Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Orbital Mechanics

Last night I stayed up way too late. I'm claiming that it's training for when the baby comes, a claim I'll make under oath if necessary. I made the mistake of downloading Bach's Art of the Fugue just before going to bed. I've wanted this piece, pieces really, for a while now. I have a small book of the sheet music for it that I've been looking at for almost a year and it was time to see if it sounded like I imagined it did.

I ended up staying up until 3am listening as I read along. These pieces are scored with four separate melody parts but there's debate as to what instruments should play each part, Bach never said apparently. I bought one of the more common arrangements for string quartet. I found that reading one of the inner voices as it played, either the second violin or the viola, gave me a whole new way of hearing this kind of music.

Contrapuntal music is pretty busy stuff by and large, and fugues can be very complicated indeed. When three or four melodies are playing at once I find that my ear bounces from one instrument to the next depending on how prominent it is in the mix and how active the part is. By listening to just one of the inner voices I found myself being able to hear the piece as whole. The bass and 1st violin parts being the lowest and highest stand out naturally so this makes sense.

I could hear, at least most of the time, all three of these parts at once, as separate melodies even while they were being played at the same time. This is something I've been trying to do since I read in music school that it was probable that people in medieval times heard music this way. Some scholars think that they didn't hear the harmony, the way notes sound when played at the same time, as dominantly as we do today. Or at least it wasn't important to them. Bach the senior's contrapuntal music is the most sophisticated expression of this even though he used the harmony rules that we still use today.

It was one of those moments when suddenly something that had been difficult became easy. I've been having a lot of those moments lately.

It's not much of a secret that I never really wanted children. I tried a number of arguments with the LUC: financial, environmental and so on to discourage the idea. None of it flew. Possibly because the real reason I didn't want to father a child wasn't really any of these. No, the real reason was that the very idea scared the living crap out of me. I'm a worrier who possesses an active imagination that was only too happy to provided me with no end of parental disasters.

That changed with Owen's death and the LUC's pregnancy. You'd think that such a tragedy at such a time would make me worse. After all, there's nothing like seeing fears come true to encourage the chronically pessimistic. But as I said before, even a short life well lived is worth it. This is one of those points were I wish I was a great writer. I wish I could craft a phrase that conveyed just how a profound a change this is for me. A simple phrase that would leave you the reader feeling as at peace as I do with the fact that my child will someday die. Ah well, there's nothing to do but blither away.

My father died when I was in my early teens. I was the one who recognized that Dad wasn't asleep on the couch, that he wasn't breathing. Death is not an abstract thing to me. It was a very real terror for many, many years. The nihilism of the of the 80's punk culture found fertile ground in me, despite never completely buying into all the rules and uniforms that went along with it. A "What's the point? We're all going to die no matter what we do." attitude informed most of my actions.

It ran deep enough that when the Soviet Union collapsed and it became clear that a nuclear war wasn't likely to happen in my lifetime, well, I was pissed off. Pissed off enough to write a song about it. "I thought they'd burn us all with a piece of the sun, now I know it'll happen one by one. I miss the end of the world." was how the chorus went. I meant it. I was comforted by the thought that when I went out, everyone else would be coming with me.

As life went on (And on, and on, and on. Honestly. How the hell did become 40?) I began to get a handle on my depression. Well, mostly anyway, I still lose the occasional battle for all that I seem to be winning the war. For the most part my nihilism faded into the background, not gone entirely, but not informing so much of my world view as it once did.

That was pretty much the state of things for the last few years.

[Hmmm, reading over this I realize I haven't strained a metaphor yet. We can't have that. I mean, if they don't get strained they're going to go all flabby and there's nothing worse than a pudgy metaphor.]

The arc my life made through the heavens had been changing every so slowly over the years. It had been curving its solitary path away from the dark empty and towards... well, what exactly I couldn't see. I met the LUC and the arc doubled and tightened, the destination was still unclear but the velocity increased. Suddenly out of nowhere came the twin planets of Owen's death and the LUC's pregnancy. These two massive bodies with gravity inexorable have grabbed and flung me on a new course. For the first time in my life I can see where I'm going. Fatherhood. Family. Life. Life, wow, life. It's there, stretching ahead of me, all the way to death. Mine, the LUC's and even our unnamed babe's and that is more than OK, it's perfect. You see, that end is just one tiny point on the journey. Of course you see, the thing that's filling me with wonder to point of bursting is that now I see it too.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Easter thought

I told the LUC this weekend that she is flatly forbidden* to give birth to any sort of messiah. Even a cycling one. I mean, the perks of being the father of the saviour would be awesome, think of all the free wine, but it didn't turn out so well there at the end. Not for the kid anyway.

No, I'll settle for a healthy human child, thank you very much.

I felt the baby kick for the first time last week. It was cool and creepy in equal parts. I can only imagine how it feels to be the one being booted in the kidneys. And really, I'm OK with that. No Venus envy here. :)

*OK, I know were not technically married yet so it's a little soon to start issuing spousal orders. Despite that, I've been compiling a list of things she's forbidden to do since we first met.

They include:

-Getting hijacked by terrorists

-Getting eaten by sharks

-Getting abducted by grey aliens

-Getting involved in multi-level marketing

-Jumping off of anything with a malfunctioning parachute/bungee cord or vehicle, motored or otherwise

-Being bitten by any kind of radioactive fauna and developing superpowers (this is more of a preference than an outright ban)

-Giving birth to a messiah

I've also told her that if she dies giving birth I'm going to name the baby Skrotor, regardless of gender. The babe and I will then go on a cross country crime spree in the largest SUV we can steal. The crimes against property, humanity and the environment won't end until we're taken down in a hail of righteous police bullets or until Skrotor becomes old enough to be tried as adult.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007


I look at what I've written here over the years and I'm not sure I like the portrait it paints of me. For the most part it's pretty humourless stuff. This might be because I use this space to sort out the negative things in my life or it might be because I really don't know how to write humour. Be that as it may here's something that made me laugh this morning. Laugh in that deep and satisfying way were you feel the weight of, well, everything slide off your shoulders.

The LUC brought me some cake yesterday. It was a lovely surprise and I'd planned to take it home and share it with her after work. I forgot it. I called work and asked them to find it and put it in the fridge for me.

This morning I came in and found this next to the "Help Us Find Our Missing Father" poster that we put up for someone last week.

Click on it for a larger image.

Sometimes I really love my employees.