Siege Diaries 11/7/2020

Today’s Daily Stoic writing prompt:  Are you trying to master yourself–or other people?

Perhaps, for me, a better question is whether I’m trying to control what other people think of me too much–because, to be honest, I do care about that.   I want to have a reputation of being a thinker, as someone who is mature, able to analyze evidence critically, and who is kind.  These are all good things.  The question becomes is whether my focus is too much on a need for approval–and sometimes this does bother me–I do have a need for recognition.   In the depths of my despair during the third grade, when I had no friends and was being shunned and bullied, I won the class spelling bee, and I wore that ribbon everywhere the day I received it.  Likewise, I always loved getting trophies and medals–and I still do.  The tempering factor is that I’m not bothered when I lose, so long as I’ve tried my best, and I’m never a sore loser–or a sore winner (which is, in many ways, worse.) There is always an element of fate or luck in these things which can’t be controlled. I’ve won a few Toastmasters competitions over the years where it seemed like I was just on fire–I got the right question for Table Topics or I clicked with a particular speech I was evaluating.  

But sometimes all of the internal pondering is overridden by events bigger than oneself….

Bells are ringing in Paris and Berlin. In Ottawa, there’s a pickup with an American Flag circling the US embassy, honking and cheering.  My Facebook feed exploded with joy.  Joe Biden has been declared the winner of the US election.

Everyone knows it’s not over, but the sighs of relief could be heard from space.

And you know I’m going to post Shostakovich, because there’s a Shostakovich for this one, too.   It is, of course, the Tenth Symphony.  The one held closely until Stalin had finally died.  The one where the first movement is dark and moody, the second movement–widely portrayed as a portrait of Stalin himself–is fierce, brutal, and stabby; the third movement asserts the presence of the composer himself in a waltz from hell, and the fourth, where the theme from the second movement starts shoving its way back in, only to be smacked down with the loudest iteration of Shostakovich’s DSCH motif possible.   And then the whole thing ends up just about as gleefully as Shostakovich can end anything.   Here’s Valery Gergiev (and his magic toothpick)–with the National Youth Orchestra of the United States.  

The man, the toothpick, the legend, the stabbiness.

I’ve just finished playing an online game of St. Petersburg (speaking of Shostakovich), where I lost thoroughly but to much more experienced gamers than me (and I had fun), and I’m awaiting a livestream of that other Shostakovich 10th–the 10th quartet, which has that second movement that is even stabbier than the one in the 10th symphony. Earlier, a lovely few hours in a backyard with friends, on a November day that felt like a gift on layaway from September. Tomorrow, a last drive in our beautiful red Porsche before we say goodbye to it. I’ll even have some alone time with it, and I’ve picked out the music.

There’s still a pandemic. There’s still a long way to go. But I have the faintest hope now that I might, someday in the future, be able to visit the country of my birth again. It’s still very broken, and it’s going to take a lot to heal it–and we still have 70 days of the Lame Duck à l’Orange to get through.

But he’s not even the most powerful deranged orange being any more. That would be this guy: