Sunday, December 11, 2016

Lessons from a Younger Brother AND, as it turns out, Facebook


Being Musical
Facebook told me that I've been friends with James for 9 years, now. Wow! 9 years? What ever did I do with my life before Facebook's distinctly lacking AI could remind me of how long I've been friends with one of the most important people in my life?

I wouldn't bother watching the video (in fact you can't, as it disappeared from my feed today). I won't attempt, in this forum, to enumerate it's many shortcomings.

But, I do want to take the opportunity to say that my friendship with my brother, James, is now 40 years old. Happy Birthday.
First Summer -- Vincie, Jamie, Michael
Facebook doesn't know this, but I was allowed to hold him in my arms on the day he was born. Although it says James on his birth certificate, for the foreseeable future we would all called him Jamie. I can remember the pride I had, at the age of 5, to be entrusted with something so fragile and special.

It must have been about age 3 when his personality and musicality became apparent. He created the first of a lifetime of rhythmic games with his body and voice. He called it "Bee-ing." Sitting on an old, tensely coiled couch, Jamie would slam his head and back into the springs in, what I can only imagine was, the rhythm of his heart. Air was forcibly expelled through his tiny embouchure.

Being Tron: Opening Night of Tron-Legacy
"Bee-bee-bee-BEE...I-love-Mo-MEE... I-love-Da-DEE...be-be-be-BEE..."

It was the first of many things he taught me. We could sing together for hours.

Of course, my fascination with toddler Jamie soon gave way to mild curiosity, irritation and finally, disinterest. Teenage Mike had no use for a little kid. But, we were still brothers and played together frequently. My favourite was the Hard/Soft game. If Jamie ran up to me and punched me as hard as he could, I would return the most gentle tap possible. If he flicked me with his pinky, I would leave him writhing on the ground, rubbing his shoulder. Not sure what the lesson was, but it held some fascination for both of us.

We became close again as James became an adult and pursued his degree in Music Education at the U of S. Watching him play the clarinet as a child had been a chore, but no longer. Here was real talent and beauty. I think it was my first conscious experience of the power of time. When he came into the world, even though I was only 5 years old, I was better than him at everything. With a 5 year head start, I stayed better at most things for a long time. That the tiny baby I held in my arms, and played with, and punched, had become powerful and beautiful in his own right.

Now, I'm watching James begin to grow old. I've seen him both soar to great heights and suffer his greatest defeats. We have shared songs, chess, tennis, pirates, tunnels, juggling, climbing, cooking, handstands, magnets, and parenthood. Facebook doesn't really know about any of these things. Oh, perhaps a post... a picture or two, but not how they impact a person or their relationships.
Being in a Kayak is fun
This post started out as a rant against Facebook. The dumb algorithm that informed me that I had been friends with my brother for 9 years. But, as I've been writing this, I realize that I should really have been mad at myself. Facebook's algorithm knows how to count. Through page views and clicks, it knows I have a connection to James. It gave me an opportunity to share that with people. Yes, it was a sad attempt. But, what about my attempt? I'm the one who has spent my life with this person. Learned from and with this person. Facebooks pathetic effort to describe my relationship reminded me of the most important lessons James ever taught me. Facebook might sum it up with a meme: "Live, Laugh, Love," or something equally trite. I'm going to put it in language a little more personal:

Bee-bee-bee-bee... I-Love-Ja-MEE...

Be!
Being