John Corson's Blog

WRITING & RANTING
for September 15, 2021

A REALLY DARK DAY

I had a delightful evening out on the back deck last night, listening to the classical music of Max Bruch and Ralph Vaughan Williams. Bruch's Scottish Fantasy for Violin and Orchestra first came to my attention on a cold winter night while sitting outside in a car munching on McDonald's Chicken McNuggets with my wife and first born son back in January of 1981. That time, date and event was and still is important to me.

I was not a novice with the world of Classical music, in fact, I fancied myself as quite knowledgeable in it and even wrote a major paper in a graduate school philosophy class on the paradigm shifts in music at the turn of the 20th century, focusing on the musical worldview of the Italian composer Ottorino Respighi. But I had only heard of Max Bruch, a lesser known German composer of the late nineteenth century, from his popular Violin Concerto No. 1. His three symphonies were rarely recorded and played; his chamber music wasn't performed much anywhere in the world and his other to violin concertos (No. 2 & 3)) were not played or performed much either. He had another well-received work, Kol Nedre, a work for cello and orchestra based on Hebrew Themes and is often played this time of year - Yom Kippur. But, it was this Scottish Fantasy which I first remember hearing on WGMS-FM while living in Maryland, that stuck with me all these forty years and that night in the car, we were with a couple of friends from the church I was ministering to after an evening of bowling. We were hungry and little Bobby, not yet two years old, loved those McNuggets.

With the five of us packed in Billy Cornett's Chevrolet Chevet, Billy, a well-accomplished pianist and with a better than average concert performance ability, turned on his radio and there the second of the five movements was playing. Nobody knew what it was. We listened to the final three movements with barely much conversation for we were all seemingly taken aback with this work. Then the host of the program, Dennis Owens, whom I met on a few occasions while living near the D.C. area, back announced the work noting that Itzhak Perlman was the violinist and Jesus-Lopes Cobos conducting the New Philharmonia Orchestra. I had to have the album! On the flip side was the not so well known Second Violin Concerto.

Last night, I started my two hour "down time on the deck" with that very same recording, playing it through my Bluetooth speakers from the Spotify app. Just hearing it took me back forty years and one of the many wonderful memories I had of my three years in Maryland. I have talked about this time in my life ad infinitum.

After that, I went on to listen to Vaughan Williams, about whom I have spoken before and noted that he is perhaps my most favorite composer, or certainly one of my favorites. I listened to his early work known as Serenade in A minor (there is that minor key again) and then played a work known as The Solent, followed by In the Fen Country, a work I first heard on WBJC-FM in Baltimore one night when Bill Feldman, the host of the overnight show played it for me. Then I played a work that Vaughan Williams intended to be incorporated into a Cello Concerto (which he never wrote) but this one movement piece was call The Dark Pastoral. Oh God! here we go. From reminiscing a great experience from 40 years before to mulling through a couple of pieces from my favorite composer to this work. I was moving deeper into the "darkness" of my spirit.

Now after that Dark Pastoral, which is only 11 minutes long, I played Vaughan Williams Oboe Concerto - also in a-minor. Those minor keys do bring out the melancholia.

Before you think I spent a total of 2 hours in deep despair I need to say emphatically here that I was not in a dark place. I was too busy - ready for this? - Talking to myself. I literally talked over and over to myself, thinking out loud and reflecting not about that night with friends at McDonald's, but about all of the churches I served and how in some cases they were supposed to be temporary ministries - such as my first in Mt. Auburn, Illinois. That was to get me through Seminary and to the time I would leave to pursue further studies. Some of those ministries were supposed to be stepping stones to larger and more permanent positions; some didn't work out; some were just not a good fit. I "explained" to myself that each ministry I left, I did so because it was not intended for me to be with them for a long and successful time. I was talking to myself about why my none of my ministries and pastorates could be classified as successful - not one single ministry out of the nine permanent and three interim pastorates could be deemed successful by the so-called "professional clergy." I will go on to say, my current pastorate is not successful, but it is not a failure. I see it as a weak, unspectacular pastor ministering to a weak and dying unspectacular church.

I reasoned with myself that that is the way God wanted it. That God had to give, or allow me to have, mediocre and/or dying churches because I was mediocre, mundane and monotonous. I was not deserving of a large, medium or small-to-medium sized church. I was not deserving of a church that had a ministerial staff and was lucky to be in one that had a part-time secretary. If anything, I might have been worthy of, or qualified for, a church wherein even the custodial duties were performed by either me or my wife. This is why I often reason with myself that I was either not called to the ministry by God, or that God wanted me to work the smaller venues because "someone has to do it."

My calling - beyond a shadow of a doubt - was broadcasting - radio in particular. The happiest times of my life where in the studio playing the music, production (putting together commercial tracks) and later - programming the automation systems. That last one was considered "job security." I miss doing that sooooo much!

So, for two hours is merely sat on that deck talking to myself about myself and all of the opportunities I messed up or the missed opportunities that would have benefitted me if I had taken the time to look into them (and there were a good number of them).

I really wasn't thinking that the music I was playing was going to put me through to a dark side this morning. You see, last night I played mostly pieces written in minor keys or that would evoke happy times in days gone by and never to be repeated again. I went inside around 10 pm and watched an episode of FBI: Most Wanted, then the news and weather and then an episode on St. Elsewhere on Hulu - the one where the three main doctor characters met for drinks at a bar which happens to be the one called Cheers (yes, that one which three of the main characters from the sitcom playing their roles). Around 12:20 am, I went to bed and it took less than five minutes for me to be in dreamland.

But I woke up this morning, took Reggie out to pee and came back in with a question on my mind. It was a negative question; one that is asked when seeking a negative or pessimistic answer. The question was: "What would you (me) consider the worst event in the last four years of my life?" Before I thought of the answer it quickly dawned on me that I said "four years" not the last year, not five years or ten or twenty, but FOUR" I know why not five now, because five years ago tomorrow my dear Princess passed away and I know I will have a lot to say about her tomorrow. But four years???

Here was my answer to myself. Two years ago last July when on the 22nd (a Monday) I hugged my oldest grandson Chandler and said goodbye to him as he was leaving for his job and I to go back home to Chesapeake. I spent a three day weekend in Ladson, near Charleston to be with him before he left for college. He stayed with me in a motel and his father (my youngest son, Brad) and little brother Wesley, joined us one night and we spent a day all together too. That Monday morning, before that "goodbye" I told him and acknowledged that he was nor into manhood and that he was to turn his attention to his school work and pressing on toward his future life's pursuit and should do so without looking back through the mirror. "Keep pressing ahead!" I told him that I had to let him go. Those were my words and I meant that I was in no place and that it would be wrong for me to hold him back with memories and wishes for time to stand still.

When he was growing up - all through his Elementary and Middle School years he would introduce me as his "Pop Pop" and then with most people he would say that we were "tight." We were tight. But that can't be any longer. It is not intended for parents or grandparents to hold their kids back when they have matured into adulthood and have proven it with correct and successful decisions that many eighteen year olds today can't do. Chandler did. Even his father Brad, and I both have said: "When I grow up, I want to be like Chandler."

Well, two years ago last July 21st was the worst day in my life over the last four years. Like death and taxes, it had to happen. I had to let him go. I think of the words of the song from the Prog-Rock band RUSH, called Time Stand Still:

I turn my face to the sun
Close my eyes, let my defenses down
All those wounds that I can't get unwound
I let my past go too fast
No time to pause
If I could slow it all down
Like some captain, whose ship runs aground
I can wait until the tide comes around

(Time stand still)
I'm not looking back, but I want to look around me now
(Time stand still)
See more of the people and the places that surround me now

Freeze this moment a little bit longer
Make each sensation a little bit stronger
Make each impression a little bit stronger
Freeze this motion a little bit longer

The innocence slips away
The innocence slips away
Time stand still
Time stand still

Summer's going fast, nights growing colder
Children growing up, old friends growing older
Freeze this moment a little bit longer
Make each sensation a little bit stronger

Experience slips away
Experience slips away
The innocence slips away

Now this question and my answer and perhaps the music and two hours of talking to myself last night, has set the stage for what is now a very dark and depressing day for me. It's a good thing I am not at church today - alone in my office, for I would be in even more despair and just being in that building alone (the secretary doesn't not work on Wednesdays) only evokes sad thoughts as I would look around as see those rooms and spaces where there use to be a lot of life with children, teens and adults moving about going to and coming from their Sunday School rooms and activities centers that now go unused.

I can't write anymore today. I have to go somewhere and cry. I really do. And to think - the sun is shining bright.

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Blogging

Blogs are about the blogger. It's as if he or she merely toots their own horns about the things they do, say and love.

My life is boring. I read, I watch Glenn Beck and Mark Levin. I listen to Andrew Wilkow. I engage in some conversation with those who are willing to listen (they being masochistic and enjoy killing themselves with my banter).

I plan on just laying out the things that bother me and the things I love. Nothing in-between. I hope you find whatever I put here amusing.