A Day in the Life



A Day in the Life


I began the day by putting the finishing touches to my essay “A Triple Aspect Theory”, on a subject I have been thinking about for over fifty years and still find inexhaustibly interesting. This was the usual intense intellectual effort in which the mind seems both to be struggling with its own limitations and soaring serenely over the landscape. I then posted the essay on my blog and sent it to my usual correspondents (Tom Nagel, Noam Chomsky, Steve Pinker, Rebecca Goldstein, Marie McGinn, Teddy St Aubyn, and my brother Keith). It was a perfectly satisfactory philosophical morning, if nothing out of the ordinary.

            Then at noon I went to play tennis with my regular partner Eddie, having just played with him yesterday. It was the usual focused, intense, ballistic, brutal, and exhilarating hour and a half. I was using my new Wilson Clash racquet, which is both maneuverable and powerful, and I wanted to work on changing the direction of the ball. I have been practicing this against the wall for a while (over at the Biltmore club), particularly the down the line backhand drive. It’s not an easy shot to pull off but a very useful and satisfying one. I had the customary battle against Eddie, who is a fine player and never lets up (also a keen kite boarder). It was an all-out mental and physical effort.

            I had an hour’s break before going to my voice lesson at 4pm with Nicole. Nicole and I have formed a group called the Duetones (she has been teaching me to sing for a year). We began by singing a new song “When Will I be Loved?” by Linda Ronstadt (written by Phil Everly), sung over the original record. Then we turned to “You Really Got a Hold on Me” by the Beatles (originally by the Miracles and written by Smokey Robinson). But then we did something different: we sang both songs without musical accompaniment. Now Nicole is a marvelous singer (me not so much) and I was fascinated to hear what we would sound like together singing a cappella. The Duetones have a philosophy, a mission even: we seek to unite opposites. She young, me old; she female, me male; she classical, me more rock and blues. I was hoping for what I was pleased to call the “magic sound”—what happens when two voices blend together perfectly (think Lennon and McCartney). And I believe it happened, especially with “Love Me Tender”, “Love Hurts”, “Funky Town” and “Give It Up” (by K.C. and the Sunshine Band). Again, this was an hour of intense effort, but deeply satisfying. There is nothing quite like singing together with another person, especially when it works. I recorded the lesson. When I got home I listened to the whole thing and relived the experience (not without the odd wince at myself). The Duetones are here, I thought.

            That was a day worth living, it seemed to me. It makes you think what an amazing thing the human organism is, or can be. It also represented human cooperation at its finest. I felt it was worth memorializing here. I will refrain from analyzing it further, being content just to record the basic facts.


6 replies
  1. Joseph K.
    Joseph K. says:

    I enjoyed this greatly. It doesn’t take much to have a wonderful life beyond having the leisure to explore, to expand, and luxuriate in the immense wealth of humanity, one’s own and that of others.

    • Colin McGinn
      Colin McGinn says:

      Yes, it’s ready for the taking, once you are granted a certain amount of leisure; but you have to be open to it and prepared to give it your all. My duets with Nicole are hugely enjoyable, uniquely so.

  2. jeffrey g kessen
    jeffrey g kessen says:

    I’ve played, or have tried to play, guitar for many years—determined to overcome the shame of having flunked a simple music course in Catholic grade-school. Here’s the curious thing. I could never, until late, learn anybody else’s music. I had the chord charts before me, and would listen over and over to the piece I wanted to learn, but still couldn’t make it work. Happily, one of my neighbors, now, also plays guitar, a true expert, and we’ve been hammering out some of Neil Young’s best stuff ever since.

  3. Free Logic
    Free Logic says:

    Good day indeed and totally worth of memorializing. Not every day is so filled with joy, cooperation, friendship, learning, productive work and freedom to do what you like. Helps to appreciate the priceless things in life. A complete anti-thesis to the (one) day in the life of Ivan Denisovich. The title of your blog entry triggered this association in my mind.


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