Now you don’t. Now you see it.

We always knew it was a good album. We had worked hard, rehearsing and playing a few gigs at popular venues. We had a small but loyal following. It was unfortunate, but as many artists, we were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Not so much a place to live, we all loved it here. But the wrong place and time to ply our trade. We were a power pop group complete with almost Brill Building like songs, three-part harmonies, a clean, 80’s white boy look and no niche in the area scene.

Our city was in the national spotlight. There was a funk and beyond superstar here and several loud sloppy nationally influential pre-grunge rock bands with great songwriters and au courant images. Pretty much all the local groups affected one of these styles or the other. That was allegedly what the big left coast labels were looking for, the next this or that, and several coattail groups did see the national stage.

We didn’t begrudge these guys their success. (Back then performing musicians were over 95% male.) Lots of them were our friends and it was great to see acts from our flyover hometown getting some props. Sure we wanted to be successful. We weren’t so driven as needing to play arenas to consider ourselves successful. But it would have been nice to tour and play mid-sized venues and have a few people know the words.

We recorded what we knew to be a really good album of its genre. And we got some airplay here and there. Nothing went viral. (They didn’t use that word back then.) The album was released on vinyl, barely ahead of the CD revolution. Folks everywhere were putting their turntables in mothballs, captivated by the convenience of the smaller software and quantum leap in dBs of signal to noise ratio. Not that many people even knew what a dB was, but the change was noticeable. Vinyl quickly fell out of favor.

We had some face cards stacked against us. But I for one was proud to have three songs, of my composition, recorded and released on a real, albeit smallish record label. It had been a goal of mine for many years and it was satisfying to have accomplished it. I wasn’t too concerned about it making a big splash. Our style of music was not only a little out of phase with our local scene. It was considered mostly the turf of British groups and few American bands sounded like that. I didn’t expect much.

Now, as usual, my lengthy explanation of things has left me hopelessly far away from what I really want to say. And it will undoubtedly take even longer to get there. One is supposed to reveal their main topic in the first paragraph, often repeating it as many as several times in different ways. Gotta grab those readers by the ____.

But….

To make a short story long the owner of our ancient but nascent record label, thinking of new and unique ways to make a little money off his catalog, began shopping the label’s music to brokers, who placed music in films and television shows.

After a time several of the songs were given slots in shows. Our band had a song placed in an episode of a middling, streaming service series. No big deal but we all thought it was pretty cool and the songwriter splashed down some of his royalty money on wings and beer for the band. We hadn’t all been in the same place for a while. A good time was had by all.

Time marched on and the fun was pretty much forgotten when I got an email from the label owner stating that we had a song placed in a series called Stranger Things. I nearly fell out of my chair. Although no one else involved knew anything about the Netflix production, I, as a sci-fi fan, was very aware, I knew that it was one of the most anticipated series releases of the fall and had a huge, fanatical following.

I told the rest of the guys, who seemed to be underwhelmed but intrigued. I am subject to hyperbole and everyone knows it. I wasn’t swift to tell the world, although I knew this was very cool. These things can be, as Mike, the songwriter said, the equivalent of an audio walk-on.  I knew about this, having once spent 8 hours on a movie set in full costume and make-up only to be onscreen for 5 seconds with several hundred other aspiring actors. I didn’t expect much.

Yes, I was excited. No, I wasn’t looking for anything substantial. I’m Bi-Polar and as such need to stay away from manic highs. I tried to keep an even keel. Eventually, as the release of the second season grew nearer and promotion ramped up I decided I had to tell people. I was proud of my past work, and it seemed kind of miraculous that this was happening. I posted on social media and got quite a response. My daughter lost it and told everyone she knew. It was fulfilling to hear her say she was proud of me.

Lest my friends and family, and even a few people I didn’t know, would be disappointed I made certain that people knew our song might only be on for a few seconds. But Stranger Things has a reputation for featuring a who’s who of 80s music and there are nearly as many aficionados of the series music as there are of the series itself. I hadn’t really considered that fact, all the while expecting a very short appearance on the show.

Of course, I was right about the song. It was onscreen for less than ten seconds, in the background under dialogue. I apologized to my posse. (It isn’t really a posse, more of a curious few.) I received some encouragement. “It was still pretty cool” etc.. I felt kind of foolish at building up folk’s expectations. But the horse was out of the barn and obviously, I couldn’t change things.

Well, I hadn’t considered the music mania. More than a few websites published all the music from every episode, regardless of how long it was onscreen. There were links to all of the songs and often blurbs about the performers. We were always called an obscure unknown band. I didn’t mind. One blurb I particularly liked was from a British magazine which said we hadn’t bothered to visit the UK charts. But the song itself got a lot of praise. I was amazed. I mean come on, we were on a Spotify playlist with Motley Crüe, Duran Duran, and Ted Nugent.

Counting various streaming services, Youtube channels and a cool public access video shot in 1986 we’ve had over 125,000 streams and counting. We were featured on local network news, the largest local newspaper, and the top local alt radio station. We are featured on more than a few private Youtube playlists. We have been added to regular rotation on both internet and broadcast rock radio stations, some with international audiences of over a million listeners.

Are you kidding me? It’s kind of surreal. Really though, it doesn’t make me feel all that special. I mean everyone has something they do very very well. Would that they were widely recognized for it. Unfortunately, the world doesn’t work that way. But it brings me to the thing that I have been reminded of by this whole crazy experience, the thing I hope to leave you with if you have read this far.

All art is a real expression of someone’s soul. And all art is beautiful, even art most people consider ugly. There is always someone somewhere who appreciates it.  There is also very beautiful art and exceptionally beautiful art. Some of this art is recognized as exceptional in its time. Some is not seen as remarkable until after its time. And some is never recognized as great.

Yet, art is created beautiful and remains beautiful. It retains its beauty regardless of any other factor. And for the creator of the art, it is enough to know their art is beautiful, even if appears not to be.

Perhaps they depend on their art to make a living and can be disappointed it isn’t selling well enough to support themselves. They can become despondent that their art is not appreciated. They can abandon their art for whatever reason.

But I am certain that on their deathbed, should they be cogent, they look back lovingly on their creative process, their joy in giving something unique to the world. Something that is beautiful in their eyes and in their soul. Something that will always be beautiful.

It is their legacy and they are proud of pouring their being into it.

It is enough.

And we must remember.

It is something that is always available, to be revered.

 

You Won’t Like This

Las Vegas.

It usually takes me several days to process dramatic and truly damaging events that permeate our shared public consciousness. Las Vegas is such an event. It has made such a deep impact on America that I cannot even speak of it in the past tense, as it will linger and fester in our souls for a long time. I don’t even have to qualify it. Simply the name of the city is enough. And this will probably be the case for a long time. Unless the arms race of massive death creates another tortured soul with a plan.

Heroes is not necessarily the only word I would use to describe the many whose acts of courage and compassion are rightfully honored and revered. So many, in all disasters are called heroes. But in this, as in those, heroes is an incomplete concept. For me, it is not enough to simply say they are heroes. I need to hear why they are heroes, either big or small, either saving lives or soothing scared children.

Heroes do what they do, they run towards not away, because they love their neighbor, out of compassion and empathy. Because they intuitively revere and love life and people, who all deserve to be saved. Tragedy destroys the boundaries between people and carries suffering down the path to hope. The clarity of our shared pain shows us we are one, individual yet part of something greater, something that lives deep inside us and manifests when we need it. This is the divinity and beauty of heroism, not merely a selfless deed.

Now the authorities are looking for motive. Desperately. The motive is simple, as it is for all mass killers. They are in pain and choose to assuage that pain through heinous murder. No matter their state of being they all make a choice. Whether suffering through political anger, mental disorder’s damaged thinking or aggrieved despair, the pain is the same and the choice to act with violence is the same, to make others suffer as they do. Having known severe pain I cannot hate them. But why do we make so many more of them than anywhere else?

These killers act out because American culture permits us to resolve conflict and pain with violence. Not only is it permitted it is the preferred means. Immorality as social norm. But one cannot legislate morality. Conservatives know this but are so heavy-handed and self-serving they cannot serve that truth in a way that serves society. Liberals want to help save people but sell themselves short out of fear. They cannot maintain outrage because more tragedy is always around the corner to overwhelm them. And the twain shall never meet.

Everybody knows subconsciously that the American culture’s affair with guns makes the gun violence dynamic here different than the rest of the world. We cannot be another Australia no matter how much we legislate gun sensible laws. Law can only scratch the surface. Sensible gun safety legislation will help, but not enough. There must be more.

Many say we can’t stop invisible lone wolves from acting, from committing mass murder. That it’s impossible to ferret them out. They use this as an excuse to never try stopping them. The gun makers tell us the solution is more guns. Plenty of us believe this to be true. And a majority of the country does not trust the law to solve anything. In this case, they may be quite right. But I see these people as cowards, throwing up their hands in insincere despair. Selling death for profit.

To my mind, there is a good solution here, perhaps the best solution. Instead of trying to stop these evil killers when they are fully grown and engaged, we should change the way we raise our children, especially boys and especially white boys. Call it sexism/genderism and racism but the statistics bear it out. White men make up a large majority of mass murderers.

The way to stop us from accepting gun violence as a solution to social problems is to stop teaching our children this myth, this soul-crushing lie that violence is the way to go, the way to make everything right. The circle of violence can only be broken by Americans acting in concert to stop telling our boys to “be a man” and then equating that manhood with violence. I feel strongly that this “be a man” syndrome is sinful. The Christ does not ask us to turn the other cheek for nothing.

The glorification of violence is outdated at best. The fight or flight autonomic reaction existed for a creature with few reasoning skills, creatures without language as a tool of peace. There is a reason it is buried deep in our brains. It is no longer a viable means of avoiding pain or resolving conflict. As thinking beings, we can overcome our instant calls to violence. This is not easy. But as humans, we can call on the power of mind over matter. It works.

We must begin the hard work of creating fewer and fewer men with unbearable pain, those who feel horribly wronged but who hide it well, those subjected to abuse who process violence as normal, and even those who are barely aware of what they are doing. Of course, there are anomalies. There are women who act out in this way but as much as prehistoric women were rarely called upon to fight for existence, modern women are rarely acculturated to violence. This, I feel, is part of why they make up a small percentage of mass murderers. Yet another anomaly, in the instance of the sins of psychopaths these souls may never be inclined to abandon violence.

As said, it is imperative that we contribute to the solution the right way, by telling our children that violence is never acceptable. We must still learn the ways of violence as a defense against an existential threat. Complete passivity is naive. But the best way is to show our sons and daughters that violence is not the way is by our actions, modeling peaceful negotiation and mediation as the preferred method of conflict resolution, that through human interaction we can ease our pain.

The best way is better than the right way. And the example we set is the best means of successfully moving our pain into hope, as befits sentient beings. The Sanskrit word for weapon is also the word for tool. We can, as the Christ intimated, beat our swords into plowshares. We can use our hearts, souls, and minds to change society, to join many of us together as one without needing a disaster to unite us. We would no longer need to battle in the halls of Congress. We wouldn’t have to fight so much at the taverns, cafes and dinner tables of America. We could change.

An addendum

You won’t like this.

This will be seen as and called racism and it probably is. But I must say my piece. The situation in the black and much of the Latino communities, as I observe it, is that the relative lack of mass murderers from these communities is due to the fact that their suffering involving gun violence is intimate, up close and personal. It is directed at the individual, the person right there in front of you. Violence here is not an anomaly, it is omnipresent. One need not meticulously plan a bloodbath of the anonymous. Here the pools of blood will be at their feet, and the plan was formed quickly, specific to the grievance. So when those in the public eye conflate murder in these POC communities with mass murder they are terribly wrong. Though the solutions to the violence are similar the essence of the problem is different.

Mea Culpa. Please forgive me if I am wrong about this. I cannot know for certain but I witness. I fully accept a charge of racism for these comments and the mantle of racist. I speak what I feel.

You won’t like this either.

A word about prayers, including candlelight vigils and moments of silence. Prayer is a good thing. Praying for the peaceful repose of the lost souls and healing grace for their friends and families is a good thing. Candlelight vigils and shrines and moments of silence are good things. But they are all also feel good actions. They allow us to feel as though we have acted, we have done something good, something to help. We can do this and then go home and not take any further action, thinking we have done our part. In this, I do not judge. I only bear witness. Think on it yourself.

As powerful as is prayer, for the departed, we must also pray for the strength to do the hard work of changing the nation’s zeitgeist. It will take several generations but we must change the way we do this business. Praising those we call heroes and changing our laws and offering prayers are all good things but they can only save a fraction of the lives we need to.

These things are right things to do but they are not the best things to do. It is not easy to find and choose the best thing over the right thing. Doing the right thing we are so tempted to be satisfied and go home. I am convinced that, for America, the best path to hope out of pain is accepting our own pain and finding our own hope. This will give us the confidence to teach our children well. I believe we all know in our hearts that this path is true.

Let us start on this path together in love.

 

An Addendum to “Rules for Being Human”

Most pithy and insightful quotes or insights that come across the interwebs deal with single issues or finite concepts. However this is the most comprehensive and broadly truthful thing I have come across in a very long while. Many of you already know some, most or all of this, either intuitively or from study. I cannot verify that this is all from the Sanskrit but I can tell you I originally discovered many of these truths from studying Hindu mythology and sacred texts. I must confess I struggle to uphold a life based on these rules. I think most of us do. Here is bit of personal commentary on each rule. Well, a lot of commentary.

Rule 1. Having a body, or form, is what separates us from every other sentient entity, i.e. God, angels, spirits, etc. This is why it was so important that Jesus take on human form. The physical plane is the densest part of the universe. This is why so many scientists have been pursuing the Higgs Boson, to understand matter. Having a form locks the soul and spirit into one conceptual vessel in time and space. It is rumored that angels are jealous of humans for having a body. Only because we have a body can we appreciate the physical universe. Some say growth can only happen on all planes at the same time, which means that we can only evolve our spirit while we inhabit a body.

Rule 2. The purpose of life is to continue to evolve into a more perfect being, with the ultimate goal to become godlike. While that goal may be unattainable there cannot be a lesser goal for humankind if we are to become the best we can be. This is why life is a constant learning process. Each time we learn we evolve. The lessons are always worth learning. We just have to remember that even the seemingly insignificant lessons are meaningful. A lifetime devoted to constant learning keeps the mind and soul youthful and flexible.

Rule 3. Yoga is the purposeful aspect of any activity. We can be taught the yoga of anything only because somebody experimented and failed and kept trying until the secret of the yoga was revealed. Unless we have the courage to exceed our imaginations by trying new things and failing we can never expect to grow at all. Remember God doesn’t have accidents. As we live we rise and fall like a wave of light. The peaks and valleys show us both the divine and the profane. We learn. We grow. We are like light as we are both a particle and a wave.

Rule 4. This can only be experienced. It is a function of karma, or destiny. God has a plan for all of us and if we come to a part of that plan that we have trouble learning we are presented with a variation of the lesson until we learn it. This may possibly explain why predestination can coexist with free will. We always have the free will to reject our destiny, but will be given an infinite number of opportunities to accept it.

Rule 5. For those who believe in reincarnation this extends through many lives. It is said that we come back into a life best suited to fulfill our karma. It is also why we only age physically. We continue to grow mentally and emotionally. We age because of that density of the physical plane, which has something to do with friction, entropy and gravity. Gravity is the last force needed to be explained in order to have a unified field theory, which is the ultimate goal of sub atomic physics. Our minds and hearts are not subject to gravity and will continue to learn without deteriorating.

Rule 6. Everything is relative and absolute at the same time. That is to say every object, concept, idea or activity has a both a relative and absolute aspect. Einstein realized this and saw that it could be observed at or near the speed of light. Absolutely, we are always here. But relatively, there is always a somewhere else that we can see from here. When we realize that the somewhere else is also here, once we get there, then we begin to understand relativity. There is always an external perspective, an alternative point of view to every existing thing. This is why there are an infinite number of points on a line. Time is the dimension that moves us through the relative, always staying in the absolute moment. This is a most pure contradiction. Maintaining our bodies, keeping the mental, emotional, ethereal and spiritual all together in one physical form, is the most sublime contradiction known and it is in this apparent contradiction of the absolute and relative, in time, where we liberate the incomprehensible energy necessary to maintain those bodies. Once again, Einstein was the first to understand this, expressing it as E=MC squared.

Rule 7. There are nearly infinite numbers of cosmoses. Each contained by or containing another. There are billions of universes comprised of billions of galaxies comprised of billions of stars and more billions of planets and moons which have billions of objects and life forms which have billions of molecules and billions of atoms down to the many and various sub atomic particles. There is a pervasive concept in religion and mythology that says any one distinct part of a cosmos, regardless how large or small, is an integral part of a larger cosmos and also contains smaller cosmoses. These cosmoses mirror each other in function. For example the christian world view says we are all, the billions of us, part of the body of Christ yet science tells us that we are also a body, of which billions of cells are a part. Therefore we are all both a part and a whole at the same time. So cosmologically we are all the same. So seeing something in someone else must be related to seeing it in us. We mirror each other so we recognize ourselves in others. From a spiritual perspective we recognize the divine in each other, which leads to the conclusion, as stated by Christianity among others, that we are all children of God.

Rule 8. This is about dharma and karma. Dharma is our spiritual duty. It is what we feel bound to and what aspires us to divinity while inspiring us to greatness. The catch is we have free will and can choose to deny our karma, or destiny, and our dharma, or duty. Because of God’s plan for us we have all the requisite abilities, characteristics, genetic information needed to attain that destiny according to the plan. These are God given and always accessible to us. We choose through free will just how well we make use of these gifts.

Rule 9. This goes back to relativity and cosmoses inside cosmoses, karma and dharma and an infinite, all knowing, onmipresent God. One reason some call the higgs boson the god particle is that they see it as the inner boundary of universes, the particle from which all other particles are made. The one point of the big bang. By finding the inner boundary of existence some hope to understand God, the outer boundary of existence. The mystery of us having and maintaining a body is that it is a model for how all universes operate. It has billions of individual parts that working together make one distinct entity. The human body is a universe unto itself. Therefore we can know everything worth knowing by looking inside ourselves, experimenting and learning lessons understanding how we are all one and infinite at the same time and that our lives rest entirely in our hands.

By now you have seen that my observations about this allegedly spiritual knowledge is chock full of physics. Since the purpose of both physics and spiritual discovery is to explain existence, it makes sense that they would both be talking about the same thing. Well enough of my ramblings. This list of rules just touched off a stream of consciousness in me and I felt compelled to communicate it. Thanks, as always, for humoring me. I do think that these rules are valuable and I hope they can inspire you to become that ever more perfect being you so strongly hope to be.

UPDATE: As you may have read in the comments these rules are a major focus of Dr. Cherie Carter-Scott’s work, which is not attributed on the widely circulated cyber meme poster. For shame. Thank you Dr. Carter-Scott for your clarity. Also it is my understanding that there may be a tenth rule that states that “You will forget all of this at birth.” In many ways life is a zero-sum game and as we learn we also forget. But there are signposts that catch the eye of those who are looking for them which lead us to triggers that help us remember our true natures. We should offer thanks to those who dug into their subconscious to find them.