I work out at the gym in my office building. It's nothing glamorous but it has what I need: a precor machine, easy to use weight machines, a rower, and clean bright rooms for classes. It also has a view that reminds me every day of the preciousness of life: it overlooks the 9/11 site. Today crowds of people will be flocking to the site to pay homage to the people who spent their final moments on that site, people who are sorely missed by their families, friends, and by our city. It is a sobering reminder that every day, EVERY day, counts.
I am now in the midst of reading Wynton Marsalis's latest book, Moving to Higher Ground: How Jazz Can Change Your Life. I picked it up initially because I met him at Barnes & Noble during a session he was doing across from Lincoln Center, because my brother adores him, and because I was a mediocre saxophone player many moons ago.The book is incredible, and I'll write a proper post reviewing it as soon as I'm finish reading it. I mention it here because it's going to tie nicely into my thoughts on 9/11, right after I mention one more recent occurrence.
My dear friend, Dan, whom I write about often and spend a good deal of time with, is the publicist for Feinstein's at the Regency on Park and 61st. He took me to see Michael Feinstein's Christmas show in December and on Tuesday he invited my friend, Monika, and I to see Ashford & Simpson. I can't remember the last time I had so much fun at a show. They play with such joy and love. I'm still humming Solid and Ain't No Mountain High Enough. I was dancing, shouting, clapping. I was living that music and I felt so connected to every person in that audience even though I didn't know anyone save for Dan, Monika, and Dan's co-worker, Danielle. We were all together, celebrating life.
After the show let out, I walked west to catch my bus home. It was a long walk and I waited a while for the bus so I had a decent amount of time to revel in my happiness. And I finally understood the premise of Wynton Marsalis's book in a way I hadn't understood before seeing Ashford & Simpson. I understood those feelings of gratefulness I get when I'm on the rowing machine and looking at that sad, expansive space where the Towers stood majestically watching over us for so many years. It's that feeling of just being happy "to be".
The only job we have in this world, and I mean the ONLY job, is to experience joy and express it every day for as long as we have the privilege to be citizens of this world. Any art, but music in particular, is a thread to connect all of us because we all hear the same notes but they mean different things to all of us. It allows us to be the same, be different, be individuals, be a group, all together across many generations. We don't need to know a language, wear certain clothes, or be raised a certain way to enjoy it. It's an equal opportunity companion.
It's in our best interest to share joy because as we share it, there's more for us to have. Ashford & Simpson and Wynton Marsalis personify that principle and have reaped the benefits of its implementation. So sing, paint, play the trumpet, go to a show, write, love your job, garden, volunteer, run, swim, tell jokes, have a boogie break in your apartment. Spend time with interesting, fascinating, diverse people, and let them into your life in a profound way. And recognize how infinitely lucky we are to be alive at all. Just being able to walk around on this Earth and take it all in is an amazing gift.