Contemplations from the Marianas Trench

from the Marianas Trench

The Contemplations Continue.....


Like many other people in the world I am a failed musician. I had piano lessons and at the tender age of five, or thereabouts, it was determined I had a great talent. I still have the old piano books with stars on every page to prove it! I also dabbled in the folk guitar - but nobody told me I was talented there. I was, however, told I had "a nice voice..." and it wasn't by my mother!

I had a hand me down piano for a few years - and it was so badly out of tune you couldn't tell when I hit the wrong note. That was good because I hit a lot of them and I was able to blame many of them on the piano. I never did buy a metronome - you can't set them slow enough for me to hit all the notes at the right time. I still have my guitar, and still remember a few chords. My music is sadly dated - doesn't anyone sing "Blowin' In the Wind" any more? It's probably just as well, I doubt it would have the same feeling as it used to.

I have discovered through the "magic" of computers (which is another contemplation) that I can make music. I don't have to pound it out on the keyboard, I can key it in with a program. This isn't as easy as it sounds, particularly for a person with very little musical knowledge, but it is easier than spending countless hours struggling to practice a tune so that you can actually SING to it. After twenty years I have a passable "Greensleeves" and that's about it. It's not a commitment I'm willing to make for a lot of songs - even though the women in my family are extremely long lived.

No, now I can download a song from the Internet and for those I can't find, I can look up the music and key it in myself. I'm thinking of buying Midiscan, which will do even that for me! What I key in isn't much, but it's better after a few hours than what I can do after twenty years on a keyboard! And through the wonder of computers someone else can fix it to be even better!

Why not just buy an album, you ask. It's a valid question because with the money I've spent on software I could have bought several albums. And there will be other programs to try, upgrades, etc, etc. Of course no one has ever accused me of being frugal.

No, I like keying in the music myself. There is great satisfaction in listening to a tune which turns out to be recognizable. There's even greater satisfaction, when someone else fixes it and the tune becomes beautiful, in knowing that I has some small part in it.

This is, I suppose, a small reflection of the way I feel about my children. Some days they are barely recognizable as my own, these independent creatures. But every so often they will say or do something, often mischievous, often humorous, sometimes outrageous, and I will recognize that I had some part in who they have become. My children, in that sense, are the true music of my life, though sometimes I wish I had a computer program to key their behavior in too!

The Contemplator (Lesley Nelson-Burns) 1996


As is often the case in my contemplations, this is not about the magic you probably think of when you first see the word. No rabbits popping out of hats, no sawing women in half... The magic of a computer is, however, just as inscrutable to me. I don't understand how they work any more than I understand how magicians do their "magic".

When I was in high school I had to take a computer course. At that time (you'll note I have very little vanity about my age), we had to write a program with something like

10 input .....
20 ......
30 ......
40 run

You can see I don't remember a whole lot of it... As a matter of fact all I remember about it is the darn numbers! And I vaguely recall having to punch stuff in to cards, but I'm not sure that had anything to do with the programming we were doing. The class was a traumatic experience and I prayed computers were just a fad that only dweebs would ever use. Of course this was before that term existed....

I recall much later, when I worked for a bank, having to put a disk in the computer every morning. I had never touched a disk before and I was warned in strident terms that if I did it wrong I would mess up the entire system - but no one every explained to me exactly WHY you put it in the way they told me. Every morning I would study the darn disk - which was about 8 inches around - terrified that I would put it in incorrectly and blow up the entire banking system. It was another traumatic experience.

In retrospect it's incredible I ever ventured close to another computer. But in my family two feelings are stronger than fear - competition and boredom. I was motivated to buy my first "real computer", the Color Computer, because someone else in the family was talking about getting a "personal computer". Even today we keep close track of one another's computer systems!

I don't really understand exactly how a computer works any more than I did way back when. As a matter of fact, since installing Windows 95 I am back to having NO IDEA how it works - but having called technical support several times I see that they don't have a clue either. Anyway, what I have come to understand is that I don't HAVE to know how they work. I no longer even care how it works; except, speaking of Blowin' In the Wind - dollars that is - (see Music) when I have to call technical support.

I appreciate computers much the same way I appreciate a good magician. When they are good at their craft I marvel and when they stink I feel they should be yanked off the stage with a hook!

The Contemplator (Lesley Nelson-Burns) 1996


Following in the tradition I have unwittingly created of multiple meanings for the titles of my contemplations - this is not about curiosities such as four headed dogs with alligator tails who meow instead of bark, but about curiosity of the human kind. Not four headed humans with alligator tails either, though that would certainly be a curiosity, but the Webster's #1 definition of curious, "the desire to investigate and learn."

I've taken some classes toward teacher certification. This involved learning about IQs and aptitudes, etc. Which has, of course, made me contemplate the importance of these things. Or the unimportance.

Although I am told these tests serve a valid function, only one things makes a person interesting to me and that's curiosity. Brad Pitt, as I have noted often enough, is the exception - I do not care one bit whether he has curiosity - I have enough for both of us. Anyway, it doesn't matter what you know or how quickly you can know it; what matters is that you want to know.

Some people have passive curiosity. "That's interesting, tell me more." Others have active curiosity. Speaking as one with active curiosity, this can be as much a curse as a blessing. I don't just think I'd like to learn about something, I delve into any resource I can find to gratify my curiosity. The Internet often provides instant gratification though rarely the depth I require. No, the Internet will not replace libraries any time soon.

Another curse/blessing is the fact that the adventure never ends. Inevitably one curiosity leads to another, and to another.

There is proof that IQ and the such do not matter. Peoples with active curiosity, such as myself (note I said with active curiosity and not who are active curiosities) are pretty good at trivial pursuit and fun at parties when people are sober enough to understand conversation. Who cares about aptitudes and grades, when these are the situations that are truly critical in life.

The Contemplator (Lesley Nelson-Burns) 1996


No - not deprAved, but deprived. There are people who are deprived of many things - my concern is not, at least at the moment, deprivation of material things - but of sleep. I have said many times I am not an expert at most things - probably shows in what I write too - but I have more experience in sleep deprivation than I'd like.

I can't think of anyone who went to college who didn't have some experience with sleep deprivation. Ah yes, those midterms and finals, you say. No, a lot of people become sleep deprived from the parties AFTER the midterms and finals.

I can't think of too many parents who haven't been sleep deprived at some point or another. If you are a parent who has not experienced sleep deprivation you have unknowingly made huge withdrawals from the karma bank and will no doubt some day get yours.

I have also been sleep deprived by choice. Inspiration Two and I sometimes stay up all night watching old horror movies. This is as educational as it is entertaining - it teaches my son that you can grow up to be normal in spite of watching terribly stupid movies. Then again, it may teach him you CAN'T grow up to be normal if you watch terrible movies.

The effects of sleep deprivation are insidious. When Inspiration Three was a child I was sleep deprived almost constantly for several months. Thankfully I was not working at the time, because I was not functioning at the time either. In fact I have little recollection of the time except sitting next to a baby swing muttering incoherently in the wee hours of the morning.

When I was completing my thesis I had no more than a couple of hours of sleep a night for more than a week. Unfortunately I had responsibilities which necessitated some measure of organization. Some measure, any measure, was more than I was capable of. Driving was almost more than I was capable of, and I had to do it anyway. Thankfully I never fell asleep at the wheel, but I sometimes had no clue as to how I got to my destination.

I don't have any more babies, I have completed my thesis... so why am I concerned about sleep deprivation? I've decided it's a good way to explain my frequent typos, frequent improper punctuation and sometimes improper grammar. I'd like to offer the Gaelic lyrics to some of the tunes by Turlough O'Carolan on my pages - but I find enough typos in English. Come to think of it however, it might be easier, because I would have no clue that they were really typos....

Anyway, as you browse around these pages, and find the occasional misspelled or misplaced word, keep in mind that I probably spend more time on the computer than sleeping. (I am sleep deprived, not computer deprived.) You'd think I'd spend more time fixing typos...

The Contemplator (Lesley Nelson-Burns) 1996


Joy is a perfume - a very expensive perfume. I haven't bought any since a trip to the Virgin Islands when hundreds of dollars on perfume seemed insignificant to thousands of dollars on a vacation. And, of course, my husband (now my ex) bought it for me. I could have had a notebook computer for the cost of it, but he didn't think that was very romantic. Clearly I should have gotten the notebook computer.

Joy hasn't gotten any cheaper since then. On the other hand, joy (with a little j) is not necessarily expensive.

Sunrises cost nothing, except in lost sleep.

Movies can be a cheap source of joy, but you're far more likely to find a bad movie than a good one. The same goes for books. And food. Music. The list is endless.

Children, sometimes a great source of joy, are cheap to create but expensive to maintain and as they grow older one can never be exactly sure when they are going to be a joy or a pain. I have always appreciated Taoist philosophy and I read it often as I raise my children. Lao Tzu wrote: "Long and short define each other. High and low depend on each other." It follows that we know joy because we know pain - they are inseparable. Lao Tzu wrote this, of course, when he was retiring to the mountains and did not have to deal with children.

So amid all the necessary hassle and pain inherent in life, the Contemplator's philosophy, which is not original, is to find joy where you can. Credit cards prove very useful in this if you're talking about Joy (with a capital J) - or notebook computers.

The Contemplator (Lesley Nelson-Burns) 1996

The Millennium

I was recently at the Celtic Folk Festival at Oatlands (near Leesburg, VA). One of the many activities I enjoyed was a storyteller. I am very remiss not to put his Name here, but during the day I lost my program and do not now have it to refer to. If you happen to recognize yourself I apologize! Anyway.... the topic the storyteller addressed was time.

"D' ye tink time is gittin' shrtr?" he asked (apologies again to the storyteller - and to any of you with a Celtic style accent). A few people agreed - though the Contemplator. Although not normally recognized as rational or scientific, the Contemplator recognized that this is not possible except in science fiction and fantasy. However, since he did not claim to be a scientist, but a storyteller, I saw no need to take issue.

The gist of what followed is that we are approaching the millennium and time is acting as if it is going through a funnel, swirling into the small opening (getting smaller and smaller - or shorter and shorter in this case), and when it passes through to the other side time will again begin to expand.

I thought this was a very novel approach and have decided to cast aside rationale and science (a fact which will surprise no one) and embrace this idea, particularly since I have recently embarked on a new adventure called full time employment.

Time has, in fact, gotten shorter. I thought the solution lay in organization. That is far too complicated. The solution is really to speed up the approach of the millennium at which time things will slow down. I will start trying to figure that out.... as soon as I have time....

The Contemplator (Lesley Nelson-Burns) 1996


I never thought I had much of an ego. It comes from being a female, I think and starts around the age of 12 or 13. Which is not to say that males don't have similar problems, it only means that I have no direct experience with such things and though this does not always prevent me from writing about a subject, it does in that particular instance.

However, I find the dictionary (the official variety a.k.a. Merriam Webster) defines ego as "the self as distinguished from others". I have my own dictionary which defines things pretty much as I please, mostly by illustration, "If you look up hick in the dictionary you'll find a picture of ....."--- fill in your own name because this is too controversial a subject for the Contemplator, who lives in an area where everything closes the day hunting season begins....

Accepting the Webster definition for the moment, ego seems a fairly simple thing to have - excluding those who enter a new relationship and want to be joined at the hip to someone (look in my dictionary under "naÔve" or "teenager in love"). I donít mean any cruelty here - to my mind one of the crucial aspects of any relationship including lover, friend, parent-child, add your own, is having your own space. It would seem given my belief that I would have a healthy ego.

But there are people like Cindy Crawford in the world. With apologies to Webster, they have it all wrong. In todayís world ego isnít about being distinguished from others, itís about comparing yourself to others. Itís a shame really, because Iíve been told in the Middle Ages (not the age of 40 but the historical sort) if you were thin and pale people assumed you had TB. Being overweight was a sign of wealth and health and was much prized in seeking marriage partners (this was no doubt theorized by an overweight person).

So no matter what your body type or personality there is probably a culture in some period in time or place where you would be the most desired person in it. Big nose, big backside, small breasts - surely these have somewhere, sometime been prized (please note these are arbitrary examples rather than a commentary on the Contemplatorís anatomy).

If we determine our ego by comparison we are bound to feel inadequate. There is always someone brighter, prettier, stronger, faster, more successful than we are. They may be everywhere or you may not have met them yet - but they are out there. So ego should, in fact, follow the Webster definition. We should all be different. I love diversity and I try to be as divergent from others as I can. Many people will tell you I succeed. My daughter too is very good at this - she used to sport pink hair, and blue and purple next week.

No doubt my personal philosophy will make absolutely no difference in anyoneís perception of themselves. Therefore I have come up with an alternative method of boosting your ego. Buy a picture of Cindy Crawford (personalize this as you wish) and throw darts at it.

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The Contemplator (Lesley Nelson-Burns) 1996