Sunday, October 30, 2016

The Unintended Realities of Getting a Song Stuck in Your Head

It is probably a safe bet that most of us, at one time or another, have heard a song only to have the melody stick in our heads for hours (or maybe days) on end. It is the sort of thing that can drive you nuts.

This very thing happened to me the other day. Paper Moon found its way into my brain after seeing a clip from A Streetcar Named tormented me for three days. It was while driving home from work with the melody playing over and over in my mind, I began singing along to the tune running through my head.

Then I started to think about the lyrics I was singing, trying to figure out what (if anything) this song meant.

For those who do not know the lyrics or have even heard the song, Paper Moon was written by the song team Harold Arlen (music) and E. Y. Harburg (lyrics), with Billy Rose in 1933. The song has been recorded many times in a variety of arrangements by such notable singers as Nat King Cole, Ella Fitzgerald and Frank Sinatra. The verses are as follows:

It's only a paper moon
Floating over a cardboard sea
But it wouldn't be make believe
If you believed in me

It's only a canvas sky
Hanging over a muslin tree
But it wouldn't be make believe
If you believed in me

It's a Barnum and Bailey world
Just a phony as it can be
But it wouldn't be make believe
If you believed in me.

Many people have looked into the meaning of the song, and there are a few theories out there. For a broader discussion on this  click here

For me, though, my perspective is quite different. As most speculate that the lyrics are driven to explain the relationships we experience on a human level, be that between a man and a woman, or, in the case of the feature movie Paper Moon with Ryan and Tatum O'Neal, parent and child, or in A Streetcar Named Desire, looking back on our life and getting back to those places and things that gave us happiness, I look at it in that most important relationship between us and God. What if we look at this as if our Creator speaking to us through these verses?

Could God be telling us that everything we see and do in this life is nothing without Him? Is there an emptiness, a shallowness, a facade in our existence without knowing and loving God and His loving us in return? How many of us are truly ever happy and content believing that what we have is the result solely on what we do and create?

Our modern world is filled with the "famous and beautiful people," who spend time and money in the attempt to stay "famous and beautiful." Can they truly be happy? Is their life one of simplicity and reality, or do they live in a world of make believe?

The world is also filled with those who have amassed fortunes and then spend their time and effort trying to keep it. Can they truly be content? Is their life one of fulfillment, or do they live in a world of make believe?

Or, those people whose primary focus is on gaining more and more power, then having to spend yet greater energy staying there. Can they be truly happy and content? Is their life one of continuous inner peace, or is their life like a Barnum and Bailey circus?

The refrain breaks the verses, so instead of God speaking to us about the triviality of life without Him, from our perspective, in the refrain we acknowledge the idea that living without the mantle of God's love and guidance, we are destined to spend our lives in in a world of shadows and illusions:

Without your love
It's a honey-tonk parade
Without your love
It's a melody played in a penny arcade

So for what is worth, that irritating event when a tune plays over and over in my mind may not be so bad after all. I can't say for certain if the writers had any other intention than to amuse the masses with a cute little tune and clever lyrics. Isn't it funny, though, how the audience reacts to the piece and takes away something that touches their own life? The unintended reality of this common human experience for me has been the realization that my life would really be less full, less meaningful and less real without the Greater Good. If you are interested in hearing a version of the song -- performed by the fantastic Ella Fitzgerald, you can find it here.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

In the Clinic with Exercise

One thing about it, you have to love the habits of health and the ripple effect they have on those around you.

In the office we try as often as possible to model those activities that support good health and overall wellbeing. This "do-as-I-do" attitude lends credibility to the things our providers tell their patients when discussing medical problems related to lifestyle choices, such as diabetes, metabolic syndrome, high blood pressure and the like, but is often easier said than done.

To facilitate this healthy focus, I purchased a Nike FuelBand several years ago and was immediately depressed by the paltry number of steps I achieved in the course of a day. I found that by 5 pm (when the clinic closed), I failed to come close to my goal of 10,000 steps a day, which meant that I had to find time to add those 6000-7000 more steps I needed to track before midnight.

In our small office it is difficult to hide much of anything and my comments about the lack of progress I was making soon became a topic of general conversation. Our ever-energetic and enthusiastic medical assistant Andrew caught quite an interest in my healthy endeavor and also decided to jump on the 10,000 step per day bandwagon.

Armed with his own Fuelband, he started tracking his steps and we enjoyed comparing notes throughout the day as to our step-status. Eventually this led to a friendly competition to see who could clock the most steps before quitting time. As late afternoon approached, we would call out to each other as we passed through the clinic our current count, and there were times when we were quite literally within dozens of steps of each other. All of this produced a frantic push on the one of us behind at that point to be as active as possible, and I have to admit that I found myself stepping in place while I waited for a fax to come through or some such other menial task.

Not to be outdone, Andrew decided that he would build himself a workstation where he could stand to do his work, and keep in "perpetual motion" as he answered phones, completed forms or did computer work. Mary, our administrative assistant, soon joined in the fray, creating her own workstation where she had the flexibility to either sit or stand. She soon upped the ante, and with her FitBit firmly planted on her wrist, twice a day both she and Andrew took time to complete the "7 Minute Workout" from an app Mary had downloaded on her phone. Attempts, by the way, to get Jeannine involved in this, were hit and miss -- but this is the topic for another story.

Since I still have too much pride to lend myself to doing crunches on the floor in front of a few onlookers, I had to figure out something else to improve my FuelBand numbers. It was at this point that I made the decision to haul myself out of the comfortable reverie of slumber and begin my quest for 10,000 steps at 5:30 in the morning.

Puffed up like the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man, I began greeting Andrew as he entered the office each morning at 8:15 with my 3000+ steps already showing on my FuelBand. My good-natured friend would with humor acknowledge his deficit and the day would move forward.

All of this effort on healthy movement lasted for about two months. Not sure how or why it happened, but we all sort of lost our competitive spirit. We still get plenty of movement in during the course of the day, but the teasing and tormenting has fallen by the wayside.

Most of us in the clinic still embrace the habit of healthy movement. Andrew has replaced his office chair with a huge blue ball -- core training at its best during office hours. For me, I can still find time to run in place as I wait for a fax or am taking a lengthy phone call, but I now find that the best movement I get seems to be when I have waited too long to use the restroom and, at the point of almost no return, am sometimes forced to dance around waiting for the room to be less occupied.