new music 2016

What Really Matters? (Part 1)

Ride the waves of inevitability. If you have drive, if you have curiosity, if you passion for a project, you have life. You have a responsibility, you have a precious, rare gift. You have this unique moment to actually participate in the creative process.

Don’t think. Don’t get caught up in the how’s. Just feel. Feel the ideas flowing out of you. Feel the insights brewing. They are there a plenty if we will only put the pen to paper and get out of the way, we can experience this great joy.

What matters in 10 years? What matters in 20? What will be remembered at our eulogy? What things about us transcend us? What gifts can we leave to the next generations? What about our life will matter in the long run?

These sorts of questions get real focus in the mid-life. They also get crystal clear with a view of death in mind (threat of disease, near-fatal accident, close friend dying, etc). As death makes its way into our view, we are forced to consider.

Is what I’m spending my time on really what I “should” be spending my time on? Do my actions stand the test of time? Am I making decisions for the right reasons? If I were to find out I had only one year to live how would my life change?

Would we have more courage to risk? That is the question. Would we be more free to follow those hunches, the leanings we have intuitively but for fear or lack of focus do not pursue? Would we finally take the leap into a preferred future without a guarantee?

At some point there is an inevitable leap. Soren Kierkengaard spent most of his life fascinated by this point. Life ultimately is a risk. There is an essential existential crisis to being human. We have to make choices without knowing their consequences.

There is no way to we calculate the results of our actions today. Nor should we. Instead we are given the responsibility only to choose. Make a life by choosing it. God will not do it for you. God does not remove the burden of choosing our life.

We alone can choose. That incredible freedom is also the pivotal responsibility of life. What are we going to do with what we have? We will be held accountable. Every religion and every creed has some sense of a universal reckoning.

Even the most well-intentioned person can sincerely screw it up. In the end intentions can not justify us. It is our actions, our actions alone. What did we DO? What impact was made with what we did? How was the world left better as a result?

This is very different from the frenetic sort of approach to change-making, jumping head-first into every possible avenue that comes up. The novice is swallowed alive by the sheer force of good opportunities. Most don’t get out.

Many such bleeding hearts went in full till and did not really come out. Smart action requires the grace of active waiting. As we move forward and continue to strengthen our risk muscle, we pull back and we wait, giving time to contemplate.

We re-configure, assess, investigate, run inventory, pray through and receive input for our pursuits. We constantly offer them back to the places from which they came. We give the many seeds we planted a chance to catch up with us.

We also give the well-watered growing parts of our enterprise a chance to rest. Where some might say get another lap in, the pit crew here realizes the immensely important need to stop for new tires and a fill up. Do it now.

If we insist on activity and are happy with mere busyness, we will never quite get it. Our well-intentioned actions will lead to very little return. If, on the other hand, we are patient and deliberate, pushing and pulling with life, we may just find what we seek.


Getting to the Core of Creativity

Getting to the Core of Creativity (Part 5)

So in the end the question is either about life or the opposite of life. Are we going to live the life we are given, or ignore it, reject it, deny it? We have this sovereign choice: what are we going to do with the life God gives us? What? Inside the kernel we can see the spark. But that is it. We can only see the spark. Life itself. We can not wrestle down why, or why us, or why should I, or why now? We can not know those things. We can only know the spark.

Life exists. We exist. We were born. We are born. We have life. We didn’t ask for this gift. We were given it. We don’t have the option in the beginning to exist or not. It is given to us regardless. From the beginning why questions echo into the void. The void is our existence. We are not given perspective beyond it. It is all there is. All we see. All the other intersections of life we are not given privy to. Just our own. Existence. What are we gonna do? Exist? Live. Or not live? Our choice. We are never without this choice. Sometimes it will feel as though we have no power to navigate against life’s forces pulling us away from our life. Don’t believe this. It is not true. We do. We alone are given the responsibility and authority.

We have the authority for our lives. No one else. No matter how subjected we are to others financially, through work, etc, we are still given the freedom to choose. Live, or don’t live? Fight, or don’t fight? Become, or don’t become? While we can not exactly choose who we are (that is a gift we discover), we can choose how we are. We are given sovereignty to love back. We can not choose to be loved, but we are always free to choose who we love back or to receive that love.

Will we accept life’s gifts? Or not. Will we fight through the alien voices deterring our attention? Will we be resolute to hear one voice, to listen to the one inside us that cares, that loves, that creates? The choice, predictably, is ours. So despite us, or in spite of our doubts, insecurities, and fears, the great invitation to participate in redeeming life is ours. It’s always there. Outside and within us. The objectivity of the call can make us feel unworthy or unnecessary to it. Its objectivity is combined with an extremely intimate subjectivity, a language known only to us. It reminds us that while the call is universal, our particular role is needed and cherished. We are not replaceable. We are part of the plan.

So we have the universal and the particular, the objective and the subjective, the inevitability and the hinge moments, the already and the not yet. Life will go on without us, but it does not want to; still it will not wait for us on our terms. It will keep moving. Are we in? Are we willing to participate? Are we open to the flowing water being poured inside us? Drink. We actually individually drink and taste the water. We get to experience the gift before it flows out. Wow! What a ride.

Getting to the Core of Creativity (Part 4)

Getting to the Core of Creativity (Part 4)

There is no way to quantify the desires of our heart. We all have them. They are embedded deep within us. No matter how we explain or understand them we do not create them. They are inside us long before we realize their presence. So why do we long so vaguely? Why do we beat at the air so long to identify their name and purpose? Why are we so powerless to either create or name them? Simply, it takes time. It takes a long time to understand those native desires.

They have their own agenda. That’s the beauty of realizing we did not put them in there. They have their own life, though uniquely and specifically they were put into us. “Why us” is an obtuse question we can not know before their fulfillment. But, it is a necessary question. We have been uniquely identified to carry certain attributes of goodness. We are responsible for care-taking them and helping see them into fruition. We are their mother, we are not their father.

So if we did not put them in there then we can not totally know how to get them out. They have a certain sovereignty of existence. Like a woman who finds herself 8-mos pregnant there is an inevitability about the whole thing. This “thing” is coming out. That’s the bottom line. This thing that has been growing in my belly for 9 months is ready to make its way into the world. Now, it is completely dependent when it first comes out and can be shaped in many ways. But, there is an ultimate sense of identity about the thing. It has its own agenda. No matter how we try to coerce it, its form and ultimate functions are written deep within it. It must find those deep chords or it will be painfully restless. Upon finding those things there is that same sense of inevitability on how it was founded. There is that same certainty of sovereign will and destiny. The way it started will be the way it discovers who or what it is. It will make a way for itself.

That is the beauty of great art. It finds a way. Eventually, though it may not be in the artist’s lifetime. Are there cases where great art (and artists) that have been fundamentally compromised and completely neglected? Possibly, but I suppose we wouldn’t know, who we? And we can assume that if there is the true spark of greatness in some piece then one way or another it will eventually make its way to the public. If it indeed has the “magic.”

Greatness goes beyond mere excellence of skill and talent. There have been many forgettable talented artists. Having the skill does not make something great. Being great has to do with the timing, subject, and essence of what was captured. Certainly what pieces make the “great” category can be debated by smarter people, the point here is that something inherit to or even in the work draws attention to itself. It is discovered because of its inherent magic, its ability to stun us into wonder.

Facing the Dark Suffering of the World (Part 2)

Some will, with razor sharp intelligence and precision, associate suffering with poverty, and poverty with injustice. They will compelling point out how the wealthy few make decisions in their self-interest that negate the needs of the many.

They, in most cases, decry this phenomena as obscene and unnecessary. In so doing they will often either employ some faith roots (often Roman Catholicism) or point out the feebleness of piety-driven religions aimed mostly inward.

In both cases they are usually quite accurate. Still most themselves fall quite short when it comes to envisioning solutions that could actually work in the real world. Most are meant not to provide answers but to provoke passion about the problems.

Is there something to this almost prophetic approach? Let’s help the people feel the unfairness at a visceral level. Let’s let that anger and passion rouse a future-response that will be far more suited to long-term solutions and steps toward change.

God Himself tried to prohibit super-rich and super-poor in the Hebrew Scriptures. The year of Jubilee was set everything back, keep people from cyclical poverty or extreme wealth and acquisition. Did people find ways around the system?

Surely. But fundamental to it was the idea that it’s not about all that. No matter what was coming. Everything would be reset. Certainly that would effect the way people were driven. Would it be worth pursuing more in year 48?

Can we get to that point today, where somehow the rich are challenged to stop amassing? Or at least to give generously? Of course, those with the money can dictate to those without how the money will be used or shared.

Can the rich find ways toward innovation? Can we find ways to connect the rich (the money) to those doing innovative things to help the poor? Could we create a system or process that would accomplish that very thing?

We do not go blindly into compassion.  We cannot afford to be so emotional about things that are so complex.  If we do we end up hurting the very people we aim to help.

If we are so set on "fixing" a problem than likely we will go to any length to make it happen.  We can lose sight of the people.  We can lose sight of our humanity.

When we reduce humans to social problems with systematic issues we can clinically go into a situation aiming to help and simply replace one tyrant for another: ourselves.

Instead we need to listen to the people.  We have to work slow, and humbly.  There are no shortcuts. That's no excuse for being lazy.  We are deliberate, patient, watchful.

Facing the Dark Suffering of the World (Part 1)

Sooner or later we are confronted with abject horror in the world. It is everywhere, but particularly certain places. When discovered, it can totally wreck any ideologies built on hope that we have constructed. When found, everything else adjusts.

When one discovers that 1/3 of the world is so poor that selling their sons and daughters into slavery sounds like a good idea, it is overwhelming. How can this be? And why on earth do I have it so well? How can it be so unfair?

It’s been said 1/3 of the world is dying of causes related to starvation and 1/3 to overeating. Those kind of realities will fundamentally mess with who we think we are and what life is all about. We go from thinking one way to having to think another.

All the joy, beauty, and hope we find to be so binding and needful in our existence seems to deflect meaninglessly for these realties. There seems to be no intersection, or that the reality of our world can only remain in the ignorance of theirs.

Yet surrendering to suffering has a counter-intuitive effect. It does not bring us closer to caring for and serving the person in need. Ironically us being miserable does the world no good. We must internalize the suffering then transcend it.

I personally will never forget playing guitar music for a homeless shelter once. I was feeling the weight of their situations and what was coming out was darker blues music. A teenager rebuked me: “man this is a homeless shelter, we don’t need blues.”

What I thought was an attempt to connect was actually getting me the exact opposite. I was pushing away, and ultimately thinking very selfishly about the whole thing. I was feeling the blues, but that is not what was needed.

*Somehow it is incumbent upon the leader to look square in the face of the suffering but not be swallowed up by it. God is good. There is always hope. If some chose to find none there is nothing we can do. Find hope. We must find hope.

Where can hope be found? That is the only question. Where can we find hope in the places of such suffering? Where can we hear and see progress being made, despite what appears like only cyclical patterns of poverty?

That is where a new sort of hearing comes in. It is not the kind that hears and sees only what is there, but what could be. It starts with what is good, it sees potential, it harnesses the power of vision, it is the heart of a new generation.

It doesn’t have to stay the same. We can retain the essence of what is good without accepting the necessity of what is not. We can realize the mercy of God in the now and the power of God in the future. We can trust in transformative process.

But it will require suspending immediate belief. It will require not accepting what seems inevitable. It will challenge our sense of calling, our scope of responsibility. It will lay things at our feet we once thought had no business there. Are you ready?

Art as Entrepreneur (Part 5)

Art creates melodies that run through our minds when we wake up. It creates images that we dream about. It creates imaginary worlds that we see our own existence through. Art haunts our world with another.

That’s why it is so powerful. It gets beyond our rational defenses. It gets seeded deep into our imaginations. There is almost breeds without our permission. It clones and spreads and before we know it there is a mutiny.

Why is this melody stuck in my head? Why am I so drawn to this or that movie? What about this picture is so compelling? We don’t even know. Our rational mind can not figure it out. It’s because someone else is in charge for the moment.

That someone else is the imagination. The imagination, fueled with the great art, is given a certain power to take off and run with things. This may be scary, but we can trust the imagination, even though it does not seek our permission.

The imagination is our ability to dream about a world that could be. It helps us remove barriers that are not really there. It helps us to see an enduring world that actually is, somewhere, just not yet. Imagination inspires vision.

Without it we are restricted to what is. We are forced into a limitation that is self-imposed, but carries the weight of universal banishment. We see something as impossible. It is. We must strategically fight this false impulse.

Imagination always believes. It endures the insults expected for one who sees what others do not. It literally is that: seeing a world that is not yet. It is not science fiction as much as vision, or the ability to see into the future.

Ok, imagination is basically time travel to a preferred future. It is the catalyst to a road there that otherwise would not exist. We don’t create that road, we discover it, but only as we allow ourselves to see that future end. See it!

Of course it is possible that our imagination gets out of line, so out of touch with life that it becomes a distortion of reality. But that is not really imagination at that point, it is fantasy, specifically escapism. It is avoidance of reality.

True imagination is not the ignorance of reality, it is the full acceptance of it and through it. It is seeing a life possible within and without it. It is life fully realized, current reality fully redeemed. It is everything we think that life can become.

Some will certainly see it as wishful thinking. They would be wrong. That is something entirely different. At best, it is imagination that is completely lazy. More accurately it is the lack of thinking, or at least the lack of imagination.

Pure imagination is beautiful, a ride into the truest forms of reality. Real stuff. Stuff that has been created. It came from imagination. We came from imagination. Life has always come from imagination. It is a beautiful gift of God.  

Art as Social Entrepreneur (Part 3)

Art as Social Entrepreneur (Part 3)

Without art we lose beauty. Art is the ability to find and translate beauty. Beauty is hope. Beauty is always around but not always available. She can be quite elusive at times. Artist must follow her and remind us all that she is still alive.