Thursday, December 22, 2016

To Be of Use


It’s time for the annual Goodkin Holiday Newsletter. In the past, they’ve been funny or poetic or a multiple-choice test. But it was hard to figure out how to pretend that things are rolling along with any semblance of normal. And so my introduction:

By any standard, it has been an extraordinary year. Some years skim merrily along the surface of life like a TV sitcom, dipping no lower than “Ward, I’m worried about the Beav” and no higher than George telling Jerry, Elaine and Kramer how he saved the whale. But this year the dial was set to Opera, Don Giovanni and Madame Butterfly at center stage, the songs pitched to glass-breaking volume and the drama at the edge of what a human being can comfortably carry. One has to wonder about this annual report of Suzy’s soccer season and Johnny’s trip to Disneyland with the school choir in the face of it all.

But perhaps honoring the full range of a life lived these past 365 days will give a clue as to how to keep going on. Here’s the news, such as it is, and some thoughts at the end of how to carry on.

And off I went with a few pages of notable personal events from 2016 accompanied by photos. And then ended thus:

And so here we all are. I write this on the Winter Solstice. In the natural world, the darkness turns back toward the light. In the political world, it’s the opposite. How to keep calm and carry on?

My strategy is to keep doing exactly what I’m doing, only more of it and more wholly and more forcefully. Most every day for six years, I write a Blog to try to make sense of things, to capture in the net of language some sliver of meaning for what appears to just happen, with an inextinguishable faith that there is some greater guiding order and reason in the chaos awaiting revelation.

I play piano and sing most every day, sometimes for three hours that pass like three minutes, diving deep into Bach and Chopin and Monk and the inexhaustible riches of the jazz repertoire and my own improvisations inside and outside of that all. I look for every opportunity to share music, not for fame or fortune, but to bring a bit of beauty and levity and connection to whatever occasion presents itself. Whether it’s at the daily school singing time, the Palace Hotel, a jam session in any city, the N-Judah streetcar (where I took the folks at our annual caroling party), an Old Folks Home, an Italian airport, a woman’s jail (going today!), a neighborhood Solstice party (going tonight!), a SF Jazz Center workshop, music is needed and I am happy to offer it.

I teach children and adults of all ages and aim to lead them to places in themselves they had only dreamed of before, to let them know I see the beauty they already carry and the future possibility they carry waiting to be awakened. And all of it happens in a circle of community bubbling with humor, vitality, connection, helping each of us know the blessing of belonging and feeling welcomed.

This is my spiritual commitment and political action wrapped up in one piece. Alongside taking to the streets and donating money and signing petitions and speaking out until they lock me up, this is where I stand, side by side with all of you reading this and many more besides. My hope is that all this tiny personal news serve to publicly renew my vows to be of use, to dedicate every skill and talent to the greater good, to work and play harder, to grieve and laugh deeper, to count my blessings and to bless, to keep outrage and gratitude in conversation with each other.

Onward! And Happy Holidays to you and yours. 

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