Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Near Misses and Coincidences: Beauty Pill's Apt Description

Sometimes I put albums to my Amazon list as a reminder to do more research on an artist. I think that this was the case with Beauty Pill. I don’t remember what prompted me to add their album, Beauty Pill Describes Things As They Are, to the list, but when I was finalizing my summer CD order, it cost almost the exact amount I had left in my budget.  Without ever listening to a single note of the album, I ordered it sight on scene.  It ended up being an excellent purchase.  Its deeply lush, astoundingly well-performed, and layered approach to art-pop has been a continually rewarding listen.  The lead single, Steven and Tiwongeone of the most elegant, haunting, and subtly political singles that I have heard in a very long time.  Pretty lucky to have stumbled across it.

But was it luck? Some say that there are no coincidences, implying that everything happens for a reason.  By extension, this idea might suggest that we are fated to collide with people and events in our life that propel us to our end. The philosophical argument against this kind of “fate,” as it were, is that it robs us of free will. This is an uncomfortable conclusion, to be sure, so I don’t necessarily subscribe to the idea of a coincidence-free existence. I think that there are coincidences, but I also think that they are far from meaningless. I think they matter. Surely, each of us have had enough happenstance events and near-misses that there seems to be some master plan behind the veil pulling the strings.

Our “plan” doesn’t seem to be a straight line with a predestined end, though. It branches off into multiple outcomes, with only a couple that result in our optimal path. We have responsibility in the way things turn out. I think that we can be guided along this path, however, if we keep our minds open and listen.

I was recently reminded of this when my wife and I struggled with a terribly difficult decision as the school year started up. Throughout the Little One’s life, we have been very fortunate with our child care situation, but circumstances recently forced us to seek out a different venue. Nothing to worry about, of course, because we had planned ahead. For several months, we had outlined plan “B,” and it looked great on paper. The reality, however, was much different. After two days of chaotic classrooms, disengaged teachers, and unprompted reports from her of friends that “don’t listen or share,” it became very clear to us that it wasn’t going to work. We pulled her before the first week ended.

But then we had a real situation. School was in session, and we were reporting to our own jobs. We were anxious, desperate, and without a solution. I had an urge to beg the powers-that-be for an answer, which would traditionally have been gently worded in my mind as a demand alongside a hollow promise for some sort of improvement (if You do this for me I' know the rest). Through the years, however, I have developed the sense of how misguided this sort of transcendental deal-making is.  I shouldn't expect a solution to be handed to me without taking on the responsibility of finding the answer.  So I awoke in the morning and, before I had a chance to formulate a negative thought about our situation, I told the universe that if there was a plan out there, I would keep my eyes open for suggestions.

The night before, I stumbled across the website of a small Montessori school with very positive reviews whose front doorstep was exactly halfway between my front door and the front door of my school. I drove by and, to be frank, it was not much to look at. My first instinct was to drop the idea, but I promised that I would keep an open mind. I called them later in the afternoon and set up a visit.

Despite its humble exterior, when we walked in, all the kids there were happy, welcoming, and well-mannered. We sat down with the director to talk, and noticed that there was a string of decorative Indian elephants hanging from the door of her office. The Little One has a similar set of elephants that hang by her bed (pictured at left), and she often plays with when she goes to bed at night.  Hm.

We liked the school, so later that day we brought the Little One back by the campus to visit. The elephants were the first thing she noticed. Then one of the students volunteered to show her around and she went on to have fun for about an hour before we had to go home for dinner.

By the evening, we narrowed our choices down to a couple of acceptable options, but none of them were clear.  I was apprehensive about the shift to Montessori’s open-ended pedagogy, but we were faced with a very big decision that needed to be made quickly.  Of all things, I could not stop thinking about the elephants, so I did a bit more research on the school.  I discovered some reviews and was flabbergasted to find one of them was written by a good friend of mine from the Fletcher days. When he relocated to Austin a few years ago, he enrolled his daughter there.  In fact, when we made our visit, we had missed running into him there by an hour.  He spoke highly of the school, and if the elephants weren’t enough of a sign, his advocacy certainly was.

We enrolled her, and I am happy to say that there was a night-and-day difference in the Little One’s attitude after the first day at her new school. In contrast to her exhausted, overstimulated state when she came home from the “puppy mill” (as her gramps called it), she has been happy and talkative about her days. I am incredibly happy and satisfied with our decision, and am looking forward to her progress this year in the new environment.

I would not have seen the positive atmosphere of the school if I had not let go of my initial judgement of the physical space. Additionally, I would not have been able to talk to my friend about his experiences if I had not paid attention to the little details. By getting out of the way and seeing things as they are, though, rather than through the lens of my expectations, I think that we are where we need to be right now.

Oh, yeah, and by the way. Beauty Pill.  This is the Little One's favorite:

The whole album is well worth your time.   It will probably be a top 10 album by year's end.  Check it out - maybe it'll lead you somewhere.

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