Who knew that, on the Buddha's birthday (Happy Buddhamas, everyone!), I would end up receiving one of the most awesome gifts I've ever gotten?
My e-friend Rory Daly—whom I've never met in person but whom I've known since the early days of blogging,* back when Rory was one of the bad boys of the early Koreablogosphere (along with people like Kevin of the dearly departed Incestuous Amplification and Busan-based, Korean-fluent Jeff Harrison of the much-missed Ruminations in Korea)—sent me a link on Twitter today to a piece of music, dedicated to me, that I assume he wrote and performed. It's called "No Words: 2 Classical Guitars."
Rory was kind enough to upload his sound file to Google Drive and to link it publicly. You can give it a listen here. It's really quite awesome.
In my tweeted response to Rory, I joked that this gesture would have meant so much more to me had he been a smoking-hot babe. I also gibed that I had been expecting either a loud belch or some raunchy sex noises to appear at the end of the piece. In all seriousness, though, I was genuinely touched by his gift, which seems to have come out of the blue, for no reason at all. I've never given Rory any gifts before, and I certainly don't feel I've done anything to deserve this sort of gesture, so really, I'm at a loss for words (said he wordily).
The best gifts in life aren't the ones we purchase for each other: they're the ones we make for each other—because we can, and because they're an expression of our deepest selves, a reflection of our time and talent and heartfelt effort. Those sorts of gifts—a piece of music, a hand-drawn card, a well-written letter or email—are more precious to me than gold.
Not sure what I can do to return the gesture. I have no musical talent (in-the-shower singing doesn't count), and my little brothers are the musicians in the family: David is an occasional violinist; Sean is a professional cellist—a teacher, performer, composer, and music theorist. I suppose I could draw or paint something for Rory and his wife... we'll see. It's been a while since I did anything truly artistic.
Anyway, this only confirms my belief that Aussies are cool people in general. I've never met an Aussie I didn't like (okay, except maybe for that one idiot), and I sometimes theorize that this may have something to do with the large overlap between the Aussie and Yankee national characters. There are politically correct people out there who groan when a person starts to speak in generalities about entire nations, but I hope those people will shut the fuck up for a minute and bear with me as I lay out my theory.
The history of modern Australia is a history of rogues and rejects, much as was the case with United States history. The early Europeans who settled in Oz found themselves faced with a large and ancient native population—again, as was true in the US. A period of westward expansion began—much more so in the US than in Australia: the latter's three most famous and populous cities are all on the east coast, which contrasts with America's most populous region: California. But the US and Oz were and are magnificent, expansive places, filled with rugged, beautiful terrain, open sky, and room to build big, farm big, and dream big. Is it any wonder that the laconic, profound, action-oriented Aussie drover has so much in common with the US cowboy? Like the American cowboy, the drover, as a frontiersman, learned much of his wisdom from the aborigines, and he adapted many aboriginal mannerisms: stoicism, equanimity, and an astute reading of the ebb and flow of nature.** And just think about how American a movie like "Mad Max: Fury Road" is, despite its Aussie pedigree: guns, monster trucks, tough men, tough women, the endless road, and the big blue heavens above. We boreals, above the equator, are the cultural brothers and sisters of those wacky australs who dwell Down Under. The Australian character is positive, cheerful, optimistic, and forward-thinking, much as America used to be (not so sure how much mojo we have these days, especially under current management). There's much to unite us, which is why I've always immediately felt comfortable around Australians.
So I hope one day that Rory and I, and perhaps his lovely wife, will have the chance to meet face to face and sit down over a meal—preferably a meal that one of us has made, but if not, then almost any damn meal will do.
Thank you, Rory, for a truly humbling gift. Thanks, as well, for allowing others to share it. That's a privilege.
*In those primitive and unenlightened days, blogging was called flogging, and writing blog posts involved stripping an enemy of his garments and whipping his back bloody, turning and twisting the whip in such a way as to write words, in wounds, on the person's quivering, agonized flesh. In those early days, few people had good enough control of their whips to write in small fonts, so early flog entries were necessarily short, but as time went on and our skill improved, we were soon able to flog entire essays onto the backs, shoulders, and buttocks of our victims. The cleverer among us figured out that, if you flogged your letters backwards onto a person's back, then had that person lie down on a body-sized sheet of paper, the words would appear forward. At that point, we could snap a picture of our scribblings with a five-pound digicam, then upload the image to our website, and that was a flog post.
At some point, someone realized that it would be much simpler to use software to write and publish our essays directly online, thus obviating the need to whip anyone. While this disappointed some of us early floggers, this newfangled "blogging" thing became more popular because it was so much faster. Imagine whipping out your flog entry, letter by painful letter, your arm tiring after a few thousand strokes of the scourge, and compare that effort to merely sitting at a keyboard and typing. Posts that used to take whole days to write now took only minutes or, at most, hours. Most of us adjusted to this new paradigm fairly quickly, but some of us, it must be said, missed the screams and cries of our old printing surfaces, and there are those who, even now, yearn for a return to the good old days, when ink meant blood.
**I'm totally stealing this insight from Robert Pirsig's Lila, in which Pirsig observes that the American cowboy's mannerisms almost all derive from contact with American Indians. The cowboy, like the American Indian, is a man of few words, but this doesn't mean he's a man of few thoughts: he's often observant, perceptive, wise, and decisive in his actions, moving with a grace and efficiency that can sometimes be startling. The best frontiersmen learned to be silent hunters and trackers, just like the natives. The guerrilla way that they fought in battle reflected native tactics, too. Much of what we admire today about the cowboy actually comes to us from the American Indian, or so Pirsig contends. It's an easy leap, then, to apply the same anthropological thinking to the Australian situation.