Friday, January 18, 2013

The Examined Life

There's a proverb credited to Socrates, "The unexamined life is not worth living," with which I completely disagree. I seem to know an inordinate number of people who can't seem to simply enjoy the life they're given, day by day. They feel compelled to rehash the past again and again, flogging themselves for roads not taken, wrong decisions made, what-if's and why's.

So much wasted energy that could be applied to moving forward, from this day on, without a backward glance. News flash! You can't have a do-over and, most likely, you wouldn't do it any differently anyway.

So why, then, have I been drawn recently to so many autobiographies, not to mention that burgeoning genre, fictional biographies? I suppose it's fair to say that, having arrived at a certain age, public figures, entertainers, and writers, too, want to make sense of the past. As long as they don't spend too much time apologizing or recanting, then my inner voyeur enjoys the ride.

Not too long ago I finished Carole King's memoir, A Natural Woman. The downloadable version was read by Ms. King herself, voice raspy from the years of performing, but still warm and confident. I felt like she was just chatting with a friend in her living room while she accompanied herself on the piano to illustrate various modes of music that she was discussing.

Anyone interested in the history of American music would love this book which pretty much covers half a century. You can probably count on one hand the number of musicians who can change with the times, always looking forward, staying relevant for fifty years and Carole King is one of them. Unless you are a musicologist, you may not actually be aware of how much she has written for others as opposed to producing for herself.

I seem to remember - this is going back some - that Carole King made a name for herself helping Democratic political figures and advocating for our beleaguered planet. What I didn't have any knowledge of, and something that she shared, was that she had a long relationship with, and then married, a man who abused her both physically and mentally. This was quite a confession and took some courage but she says she spoke out to help others.

Can you imagine, a woman so prominent in a man's world, on stages all over the county with the likes of James Taylor, exuding such uber-confidence in her public life, being battered at home? In the home that she paid for, filled with her own precious children. Her confession was a good reminder that women from all walks of life, educational background, and financial circumstances can be vulnerable to mistreatment. A lesson shared and a happy ending.

Next up? The Boss! Let's see what music critic Peter Carlin has to say about Springsteen. Then I'll tell you about Salman Rushdie's fascinating "fictional" biography Joseph Anton. I'm reading as fast as I can.

1 comment:

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