Friday, April 6, 2012

On Seeing The world Through Other People's Eyes


Dear Mackenzie,

There’s a saying that you never really know someone until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes. In other words, until you’ve examined things from someone else’s perspective. I like that. The related saying I like even better is that we should always be open to seeing the world through other people’s eyes.

Having worked in the entertainment industry for many years, I periodically find myself numb to the miracle of creativity and forget why I wanted to get into show business in the first place. That’s exactly how I was feeling this past Monday night as I made my way down to the storied nightclub in the Village called “The Bitter End”.

For the past twenty-two years, on the first Monday of each month The Bitter End transforms into a musical showcase for singers and songwriters called the New York Songwriters Circle.  Famous songwriters and up-and-comers alike celebrate great original songs, and each other, in an intimate setting.

The Songwriters Circle is run by a supremely gifted singer/songwriter in her own right named Tina Shafer. Tina also happens to be one of my dearest friends dating back to our college days, although admittedly she looks much younger than me.

I was fully prepared to be unimpressed as I walked into the club.  My goal was to simply endure the performances and then go have a nice dinner with Tina. Instead, I was treated to a humbling reminder of the importance of pouring yourself into what you do, and of the pure joy I still feel when I watch truly talented people create.

As I listened to the musicians that night I was exhilarated by the passion they brought to their work. I loved how they expressed their personal stories through music. Their real world burdens, and mine, evaporated as they shared their music on stage. For two hours I got to experience the world through their eyes with a kind of purity I had not felt in quite a while.

One of the performers that night was Tina’s fifteen-year old son, who is a prodigious musical talent. I observed Tina regard him on stage with a mixture of detached professional respect and the kind of beaming pride unique to a parent, and I started thinking of you and the wonder with which you approach the world.

I consider it part of my parenting responsibility to teach you a few things here and there about life and about the human condition. I hope that I can continue to enrich your life as you grow into adulthood. No doubt that can be of benefit to you, and it’s certainly fulfilling for me.

What I rarely mention to you and often forget myself, is how much I actually learn from you every day and how much I appreciate that. One of the blessings of being your dad is getting to see the world through your passionate eyes. The way you view things underlines the miracle of life for me in ways that might otherwise escape me in the day-to-day grind.

I watch you go to auditions with unbridled excitement no matter what may have happened in the last one, and it reminds me not to get bogged down by my own past defeats.

I watch you push tirelessly for more dessert, or for a Kindle Fire, or for a sleepover, and it reminds me that it’s okay if I ask for the things I want and need.

I watch you skype for hours on end, and it reminds me to reach out to my own friends whom I may inadvertently be ignoring.

I watch you get excited if I bring you a gift when I return from a business trip, and it reminds me how good I myself feel when someone keeps me in their thoughts.

I watch you play with your sisters, or go to Disneyland for the umpteenth time, or simply bounce around the house and the joy you manifest in simply living becomes contagious. I thank you for that gift, my sweet daughter, and I want to remember to thank you, Heather and Jamie more often.

At the end of the show Monday night, Tina came back on stage one last time. She sang a song she co-wrote with the late Phoebe Snow called “Above The Band”. The song is an anthem to having a voice in life, and the lyrics moved me. I asked Tina if I could re-print the lyrics for you and she graciously agreed. I hope you savor them as I did, and that they help you see the world through Tina’s soulful eyes.

ABOVE THE BAND by Tina Shafer and Phoebe Snow

Stay clear
Stay focused
Create a little
Stay sober
Steady
And a little bit sane
Stay alive to survive
Past your fifteen minutes
Maybe someone will remember your name


Be a force for some good 
Be a flame eternal
Be brave
Take risks
Have a thick skin
And even when all they see is external
Let your soul shine from within

Create an illusion
A small sleight of hand
Amidst the confusion
Rise up
Take command
And they'll hear you above the band

This old world keeps on turning
This life hangs on for the weak and strong
Even in the face of darkest evil
I believe that hope holds on

Dream big
Seek truth
Grab your moment
Find peace in the craziness of each day
I won't always be there to guide you
But I believe you’re going to find your way

Create an illusion
A small sleight of hand 
Amidst the confusion
Rise up
Make a stand

And they'll hear you above the band 
Yes they will hear you above the band

All my everlasting love,

Dad

6 comments:

  1. Loved it and so will she. Well done, my friend. From one of your beautiful people

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  2. Thank you anonymous beautiful person.

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  3. I'm a new follower to your blog and I just wanted to say just how absolutely beautiful and poignant your letters are. Magnificent. :)

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  4. Thank you Jack. I'm glad you're enjoying them and welcome! Spread the good word. :)
    Norm

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  5. What a wonderful legacy for your daughter.

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    Replies
    1. thank you Gene Pool Diva! Keep reading and enjoying.
      Norm

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