During my first few months at a brand new job – my first job where I wasn’t working for my dad – I had a routine. I’d get out of class, drive to work and within minutes of walking into the stereo shop I would make my way to one of the sound rooms (yep, we had actual rooms with various stereo equipment set up; each room had sliding glass patio doors). I’d slip the vinyl out of the jacket, put the record on the turntable, grab a record cleaner called DiscWasher and clean it. Then, I’d lower the tonearm, turn up the volume knob on the amp and enjoy listening to Earth, Wind & Fire sing their famous song, “Shining Star.” The beginning (and middle and end) of that song continues to be among my all-time favorites. It was a terrific record.
“You’re a shining star, no matter who you are. Shining bright to see what you can truly be.”
Let’s get the obvious out of the way. Not everybody has the same brilliance in their shine. Truth is, some of us are quite dim with no shine at all. Dull. The wasted lives are visible proof. Too many lifeless eyes and emotionless expressions thanks to alcohol, Fentanyl and other narcotics.
Others are so bright others have a hard time even looking at them (or listening to them). Most have overcome adversities few fully know or understand. People determined to find a path forward. Resolved to reach a higher orbit where only the shining people reside.
Notice the lyric isn’t “I’m a shining star, no matter who I am.” Well, that doesn’t quite have the ring, but I notice pronouns. You’re – you are isn’t the same as I’m – I am. But the “no matter who you are” is inclusive, right?
In our heads, we don’t often think or feel like shining stars. It’s easy to see others as shining more brightly than we do. Just like it’s easier to focus on what we don’t have, than on what we do. Or to focus on what we can’t do versus what we can. It’s like we’re always doing exactly the opposite of what’s good for us.
I’ve noodled around with this particular episode for over 3 years. The draft beginning has sat here inside my WordPress dashboard that long. I’d come to look at it, think about it, write a little bit, then abandon it. Don’t know why.
It’s not because I didn’t like the topic. I guess I got distracted by other things. The likely explanation is that it’s just too upbeat and positive. 😀
Rhonda’s last birthday – this past summer – provoked a revisit of today’s show idea. I used to whip her with a letter on every birthday. I don’t mean the letter R or some other letter, but a hand-written or typed out letter. I haven’t done it the last couple of years because I know it beats her down. She’s not nearly as sappy or sentimental as I am. 😉
I can’t quite remember what prompted the beginning of this episode. Maybe I was thinking about Rhonda being the foremost shining star in my life. And now, as we’re nearing the end of another year, maybe that provoked some ideas.
Then there’s all this talk about mental health and the recent suicides in the news.
Then there’s the rampant disease of comparison-itis where so many folks let other people determine their level of satisfaction or happiness. It’s especially rampant during the summer, vacation months where people Instagram their exotic vacation photos. And others view them with envy wishing they could afford a single night at a local fancy hotel. Envy is a bitter thing.
As I am wont to do, I was thinking of these, and a variety of other things when I came back to this post.
A person you love very much. Let’s start there. In my case, my wife of over 40 years. Who celebrated a birthday last Sunday. Our family is officially celebrating this coming Sunday. We do things like that. Delay celebrations to match a more convenient time for everybody.
I was playing that Earth, Wind & Fire record – That’s The Way Of The World – as soon as it came out in January 1975. Rhonda and I wouldn’t go out on our first date until July 2, 1975. I’d been listening to that record almost daily for half a year. I didn’t listen to this in my car – 8 tracks were the musical form factor at the time. I only listened to this record on a good home stereo system. I still don’t know why. But funk wasn’t part of the musical mix deployed while driving.
That’s only important because during our first dates music by Jackson Browne and Pure Prairie League were the default go-to artists. I learned rather quickly that her musical tastes and experiences were fairly limited and not terribly congruent with my own. No matter, I fell in love with her quickly despite the fact that I owned no Beach Boys’ 8-tracks. I figured I wouldn’t impose Lou Reed, Led Zepellin and Little Feat on her right away.
Earth, Wind & Fire were on break during that July 4th holiday of 1975. But they dominated the rest of the year. Going back to class and work at the hi-fi shop were made easier thanks to this song. Uplifting, funky and the kind of tune to make your toes tap and your shoulders sway. It still has that power.
Rhonda was (and still is) a shining star. You’ve got one I suppose. I hope. It’s important stuff.
I slapped the headphones on and listened to this song about 3 times in a row while preparing for today’s show. Toward the end of the song, when the instruments go quiet and all you hear is the vocal harmonies…it dawned on me that a big part of what drives us is to BE a shining star to somebody else.
It’s more of that wonderment of us doing exactly the opposite of what’s often good for us. Not that finding somebody who is our shining star is bad for us. It’s not. But it can dominate our thinking, preventing us from better understanding and learning how we can be a shining star for somebody else.
I’m hopeful that with Rhonda I killed two birds with one stone. She’s my star and I’m hoping I’m hers. Some days I figure I’m more like space trash, but so it goes. You have to earn your star every day, right?
Speaking of being discouraged. 😉
I’m always keenly aware of people who are suffering. Trouble attracts me. Like a magnet. It’s who I am. Coach, counselor, service provider, helper…pick some other description you prefer. They all apply to me. I have Spidey-senses for it. My intuition is always on full alert for folks needing a leg up. I’m quick to respond. It’s like a reflex. Almost automatic.
Last week we talked about how some folks relish having a bad day…and make it who they are. I usually steer pretty clear of such folks. I’m talking about the folks who quietly suffer and endure. There’s a vibe I get knowing somebody is going through a hard time. I can’t explain it. I don’t even fully understand it. Best I can tell, from all my study and observation, is that we all have these micro signals we give off. Some people are like me, we pick up even the most subtle signs. Others don’t even notice.
I’ve learned not to intrude or impose. Instead, I politely inquire. That’s usually all that’s required to break the dam and begin the conversation because I’ve also learned that such people crave somebody they can confide in. Safe harbors are inviting. Rare, but inviting.
When you’re a no-talent hack, you have to lean hard into the one-trick you’ve got. This is my trick. Without it, I might just be space trash. But with it, I can be a shining star for a few.
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