Saturday, February 19, 2011

Getting Inside Oneself

Getting inside oneself is not I suspect something most of us do with any marked degree of facility. Such an achievement (for I consider it to be one) would seemingly be even less likely when surrounded by fifty other people in relatively close quarters. Yet that is precisely the experience I have had this evening while attending a birthday party for the second wife of an acquaintance of mine. Given the tenuous nature of my relationship with the primary persons involved it is not entirely unimaginable that I was able to distance myself from the proceedings, although I do not think that one needs to feel estranged from others in order to get inside oneself and engage in self-discovery. The process is not exclusive or limiting. Getting into anything (which of course is really nothing more than a metaphor for getting into oneself) usually involves profit and pleasure of some description, even enjoying oneself wholeheartedly and perhaps without inhibition, but nowhere is it written that the undertaken is solitary.

Indeed I am of the opinion that any particular state of delight invariably involves positive external stimuli. I frankly have not reached that state of meditation where I contemplate an isolated journey into myself. I need some help getting there. Often the assistance is more serendipitous than anything else; that is, it is more an accident of events than an algorithm. For example, this weekend is a long weekend, Monday being "Family Day". That alone promotes a happy disposition within me. As someone who takes very few days off work during the year, having the entitlement to do so with impunity is a fortune not to be diminished.

At most social gatherings one is expected to mingle. This obligation I was successfully and tactfully able to avoid by virtue of my over-riding purpose to play the Steinway grand piano throughout the evening. The host has long flattered me for my modest talents at the keyboard and being the egoist that I am I regularly succumb to the persuasion. It is however always without reluctance or regret. I get a bang out of entertaining people with my music especially when I have the opportunity to play such a fine instrument (which has the added advantage of a Louis XV mahogany cabinet). The singular feature of playing the piano is that I am unable to walk and chew gum at the same time; that is, I can only play, not talk. Any attempt to do both ends in rapid disintegration. As such I effectively immerse myself in the work at hand, and I suspect my body language says it all for I am seldom interrupted.

Eventually I have to give it a rest, not only for my own refreshment but also to provide the opportunity for all those classically trained pianists in the crowd who have been hovering about the piano to come forward to show their talent, an adventure made all the more compelling after having gulped a shot or two of the right stuff. During this time I enjoy connecting with the people who have brushed past me in the earlier part of the evening, whispering pleasantries in my ear. Customarily by the latter part of the night, the stewards have managed to get a pretty good grip on everyone, and most of the crowd has been not only well fed but well watered. Our host is notorious for hiring an excellent caterer (which I understand is an outfit from New Edinburgh near Rockcliffe Park in Ottawa). Conversation is fairly free-wheeling at this juncture. It is easy to recognize someone who is mischievous and who enjoys a bit of clever banter and maybe even some gossip. I am invariably able to capitalize upon my thirty-five years tenure in this town, and I take great delight in sharing anecdotes which have some material connection to the people with whom I am speaking. Perhaps I knew who owned their house previously; or the history of their quirky neighbours; or the people behind the business their friends have worked with. Every conversation is peppered with jokes and twists and laughs.

Because I neither eat nor drink at these gatherings, I am beyond the reach of their effect. In this respect I get entirely into myself in that my resources come from within, though clearly stimulated by the people with whom I am rollicking. It ends by being a most satisfactory combination for me, a feeling of elevation above the fray while still sensing the spirited nature of the surroundings.

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