Turning Points

I’ve noticed a good thing about growing older. You begin to get some interesting perspectives about one’s own life. For me, turning points in my life began to stand out. When you’re young, you may not have had many turning points yet, or you haven’t yet recognized they were turning points, and you’re mostly looking forward, toward the future. Now I can look back over MANY decades and I recognize important turning points.

Sticks and Stones
In first or second grade someone said something that embarrassed me. I came home and told my mother about it. Maybe I had been teased or bullied a little bit. My mother immediately taught me the principle that “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” This was not a silly little ditty to me! It was a guiding principle for living my mother had given me and I immediately memorized it, for ever more. It made total sense to me and what a useful concept to learn at such a young age! It sure did make me willing to experience words, very useful for someone concentrating on getting an education.

The Golden Rule
This was another wonderful guiding principle for living, probably learned in Sunday School or perhaps from my parents or grandmother. It was my first experience with empathy, a skill in communicating that I became aware of sometime in junior high school or high school. Some classmates told me that I had a reputation for being a good listener. I had learned empathy from trying to apply the Golden Rule to my life.

The Scout Law
I was very active as a Boy Scout for several years. We were required to learn the Scout Law and perhaps 60 years later, having not thought about it even for a moment in decades, I could immediately rattle it off. “A Boy Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent.” What a great set of high standards to provide for a youngster to aspire to! And I did.

Do people still teach these kinds of things to their kids? I hope they don’t just seem old-fashioned, out of style, or unnecessary.

The Sound of Silence
The best kind of turning point is one that comes about from a life-changing epiphany, sometimes extremely emotional, a moment when you directly experience some important TRUTH. This happened to me at a San Francisco Symphony performance of Mahler’s Ninth Symphony. The result of this was that I wrote the first article that I ever published to the world. It was originally an email to a very good friend, but I eventually sent it to many of my clients and later published it on my Dylan bibliography website and then fifteen years later to my music lover’s blog on the Internet. Three years after the last posting and nearly twenty years after the original email, I got a big thank you from someone who had experienced the same thing at another performance of the great Mahler masterpiece and then had read my article.

During that transition period, it gradually dawned on me that I enjoyed writing and had some talent in that area. This came as a very big surprise to me! In school I had mostly avoided English classes and never would have dreamed I had any talent for writing. I never would have started blogging without that turning point. And now I like to write a blog post about any turning point when it happens, a way of recording the moment so I can remember it again later. Now whenever I read my Sound of Silence article, it reminds me of so many great feelings I had that night. I can re-experience many minutes after the conclusion of that symphony, enjoying the awe and exhilaration once again.

Just after sunrise, a fireball on the horizon had begun to be a sun in the sky. As we drove along, we looked out over the fields in all directions & mist was floating up, as the sun warmed the night moisture & turned it into a fog. Not for long, but I still see it in my mind.