Evolution and the Anthropic Principle
Richard Dawkins vs Ken Wilber
Where Am I
The Cheshire Cat
I Could Have Been a Contender
What I Wish Id Said
Keeping Up with the World
The Flight of the Phoenix
The Power of Fog
Naming the Unnamed
Principles in Art
Spirit and Matter
The Enlightenment Conundrum
On Believing
Water? What Water?
Telling Stories 2
I believe in Rainbows
Whom Can We Believe
Patterns by Paul Simon and Douglas Hofstadter
Copyright Inheritance
Broad Minded
Beliefs Part Two
A Long drawn-out solstice
The Quest for, and the Illusion of, Certainty
To the Ends of the Earth
The Meaning Of Life
We Hold These Truths
There are Beliefs
Music and Language
Circular Thinking
Runaway World
Deep Playmate
An Alchemy of Telling
Cultural Genes
The Joy of Science
The Conundrum of Human Nature
No, The Computer Isn't Smarter than I Am!
A Rant on Religion
The West Wing Turning Right?
The Geometry of Spring
Music as Language
What is Art
Beauty and Spirit
You Don't Understand Us
The New God of Probability
Gene Hackman as President
Being Lifted Out of the Ordinary
The Head and the Heart
Pay Attention!
Music Poetry and Meaning
On Seeking Truth
Perceptions and Reality
The Marriage Bond
Taboo is a Right
Copyright versus Copyleft
Cycles of Transcendence
Ego and Self
The Big Picture
Mindfulness as Larger Mind
The Power of Words
The State of the Union
Out of My Mind
Family Thoughts
One Life
Telling Stories
Small World
Bigger Realities
What Comes Next
Humor as a Higher Level of Consciousness
Sometimes Everything Goes Wrong
Emotional Resonance
Extraordinary Respect
Insight Meditation
Us and Them
Paradox and Paradigm
To Reach
I Don't Know
Don the Romantic
The Guy in the Blue Saab
The Sound of Silence
Eating is an Intimate Act
Evolution of Spirit
On Cloning and Other . . .
Creativity and Psychic Phenomena
Magic in My Life
My Difficulty with Aaron
Mindful & Mystic
Taste of Irony
Music Appreciation
Levels of Consciousness

Don, the Romantic

I'm sitting here at my computer listening to Howard Hanson's Second Symphony (aptly subtitled "The Romantic"), and I'm transported to Ames, Iowa. It's September, 1968. I'm driving my Volkswagen bus across the Iowa State University campus near sundown, when the university radio station WOI is signing off the air with just this theme. The sun skims across the still green lawns and through the huge elm trees, a glorious Technicolor dreamscape. Iím enchanted.

I have thrown up a good job and sold our home in Cincinnati so that I can attend school again, searching for meaning in my life. In the midst of civil rights and anti-war demonstrations and a new flowering of folk music, it seems the rest of the country is doing the same thing. I feel swept up in a very human movement of vast scope, full of hope and fear at the same time. It's a romantic time (are romantic times always full of violence?). Suddenly, it seems, I'm aware of feelings I'd kept stifled for years as I pursued my career. Passions well up inside me; at forty years old, Iím in love with love. I've pulled my family halfway across the country, torn them from their roots to live in student housing for two years while I look for who I might be.

The next few years proved to be as wonderful for meóand as awfulóas they were for our country. Endless roller coasters of passion and conflict, tenderness and grief, hope and horror. A pity none of it ever became really resolved, but only settled slowly into "reality," the mud that's left on the lawn after a flood. Nothing to do but simply continue, sort through the debris and go on with what's left. Stumble, fall, and do it again. Learn to love again, learn to hope again, learn new names and new places and learn how to let go.

The trouble with romanticism, I think today, is that it keeps me from being awake now, in this moment. That gold and green memory of driving slowly across campus listening to incredibly sweet music was only a few moments thirty years ago. My life today is a hundred times more satisfying, and a hundred times more real. Iíve shown myself who I am, and just as clearly who Iím not.

Then, though, I'd never heard of Howard Hanson, or Johnny Rivers or Pink Floyd for that matter. "Romantic" to me before then had meant Tchaikovskyís Romeo and Juliet, or Johnny Mathis or Jo Stafford. Neat, carefully scripted romance, trimmed of ambiguity or loose ends. I was discovering again how it felt to be caught up in a world of green and gold mist, earthy and unpredictable.

Maybe it was just that: a psychedelic age, more brilliant than real. But it still haunts me, sometimes. Something about that time seeped under my intellectual armor and warmed me. I would never feel quite the same about life. Iíd be nagged forever by questions like, "Why does Pink Floyd always remind me of church music?" The Grand Mystery itself had infected me.

Donald Skiff, May 6, 1999, revised March 16, 2001

Comment on this essay? Send me an e-mail, please.
(And mention the title of the essay, too)