Provision #805: On Boston, Memory & Graceland

Laser Provision

As a long-time marathon runner, including the Boston marathon, I thought I would never forget the horror of the bombings on April 15, 2013. Yet I have, in fact, forgotten those horrific events from time to time only to have to be prompted in order to remember them all over again. Then they all come flooding back. This is a strange brain in which to be living. But, as Paul Simon sings, “this is the story of how we begin to remember.” Intrigued? Read on.

LifeTrek Provision

I have twice run the Boston marathon: in the year 2000 and again in 2005. Both times I finished in less than 4 hours (3:46 and 3:59 respectively). It was a pleasure and an honor to run those races.

Boston is unique among marathons in that you have to qualify to get in by running a particular time or better, based on your age and gender, in another marathon. Other races are simply happy to take your money and let you run. Boston is different. If you have the privilege of running the Boston marathon then you are, at least at that moment, in a rather elite class of runners. You have to be in tip-top shape to get in and run the race.

You can imagine, then, that I was horrified and mesmerized by the events that took place at the Boston Marathon this past week. To witness the senseless devastation, disruption, and deaths of so many at any age, let alone of an 8-year-old boy, especially after people have worked so hard to save my life over the past 8 months, just rocked me to the core. “I will be shocked,” I said to my wife, Megan, on the day of the race, “if I don’t remember this tomorrow morning.” Yet in the morning I did fail to remember what happened there until she reminded me. My brain inflammation has kicked up again over the past couple of weeks, as I think I shared with you last week, and we are suffering the consequences.

It’s discouraging when things move in the wrong direction. If you pray, please pray that things get back on track. As I sit here and write this Provision, I have had no brain seizures for two days. That’s good. That’s very good. Please pray that I have no more seizures, ever, and that I learn the lessons of Graceland.

Graceland, as you may know, was the 1986 production of the musician, Paul Simon, formerly of Simon & Garfunkel (and knowing that really dates me). As a part of my recovery from the strange brain activity that first grabbed hold of me at the end of August 2012, listening to the music of Graceland is healing to the soul. What was then a very controversial and political album has become for me a daily ritual and a spiritual gift. When I mentioned the healing, therapeutic properties of Graceland to one of my rehab doctors, his comment was simply, “It works for me.”

If you are not familiar with the album, then I encourage you to check it out. You can watch licks from and documentaries about the concert through online streaming outlets such as Netflix orYouTube. Simply put, I find these productions to be inspiring. The notion that “we all will be received in Graceland” speaks to the situation of the time and to the aspirations of us all.

What made the album controversial at the time of its creation and release was Simon’s defiance of the cultural boycott of the apartheid regime in South Africa. But Simon stood his ground, showcasing the talents of black South African musicians while offering no support to the South African government. Apparently more than 14 million people agree, since that’s how many copies of the CD have now been sold. And the sales continue. There is a timeless quality that defies explanation and invites collaboration. There’s no way to stop singing and rocking along.

Although I enjoy them all, one of the tracks on the CD that has meant a lot to me in my recovery is titled Under African Skies. It speaks to my aspirations as well as to many aspects of my experience in recovery. Here are the lyrics:

Joseph’s face was black as night
The pale yellow moon shone in his eyes
His path was marked by the stars
In the Southern hemisphere
And he walked his days under African skies

This is the story of how we begin to remember
This is the powerful pulsing of love in the vein
After the dream of falling and calling your name out
These are the roots of rhythm
And the roots of rhythm remain

In early memory, Mission music
Was ringing ’round my nursery door
I said, “Take this child, Lord from Tucson, Arizona
Give her the wings to fly through harmony
And she won’t bother you no more”

This is the story of how we begin to remember
This is the powerful pulsing of love in the vein
After the dream of falling and calling your name out
These are the roots of rhythm
And the roots of rhythm remain

Joseph’s face was as black as the night
And the pale yellow moon shone in his eyes
His path was marked by the stars
In the Southern hemisphere
And he walked the length of his days under African skies

Wow. It doesn’t get any more powerful for someone who has gone through my experience than the repeated words of the second and fourth verses. That’s the story I have been living for almost eight months and that is a story that indeed hinges on the roots of rhythm. Fortunately, the roots of rhythm remain alive in me and, I believe, will be fully born in about the time it takes to complete a normal human pregnancy. If you hope to create or recreate a human life, at any age, then nine months seems about the right amount of time. Creation just can’t be rushed through, brushed over, or trivialized. The notion of being reborn in an instant just doesn’t work for me. It takes time to be born and to be born anew and I am happy to be coming along however slowly. As my wife consistently reminds me, coming along slowly is better than the alternative.

So let’s pause to remember the casualties and tragedies of Boston. Everyone, both innocent victims and guilty perpetrators, have suffered greatly. There is horrific trauma here, which excuses and explains nothing but which describes accurately the nature of this experience and of so many situations in our world. I yearn for that day when we not only begin to remember; but when we begin to embrace the wonders of love in all its fullness.

Coaching Inquiries: What do you remember about the events of the past week? What were the highs and lows? How could your memories serve to uplift and benefit others? In what sense could we nevertheless be going to Graceland through it all?

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LifeTrek Readers’ Forum (selected feedback from the past week)

Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Form or Email Bob.

Your last Provision, Sleep Matters More, really speaks to my experience. I have found that without regular naps I cannot be as productive as I want or others want. Instead of slowing me down, naps pick me up. Thanks for reinforcing what has, for me, been a lifelong pattern. They do, indeed, matter!

How can we ever sleep enough in our modern world? With constant stimulation, lights, and requirements it seems as though sleep is getting squeezed out of our lives. I’m sorry this squeeze forced you to pay such a heavy price. Maybe it will become easier, now, for you to “Just say No!” You certainly have a case that no one can argue with. Keep spreading the word.

May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

President, LifeTrek Coaching
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School
Past President, International Association of
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a TimeOnline Retailers

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