Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Purity v. Happiness


Purity, that's the word that has come to mind today due, primarily to two pieces of music I have been listening to. The first is a Genesis concert from 1973 on YouTube. The footage and sound are incredible for a man who has been listening to the band since childhood. I read the commentary and found that the audio has been pretty heavily overdubbed. It made me wonder if what I was seeing and hearing was real enough, but then I gave up worrying and enjoyed it. I gave up purity for the sake of enjoyment.

A similar musical event is happening for me now as I listen to a bootleg of the actual sound from The Band's Last Waltz concert. I downloaded it after reading the Wikipedia page and finding that there were lots of tunes that hadn't been included on the album. The entry also stated that the movie soundtrack was way overdubbed. I wanted to hear the original sounded like. I'm listening to it right now and, for the most part, it sucks.

The purist I have been would demand real facts whereas now I'm more interested in the truth. I use those two words, fact and truth, in the sense that I have after reading Tim O'Brien's How to Tell a True War Story from The Things They Carried, a book everyone should read. In the story, O'Brien discusses how a thing can have happened and be a total lie while another thing could be made up and be truer than the truth.

The truth of these two recordings is that the Genesis video sounds and looks great, the hell with its accuracy, and The Band's Last Waltz was meant to be heard in its overdubbed glory. The actual sounds of it are curiosities and there's nothing wrong with investigating curiosities, but there comes a time for me to accept that truth trumps purity.

All of this is related to the thoughts I've had this New Year's Day about resolutions. I've long been big on the purity of resolutions and my adherence to them. That is, I make pure and noble resolutions and fail to keep them every moment of every day for the full 365. Once I fall down, I give up because the purity of the thing is gone.

Last year I set a goal of running at least two miles every day of the year. I lasted two weeks before tiring of the obligation. I set a new goal to run 1000 miles in the year. It took me months to realize that I was beating myself with the numbers. I took a month off from running and kept thinking how bad I was and how much I was failing. I was stuck on the purity of a goal and chastising myself for not being pure enough.

I'm impure. That's how I'm starting this new year. I'm a mess. And here's the thing: I kind of like it. I'm sitting on this couch with a raised scar on my neck from my operation, with a big belly from eating too much, but with plans to keep going on happily. I'd love to go out for a run, but my doctor hasn't cleared me. I would love to eat better and tomorrow I might. For now, I'm the person I am and, when it comes down to it, I'm good. And so is this life.

Let it be resolved this New Year's Day that I lack purity, that this life has its ups and downs, and that this day is no more special than yesterday or tomorrow. Let is also be resolved that I am doing well, that life is awfully sweet and wonderful, and that today is as wondrous as yesterday was and tomorrow will be. Now those are good resolutions there.

It all comes down to this: in the race between purity and happiness, I choose to be happy. I haven't always. I didn't always know I had the choice, but I know it today and I hope to remember it tomorrow. Beyond that, who knows? About the only thing I know for sure is that it feels good to write on.

I like 2013 so far. How about you?