I used to watch a show called Connections hosted by James Burke that would detail the sequence of events that lead up to the development of things we now take for granted. The stories always had bizarre tendrils and threads and were totally unpredictable. For instance, Burke would demonstrate, say, how Julius Caesar's aunt's preference for guinea pigs over gerbils ultimately lead to the invention of the Big City Slider Station. Each show was a study of the macroscopic impact of the net effect(s) of tangential-yet-seemingly-unrelated events hosted by a guy who babbled like John Cleese with Alzheimer's on meth. And at times it was as hard to digest as that last sentence. But by the end of each episode, regardless of the implausibility of it all, you realized that if even the tiniest of intermediate details were missing, we today might not know the wonder of the bite-sized burger. I know. Breathe.
Yesterday was a Connections day for me. Follow if you dare: My old college roommate, Mickey, is a fan of Rascal Flatts. Sandi knows he loves this band and yesterday morning she received an e-mail announcing that tickets are now on sale for their concert this September at the Susquehana Bank Center. She forwarded the e-mail to me, I forwarded it to Mickey, we may get tickets. So far so good -- chock full of non-life-changing logic, this story.
I confess I don't know a lot about Rascal Flatts, other than the fact that their cover of "Life is a Highway" is inescapable -- worse if your kids are into the movie Cars and you're forced to listen to it several times a day for months on end (Which reminds me: Hey, Disney/Pixar: YOU CAN STOP THE MERCHANDISING ANY TIME NOW, OK? You're making models of characters that weren't even in the fucking movie!). In fact, I wasn't sure Rascal Flatts even had another song until recently. While scanning radio stations I heard a tune so haunting that it just demanded my attention. I listened all the way through hoping the announcer would identify the artist and name of the song, but all they would offer was some synthetic sounding voice-over chick saying, "That was Rascal Flatts." No song title. Since then it's been in the back of my mind to find out more when I had the chance. Yesterday -- a slow work day to say the least -- it occurred to me to finally cross that item off my "to do" list, especially since the universe seemed to have provided me not only opportunity and motivation, but also a gentle reminder.
I went to the Rascal Flatts Web site and there, under the video button, was the production video for the song I was looking for: "What Hurts the Most."
I watched the video and was nearly as moved by it as I was by the melody and performance the first time I heard it. I watched it again. Then I noticed a comments section below the video screen. Following is the second comment I read:
Now, you know how I hate to tell people their business, but if you hear that song, watch that video, read that post and DON'T cry, you're just dead inside, man. My whole day was colored so profoundly that I suspected I might feel sad later on and maybe not recall why. Then last night after dinner the boys and I went outside to play. The little girl who lives next door stopped by on her bike and casually let me know that our neighbor, a mother of two who lives with her family across the street, had a 2nd trimester miscarriage that afternoon. Her baby was strangled to death by its umbilical cord. Ever get the feeling the universe is trying to tell you something?
Last night Ethan awoke from a nightmare (note: if your 5-year-old tells you they're not scared by the Harry Potter movie on HBO and they're OK staying up later than usual to watch it, they're lying they tiny assess off). He came into our room and woke me up. Now, usually I'd pick him up, carry him back to his room and go back to sleep myself. But not last night. Last night I stayed and rubbed his hair until he fell asleep. Then after he fell asleep I rubbed Thomas' hair for a while. I just watched them. Loved them. And I got to thinking: What if they sense I'm here? What if this little bit of extra time -- time I'm extending because I'm suddenly reminded how precious and unlikely each of them are -- teaches them compassion, which they in turn use for the greater good? And to take it further, what if Ethan's early exposure to medicine courtesy of his ear leads him to become a doctor? How freakin' poetic would it be if those two things working in tandem made him become a doctor who went on to develop a procedure that ended up saving the lives of countless children who otherwise would have died from being strangled by their umbilical cords? And what if one of those kids who didn't die went on to invent some apparatus that drastically reduced the number of kids killed in car accidents? All because Rascal Flatts tickets went on sale. I never felt so much a part of destiny as I did last night.
Of course, that's not to say that Ethan's destiny isn't to become the world's most brutal serial killer. In which case it's obviously all Mickey's fault. And gerbils rule!
"If you create an act, you create a habit. If you create a habit, you create character. If you create a character, you create a destiny." -- André Maurois