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    The Answering Machine

            Leaving a phone message for somebody who doesn’t answer your call is a common and ubiquitous reality of modern life. These days, it’s usually done through a messaging service that you get through your phone company, but it wasn’t always done this way. “Answering machines”, actual physical devices, often separate from the phone itself, used to be what people used. Because that’s all that was available.
            For Christmas one year, I believe it was 1986, I got my first answering machine. It was a black and grey Panasonic, about the size of what a mini laptop would be today. It had two cassette tapes inside it, and hence two cassette machines; one to record and playback your outgoing message, and another to record and playback your incoming messages.
            I remember being quite excited when I got it, because I immediately understood what I was holding in my hands. This little machine was not a practical tool that could save time; it was not a piece of technology that performed a useful function; it was not a modern convenience. No. This little machine was an audio easel. And I was now a loud, gigantic box of paint brushes and colors.
            From the very beginning, I didn’t look at the answering machine as a way for people to leave me messages when I wasn’t around. I looked at it as thirty seconds of self expression. If you called and got my machine, you rarely ever heard me say the phrase “Leave a message”. That was implied. You were, after all, calling me. Why waste time stating the obvious? Besides, it gave me an extra second to be creative. And every little bit counts.
            My outgoing messages were like little audio productions that I spent time and energy on. I would often script them, rehearse them, and have to do more than one take until I was satisfied. I loved it. I would often cue up music on my stereo and use it during my production, sometimes having to stop and start a CD or cassette tape several times. It was a mini performance piece that was recorded live, without the option of editing anything later. Now days, I could do it all on Garageband, and cut, paste, and tweak till my hearts content, but that software wasn’t available then. Sort of like live television, it was all done on the fly. I've saved many of those outgoing messages onto a cassette tape, and every time I listen to it, I smile. Broadly.
            What motivated me to spend any more than a few seconds on my outgoing message was the deep desire to express myself. To be myself. To be me, all of the time, in big situations and in tiny ones. I wanted to use every available opportunity to express who I was. I still do. Life as an art project. Life lived as an ongoing performance piece, where the objective is to be yourself, never anything else, every moment of every day.
            Through that process, I carve a path that’s mine. To be myself, I have to know myself, so this path is as much a journey inward as it is outward. Constantly discovering myself. Constantly re-defining myself as I go deeper and deeper and get more to the center of who I am and of who I want to be.
            If I can apply the attitude I take to the answering machine to everything, what a daring adventure my life will be. In the simplest of moments, I can be myself and add something unique to my experience here on the planet. And in the process, I enrich the lives of those around me by just being me, all of me, as best I can, all the time. And when those around me do the same, my life is infused with something I can not give myself: connection to other people. I can connect to myself. I can love myself. In fact, if I’m going to be happy, I have to. But that is not enough. I have to take that love outward. Self love truly manifests itself when I love others; when I connect to other people. I take that love that I have learned to give myself and give it to others. And then it becomes a circle of positive energy that feeds us both. We need each other for that. And that’s a beautiful thing.
            I encourage us all to use whatever life gives us to express ourselves. To be ourselves. We don’t need a big stage or a lot of lights or a huge audience to do that. Anybody can do it, in big moments and in small, if we get to know ourselves and can dare to live it. That is the path I am committed to. Just ask my answering machine.

    ©2009 Clint Piatelli. All Rights (and please leave a message at the tone of Wrongs) Reserved.

    Reader Comments (2)

    Hi Clint,
    I've been following your blog since it's birth. I love that you're open, unique and a funny, funny guy.
    Not to mention a refreshing change from the usual crapola. You dare to say what's on your mind. Glory Halelujiah !!
    I just saw this entry ( catching up ) and I had to write to tell you that it struck a chord.
    Love is eternal , and your Dad is smiling right now, saying. That's my boy !!

    July 31, 2009 | Unregistered Commentermovieheaded

    Not only have you been following my blog since it's birth, you were instrumental in its very genesis. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. And thank you for keeping up with me as well. We are kindred spirits, my life all the richer for knowing you.


    August 3, 2009 | Registered CommenterClint Piatelli

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