Most of you know that Vonnegut is my favorite author. I've read many of his books, and I'm approaching the halfway mark as far as making my way through all of his works. Late last night I finished "Timequake", which is a semi-autobiographical novel that explores the idea of the world rewinding, forcing every human to relive the last decade of his or her life without the ability to change anything. It's described in the book as a sort of autopilot, or even a real-life play in which the actors are people who can't move off-script. Much of the action takes place directly following the 10-year replay, and how the idea of free will is quite gray. For example, certain physical stimuli force a reciprocal response, like stubbing your toe, or seeing something you find really funny. My good friend, Brandon, used to joke about how musicians who miss notes can't help but to look at the conductor to see if he noticed anything. This is another example of that. We're days away from the year 2015, which is significant in my life. In 2015 I've been an adult (for all intents and purposes) for a decade. When I think about 10 years since graduating high school, I think of my having done everything I was "supposed to do". College comes after high school for many kids, so that's what I did. For musicians training to become professionals, graduate school is typical, so why wouldn't I have done that? Even after leaving USC, the Detroit Symphony Fellowship was the obvious step, followed by my winning a job. So after 10 years of life (which has been very exciting and eventful, mind you), I'm sitting here wondering if all of that can be considered a grand iteration of stubbing my toe – you know, doing something because it’s a natural response to some stimuli. Back in grad school, the idea of not having the next, clear step in front of me was very scary. Before winning the Fellowship I would ask myself, "What if I just sold everything I owned and moved into the jungles of Brazil?" Did I not do that because I wasn't under my own free will, in some subconscious way? Money keeps most of us from doing what we [think we] want to do, so are checking accounts, credit scores, and other various types of debt the rails on the train track we are forced to ride? Can I not play "Daphnes and Chloe" because I'm just not meant to have that level of technical proficiency?
So it goes.
Toward the end of the book, there's a scene in which one character asks another to look up at the stars and pick two. He's to move his eyes between those two points. It's recognized that those two stars are so far away that they probably don't exist anymore (only their residual light traveling to Earth), but that the space between those two points contains the gazer's awareness, or soul in his words. That idea was so beautiful to me. We should think more about our souls and how they, too, have a place in this universe, or whatever this is.
I say "whatever this is" when it comes to the universe because my colleague in Knoxville, Sean, said something to that affect to me in a Christmas card I received yesterday. Our jobs in Knoxville as non-principals/core members leave a sour taste in our mouths sometimes, just like life does in general. Sean, in his card to me, said that having people to share it with makes it tolerable. I really appreciate it when an orchestral colleague recognizes that we’re not sure of why we do what we do, but that going through it with like-minded people gives it a little purpose. This also applies to life, or whatever this is.
Tomorrow is me and Andy's 8-year anniversary, by the way. Our (almost) decade together has been the greatest joy of my life, and certainly everything BUT autopilot.