Saturday, August 18, 2018

Goodbye, Dearest Aretha

August 16 was not a fortuitous day for American "royalty." I refer to the "Sultan of Swat" Babe Ruth, the original "King of Rock and Roll" Elvis Presley," and the one and only "Queen of Soul" Aretha Franklin. All three died on August 16. And when they did, the nation grieved.

I grieve now for Aretha. I knew she was dying, but when she finally passed Thursday from pancreatic cancer, I read the effusive tributes to her greatness while listening to some of her finest performances, and tears welled in my eyes. Was I really crying for her, or was I crying for the loss of a dazzling force of nature's vibrant constancy throughout most of my life?

It's not that, as a young white boy growing up in the suburbs and as a young and not-so-young man fixated on instrumental jazz and jazz-rock fusion for decades, I always appreciated Aretha's greatness as much as it richly deserved to be. I heard and liked many of her songs on the radio over the years, but I didn't attend any of her concerts or buy any of her albums. I knew she was revered and believed she deserved to be, but my reverence for her was superficially felt. Still, she was always a vital part of my culture and, therefore, a part of me.

Yet, around ten or so years ago after I began watching "American Idol" with my wife, I started paying more attention to male and female vocals and vocalists. And only after I'd been doing that a while did my appreciation of the greatest of the great vocalists swell to unadorned adoration of the singer Rolling Stone magazine ranked in 2010 as the greatest singer of all time. I'm no music expert, but I've never heard anyone who could convey so much powerful emotion with such heartfelt mastery, or seen anyone do it with such sublime regality as Aretha did. This astonishing performance when she was 73 years old says everything more that needs to be said about Aretha Franklin and will remain indelibly etched in my mind forever.

Thank you, Aretha Frankin, for being such an enduring part of the soundtrack of my life and for doing it your way!

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Unfree Will and CBT

My wife sent me to the store this morning for a cucumber. She needed it for a dish she cooked for the Thai temple.

When I got to the checkout counter, there was a young guy ahead of me with a basket full of groceries. He looked at me and my single cucumber but went ahead and checked out first.

If I had been the one with the basket full of groceries and he had been the one with the single cucumber, I would have let him go ahead of me. I always do. And most people do the same with me. But this guy was not me or most people. At least not this morning.

I confess that I felt some resentment. And I'm pretty sure I could have silently talked myself into more of it. But I didn't want to do this. So, I did the opposite.

People with whom I discuss my belief in unfree will often ask me what good could come of such a belief. Today's incident is one place where my nonbelief in free will can be beneficial. When people do things we don't like but we don't think they could have done otherwise given their nature and circumstances, it's hard to feel or stay angry with them.

And if we subscribe to the principles of CBT or REBT, it's hard to feel or stay angry with someone who does things we don't like even if we believe they freely chose to do it. Why? Because it can be reasonably argued that most things people do that we don't like don't violate any demonstrable divine edict or societal or natural law.

Theists and some philosophers might disagree, but I'm neither a theist nor philosopher who believes in divine edicts or natural law. So, when people do things I don't like, in most cases I tell myself something such as: "I don't like the fact that this person did this, but there was no divine or natural law I know of that said they MUST or SHOULD do it, and so it's an inconvenience but not an awful or terrible thing that I have good reason to upset myself over." And when I do this, I generally don't feel angry with someone or hold on to anger I'm already feeling.

Unfree will and CBT are potent antidotes to needless emotional upset when I have the self-discipline to exercise them skillfully. May I continue to exercise and refine my ability to do this.