Sunday, November 20, 2011

The important questions

Grown-ups like numbers.  When you tell them about a new friend, they never ask questions about what really matters.  They never ask:  "What does his voice sound like?"  "What games does he like best?"  "Does he collect butterflies?"  They ask:  "How old is he?"  "How many brothers does he have?"  "How much does he weigh?"  "How much money does his father make?"  Only then do they think they know him.  If you tell grown-ups, "I saw a beautiful red brick house, with geraniums at the windows and doves on the roof . . . ," they won't be able to imagine such a house.  You have to tell them, "I saw a house worth a hundred thousand francs."  Then they exclaim, "What a pretty house!"

--Antoine de Saint-ExupĂ©ry, The Little Prince  

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

How one person can make a difference

Now ye may suppose that this is foolishness in me; but behold I say unto you, that by small and simple things are great things brought to pass; and small means in many instances doth confound the wise.  --Alma 37:6

I have written before about the major impact seemingly small choices and experiences can make on one's life.  Likewise also is the impact of one person.  Though years and distance may separate us, I firmly believe that God has a purpose for every acquaintanceship we make. 

With that said, I want you to click on this link right now.  Just do it.  Take a look around, then come back.

Who is that?

I will tell you who he is.

Once upon a time, there were no piano videos to blog.  There was no dream of a music career.  There was just a very young Nathan, who, despite having a piano teacher sent from Heaven itself, struggled to find the spark and considered too many things more enjoyable than practicing.

But that young Nathan went to elementary school with a young Kevin Bluemel.  And Kevin was the piano guy.  At all the talent shows, he was the one to watch.  If it had anything to do with music, you just knew to go to him.  Like the rest of the school, I knew who he was.  And, as it did everyone else, it amazed me that someone as young as he could play the piano so well.

Fate stepped in when Kevin and I were put in the same class my fifth grade year.  We quickly became the best of friends, and as I got to know him better, so too did I get to know his music.  So, when I broke my leg later that winter, I recognized a song from Kevin's repertoire as it played on the radio during my ride to the hospital.  It was David Lanz's Spiral Dance (appropriate, considering I had just suffered a spiral fracture), and it brought me some comfort because it reminded me of my friend.       

I told him this, and during the first few days of my recovery, Kevin brought a couple of "get well" gifts--including a tape on which he had recorded himself playing Spiral Dance and about a dozen other songs by the same composer.  That music inspired me while I learned to walk again.  It inspired me after I healed.  And, it continued to inspire me even after Kevin and I went our separate ways in junior high.

Then, just before the start of ninth grade, I finally decided to do something about that inspiration . . . and I bought a piano book that contained several of the songs that were on that tape.  That's when the addiction began: that's when the piano became as much of a need for me as food or air.  All of a sudden I was practicing several hours each and every day--nothing was more enjoyable.  My piano lessons became jam sessions.  I sought out more opportunities to perform.  As time passed, confidence grew, and music became my life.  That book still sits in a high place among my most prized possessions; it is worn from much use, some pages torn, and other pages even stained with blood.

Those who know me, or have read my blog very much at all, will know where that passion has gone.  It is still very much alive.  I consider music to be my identity; to take it away would be like erasing my face, or removing my limbs.  I would be much different.  My life would lack so much color, so much feeling.  

And I doubt I would have ever discovered that passion for music--that identity--had I never known Kevin Bluemel.  I couldn't tell him until just recently what his talent meant to me; he didn't know it, but something so simple as just being himself and sharing his gift made such an impact on my life that my very identity was shaped for years to come.  I can never repay him.

Thus it is for all of us.  We will never know in this life who all we have touched, nor how deeply.  Sometimes, it's even the person we least expect.  There's no such thing as "nobody's watching"; there will always be someone who notices who you are, or how you act, or what you say.  Your talents and your personality are among the most powerful gifts you have, and very often without even being aware of them, you make a difference to somebody simply because you're there, doing what you do.  That's the point I'm trying to make with this post: one person can make a difference, and more often than not, that person is you.  I have named just one example here--but an example he most certainly is!

So, where is Kevin now?  I mentioned that we went our separate ways in junior high.  It wasn't like we meant for that, or anything; life just happened, and we both had our own paths to follow.

But I never forgot my old friend.  Years have passed, and I have often wondered where his music career was--not if it had taken off, because I always knew he would be successful.  Finally tired of wondering, I went on the search a few weeks ago.

And I'm pleased to say my friend is doing very well:

If you liked that, there's a newly remastered download of it available for free on Kevin's website.  While you're at it, check out his album, and keep an eye out for the release of his next album in 2012!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Of queens and talking flowers

The reading challenge is going well so far, and I'm pleased to report that I finished Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass this past week.  I know I quoted Lewis Carroll in last weekend's post, but I love his work so much that I'm going to quote him again.  And perhaps yet even more in the near future.  I find it no wonder anymore that even Thomas S. Monson quoted him in General Conference last year; Carroll's writing is just that good.

What I love so much about Carroll is all the morals he slips into his stories and dialogue.  As one character, the Duchess, explains in Chapter Nine of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, "Everything's got a moral, if only you can find it."

Indeed, it does.  And one particularly significant moral--an eternal truth--can be found in the second chapter of Through the Looking-Glass.  This book is loosely based on a game of chess, in which Alice desires to become a queen.  But it's not a short or an easy process:

For some minutes Alice stood without speaking, looking out in all directions over the country -- and a most curious country it was. There were a number of tiny little brooks running straight across it from side to side, and the ground between was divided up into squares by a number of little green hedges, that reached from brook to brook.

`I declare it's marked out just like a large chessboard!' Alice said at last. `There ought to be some men moving about somewhere -- and so there are!' She added in a tone of delight, and her heart began to beat quick with excitement as she went on. `It's a great huge game of chess that's being played -- all over the world -- if this is the world at all, you know. Oh, what fun it is! How I wish I was one of them! I wouldn't mind being a Pawn, if only I might join -- though of course I should like to be a Queen, best.'

. . .

At the two-yard peg [the Red Queen] faced round, and said, `A pawn goes two squares in its first move, you know. So you'll go very quickly through the Third Square -- by railway, I should think -- and you'll find yourself in the Fourth Square in no time. Well, that square belongs to Tweedledum and Tweedledee -- the Fifth is mostly water -- the Sixth belongs to Humpty Dumpty -- But you make no remark?'

`I -- I didn't know I had to make one -- just then,' Alice faltered out.

`You should have said,' `"It's extremely kind of you to tell me all this" -- however, we'll suppose it said -- the Seventh Square is all forest -- however, one of the Knights will show you the way -- and in the Eighth Square we shall be Queens together, and it's all feasting and fun!' Alice got up and curtseyed, and sat down again.

At the next peg the Queen turned again, and this time she said, `Speak in French when you can't think of the English for a thing -- turn out your toes as you walk -- and remember who you are!' She did not wait for Alice to curtsey this time, but walked on quickly to the next peg, where she turned for a moment to say `good-bye,' and then hurried on to the last.

How it happened, Alice never knew, but exactly as she came to the last peg, she was gone. Whether she vanished into the air, or whether she ran quickly into the wood (`and she can run very fast!' thought Alice), there was no way of guessing, but she was gone, and Alice began to remember that she was a Pawn, and that it would soon be time for her to move.

Also from Chapter Two:

`How is it you can all talk so nicely?' Alice said, hoping to get it into a better temper by a compliment. `I've been in many gardens before, but none of the flowers could talk.'

`Put your hand down, and feel the ground,' said the Tiger-lily. `Then you'll know why.' 
Alice did so. `It's very hard,' she said, `but I don't see what that has to do with it.' 
`In most gardens,' the Tiger-lily said, `they make the beds too soft -- so that the flowers are always asleep.'

We have to move to get to the Eighth Square.  Remember who you are, and don't be afraid of the hard ground; we're not alone in this game.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Happy thoughts as the snow begins to fall

"Do you hear the snow against the window-panes, Kitty?  How nice and soft it sounds!  Just as if some one was kissing the window all over outside.  I wonder if the snow loves the trees and fields, that it kisses them so gently?  And then it covers them up snug, you know, with a white quilt; and perhaps it says, 'Go to sleep, darlings, till the summer comes again.'  And when they wake up in the summer, Kitty, they dress themselves all in green, and dance about--whenever the wind blows--oh, that's very pretty!" cried Alice, dropping the ball of worsted to clap her hands.

 --Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There 
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