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Justin M. Stoddard

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Dispatches From Afghanistan #30
November 17, 2009 — 12:34 am

Subject: The Meme, The Seashell, The Blathering…

There’s a meme* going around on Facebook right now requesting that you pick up your iPod, put it on shuffle and write down the first 15 songs that pop up, regardless of what they are or how embarrassing they may be. I never have my iPod with me unless I’m sitting at work, so I never got around to it. I had a bit of free time today so I thought I’d go for it. Keep in mind that my iPod now holds 3258 songs, with more added per week.

Here are my first 15 songs that popped up on “Shuffle Mode”:

  1. Recuerdos De Le Alhambra – Fransisco Tarrega
  2. The Killing Moon – Echo and the Bunnymen (From the Donnie Darko Soundtrack)
  3. Summertime – Gershwin
  4. U-Mass – The Pixies
  5. Symphony #3 in D Major, Op. 29 “Polish IV.” – Tchaikovsky
  6. Entry of the Gladiators – Julius Fucik
  7. Gold Dust Woman – Fleetwood Mac
  8. The Aquarium – Saint-Saens
  9. 5/4 F.T.D. – Critters Buggin
  10. Look at That Old Grizzly Bear – Mark Mothersbaugh (From The Royal Tenenbaums Soundtrack)
  11. Joe Stalin’s Cadillac – Camper Van Beethoven
  12. Whole Lotta Trouble – Cracker
  13. Will the Circle Be Unbroken – The Neville Brothers
  14. Sax and Violins – The Talking Heads
  15. Halloween Parade – Lou Reed

Not too bad. Number 16, by the way, was Brian Eno’s 2-1 from his Music for Airports album.

*A “meme”, for the benefit of those among you who may be a bit Facebook challenged is, according to Wikipedia: “a postulated unit of cultural ideas, symbols or practices, which can be transmitted from one mind to another through speech, gestures, rituals or other imitable phenomena.”

I have a little under six weeks left here in country. Things are beginning to wind down for me. I’ll start shipping my stuff back home in about two weeks. My replacement will be here in four. I have quite a bit of work to accomplish between then and now, but I’m so set in a routine now that the work hardly phases me. We have a running joke here. Every morning when everyone gets to the office, we say, “Hey! Do you know what day it is?”. “No! What day is it!?”. “It’s Groundhog Day!”.

And so it is. Wake up at the same time. Eat the same food, Do the same work, Go to bed at the same time. I catch myself looking at the date from time to time and thinking, “Is it already the 17th? Wow!”. The days just kind of bleed into each other after a while.

I’ve discovered some new things about myself while here and have reconfirmed others. It’s almost impossible for me to “go along to get along”. It always has been. I tend to call stupid actions, well…stupid. You’d think that after 12 years in the Army, a little tact would have sunk into my head.

I’ve found that I miss the military. I miss the camaraderie, the brotherhood, the irreverent joking, the horse-play, the seriousness of it all.

I’ve found that though I have a tendency to jump into situations I find exciting, I need to make time to be sentimental. In one of the first care packages I received, my daughters included a number of sea-shells they gathered from their recent trip to California. There is one shell fragment, in particular, that is a bit thicker and smoother than the others. It’s about the size of a silver dollar, though not shaped like one. I don’t remember when I did it, but sometime ago I slipped it into my pocket and have been carrying it around ever since. When I change pants, I transfer all the contents of my pockets into the new pair before I send the old pair off to be washed.

Along with the pen I bought before coming out here, that shell has been a consistent and constant companion. I take it out every now and then, place it between my thumb and fore-finger and just hold it, running my thumb over it as you would do with a poker-chip or an old coin. This simple shell…a conglomeration of Conchiolin, Calcite and Calcium…picked up on a beach somewhere in California and then transferred via mail all the way to me in Afghanistan serves as a life-line, a direct link between myself and my daughters.

Sentimental? Sure. But, that’s how it is. When Jordan and Zoe held that shell in their hands, billions of their atoms by way of skin cells, skin moisture, etc… transferred themselves onto its surface. It just as Crosby Stills Nash and Young said, “We are stardust. We are golden”.

Indeed. Ultimately, we are all stardust. Ultimately, we are all the same. 100 billion years from now, the atoms that have now formed to make me will still be part of this great Cosmos. And you, my friends, will all be there with me. That has always given me great comfort.

By the way, The Imperial March from Star Wars just started playing on my iPod. Carl Jung would call that Synchronicity. I simply call it Kick-ass Awesome.

So, another long email down. :) I hope everyone is well and happy.

Buddha taught that “The cessation of suffering is attainable”. The Pixies keep pointing out, “Here comes your man”. Bach gave us “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” and Disco Stu, “Don’t advertise”.

Love you guys!

— Justin M. StoddardComments (0)

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