Look! It’s Mr. Ethan!

3 time winner of the World Championship Old-Time Piano Playing Contest, host and creator of the Carolina Shout Podcast, and ragtime musician virtuoso, Ethan Uslan, has added a new accomplishment to his long list of professional milestones. With the help of his wife, Mrs. Kate Uslan (lovingly referred to as Miss Kate in the storybook), he has recently published his first book, “Look! It’s Mr. Ethan!” Just as Ethan’s chosen medium of ragtime music helps listeners connect with musical treasures from the past, his first edition published book is a commentary on human existence to the beginning of time. The reading is to the point, and full of adventure and symbolism. It cannot be ordered on Amazon and is only available by way of direct face-to-face reading upon personal invitation to my home in Taipei, Taiwan, or by contacting Serendipity Publishing Co. directly (not an actual Publishing company).

The cover image “Look! It’s Mr. Ethan!” featuring Ethan with a pine cone on his head. The eyes invite the reader to delve deeper into the book.

At the beginning of the pictorial narrative, we see the simple image of a navy blue door, with a hand reaching out and knocking on the door itself. This section of the book represents the Dawn of Man, with the door symbolising the divide between the Great Nothing and creation, and perhaps even the first early evolution of single-celled organisms to bipedal mammals.

“Ding-Dong,”the doorbell rings, signifying the Big Bang.

This is the moment where the Universe’s water breaks and the great explosion of creation leading to life’s beauty is released from the darkness of Nothingness. The picture in the book opens up, revealing a full grown Ethan wearing an outfit, reminiscent of Waldo from the “Where’s Waldo” books. This choice of clothing is not a coincidence.

Ethan’s decision to appear as a full-grown man at the spark of creation symbolises the sense of wonder and confusion at the start of the Big Bang, while the Waldo-themed colour scheme of clothing reminds us of our search for ourselves and the meaning of life. It is this combination of childlike purity mixed with the very adult theme of profound introspection that helps the reader connect Ethan’s journey with humankind and the questions we have asked ourselves from the very beginning of the time:

“Where do we come from, and what’s the meaning of it all?”

Ethan’s take on Fur Elise, still bearing a stripe-themed costume here. Coincidence?

What follows is a seemingly simple narrative of a young Ethan playing outside on a sunny day, but the reader needs to look past the brevity of language and see the deeper meanings behind each word and picture. There is a subtle balance of the elements of life’s fragility and a sense of danger in the next few pages, reminding us of just how precarious life is as we peek over abyss of existence. We see Ethan riding a bike and climbing a tree. These all seem innocent enough until he makes a mysterious discovery: a lonesome pile of leaves.

The pile of leaves here represents our coming-of-age journey and evolution as a species. It’s clear to see a direct connection to ecotherapy, an applied practice first developed by Theodore Roszak. Ecotherapy states that humans are part of the great web of life and that our psyches “cannot be isolated from our environment.” Seen on the cover, Mr. Ethan and the pine cone on his head are literally connected with one another, friends until the end of time. The pine cone and the pile of leaves represents our primordial need to reconnect with Nature. The pine cone is the seed that starts at the creation of life, or the proverbial “ding-dong” of inspection, harkening back to the opening pages. The dead leaves represent life’s other end of the spectrum. As we flip the page and see the image of Ethan staring back into the reader’s eyes resting amidst the pile of leaves, we can only assume that he is beckoning us to question our own existential existence and ethereal experience on this Earth in relation to Nature. By jumping into the leaves he is essentially jumping into the unknown. He is jumping into Death.

Ethan teaches us how to face the fate that is coming to us all with a strong chin and firm resolve.

As Ethan has helped us to face our deepest fears and look Death in the face, he needs to also come back from this experience. But he cannot do it alone. We have evolved to the point now where we have searched our souls and know that there is a deep need for love and connection. It is at this point in the story where Miss Kate appears. Depicted as a saviour angel with flowing locks of curls, Miss Kate pulls Mr. Ethan out of the swirling mass of uncertainty and imminent death. This is Mankind on the verge of epiphany, this is Mankind evolving to our highest levels of potential intelligence. True connection and community is the only way to face the stark realities of life and death. As a species our survival and continued coexistence with Nature depends upon our cooperative efforts to preserve our collective humanity. The simple act of helping Ethan out of the pile of leaves demonstrates this sentiment beautifully.

The beauty of altruism in times of distress — something that we could all use at this moment.

The end of the book leaves the reader with a sense of calm and serenity, but I won’t give away the specifics other than to say that it’s worth the read. I have revisited this book multiple times, and each time I read it I learn something new about myself, as well as the next steps I am taking with my life partner on my new journey as a parent.

Ethan’s own journey still continues and I highly suggest readers to take a look at his website, as well as listening to some of his music, should you have the chance. My own journey with Ethan began many moons ago when I joined the improv group Full Frontal Comedy during my time at Indiana University. He graciously lent his musical talents as the group’s pianist, and we created many improvised musical’s and scenes inspired by him tickling the ivories on stage. He is a father, husband, and someone I’m proud to call a good friend. I recently received this touching handmade children’s book to share with my newborn daughter, Luna, and this piece of writing has been somewhat of an extended “thank you” to him, echoing his creativity with a creative interpretation of my own. Should anyone out there feel they are lost amidst the leaves, perhaps Ethan’s melodious tones can help to give them a hand, pulling them back to safety where they can enjoy the songs of the universe.

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The Clock Stops

American residing in Asia since 2004. Blogs focusing on life observations, improv, food, creating a learning organisation, management, and stretching time.