Sometimes it's necessary to step away from the hubbub created by our social connections. Much as I love family and friends, their sorrows and sadness--and, yes, contentiousness--can get to me. Then I feel as if anything I might try to make things better is not going to amount to anything, for someone else will unravel whatever I'm trying to do.

When this happens, I pick up my guitar and return to the pieces of music I cherish. The above sample was given to me by friends on a visit to Germany. These friends, incidentally, got upset when I said I wanted to visit Dachau, the former concentration camp near Munich. They gave me pamphlets that said the Holocaust was mostly Jewish propaganda. What could I say? I've known these people for decades; they are not part of the unhinged fringe. Of course I went to Dachau anyway, objections or not, but I doubt that my action changed their view of things.

Sometimes, to maintain our social relations seems an impossible project.