Sometimes the most innocuous choice can seem symbolic, as though it represents a fork in the road.
I was packing my carry-on for my flight down to Florida, as I spend a few days getting closer to the Toronto Symphony on their tour. I am addressing you via the chief occupant of my carry-on aka my acer laptop.
But I have found books a wonderful distraction, especially in the midst of turbulence. I won’t pretend I have no fear, far from it. Denial ain’t just a river in Egypt. It’s my chief pain management strategy (when my arthritis acts up), and also a great way to deal with fear of flying.
Previous blog posts about books have been begun in the throes of that denial, as I lost myself in Tina Fey’s funny memoir or in the conversations of Adès, to name two.
Last night I’d put two books into the computer bag, then decided this morning I had to commit to one, ergo the aforementioned fork in the road. (and as I sit near the departure gate I hope it’s a metal fork. Plastic really wouldn’t stand up to any sort of traffic driving over it… What? Not that kind of fork? Yes I know. Whimsy and letting my mind wander = another way to distract myself from myself & aviophobia. Hm is that fear of birds? I will eventually google this).
I was recently re-reading a post I made years ago because someone was kind enough to say they had read it in 2015 (last week that is). I’d talked about an old CBC feature “Cage Match” that would be presented as part of the morning show. I had mused that maybe the show could have settled some important questions. How about the old Montreal vs Toronto rivalry? Can you settle it via music? Or the TSO vs OSM? The best rock band from each city? Celine Dion vs Drake?
But this was just a pair of books vying for the right to be jammed into my bag beside my acer.
In this corner: Michael Pisani’s book about melodrama. It’s an important subject. Everyone uses the word “melodrama” but no one really knows very much about the medium. Oh sure, people read the words of some of the texts, but that is about as relevant as reading an opera libretto without the music. Pisani spent a decade exploring this medium, and his book is must-reading for any serious scholar.
And in the other corner: Gabor Maté’s When the Body Says No. I have been reading this one since I bought it at an event of his in the fall in Toronto, when I actually met him. He had said I might find it interesting to read because I have Ankylosing Spondylitis. His book is about a lot of things, but auto-immune disorders feature prominently.
What is the nature of this cage match? At one point I thought it was intellect vs feeling, because Maté’s writing is wonderfully anecdotal and careful to unpack any technical terms. But the two books aren’t really so very different in that respect.
The real difference might be that for me one represents scholarship and the mind (Pisani), the other, feelings (Maté). Too much scholarship, too much work, too much responsibility and perhaps the end result is that the body says no.
So in other words you can tell which book won the ‘match’. And I will revisit Pisani’s wonderful book later of course.
As I embrace the restful implications of getting away to hear the TSO in the warmth of Florida, it might be that my mind and body won’t be at war but might harmonize. Life doesn’t have to be either-or, simplistic dichotomies between extremes. Symphonic music does require discipline and skill, yet it can be presented in an unpretentious manner. One doesn’t have to be in a tux to see opera, one doesn’t have to stifle our emotions, forbidding applause between movements. Everyone seems to be rethinking and reappraising those old relationships, the TSO included.
First on that list is the relationship with self.