Virtuoso 4/14/21

Thoughts by Richard Bleil

Fortran is apparently outdated. It’s a programming language, and I consider it to be my “native” programming language. Unfortunately, it’s apparently fallen out of favor, meaning it’s hard to find a compiler for it. I found one, but the cheapest license is far outside of my budget. I guess I’ll keep looking, but a newer language, Python, seems as if it will suit my purposes and there are compilers available that are actually free. So, apparently, I’m changing languages.

I’ve taught myself new languages before. Heck, I taught myself Fortran. My research supervisor handed me a Fortran program saying, “here is an example of the language, write a program for this integration.”

Oooooooookay.

But when learning a new programming language, a reference book is exceptionally helpful. Today I found myself near a large national chain bookstore and decided to buy such a book. That book is for my research, but along with learning a new language, I’m also learning a new instrument. Well, not really new, per se, but new for me, specifically the piano. Well, I’m learning to write music on a midi keyboard, but it seems to me a good opportunity to simultaneously learn to play the keyboard. So, I bought a book on piano. (Yes, the purists are pulling out their hair screaming about the difference between piano and keyboards, but to an inexperienced newbie like me the difference is about as glaring as the typewriter and computer keyboard, namely, not enough to make a difference to me.)

Playing piano has always been one of those talents I’ve envied. The reality is that I have incredible talents, such as learning new programming languages, and mathematical modeling of complex systems, but unlike piano or art, nobody will ever gaze at my talent in wonder, or stand and cheer for me. When was the last time you cheered for an app? Piano, on the other hand, is nearly a universally adored talent. Ah, the ability to walk into a room with a piano and just start playing.

Apparently, I’m not the only one that envies this talent. My ex-wife’s first ex-husband, for example, spent time to learn how to play one, and only one, particularly complex piece. He couldn’t read music, or play anything beyond that one piece (and maybe Chopsticks), but he could play that one piece beautifully. The purpose was simply to showcase his skill, so he could walk up to a piano, play and impress whoever was there to hear it. If they asked him to play something else (which, of course, they didn’t do because it’s simply poor etiquette) he would simply refuse. It’s a clever idea to seem as if you have a talent that you don’t really have, but it’s a ruse. Just a con. Nothing but an artificial boost to the ego. I can’t help but wonder how he feels every time he did play it, if he was truly proud, or if he had a little nagging thought of regret for the fallacy.

His son, on the other hand, had the talent. I wasn’t married for long, and he was in middle school at the time. As his step-father (although his mother would never allow them to refer to me as “father” or “dad”, step or otherwise) I was honored to go to a talent show at his school. There were many students who played piano, but when he got up, it was clear his skill was several grades above that of his classmates. I truly hope that he continued playing.

The problem comes in when his biological father’s need for attention conflicted with his own son’s honest skill. Apparently, a couple of years earlier, his son at the equivalent talent show played a piece. After completing it, his biological father stood up, at a school talent show, and said “if you think that’s good, listen to this” and proceeded to play the single piece he knew how to play. Can you imagine stealing the thunder from your own child…in a primary school talent show? I, personally, cannot.

This is narcissism at its finest. The need to be the center of attention is so overpowering that you would even steal it from your own children. In the brief time that I was married to his mother, I was a part of a Shriners’ club for Highlander music. It was an opportunity to learn a new instrument, one I would love to have learned then and still would enjoy today, namely the bagpipes. Because of this young man, however, I passed on the opportunity to learn the bagpipes. Since he wanted to learn to play, I supported his efforts and had planned, were we married long enough, that he teach me. That way, I would have never been able to steal the spotlight from him since, after all, if it were indeed possible, it would only be so because I learned from him.

The egos of children are fragile. I’ve written many times on how my ego was damaged when I was growing up in an emotionally abusive family. Protect your children’s’ egos. Support them, praise them, and remember to let them know how proud you are of them. For the rest of your life, they will either carry your pride with them, or remember they have no right to be proud.

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