Assimilation is a poison chalice.

This is the sort of thing that depresses me more than I can describe.

My whole family is here, I am here, because of “chain migration.” My parents were called dagos, wops, greasers, guineas, and half-n*ggers, and so was I when I was growing up. My grandfather, a peaceable and inoffensive tailor, was forced to register as an enemy alien because he was born in Italy. My grandmother had actually forgotten that she wasn’t born here and ran to the courthouse to nationalize in terror, frightened that her kids would be taken away from them. In today’s climate, they would have been — and my mom and uncle would have grown up in an orphanage.

And now, we have people named Giuliani, Gianforte, Scavino, Scalise, and Scaramucci saying the same shit, trying to get other people’s families ripped apart.

They lynched us as well, and not in small numbers — but we drank that poison cup, and it managed to make us forget our own history. Now, people named Picciolini are joining white supremacist movements. (Thankfully, he got out, but how the fuck was he ever so ignorant of his own history to join in the first place?)

There is no hope and nothing positive in assimilating to the American way of life. It is a poison chalice. Our grandparents drank it because they knew no better, but it’s poisoned the minds and hearts of their grandchildren. We came to this country, with its history of racial and ethnic hatred, of importing human beings with human dreams like furniture, and it poisoned us. Like radioactive calcium, it’s crawled into our bones, and we’ll die with it soaked into us. How could it be any different?

Assimilation to the American way of life just means hating anyone darker than yourself, or anyone newer to these shores. In a country the history of which is so entwined with slavery, all it means is becoming white. And whiteness kills. It used to kill us, within the memories of family members still alive. It kills others. It’s killed our hearts and crushed our capacity for human kindness. It’s powerful enough to wipe our memories of our own roots and our own families’ experiences. Whiteness only ever destroys.

There is no hope in this. Seeing Italians falling for this and forgetting their own history sickens me in ways I don’t know if I can recover from. I really don’t think there is anything to this “melting pot” bullshit anymore. Assimilation into the American way of life is destructive, period. And it didn’t even take that long! We’re talking about people whose grandparents — people they knew — were put through this, and who are now stepping up and slobbering like rabid animals to do it to the next people in line. I have cousins I will never speak to again over this. I can’t. I can’t even look them in the face.

Humanity kills hope, every time. Love in fact does not trump hate. People will throw their own families into the bin, ignore their own memories, if they get a luscious, chewy, rich serving of hatred to enjoy.

Getting this message out is impossible. The only Italian-American organizations that exist are in the iron grip of angry, ugly, loud, middle-aged males who spit and snarl when they talk and have shit between their ears. Big, mean, loud bullies who are stupid enough to embody the Al Capone stereotype own the Italian-American dialogue. The days of old left-wing lions who remember their roots like Mario Cuomo and Geraldine Ferraro are long over. The poison has soaked in.

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I’ll give it more time, but …

… I really have a decision to make. Once again, I’m doing that little Chopin thing I arranged, and my hands don’t hurt, even a little bit.

I try to do the “conditioning” exercises, and not only can I not do them without my third finger completely collapsing, but my hands hurt after like ten repetitions. Over the back of my hand, down my arm, and in my palm. This is bullshit.

Why am I doing this to myself? Why am I measuring my ability level by a bunch of things done by people who have had their hands cut up and sewn back together because of injuries, all of whom have personal neurologists, tendon specialists, chiropractors, and surgeons because of the damaging crap they’ve done to their hands? Why am I trying to get some kind of approval or something from a world where the “right” way to operate this device plainly destroys people’s hands, and they seem okay with this?

I wasn’t hurting when I did it myself, by myself, my own way. I mean, if I play my own music, arranged by me and written by me for me to play, my hands don’t hurt. They never did. Why the fuck am I trying to force other people’s dots on myself in a way that obviously damages the hands of the people who play them for a living? Why the hell am I not sticking with my own goddamned way? I don’t play OPD on the piano. What possessed me to fall right back into them on the harp?

“Flow” and the fun of working

Just read an article about the … well, the bullshit of “flow”. I’ve always had a nit to pick with the way that deliberate practice is characterized as not much fun, hard work, much less fun certainly than turning your brain off and going with it.

For me, “turning the brain off and going with it” feels like Chinese water torture. I never felt quite like a human when people observed that deliberate practice was hard, sweaty work and hence “not fun.” Even if everyone else likes nothing more than to stop thinking, that drives me up the wall.

I remember being told to practice when I was a kid, at the piano. At that age, and according to the adults around me, “practice” meant to do something over and over and over a million times while you turned your brain off, and it would just get better by magic.

I couldn’t do it. It was awful to sit there and be mindless, so I rarely to never practiced without getting frustrated as all hell, to the point of breaking piano keys, which I’m a bit hesitant to admit to.

It wasn’t until I learned — as an adult in my 40s — about deliberate practice, slow practice, and Leopold Mozart’s trick with the dried peas, that practice became fun.

Yes, you read that right. Deliberate practice, contrary to the common wisdom, was fun. Suddenly, I enjoyed it and could easily lose myself in doing something over and over the requisite number of times until I got it.

Deliberate practice wasn’t unpleasant. Deliberate practice, for the first time in my life, made practicing fun.

So maybe I’m just not set up for “flow,” whatever it is. I’m sorry, but if my brain isn’t engaged, I’m bored out of my mind.

I also have a very, very hard time focusing under someone else’s gaze. I can focus by myself just fine, but when other people are watching me, I feel like a seal being stalked by sharks. Between my love of nitpicking and detestation of being watched, I suppose it is no accident that my favorite way to be a musician is to accumulate technique and then arrange and compose. 🙂

What Comes Naturally

I’ve just been mulling over the nature of the thoughts that might arise in our heads naturally, and those that we each seem to be allergic or even entirely blind to. And we’re all allergic to different ones — thoughts that feel so alien and wrong to each of us that we can’t even seem to let them into our heads.

I’m not talking about thoughts like, “How can you not tell that Donald Trump is a crazy fascist?” I’m talking about the more pedestrian and value-neutral life-habit oriented ones that I’ve noticed sit well in my head but that seem not to sit well in others.

I began noticing these when I realized that there were people who couldn’t hear, “I like that,” as anything other than, “I want that right now.” Oddly enough, it started with food. I began to realize that there were fundamental differences in how different people’s brains operated when I would see, for example, a brownie sundae on a menu after a full meal at a restaurant and say, “That looks great,” and a meal companion of mine would be incapable of grasping that that did not mean that I wanted it. I’ve had some strange experiences of saying that that ended with real incomprehension in other people’s eyes: “That looks great.”

“So you want it then.”

“No, I’m full.”

(turns to waitress) “She wants the brownie sundae.”

“No, I don’t want it. I’m full.”

“You said you wanted it.”

“No, I just said it looked good. I don’t want it, though.”

This would be followed by a truly uncomprehending expression on the other person’s face, as if this whole approach to the universe — like != want — was just not computing for them.

It extended beyond food, though. “I like those shoes,” would often result in incomprehension because the other person was convinced I had said, “I want those shoes.”

This made me wonder what other people might have been saying to me that wasn’t making it through to my brain, of course. What approaches to life were floating around out there, self-evident to their owners and perhaps valuable, that were not making it through to my own head?

Again, I’m not just talking about woo-woo spacey stuff here — I’m talking about truly useful and logically defensible approaches to life here, not provably incorrect new-age junk like why Heather-Moonchild Granola thinks that vaccines will kill her child and that homeopathy is real.

I’m talking about things like what ways of looking at the world allow people to start businesses or perform on stage with some success. (Or even other mooshier things like conducting interpersonal relationships.) Ways of looking at the world and approaching it that result in good leadership skills or simply getting more useful things done in life.

It’s an interesting idea. I should think more upon this to see what logical and valuable approaches there are to the world and the information in it that are just passing through my awareness like so much smoke.

This has little to do with the harp, I know. Just trust me that I’m still doing harpy things. 🙂

Yes, I’m still here.

And still playing. I’ve managed to get a good four-fingered scale going, if a slow one, ascending, which is something I despaired of ever obtaining.

I’m also still poking around with a four-fingered trill, and am pleased to discover that as slow as it is, it’s easier for me in my left hand, which should impress people if I ever decide to take the thing out for a spin where people can hear.

Deborah Friou’s exercises remain a staple for me, as do my own arrangements. And I can sense things getting faster, smoother, and easier to manage even if I’m still nowhere near where I’d like to be.

It’s been an extremely unpleasant few months, culminating in pretty much a horrible June. I’ve had very little opportunity to play. I’ve been able to scrape up more time recently, and have found it very pleasant to focus down on something so specific and immediate.

I do love the harp. I haven’t been in the piano much at all, which I find disturbing, but … well, it is what it is.

At any rate, I’m still around.