out of the bathtub one day (where I had been practicing “Old McDonald” and “Mary Had a Little Lamb” on my imaginary bathtub keyboard.)   Sitting down confidently at the piano, I played the two children’s songs on the piano, never having a played a piano before.  (With both hands, too!)  My mom just about dropped a plate of spaghetti on the floor, and rushed me to the nearest piano teacher.   

ragtime piano player
The Type of Piano Player that Dad Was

It was me against Dad from then on.   He tried to mold me into the type of piano player that he was.   But it didn’t work.  I became the type of piano player whom I am.   

So that’s my story in a nutshell.  I couldn’t please my Dad, so I went out of my way to please everybody else.  And how better to please them — than to entertain them.  And if anybody can apprise me as to the proper psychological term for this kind of disorder or dynamic, please fill me in.   Only one caveat — anybody saying Narcissistic Personality Disorder may expect a pie in their face.

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Tuesday Tuneup 28

Q. Where would you like to be?

A. In a place of greater vigilance.

Q. What do you mean by that?

A. By vigilance?  You know what vigilance means – surveillance, watchfulness, attentiveness, alertness —

Q. But you mean something deeper than that, don’t you?

A. What makes you think so?

Q. Aren’t I the one who’s supposed to be asking the questions?

A. Okay, look.  I mean greater awareness.  More keen to what’s happening around me, and what possibly could happen.  More mindful of the conceivable consequences of my actions.  Vigilance.

Q. Why is this important to you?  

A. Because it’s the fourth of the five principles of the Practical Pentacle, and all of these principles are important to me: integrity, confidence, diligence, vigilance, and fortitude.

Q. Where did those words come from?

A.  I guess the short answer would be, “off the top of my head.”

Q. And the long answer?

A. You asked for it.  Around about 2012, I was in an environment where there were a lot of Pagans.  Or, I guess, Neopagans would be more accurate.  Some of them wore pentacles, and one of them told me that if I chose to employ a pentacle, I would not necessarily have to use the standard five points of “Earth, Air, Fire, Water, and Spirit” – but could pick any five principles I thought would work for me.   So I said: “I’ll use integrity, confidence, diligence, vigilance, and fortitude.”  

Q. Just like that?

A. Pretty much.  Not sure where they come from, to be honest with you, but it all seemed pretty positive.

Q. Then what did you do?

A. Naturally, I started looking online for a pentacle to purchase.

Q. You actually purchased a pentacle?

A. Actually, no.  I stopped short.

Q. Why?

A. Couldn’t find one off-hand that looked right.  And then, in the time it was taking to look, I began to have reservations.

Q. Like what?

A. Well, being as I was a piano player at a Christian church at the time, I thought it might be odd if I showed up wearing a Pagan pentacle.

Q. But how do you really feel about this oddity?

A. You know me.  I don’t think it should be odd.  So what if I’m wearing a necklace shaped like a five-sided star?   As a Christian, I’m free to where whatever I please, as long as it’s not overly revealing or provocative.

Q. But doesn’t the Pentacle connote an anti-Christian religion?

A. What makes you think Neopaganism is an anti-Christian religion?

Q. Aren’t I supposed to ask the questions?

A. Okay look.  Getting down to brass tacks, there is nothing wrong or immoral about wearing a five-sided star, and associating each side of the star with a positive spiritual principle.   Nothing evil in that.  But because, to some people, it would appear to be evil, I declined, for their sake.  The Scripture does say: “Abstain from all appearance of evil.”

Q. So you’re saying a Christian has to look good?

A. To a degree, yes.  Appearances are important.   They’re not all-important.  They’re certainly not more important than reality.  But certain kinds of appearances have a way of messing with people’s realities, and that just isn’t cool.

Q. So, in other words, you bailed out?

A. I suppose you could put it this way.   But Christianity does involve being concerned for others in our midst.

Q. And this is why you wimped out?

A. More-or-less.

Q. Well then, if you never bought the pentacle, and never actually wore the pentacle, how does the pentacle still figure into your trip?

A. It’s an internal pentacle.  I have it inside me.

Q. You do?

A. I do.  I believe that it was placed inside me as a device to assist me in getting something accomplished — something which I very much need to do.

Q. What is it that you need to do?

A. You already know that.  It’s all over this website.   Everybody knows what I’m trying to do.  I’m rather surprised you would even bother to ask.

Q. But how do these principles help?

A. It’s a matter of applying them, moment by moment, one at a time.

Q. Can you elaborate on that?

A. I’ll try.  Integrity is the first and most important.  Before I make a creative or professional decision, I need to run it past my integrity.  I need not prostitute myself.

Q. And then?

A. Confidence.   Faith, essentially, that I have what it takes to get it done.

Q. What next?

A. I already told you.  Diligence.  That means, work, discipline, sticking to it, keeping a schedule — all that stuff.   And then, vigilance.   Awareness of the greater picture.  Preparation for possible dangers and pitfalls.   Finally, fortitude.

Q. Meaning?

A.just do it Just do it.  

Q. Take the leap, eh?

A. That’s right. Take the plunge.

Q. But – but – the plunge to where?

A. We don’t know quite where.  That’s what makes it a plunge.

Q. But – for what reason?   Why bother with any of this?

A. Because I need to get something done.

Q. What do you need to get done?

A. You already know that.

Q. And you don’t?

A. No, sir.  I do, if anyone does.   But –

I tire of talking about it.  I burn myself out having to explain myself all the time, over and over.  It gets tedious.   And people are tired of hearing about it.   I get tired of telling people that it’s going to cost me $200 a night to rent out the theatre where I want to showcase my musical, and that I’m going to have to come up with $15/hr for each member of the technical staff they provide me.  I get tired of harping on the fact that I’m an impoverished old guy with a serious health condition who somehow managed to put together an entire musical — book, music & lyrics — about the Homeless Phenomenon in America.   I’ve been screaming “money talks, bullshit walks” for so long that I’m begining to sicken my own self.   

And that dollar figure you see when you click here?   That money went to pay for my critique and demo recording, a long time ago.  When was the last payment?  In May?  From February to May I managed to scrape up $950 – or Danielle did, bless her heart.   But do you realize it’s October already?   What’s happened between May and October?  Damn near nothing.   I need the bucks!   It’s maddening.  Sometimes I need to apply all five principles at once just to keep my head together . . .

Q. Andy, what is the bottom line?

A. Bucks.  I need the bucks – the bucks . . .

Q. Come on, Andy — is money really the bottom line?

Q. You know me.  Of course it’s not.   Homelessness is the bottom line.  It’s as low as it gets.   It’s the weakest link in the country right now — and we need to be about strengthening our weak links — or else the whole chain is going to break, and fast.

A. How do you know this?

Q.  Dude — you sit on a sidewalk for five years, watching the urban world buzz by at a lightning pace, on a marathon race to nowhere, and you have a lot of time to make observations and draw conclusions.   Believe me, I didn’t put this show together because I was talking out of my hat.  

Q. What do you need the most?

A. Fortitude.  I need for somebody to take some action here.   Take a risk.  Have courage.  Believe in me.  Just do it.   

Q. Just do — what?

A. What you’re thinking about right now — you who have so encouraged me by having read to the bottom of this whole long page.   Please — we don’t have all night.   Daylight’s burning.  We gotta get this show on the road.   Just do it!

Q. Just do – what, again?   

A. Do you honestly expect me to answer that?

Q. Aren’t I the one who’s supposed to be asking the questions?

A. You tell me.  

The Questioner is silent.  

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Tuesday Tuneup 25

Q. Where would you like to be?

A. In a place of greater integrity.

Q. What makes you think you lack integrity?

A. Hypocrisy.

Q. What makes you a hypocrite?

A. I say things for effect.  I don’t speak my truth.  I say things that I think will entertain the person I’m with.  Or, if not entertain them, in some way impress or please them.  I’m a hypocrite, kinda like a politician.  

Q. But don’t you value your integrity?

A. That I do.

Q. Then surely, doesn’t this come through in your interactions with others?

A. Perhaps.  But I think it’s far clouded over by the entertainer aspect.

Q. Are you saying that you don’t think people take you seriously?

A. Exactly.  That’s what it is.  They don’t take me seriously, because even my truth is obscured by all the entertainer tactics.

Q. Tactics?

A. You know — making them laugh, making them smile, making them cheer, making them clap.

Q. Won’t it help you in your cause to get them on your side?

A. Sure.  But it’s not really my side that I get them on.  I only get them on the side of the entertainer.

Q. And who is the entertainer?

A. The entertainer is a guy who has been trained to try to take people’s mind off of their troubles.

Q. And how does this conflict with your truth?

A. My truth ought to actually remind them of their troubles, and get them to want to do something about them.

Q. So your truth and your entertainer are in conflict?

A. You could put it that way.

Q. Which is more important?

A. My truth.

Q. Then why not ditch the entertainer?

A. Old habits die hard.  

Q. Can’t you try?

A. I can.

Q. Will you?

A. Give me three weeks.

Q. What will happen then?

A. You’ll come back and check, and see how I’m doing.  Say, around Tuesday Tuneup 28.

Q. May I be excused then?

A. You may.

The Questioner is silent. 

 

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