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SO THIS IS HEAVEN.

 

The hardest thing to get used to in heaven is that there’s no time. Not that much of a problem for me as having been a writer I was used to nights turning into days whilst I chiseled away at a new work. There’s not much point continuing that profession up here as no one seems to have the time to read. But here’s something for old times sake.

What’s heaven like? Well, it’s like Portsea with nicer people. No one brags about what car they own, or their penthouse in London, or how they made a killing on the market this week because of a pending war. Conversations like that seem a little facile here. Oh, and you can’t judge anyone by the cut of their clothes as birthday suits are the fashion of the day in this place.

Yes, we’re a friendly bunch. All the veils that separated us on earth have been stripped away and the fear of intimacy no longer exists. That’s probably because our leader (he hates being called that) is such a down to earth person. On arrival he told me I could call him anything so I now address him as Ted. My first request was to meet Jesus but Ted (whom I assumed was his father) just smiled and said, “Haven’t you worked that out yet? You’re all Jesus.” He really loves answering any questions with a complete mind-fuck that silences you. A bit like Bob Dylan. It may take an eternity for me to get what he means. So, I mainly sit and ponder until my head hurts.

There are some really beautiful women to gaze upon. I like to hit on Marilyn Monroe which is an exercise in futility as there’s no sex here. We seem to not need it anymore, or the expectations and responsibilities that used to accompany it. We generally just chat which consists of smiling and staring at someone while you read their thoughts.

Ted, our leader who hates to be called a leader, loves chatting about his favourite food recipes. He keeps promising to let me taste his Peach Melba but so far he hasn’t delivered. In fact, there are no meals as that’s kinda pointless too.

One day, or was it night?, I asked Ted what the point of creating the human race was, and he answered, “Well I wanted to find out what’d happen if I dumped a whole lot of ignorant people into a paradise, gave them total free will,  and waited for the result.” I prompted him for an answer, “Which was?…” And he smiled and replied, “Pointless”. I’m going to need to sit and ponder that too.

The good news for men is we don’t have to shave anymore. And ladies don’t have to pluck anything.

I play cards with Freud, who should be called Fraud as he cheats at everything, and Van Gogh (still a grumpy bastard who can’t read a thing you’re saying). If Grumpy tells me again he only sold two paintings on earth I’m going to have to clock him. Vincent and I currently owe Fraud several million dollars but again it’s kinda…pointless.

Marilyn is looking very alluring as I sit here but the cruel bitch just likes to tease me. She taunts me with tales of how good Milton Berle was in bed and the fact that he used to trip over his own cock. This has obviously left a lasting impression on her. I wish I didn’t have to read her mind, it’s painful.

The one thing we do have is music. Ted is a freak about it. I sometimes think it’s like being trapped in an elevator and having to listen to endless muzak. Wagner is a favourite of Ted’s, although he occasionally, thank God, slips in some Elvis, whom he confidentially informs me was just as chosen as Jesus. I am now pondering the conundrum that both Jesus and Elvis are in us all.

This could take several more eternities to work out before I’ll have a follow-up question that won’t embarrass me in front of Ted.

God, he demands a lot.

It just crossed my mind that, between Freud’s cheating, Van Gogh’s whining, Marilyn’s tauntings about Uncle Milty’s cock, Wagner endlessly played far too loud, and Ted’s oblique answers, this could be hell.

 

(c) Frank Howson 2017

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ALL I KNOW IS THIS.

All I know is this. Politicians, mostly, stand for one thing, and one thing only – being elected.  Those who genuinely dare to make a difference and can’t be bought – are in danger of their lives. And will either be killed by a bullet or a smear campaign.

 

All I know is this. Jesus, whether he was the Messiah, the Son of God, a gifted rabbi, or just another madman in the wilderness, preached a message of love and forgiveness – regardless of the translations, the interpretations or the Chinese whispers – his message, and the price he paid for it, are worthy of my respect, and love.

 

All I know is this. Shakespeare has the perfect quote to describe any condition of human nature. So does Bob Dylan.

 

All I know is this. They no longer make films for mature audiences.

 

All I know is this. It is alright to love something – but you are damned if you love that thing too much.

 

All I know is this. Today we have at our fingertips on the internet more easily accessed information than any previous generation that inhabited this planet. And yet the ignorance level has never been higher.  Who the hell is Paul McCartney?  Go fuck yourself.

 

All I know is this. Lee Harvey Oswald didn’t shoot J.F.K and the men who did got away with it.

 

All I know is this. None of us have any real idea what’s happening in the world at the moment. We have been purposely misinformed for many years now because the only way to keep the public in line is to have them in a constant state of confusion and chaos. Oh, and hopefully, on drugs.

 

All I know is this. The War on Terrorism is as calculatingly and cynically futile and convenient as the War on Drugs.

 

All I know is this. Two of Hollywood’s greatest geniuses, or genii, Charles Chaplin and Orson Welles, were both run out of town. Does that tell you something?

 

All I know is this. Children’s theatre and pantomimes were the first introduction of many kids like me to the magical world of theatre. And once hooked on it we continued to go back in search of other magical nights. It built a whole future audience for stage shows. Sadly, what we knew as children’s theatre is now as dead as the Wicked Witch. Ding dong.

 

All I know is this. We owe more than we know to The Beatles. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

 

All I know is this. The more you see of Life, the less you think you know.

 

All I know is this. Humility is the open road to God.

 

All I know is this. More lives had been lost or damaged through manmade religions than all the wars since the beginning of time. God is great. But his organized fan clubs are run by the ignorant and the flawed.

 

All I know is this. You can’t judge somebody by the colour of their skin, their gender, the size of their wallet, or their religion.  We can only truly be judged on the fabric of our spirit.

 

All I know is this. You can’t make somebody love you.

 

All I know is this. Success comes to those who persist. If you lean against a closed door long enough eventually it flies open.

 

All I know is this.  Some of the old clichés have become clichés because they hold the truth. Everything in moderation. If you eat, drink, do, or take too much of anything it will harm you.

 

All I know is this. Anthony Newley was a genius that the world has largely forgotten now.

 

All I know is this. Everything you learn you learn in the first five years of your life. Then it may take a lifetime to overcome that.

 

All I know is this. Any battle is hard won.

 

All I know is this. Much more is achieved by a smile than a threat.

 

All I know is this. Every mistake we make is an opportunity to learn something. Those of us who don’t learn are destined to repeat it over and over again. Some, sadly, are stuck in Groundhog Day all their lives.

 

All I know is this. You never lose a friend. They live on in your heart forever.

 

All I know is this. We’re not here for long, so be kind to each other.

 

 

 

(c) Frank Howson 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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IN DEFENCE OF GOD

Imagine, if you will, eternity in darkness and with darkness all there is in front of you. That was God’s lot in life. Those of you who’ve experienced short periods of meditation may be able to grasp just how chilled and cool God is. Sometimes His mind can wander for centuries. He apologises profusely for any inconvenience this caused during the Spanish Inquisition and the Crusades.

Anyway, at some point during an eternity of darkness and nothingness, God got really bored. Really bored. So bored He created stars. Diamond pinholes in eternal night. Some of them he gave names to like DeVinci, Beethoven, Lincoln, Chaplin, Welles, Tesla, Bell, Hawking, Turan, Picasso, Einstein, Elvis, Beatles, Dylan – oh, and Kanye West.

When interviewed by Neale Donald Walsch, God stated that His “…greatest creation was free will.” He gave it to us as His gift to make our own way through the darkness as best we could and to experience, in a smaller way, the joy He experienced in creating something from scratch. Trouble is, He said, “…although I’ve given you complete freedom to make your own decisions, as soon as something goes wrong, you blame me!” God is now in therapy thanks to us. And, like a poor person, His only option for therapy is to talk to Himself. Sometimes in that magic hour, in the silence just before dawn, if you listen closely you may hear Him.

In the story of Cain and Abel the story symbolizes what would happen if God favoured one child over another. The result of this was the creation of envy. And from that, murder. Human kind took to the latter like a duck to water and even governments adopted it on a large scale as the final solution to any threatening problem.

There are many ways to murder someone. You can either take their life in the Biblical sense or there’s the more modern subtle way of assassinating someone by lies and innuendo which has been favoured by the print press. And bitter editors.

When asked why He invented suffering, He replied, “It is necessary to pass through hell before you can fully appreciate heaven.”

During that same interview He, a little impatiently, addressed the concern regarding apathy and boredom for those of us who toil in the wastelands, “Look, I gave you music, Hollywood movies and Bob Dylan didn’t I? You think you’re bored, try living alone in total darkness for eternity!”

Yes, He has lost his patience with us on many occasions. Read the Old Testament and you will find a God who, like all youth, is angry, impatient, revengeful, and quick to judge. By the New Testament we have an older, more understanding God who’s able to look past our ignorant mistakes and see the bigger picture. He sent His son to herald this new age and inform us of the change but unfortunately there were those amongst us who weren’t ready for the outrageous and highly controversial concept that “we should all love each other and try to get along for the betterment of all,” and they killed him. God has sent us many other messengers in the years since who’ve attempted to give us the same message, ie., Gandhi, Martin Luther King, John Lennon, etc., but, unfortunately, we killed them too. It seems if you preach hate you’re as safe as milk and will die in your bed of old age. But have the audacity to peddle love and understanding and your days are numbered.

This loss of his own son caused God to withdraw from the world and to distance Himself from us. It is indeed a revealing fact that any ensuing visions to bring us messages from the other world have been in the form of Mary. Not Jesus. And, just like a woman, she still attempts to see the best in us and loves us despite our flaws and hurtful actions. The miracle of unconditional love. Jesus, on the other hand, thinks we’re a bunch of idiots with a thirst for blood who haven’t learnt a thing from the past 2000 years, or his death. Word has it he has given up on us and spends most of his time gardening.

For those amongst us who hate God because they didn’t get what they wanted for Christmas, spare a thought for His suffering. He has been alone for eternity, living in darkness with no one to love. Knowing full well what it was like to feel like an orphan, God gave birth to a huge family and tried to make a home for us. He now knows the pain of having had that family, in main, disown, slander, and hate their father for being the cause of their existence.

Perhaps that is why God created a miracle called forgiveness. He lives in the hope that we will all find it. As He has.

When asked if He ever worried about our future, He replied, “No. Not at all. I worry about your present but never the future for I know the outcome and what, ultimately, awaits you. You see, at the end of your journey all roads lead to me. And, like any parent that loves their child, regardless of what you’ve done, you are greeted with forgiveness and abundant, unconditional love, understanding, and welcomed home.”

Jesus, on the other hand, may take some time to warm to you.

© 2015 Frank Howson

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MY FAVOURITE BOOKS LIST

A friend asked me to pick my 10 fave books of all time. The 10 best of anyting is a hard ask but here’s goes. I have chosen those 50 books that moved me the most and had the biggest influence.

1) THE GREAT GATSBY by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

2) GREAT EXPECTATIONS by Charles Dickens.

3) THE DISENCHANTED by Budd Schulberg.

4) THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY by Oscar Wilde.

5) NODDY IN TOYLAND by Enid Blyton

6) A LIFE by Elia Kazan.

7) CRAZY SUNDAYS – F. SCOTT FITZGERALD IN HOLLYWOOD by Aaron Latham

8) CHRONICLES by Bob Dylan.

9) THIS IS ORSON WELLES by Orson Welles & Peter Bogdanovich.

10) A FAREWELL TO ARMS by Ernest Hemingway.

11) THE LITTLE PRINCE by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

12) IN COLD BLOOD by Truman Capote

13) A TALE OF TWO CITIES by Charles Dickens

14) HUCKLEBERRY FINN by Mark Twain

15) WHAT’S EXACTLY THE MATTER WITH ME by P.F. Sloan

16) DEATH OF A SALESMAN by Arthur Miller

17) TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD by Harper Lee

18) TENDER IS THE NIGHT by F. Scott Fitzgerald

19) POWER WITHOUT GLORY by Frank Hardy

20) PETER PAN by James M. Barrie

21) DIARY OF AN UNKNOWN by Jean Cocteau

22) ADVENTURES IN THE SCREEN TRADE by William Goldman

23) THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES BY THE COWARD ROBERT FORD by Ron Hansen

24) SCOTT & ERNEST by Matthew Bruccoli

25) THE POWER OF MYTH by Joseph Campbell & Bill Moyers.

26) ERROL FLYNN – A MEMOIR by Earl Conrad

27) ON THE STREET WHERE I LIVE by Alan Jay Lerner

28) DON’T LET ME BE MISUNDERSTOOD by Eric Burdon with J. Marshall Craig

29) OLIVIER ON ACTING by Laurence Olivier

30) THE MUSIC GOES ROUND MY HEAD by David Johnston

31) FREE ASSOCIATION by Steven Berkoff

32) THE KID STAYS IN THE PICTURE by Robert Evans

33) MARILYN by Norman Mailer

34) HITCHCOCK BY TRUFFAUT

35) A MOVEABLE FEAST by Ernest Hemingway

36) JOURNAL OF A NOVEL by John Steinbeck

37) PICTURE by Lillian Ross

38) HOME BEFORE DARK by Ruth Park

39) TINSEL by William Goldman

40) PORTRAITS by Helmut Newton

41) THE NAKED CIVIL SERVANT by Quentin Crisp

42) THE HERO WITH A THOUSAND FACES by Joseph Campbell

43) TEN GREAT PLAYS by William Shakespeare

44) FINISHING THE HAT by Stephen Sondheim

45) W. C. FIELDS – HIS FOLLIES AND FORTUNES by Robert L. Taylor

48) THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARK TWAIN Volume 1 by Mark Twain

49) IN HIS OWN WRITE by John Lennon

50) THE ENTERTAINER by John Osbourne

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REMEMBER

Remember the days before ipods and iphones when we actually took the time to talk to each other? Really talk.

Remember when you could go out to lunch as an escape from the pressures of work and for an hour could unwind and enjoy a meal without being interrupted by a phone call about something that could obviously wait an hour?

Remember when love was something magical and special and people didn’t take each other for granted? Or for a ride. We all rejoiced when there was suddenly free love. Trouble is, like most things, people don’t value things that come too easily.

Remember when music was on vinyl and an album was big and had a beautiful cover that actually looked like a work of art and we carried those albums around with us to friends’ houses as a badge of pride? They had cover notes. They listed what musicians played on what track. What studio each track was recorded at? Who engineered? What time of day or night had it been recorded. Who had written each song? Who arranged it? Who mixed it? The lyrics. It was important to us to know all these things and to respect those who had participated on our beloved recording. It was difficult to skip tracks so it made you listen to every song and appreciate an album as a whole. Now, music has gotten smaller in so many ways. People download things in inferior sound quality and don’t give a damn about who played on it and who else contributed. Now it’s all about beats.

Remember when people used to know their neighbours? And actually care about them?

Remember when a dog was a child’s best friend and there were so many hills to climb and games to play in the open air? It taught us to use our imaginations. Without a computer screen, we could imagine we were Zorro, Davy Crockett, Robin Hood or Geronimo and play in parks for hours having the time of our life. And were safe.

Remember when the smallest gesture was appreciated and treasured?

Remember when we believed that our vote counted for something? This was in the days before the Whitlam sacking (a Prime Minister elected by the public and dismissed by one man), and Kevin Rudd (another man elected by the public but dismissed by his own party).

Remember when our innocence was lost from three bullets fired in Dallas? A reminder that the world was not a safe place for those who dreamed big dreams.

Remember when your parents took the time to read you bedtime stories?

Remember when an ice cream and a trip to the movies made you feel like the richest kid in town?

Remember when Christmas was spent with all those long gone family members and we laughed as if there would be no tomorrow?

Remember when the days seemed so long that you could easily fit into each one everything you had to do?

Remember the first time you heard the Beatles and they sounded like nothing you’d ever heard before? It’s hard for younger people to appreciate their full impact on the way things were. Music, hair, clothing, and attitudes changed overnight. Or so it seemed.

Remember when you were small and played with children with different coloured skin and didn’t even notice?

Remember the excitement of each birthday party shared with your friends?

Remember the smell of your mum’s cooking? It seemed like she was some kind of magician. She always knew what you wanted.

Remember when each day was your friend and another chance for an adventure? Where did we lose that enthusiasm for life? I lost it for a whole decade but have worked hard to regain it. Be thankful for each day no matter what you are going through. Each day is a gift. If you treat it as such it will be.

Remember when radio stations played any and every style of music as long as they thought it was a hit? It was such a weird and exciting mix of Beatles, Frank Sinatra, Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, Louis Armstrong, The Rolling Stones, Elvis, Anthony Newley, The Shadows, Bob Dylan, The Seekers, Bobby Darin, Paul Mauriat, The Kinks, Tom Jones, Shirley Bassey,  Janis Joplin, etc., etc., etc.

Remember when people read books and writers became celebrities?

Remember when Bing Crosby was the voice of Christmas?

Remember romance?

Remember Muhammad Ali in his prime when he glided like a proud eagle in flight?

Remember reading the Old Testament and being scared because God seemed so pissed off all the time? In the New Testament He had, like us all, mellowed by time.

Remember crying over the loss of your first love?

Remember when people took the time to write and post Christmas cards?

Remember Noddy in Toyland?

Remember when the circus came to town?

Remember watching man set foot on the moon and knowing nothing would be the same again? It was scary and exciting all at the same time. In the words of Bob Dylan, “Man has invented his doom, first step was touching the moon…”

Remember when it wasn’t painful to remember?

 

(c) Frank Howson 2014

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BOB DYLAN

Like all great things, Bob Dylan is an acquired taste. Some people don’t like caviar. Others will pay a fortune for it. Who is right? No one. You get out of it what you need, or you don’t at all. And that is cool. In the words of Dylan, “it’s all good.”

One of the most frustrating things about Art is none of us can agree about it. Look at the critics. They can’t even agree. You read some reviews about yourself and you’ve failed magnificently. You pick up another paper to read that you’re a genius. And again, who’s right? The truth is neither of them. What it is is what it is to each individual person based upon their own personal life experience. Some people can stand in front of the Mona Lisa and feel nothing. I say time is the only true judge of somethings’ worth. And after 50 years and at 73 years of age Bob Dylan is still going, God bless him, and we are all the better for it.

It always intrigues me when someone goes to a Dylan show and says “He didn’t perform he just stood there, or sat at the keyboards, and sang the songs.” Well, that’s all he’s ever done. Even when he burst onto the scene like a meteorite, he just stood at the microphone and played his songs on guitar and sang, with a shyness most of us found endearing. Like he was singing something so personal it was too revealing even to himself.

He now says those early songs he must’ve channeled from a higher being because he doesn’t know where they came from. And even he remains startled by some of the things that young boy wrote. “They had a magic to them. I can’t do that anymore. I do something else now.” The magic has been replaced by craftsmanship. And what a craftsman he is.

There are those who say they hate his voice and he can’t sing. Well, which voice are they referring to? He’s had about six different voices over the journey. You want to hear a pleasant voice that is an instrument? Go see Tony Bennett next time he comes to town.

Some people have voices that are technically brilliant, and I’m in awe of their gift. But after a few songs I find my mind wandering and it all becomes a bit boring. Just my personal opinion. I think that’s why I’ve always gravitated to the originals. People who sing with individuality. Perhaps it’s called passion. As Don McLean described Dylan in “American Pie” he sang in “…a voice that came from you and me.” And that voice sang songs about losers, drifters, hobos, dust bowl survivors, slaves, forgotten blues singers, Jewish prophets, misunderstood gangsters, a lawman who became Judas to his best friend, people who’d been shut out of society because of the colour of their skin, and men who’d been wrongly imprisoned for things they hadn’t done. His voice was their voice.

I one day played my son the song “Hurricane” about the travesty, or the pig-circus of justice that convicted Rubin “Hurricane” Carter to many years in jail and a nightmare he couldn’t wake from. I told my son, “Bob cared so much about this man that he wrote this song and the reaction to it led to a retrial for Rubin and his eventual release.” My son, Oliver, a wise old soul, looked at me and said, “But dad, Bob cares about everyone. Don’t you listen to his lyrics?” I told that story to P.F. Sloan who’d known Bob for many years, and P.F looked at me, smiled and said, “Oliver got that right.”

In many ways I think Bob’s gift has been a huge burden to him. At the heart I think he’s a shy, very sensitive man, and the fanaticism surrounding him embarrasses and probably sometimes angers him that it’s made him a prisoner. He once said, in answer to a question about why at his age he still tours, “The only time I know who I am is when I’m onstage.”

Many creative people know what that is like. It’s like we weren’t given this life for our own enjoyment, but rather to serve the gift. And this gift has taken us from our loved ones, our home, and the wheels that drive a normal life.

When I was young I was very shy, some find this hard to believe, but I learnt how to push through that. Or perhaps you get to an age where you don’t give a fuck what others think of you and with that comes a great relief. A liberation. In my younger days I could easily perform to 2000 people but was far more nervous having a one to one conversation with anyone. That is the ultimate contradiction of most performers.

I also love and admire Bob’s bravery. His guts to follow his own instincts without an eye on the box office or the record charts or even what his fans want him to do. To me that is a true artist. That boldness and commitment to follow your gift’s course at the expense of your own comfort and career safety.

There is a lovely and very revealing story about the young Bob Dylan. He was one of the few great artists of his time that didn’t perform on the Ed Sullivan Show, although he’d been booked to do it. He got as far as the rehearsal for the show and sang a new song, “The John Birch Society Blues,” a song about America’s paranoia of communists. He performed the new tune and the producer of the show came down from the control room and told Bob that the song was unacceptable for prime time viewing in America, and that Bob should do “Blowin’ In The Wind” instead. Bob went to his dressing room and thought about how his parents and all his uncles and aunts were excitedly gathered around the TV set in Minnesota awaiting his appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show. They were so proud of him. He then made a decision that would define the rest of his career. He put his guitar into his guitar case, put on his jacket, and quietly walked out of the TV studio onto the winter streets of New York and went home. What a huge decision for a young boy to make, and yet that decision determined who he was going to be. If he’d compromised then, how could he not compromise again in the future? Once you sell your integrity you don’t get it back.

I love Bob. He has inspired me most of my life. And like any bold artist he is not afraid of trying something and being laughed at. In fact, there were many times in the 80s when he was laughed at and, even more cruelly, dismissed as no longer relevant. But he stuck to his course and has, over the last 15 years, made one of the most stunning and unexpected comebacks in show business scoring 3 Number One albums, more than he’d had in his supposed heyday.

So many of the great ones are gone. And so sadly missed. Imagine, no pun intended, just what John Lennon may’ve done over the past 30 years. We are so blessed that Bob is still with us. And still bravely evolving, going where others are too scared or compromised to tread.

Long may you reign, Bobby.

(c) Frank Howson 2014

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TO DIE OR NOT TO DIE

Self-destruction. An interesting topic and one that holds a compellingly morbid fascination for most of us. Some of us, especially those who are artists, have dueled with it for years, even choosing the weapons ourselves – cigarettes, alcohol, and the harder stuff. Are we drawn to these things in order to block out the world or just dull our senses to how hard the road is before us? All the responsibilities that living brings with a new cart load pulling up everyday.

I know a man who is brilliant. Genius even. In a world where the word genius is overused he is the bona fide true meaning. In the same way that the word star got so overused we had to invent the word superstar, this man is a super-genius then, and I love him, warts and all, as a brother. Today he is battling his demons and it’s a 50/50 bet on the success of this outcome. But with genius comes the heavy load of having to continually live up to that word in the eyes of others, and to oneself. Oh, what a relief it must seem to just close your eyes and make it all go away. The pressure of outdoing your last triumph or the humiliation of your last misstep hounds you and bites at your heels every step of the way. You are your toughest critic and will beat yourself up more harshly than the best Kenneth Turan could’ve dished out at his peak. Sometimes, like critics, we are wrong too. Sometimes an orange is just an orange. Or in some cases, a lemon. Do we over complicate our lives by looking too deeply? In the words of Bob Dylan, “Sometimes it’s not enough to know the meaning of things. Sometimes we have to know what things don’t mean as well.”

One day, although my mind has blurred the number of years if not the pain, I was sitting on the stairs of a grand house I once owned in the depths of despair having decided to burn the fort and lose everything, my career included, in order to be rid of a business associate neither I or anyone else could trust anymore. My son, Oliver, who must’ve been only 4 years of age, saw me and with quite some effort for his little legs climbed the steps up to where I was sitting, sat beside me, put his arm on my shoulder and said, “Don’t worry Daddy, it’ll be alright when you grow up to be a child”. Looking back, I think it’s the greatest piece of advice I have ever been told or even read in a book. Therein lies the secret to happiness. Learn to look at life as a child. To appreciate every moment. To take the time to be beguiled by the beauty of simplicity. To look up in wonderment at the falling of a star. Take the time to be silly, it helps you not take yourself too seriously. And to finally realize that if you have a warm bed, and a hot shower, everything else you get is gravy. And be thankful for it.

It is a shocking statistic how many genius artists have died before they lived to 36. Coincidence? Or were they killed by the fear and pressure of having to live up to themselves? When Elvis Presley died his ex-wife showed insensitivity by stating the obvious, “He died at the right time. If he’d lived any longer he would’ve disappointed us all”. Elvis? Now there’s an example for you. They say he “officially” died of a heart attack. Cybil Shephard, one of his last girlfriends, has stated that his death is one of the biggest medical cover-ups in history. She said when he died he had enough drugs in his system to still the heart of an elephant, and that, in her opinion, it was the end of a very long suicide. Yes, it’s true he never got over losing Priscilla, that’s well known, and one can chart his rapid decline from the moment she left him. But was it not more than that? Ironically, the most desired man in the world died of loneliness, surrounded by yes men, a leach of a manager, and women he didn’t really love. You see, he’d been too long on Lonely Street. The reality is Elvis died from a lethal overdose of boredom, loneliness, Las Vegas and fear. The fear that it was all past him.

Felton Jarvis, the producer of Elvis’ last album “Moody Blue” has said that it was impossible to get Elvis to record the last 4 songs for that album. In desperation, Jarvis flew to where Elvis was on tour and tracked him down at his hotel, pleading with him to just give a few days of his time to complete the album….even just a day! To which Elvis just looked at him and said, “I’m tired of being Elvis Presley.” He was dead just weeks later and Jarvis filled out the posthumous album with 4 live tracks.

And now the great Robin Williams is gone.

But the machine doesn’t want to broadcast to everyday folk that people that successful found success that hollow. It messes up the dream that keeps the wheels turning. That dream we all keep chasing and sacrificing to achieve. You mean – I can become king of the world and end up wanting to die? How does that happen? Is the dream just a lie?

I don’t know. I’m just a man wandering around in circles in the wilderness like everyone else. But I will share something I have learnt by looking at life from both sides now. Those who think they will be happy once they have money…or once they have a big car…or once they have a trophy partner…or once they have a huge mansion…are in for a jolt. The secret, from one who’s learned, is this; you have to be happy before you get those things. Put yourself in order first. And yes, if you are happy within yourself then of course money is the cherry on the cake and will allow you to have some nice times and comfortable living arrangements. Happiness is the foundation on which you build your life. Your inside breeds your outside. Not the other way around. Oh, and when you’ve got money, help out some true friends. Don’t forget that. There is no greater joy than to know you have affected someone’s life in a positive way.

In the meantime, send out some positive thoughts to those who are struggling tonight.

(c) Frank Howson 2014