being alien in holland or lucky me once again


Life is going good. As usual. I’m a lucky guy and I know it.

I preface this post with those comments because what I want to talk about probably sounds self-serving and full of self-pity but of course I don’t think it is.

I have been noticing how much I am still the person I was when I was an alienated teen and then later an alienated musician and book store person.

I know that I have changed because I know that personality is fluid and never static.

But I have been struck by how my interests and concerns, specifically love of words and sounds, are so far away from what seems important to others.

Usually I just feel lucky about my passions. But I can’t help but notice that many of the people I see and am around are unhappy. From my vantage, they often seem to be running after something.

Usually I don’t feel that they even much notice me as they struggle in their daily lives which for the most part are ones of privilege and ease.

But enough about them. What I want to say is how much I value being able to spend time reading, looking up words, thinking about ideas, playing music, studying music, and the other things I do.


Some of what has brought on these musings is the final chapters in Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman. Chapter 38 has the title, “Experienced Wellbeing.” In it, Kahneman cites some pretty weird studies that attempt to scientifically determine people’s happiness. I think he’s way out to lunch with his methodology and underlying assumptions.

This is weird because I have learned so much from him in the other parts off the book.

But what he is missing is good old wisdom. It seems so obvious to me that satisfaction in life is connected to making meaning out your daily existence.

The meaning that I have found and am thinking about gets me thinking about myself as a young teen entranced with poetry and music. For some reason I fell in love with poetry. I remember spending hours alone reading it (Dylan Thomas, mostly, but others as well). This love has evolved to include love of ideas and a realization that part of poetry for me is a love of both words and ideas.

I also spent hours and hours alone making music. It was amateurish to be sure. Plunking at piano or guitar. Usually alone, but not always.

That young teen that was me had few people he could relate to about poetry and music. It’s not unusual for teens to be alienated. Kind of a stereotype really.

But as I walk the streets of my little Western Michigan town in my sixties, I realize that my emotional terrain is still connected to myself as a young teen.

What interests me (using the internet as a huge reference warehouse, the beauty of words and sounds, and other stuff) seems moot to those I meet.

As I spend my time reading poetry, books, and playing Beethoven, Bach and others on piano and organ, I feel incredibly lucky and connected to meaning. I even find immense satisfaction in my daily work at church and in ballet class.


I know this is possible because I am well loved, well fed and taken care of. Those things obviously have to come first for humans.

This is why when I’m thinking clearly at all, I feel lucky.

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