The Lonesome Side of Town was conceived in a small church in Greenville, Michigan. Having been constructed in the 1880’s, the building found new life as a recording studio when it was purchased by my friend and fellow musician, Chris Ranney. In August of 2018, Chris and I spent a day tracking drums in the church with producer Michael Crittenden and drummer Rob Avsharian. Rob’s playing was solid and artful as ever, and he proved himself a good sport when our creative wanderings gave way to bossa nova beats and vinyl LPs on drum heads. As night fell, a line of storms approached the town, and we had no choice but to call the session. It was enough, we’d gotten the drum tracks we needed in a single day. We also captured the character of the church, who’s color permeates and shapes the entire record.
In this blog, I’m in the habit of writing from the perspective of science as well as that of spirituality. Although it may seem strange to many, I’ve never felt compelled to choose a side. In fact, to do so seemed tantamount to tying one arm behind my back. In my eager pursuit of knowledge, I found the more I learned, the more one side began to resemble the other. Although this may not be obvious at first glance, it has been stated time and again by mystics and great thinkers alike.
Hello readers of this strange and eclectic thread. I’m checking in to share a little about why this blog has fallen silent of late. Rest assured, there is no crisis responsible, nothing untoward has taken place. Although the headlines we read are consistently negative, in my life at least, things are feeling alright.
Looking at the world around me, I witness a great deal of sadness, stress, and confusion regarding life in the modern age. As time continues its forward march, what remains of our utopian hopes seems to be fading, while our dystopian fears appear to be realizing a steady crescendo. Gone are the rallying cries of a "shining beacon on a hill", as day-to-day we find ourselves inundated by messages of fear and inevitable decline. As this process unfolds, we find ourselves beginning to question life on a grander scale, at times wondering what hope there is for us to find in a world spinning out of control. I maintain, as always, that there is hope to be found in reason, should we choose to embody it. In considering utopianism vs dystopianism, reason has something very simple to tell us, and given the state of the world around us, I find it to be an optimistic message.
In my last blog, I discussed personal identifications and how they mold our minds over time, opining that a sane response to the collective paralysis we witness within our world is to honestly assess our own identifications and the ways they influence our behavior. In pursuing such a course, one begins to take a more conscious approach to life, unlearning things they once took for granted. But how exactly does one undertake such an endeavor? I suppose there are as many answers as there are people walking the planet. But for my part, I started at the beginning, drawing on available sources of knowledge, as well as practicing a deeper relationship with my own intuition.
As I navigate a culture evermore consumed by identification - be it identity politics, nationalism, scientism, or religious affiliation - I consider how my own life has benefited from peeling away such identifications. Strange as it may sound, I wonder if identification has become the enemy in modernity, and disidentification a misunderstood ally. In modern day America, personal identity has emerged as a central theme, becoming firmly entrenched within our society. When viewed through the lens of the natural world, this is no surprise. After all, birds of a feather do flock together. Yet, despite their commonalities, flocking birds do not make it their goal to eliminate competing commonalities, but rather, gracefully hold their own identifications as sacred while coexisting within a diverse ecosystem of co-identifications. These days, it seems as though we could learn a few things from the birds.
Throughout my life, I have often considered the controversy which simmers between evolutionists and creationists. Much like the polarization and posturing witnessed in American politics and social policy, when it comes to creation vs evolution, it can be difficult to avoid the trap of choosing a side and digging in. It’s funny how often we find that issues which act as “lightning rods” in the modern age, are those which have neatly packaged a complex subject into polar viewpoints. If we step back for just a moment and examine society's most divisive topics, false dichotomies emerge: controversies fueled by inaccurate paradigms which offer one of two choices, neither of which provide a satisfying option. For my part, the issue of “creation vs. evolution” is just such a controversy.
With minor exception, my recent blogs have dealt with my spring road trip out west. That discussion focused primarily on three days I spent at a metaphysical bed and breakfast called Sacred Rocks Sedona. Although I arrived at Sacred Rocks purely through happenstance, the place became the story of my trip. Upon arrival, I learned that one of the owners - an Ojibwa woman named Meaghan - offered healing sessions there, and I decided to take part in one. Throughout my stay, however, I was approached by other B&B guests about participating in additional ceremonies, so I obliged. On the first night, that took the form of a crystal bowl ceremony, and on the last morning, a medicine wheel ceremony.
In my last blog, I discussed a bit more about the time I spent in Sedona, AZ, during my westward trip. The journey began shortly after my spring release show at Johnny’s Speakeasy, in my hometown of Ann Arbor, MI. My wandering had led me to a place called Sacred Rocks Sedona Metaphysical Bed & Breakfast, where I would spend three nights. Although I’d decided to take part in single “healing session” while there, I found myself included in a separate ceremony on the first night, and additionally, invited to take part in a traditional medicine-wheel ceremony on my final morning. During my time at Sacred Rocks, I adopted a state of quiet acquiescence, choosing to roll with whatever came my way. With this in mind, I thought explore this state of "openness" a little further, before writing about the final ceremony.
In my last blog, I wrote about my first night at Sacred Rocks Sedona, a "Metaphysical B&B" owned by an Ojibwa Indian healer named Meaghan and her husband, Rick. That first night featured a crystal bowl healing ceremony, conducted by Meaghan. Although I was unfamiliar with the nature of such a ceremony, I accepted the invitation to take part. Given the circumstances surrounding my arrival at Sacred Rocks, I found myself fairly open to any and every thing that might happen there. Hence, I did not speak much during my stay, but rather, watched, listened, and breathed.
Last time I discussed my westward trip, and how I arrived under strangely synchronous circumstances at a “metaphysical B&B” located on a beautiful horse farm in Sedona, AZ. My westward wandering had led me to a peaceful place, where I would stay for three nights in a beautiful trailer. The proprietors, Rick and Meaghan, owned the property – formerly a Buddhist retreat center – and Meaghan conducted healing ceremonies there. Sacred Rocks was a popular destination, Rick explained to me as we stood in the trailer’s kitchen. It was not the type of place one could just show up at, yet, that is exactly what I had done.
I am a big fan of travelling by motor vehicle and have always loved a good road trip. Admittedly, those long miles in the backseat were trying as a child, gazing out the window as the miles fell away. But I grew to love the road, whether travelling solo or with friends. Perhaps road trips appeal to my polar nature, as they are a near perfect mix of doing and not doing: travelling farther from home in one day than some do in a lifetime, all while sitting still, drinking truck stop coffee, and listening to music. Now that is a cool way to get somewhere.
You may already be familiar with the parable of the two wolves (a story typically attributed to the Cherokee nation), but in case you you're not, I will summarize it briefly:
In the parable of the two wolves, a grandfather is talking with his grandson and tells him that each of us have two wolves inside of us that are at war: one wolf is good, representing love; the other is bad, representing fear. Upon consideration the child asks, “Grandfather, which wolf wins?” To which the wise old man replies, “The one you feed.”
Last time I discussed my somewhat unlikely entrance into yogic practice as well as my injured right shoulder and how it has been a perennial weak link for me, especially so in the past couple of years. Physical therapy did not help the situation - at least not quickly enough - and once my insurance company pulled the plug on further visits, I found myself left to my own devices. I remember that last day of therapy and how there seemed to be an elephant in the room: saying my farewells to the staff when everyone knew I was still in a lot of pain. Yet, that was somehow beside the point and we all knew it. I suppose we have come to collectively accept how business is done in the modern age … that’s just life, right?
In my last blog I mentioned taking a vacation without planning ... how I'd hit the road in a southwesterly direction largely because I felt “pulled” to do so. At the peak of my trip I found myself face down in a traditional Native American medicine wheel with three women, each one a psychic practitioner. I closed my last blog discussing a moment of lucidity I had in the midst of that experience, how I’d stopped to check in with myself and make a mental note about just how ridiculous my circumstances were in the context of my “real” life. In retracing my steps to that morning’s events I could see that I’d followed a path to that place, surely enough, but not consciously. The path was crystal clear as I gazed back at it, but it wasn’t one I could have followed in a traditional sense, it simply had to be walked. In the midst of those strange surroundings, I was overcome with the sensation of being exactly where I needed to be. It’s a feeling I’ve been growing familiar with.
If you’ve read a few of these blogs you may already be familiar with non-interference. Simply put, non-interference is a life practice (sometimes referred to as Wu Wei, Chinese for “non-doing”) that recommends letting go of the reigns, suggesting life is capable of drawing us down our highest path if only we’d get out of the way and let it. My last record, Tennessee Night, was about more than just music to me, as I'd chosen to make the entire process an experiment in living according to principles of non-interference. For my part, that entailed actively trusting circumstances, honing my deeper instincts, getting honest with myself, and stepping off a few cliffs under the assumption that a path would appear beneath my feet. I’m still walking, and I have no plans to terminate the experiment at this point ... only I no longer consider it an experiment ... now it's just how I live my life.
To blog or not to blog, that is the question? Well, the answer for the last few months has been a consistent “no”. Too many shows, too much of the day job, and a sprinkling of me growing really, really tired of the sound of my own voice (and the look of my own typed characters for that matter). It has been a quiet time, a pensive time, and a time of taking respite when and where a fellow can. None of these factors contributed much to this blog, obviously.
In my last blog I discussed coming to have a different relationship with songs, as well as having questioned the wisdom of opening up about that process and where it has led me. I talked about how my experiences of the past three years now seem to be culminating in a return of sorts, a change in perspective regarding many things, including my approach to this blog. In the end, I remembered all the stories I'd read from others on similar paths and the difference their honesty made in my own journey. And so, I continue ...
About three years ago I began to notice and pay attention to the more subtle aspects of my existence, things that had up till then eluded the lens of my observation. These are things I've hinted at from time to time in my blogs, as if the thread of these writings would soon veer into interesting -- if perhaps questionable -- personal territory. I didn’t know exactly what this would look like, but it would surely involve forsaking my usual stomping ground (blogs dealing with the intellectual/philosophical) in favor of sharing more and detailing some of the strange and surprising roads that have opened to me since I more fully immersed myself into the pursuit of music. I've found myself torn on this point, often quoting the lyrics of David Ramirez’ song Ball and Chain to myself, “... hold on to some of your stories, save just a few from the soundwaves.”
In previous blogs I’ve touched on the topic of fractals and self-similarity, or the idea that the more we’re able to observe our universe, the more we recognize set patterns of self-resembling organization at every level. Through this construction, the universe seems to unfold in a grand, yet paradoxical design, ceaselessly falling into chaos while simultaneously feeding upon that chaos in the development of progressively higher levels of organization. If there is a fundamental shortcoming in the western mindset -- and a possible source of modern depression and despair -- it may well be our failure to recognize and resonate with this pattern, and to find purpose in its unfolding. Instead we consider it our job to defeat the pattern, to overcome the natural order, and to ultimately put an end to death. Yet, would not an end to death also mean an end to the evolution of humanity? So, while I love the idea of living longer, less painful lives, I fear our obsession with overcoming death betrays a deep dis-ease within us, and serves as an indication that we are out of step with the natural order of the universe, one in which our planet appears to be but a single cell.