God Laughs, Man Adjusts

Saturday, I started blogging about the seeming futility of our planning, when we are all subject to fate. Burning Man is canceled. I’ll be a little sad about that for awhile.

Also canceled: My month in New York, my three months in Spain (and a second walk on El Camino de Santiago), Italy, and Istanbul, and Beirut, and even my return for a second 10-day Vipassana silent meditation retreat. Japan is up in the air.

But I like to plan – I like the sense of control (har har har), but more than that, I like the anticipation. I try to live in the present, but given the choice between mistakenly living in the past or the future, I always choose the future (weird for someone doing a music history website, but I don’t claim to be consistent).

Thus, I tend to plan the whole year ahead, leaving room for serendipity and changing conditions. I just didn’t foresee these conditions. Who did? Besides Bill Gates, that is…

Yes, I have a clear perspective that I was lucky to have had all those things planned in the first place. There are worse losses being suffered out there. Way worse. I may not keep saying that, but I always know it.

This is life, no? We make plans, and we adjust them according to circumstance. I get it, it’s one of the basic lessons of travel. So I have designed my life is designed for flexibility, to be able to react to changing conditions. No home, no job, no partner, minimal stuff beyond my body, relationships, skills and bank account to maintain: I’m a jellyfish!

Spirit animal reference: The jellyfish, metaphorically, means, among other things, that you should go with the flow, allow the Universe to show you the way, follow your instincts, take things in stride, keep things simple, and trust your heart, allow yourself to be seen by others, and shine from the inside. “There is no need to feel vulnerable when you come from the heart.”

Another thing about jellyfish, in reality: They tend not to age, and don’t really die, at least not all species; some return to their youthful state. I like that.

I like the jellyfish totem, but I like jellyfish in general, like the blown glass ones at the Museum of Natural History in Manhattan, or the live ones at the Monterey aquarium. I went swimming with the real thing in the Sea of Marmara, off a boat out of Istanbul, a couple of summers ago. A swarm of them, I didn’t realize they were there until I jumped off the back of the boat. But they didn’t sting me. They were nice jellyfish.

So, it’s time to find your inner jellyfish: Take things in stride, go with the flow, and shine from the inside. I’m good at it. Lots of people are good at it. Perhaps I can help others get better at it. I’m enjoying this settled time, focusing on things that are hard to focus on when one is on the move all the time. Getting things done. NOT being adrift. It’s not SO bad.

I heard a psychiatrist speaking the other day on the psychological effects of this historic event, how different people are reacting, and will react. I’ve seen some pretty grotesque reactions up close and personal; there’s a lot of stress right now; and I know that the long term impacts could be, will be, severe for some people.

Aside from financial hits, which nearly all of us are taking, and the health impacts, which a few of us are taking, the psychological impacts may be the most lasting. For me, it’s not being able to plan; I can let go of existing plans, I trust the flow. But my impulse to plan is being severely thwarted, and that is a challenge: I realize that planning is how I gain a sense of control, over the calendar at least,  in a life in which I am largely adrift.

But a jellyfish doesn’t have control, or any illusion of it; it certainly doesn’t have Google calendar, which I am currently spending time clearing of lots of prospective pleasures. I don’t like it.

But I have a choice: To see myself as adrift, out of control, directionless; or as floating happily, riding the unpredictable tides to new adventures, unknown destinations, and joyful serendipities. That’s already happening, even here in my sunless attic; it will continue to happen.

I had a 2020 Vision, and much of it has been completely erased. But a lot of it is bigger and better than it was a month ago. The play I had planned is gone; the work I have been attacking this winter has gotten more interesting and more satisfying – even more remunerative! I’m letting go of some aspects of that vision, and riding others to new places I never thought I’d visit. And I am doing my best to shine from the inside.

I am choosing to see it this way, because that’s the only choice I really have; I can’t change external reality, I can only adjust my attitude toward it. I could (and have, a little) cry and moan about my lost pleasures; or I can go with events and look for new ways to make it enjoyable and, perhaps more importantly, meaningful.

Anyway…that’s the plan.

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Thank you for checking out my blog - it’s just the tip of the iceberg.  I am working on projects regarding music history, Japanese culture and my songwriting.

- A week-by-week music history website, music1967.com
- An upcoming book on Japanese culture, Japan from Anime to Zen
- A YouTube channel, featuring random songs and thoughts for the pandemic
- Original music on Spotify, with links to Patreon and Amazon 

David Watts Barton

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