Tuesday, July 28, 2009

If Every Good Boy Deserves Favour, What Do I Get?

Moody Tuesday Afternoon
I love The Moody Blues. Being a child of the 60s and 70s, I cut my musical teeth on the great bands of Rock ‘N Roll’s ‘British Invasion.’ First of course were the Beatles and Rolling Stones, but later, around the turn of the decade, came the incredible age of Progressive Rock, which (quite unofficially, by my own recollection) seems to have lasted from about 1968 to 1974, before that abominable ‘Disco’ movement came and completely enveloped the Pop landscape like kudzu in a forest.

The Moody Blues, who like many pop giants of that era have enjoyed revival periods in recent years, long after their salad days had passed, still occasionally performing, but no longer producing any real new material — and to be fair, really don't need to. Their fans are more than happy to simply come to their shows to hear the old stuff and relive their youth.

Speaking of old stuff, today is my 53rd birthday, and if you were expecting a mini-expose on Progressive Rock, I hate to disappoint ya. No, this is gonna be another one of my like-‘em-or-loathe-‘em naval gazer episodes.

I need to vent a little bit here, and my prior mention of The Moodies relates to something I've actually thought about for a long time, but which came into special meaning for me today, while pondering the events of the past several months.

If you are indeed a fan of the Moody Blues, then doubtless you recognized the title of my post as being derivative of their classic 1971 album Every Good Boy Deserves Favour, which produced one of their biggest singles, The Story in Your Eyes. That album came out in July of that year, while I was in transition from Junior High to High School. Those were some heady times in my life as I’m sure they were in yours. Self-discovery; the longing for love and meaning in life; the formation of a personal world-view and purpose; the beginning of that awkward transformation from boy to man.

These are the struggles we all faced more-or-less during that important late-adolescent-to-teen period, and being the melancholy soul that I am, I often return in my mind to bathe in the waters of that time in my life, comparing who and what I thought I was, to the person I ultimately have become.

Sometimes I like what I see as the a mature man who conquered his fears, and the social obstacles that could have held him back, to become a successful family man of 30-plus years, with likewise a great deal of positive experience in all aspects of professional and personal life.

Yet there are still other times (although thankfully, not so many), in which I wonder how I'm still standing; how it is that still have a job, why my wife hasn't long since left me, and how the HELL I'm ever gonna make it to retirement.

Yesterday was one of those days.

Where the aforementioned Moody Blues album comes into play is simply in its title: ‘Every Good Boy Deserves Favour.’ (I especially like the British spelling of the word, ‘favour’ — but I digress...)

In its definition as a noun, the connotation of ‘favour’ is that of a ‘gift.’ Merriam Webster defines it as a friendly regard shown toward another, especially by a superior, or, as an approving consideration or attention; approbation; partiality; along with the more archaic definitions of leniency and permission.

Sounds good, doesn’t it; especially if you're a ‘good boy’ like me...

What a concept...album
One of the hallmarks of the Progressive Rock era was the preponderance of the ‘concept album.' These still exist today, but not nearly to the extent that they did in the late 60s and more specifically, the early 70s. But while they may not have held to the purest of the concept album definition, The Moody Blues were at least, in my opinion, the masters of the concept album title.

While their works might not have been rock operas, their album titles were never the staid, regurgitated monikers of one cut they hoped would sell the collection. The vast majority of their album titles were centered around themes rather than the more common modern practice of the so-called 'title cut,' as seen so often today. Most of the Moodies' album titles have been cleverly-crafted phrases, oftentimes pointing to the overall theme of the album's collection of songs, or simply taking a common phrase and turning it on its ear as it were.

Such is the case of Every Good Boy Deserves Favour. The album's theme is introspection; the desire to make sense of one's individual life — something that people seemed to spend a lot more energy doing back in the 60s and 70s than than they seem to now. And since that's a concept that's pretty much in the wheelhouse of my emotional makeup, the phrase has captured my imagination for the past 38 years.

But what's so great about it is the fact that the title's original context really isn't all that deep. It's a popular mnemonic phrase used in musical circles to help students remember the notes on the treble clef: E, G, B, D, and F. But as in the case of most of their albums, The Moody Blues' wonderful ability to turn that phrase, coupled with the album's wonderful cover artwork transforms this common, somewhat pedestrian ditty into something more; something mystical and deep in its implications — well, to me, anyway.

If every good boy deserves favour, then what do I get? What do I deserve? Did I receive it already, or is it still coming?

Inquiring 53 year-old minds want to know.

Hell Week II
I didn't think that I could have a worse week than the one that preceded my father In-Law's death last month, but this one was pretty darned close. No there were no deaths in the family, but the fallout from my performance at work, could very well leave my career on life support.

Yeah, I know it’s been awhile since I played the ‘woe is me, I’m gonna lose my job’ card, but fear not; I won’t be burdening you with that sentiment. Nonetheless, the possibility definitely exists that if the powers that be at The Company where I work have any ideas of getting rid of me, they’d likely have just cause. It’s not a case of my crashing into the Bosses’ car in the parking lot or anything like that; no, this was something much more innocent, although no less egregious.

It was an innocent mistake, yet one that may actually cost The Company revenue, which in today’s economy is nothing to be viewed lightly. It could be considered by certain people in certain positions within the corporate pecking order a terminable offense if they wished to press the issue. However that's a rather large ‘if.’

The details are unimportant; it wasn’t a situation in which I violated any kind of corporate standard, unless of course, being temporarily brain-dead is against the rules.

I think it suffice to say that I placed myself in a position in which I allowed stress to interfere with common sense. I eschewed the proper safeguards that should have been adopted while hurriedly editing some web pages. Errors were made due to my haste; hopefully my career with The Company isn’t wasted as a result.

But that’s as much as I’m gonna allow myself to cry over this puddle of spilled milk. I’m actually feeling much better about things today, following an absolutely hellacious day and evening yesterday, when I first even became aware of the goof that cost our sales force nearly an entire week of Web business leads.

However now after stepping back and giving my tongue a rest from licking my wounds, I’m seeing a different angle to things. I’m beginning to see a different level to the source of my anxiety in view of this abrupt interruption in my self-confidence as a professional being.

A Question of Balance
If you were wondering when this story would revert back to The Moody Blues, well, here’ya go.

The aforementioned 1971 MB’s album, Every Good Boy Deserves Favour was released less than a year following what is almost universally regarded as the Moodies’ greatest musical achievement, 1970’s A Question of Balance.

AQOB featured perhaps the band’s seminal hit, Question, a song that still chokes me up today, but which made me absolutely weep as a fourteen year-old boy, betwixt the pain of physical abuse I was suffering at home, and the emotional pain my heart felt, longing to be free; to be loved.
I’m looking for someone to change my life
I’m looking for a miracle in my life
and if you could see
what it’s done to me
to lose the life I knew
could safely lead me to
The land that I once knew,
to learn as we grow old;
the secrets of our souls.

From Question (From the album, A Question of Balance) | © 1970 The Moody Blues
I was never so naïve to believe that there was anyone out there who could take away all my troubles, but I knew there was something. I knew that I simply couldn’t be condemned to a life of pain.

And sure enough, my fortunes did change. Not too many years later I was on the opposite end of the spectrum; instead of my life being cursed, I was convinced that it was charmed.

Success in school, athletics, strong personal relationships, and finally, the one; my wife Michelle, would bless my life; I was blown away at how great it was to be me.

Of course, different seasons of life bring different weather, and as you may know if you’re familiar with this blog, as far as storm clouds go, I’ve had some real doozies over the past 15-20 years. But for the last ten, things have been unbelievably good.

Despite some difficulties in recent years, transitioning to the programming side of being a web designer, I felt as though I had successfully bridged the knowledge-gap that threatened to relegate me to the pile of obsoletes in other professions who weren’t able to change with the times. Although I still have a ways to go to completely get to where I need to be, I’ve definitely come a long way since 2006, the year my scripting skills were suddenly exposed as lacking.

The point I suppose I’m trying to make here is that there’s always something to do; something new to learn; some way to make oneself better in today’s professional world. The option of doing one thing the same way no longer exists. That’s a tough thing for someone of my generation to accept, and even harder to adopt as an automatic assumption.

It’s harder to become a star, even more so to maintain the same brilliance over time. Seems there’s always someone or something just around the corner with the apparent sole intent of snuffing out that flame, just when you think it will burn forever.

What I’m experiencing right now isn’t fair, but neither is it unfair; it just is. It’s the way of the world. Its part and parcel to the vigilance we must all endure to be the best we can be. And if that vigilance is not met, we stand the chance of being swept aside — plain and simple.

I believe God opens the doors, but its up to us to get where we need to go once we walk through them. And He doesn’t hand out skates for the journey.

The Boy on His Way
One final (brief) detour. Sunday night I saw Maia Sharp at 3rd & Lindsley. Great show. Hopefully I’ll soon have time to give the experience the description it deserves in a future post.

Maia is a grossly under-exposed, but superbly-talented singer-songwriter, who has simply had bad luck with record labels — usually as a result of them not giving her the support she needed at the proper time. However this time she decided to do it right and released her new album on her own record label, Crooked Crown Records.

On Maia’s brand new release, Echo is a song that truly struck a chord with me (no pun intended — for a change). It’s a song about a woman, perhaps somewhat autobiographical in nature, but I’m not assuming anything here.

All I know is it’s a great song; one whose sentiments could be applicable to nearly anyone approaching middle-anything; a time of life where if you haven’t quite yet arrived, either personally or professionally, you (and probably everyone else) are likely wondering if you ever will.

It’s called The Girl On Her Way. Sung from a third-person perspective, it’s about an actress whose promise, at least in her own mind, has never been fully realized.

The singer wonders,
How long can she be the girl on her way
before she’s just the woman, who never got there?
How far can she ride the dream of someday
before her ticket is only good for the nightmare
of seeing everything that almost came,
every spark that never made a flame;
Are they saying ‘she’s a star,’ or ‘what a shame’?
How long can she be the girl on her way?
How long can she be the girl on her way…?

From The Girl On Her Way (From the album, Echo) | © 2009 Maia Sharp
It’s a concept that crosses gender boundaries, to be sure, and is in fact a scenario I’ve often placed myself into — especially in recent years.

How long do I assume that someday I’ll be the professional success I always assumed I would be? How long until the promise that seemed so close to surfacing in my own life finally fades from view. How long until I’m just another man ‘who never got there?’

These are the kind of questions I was asking myself 24 hours ago, but not today.

Today, in addition to being my 53rd birthday, is also the first day of the rest of my life. Trite saying; deep truth.

Whether or not I ever ‘get there’ doesn’t invalidate who I am or where I’ve been; the successes and tangible value that God has blessed my life with will remain long after The Company forgets I ever darkened its hallways.

I am indeed grateful for all the good things that have come my way, but I am once again reminded that I must never take them for granted. This week was a wakeup call to remind me of that.

If every good boy deserves favour, what do I get?

Another day for which to be thankful, and another opportunity to prove my worth all over again — and nothing more.

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