Let Us Dissent

I wonder why we need to be right.  I confess that I have that need.  I have opinions and I believe they are right.

But if we truly believe in freedom of speech, then we need to allow dissenting voices to be heard.  Even if we don’t agree with.  Understanding something isn’t the same as accepting it as correct or right.

In the current climate, racial prejudice is a taboo.  We believe that all humans are created equal, or at least that’s the value we’re trying to uphold.  I agree with that.  But others don’t.

We believe in freedom of speech, but when white supremacists speak up, we condemn them.  We tell them that they shouldn’t feel that way, that they are wrong and they are not welcome.  I don’t believe that white people are superior, but that comes across to me like we’re making them suffer the same fate that civil rights activists had to suffer.  Is it right to oppress those who have oppressive view points?

Hearing them out is not the same thing as agreeing them.  I don’t believe that we can come to true consensus or understanding by declaring certain values to be acceptable while others are to be oppressed and suppressed.  Even if some of us deem those values to represent less mature, childish ways.

I believe in equal rights for people of varying sexual orientations and identities.  But many others don’t.  My saying that I am right and they shouldn’t feel or think the way they do doesn’t seem constructive, or even fair.  I believe in tolerance, but that tolerance, if really true and mature, can tolerate not just the voices of oppressed, but oppressors, without allowing them to actually oppress.  Or without their opinion letting me feel oppressed.

Now I am talking idealism, I also have to confess that the idea of white supremacy and male supremacy feels threatening.  I am an ethnic minority in this country, though I am of the historically privileged gender.  Words do have power, and they can cut or hurt.  I wish for all opinions to be presented gently and respectfully, so that we can work on understanding each other, bypassing that threat.

I wish to sit down with white supremacists and hear them out.  Understand why they feel how they feel, what reasons they have.  I wish to sit down with those who don’t believe same sex couples should marry.  To understand, but also be understood, why I disagree with that point of view.  Civilly, peacefully, respectfully.

I know I’m dreaming.  But one can dream, right?  Dreams can come true.  Especially if we work on them.

j j j

A Safe Place for Our Secret Whispers

This year a new dream emerged in my head, and now I can’t stop thinking about it.

I’d like to create a private community, a secret hideout where I feel safe to bare all.

Of course I want other members to feel safe to share their private thoughts also.

You see, I think I have way more secrets than I’d like to carry around.  Stuff I’d like to share and discuss, but don’t have a place to go.  These thoughts are like little children needing to be heard.  As a parent, I have experienced a number of occasions where kids pout, resist or protest something, but such tantrum dissipates once I hear them out and let them know I understand what they’re talking about.  (“You just don’t get it!” is my son’s favorite phrase when he’s mad)

I’m a thinker and I have many thoughts concerning health, spirituality, religion, sexuality, and so on.  There are so many taboos and while I’m all for speaking my mind and letting haters have at it, it takes a lot of resolve to do it in places where anybody and everybody can see and voice their reactions.  Being an empath means I’m not that thick skinned. I get vibes from words on screen or people’s facial expressions/tones of their voice and they can feel very distracting, if not intrusive, even if I can understand where they’re coming from.

I believe that some of our inner pain comes from holding on to these secrets, the stuff we are afraid we can’t share.  But music can bring people together in a unique, powerful way.  I feel a certain degree of kinship with passionate fans of U2 and Cloud Cult, because these are artists who strongly project values that resonate with me (even if I don’t like some of their music).  I’d like to use my music as a gate to a little underground society where we treat each other gently, kindly, compassionately.  Where we can let our inner children out of the solitary cells that they’re in, so that they can play and sing and throw tantrum.

I don’t know how it’s going to play out, but I can’t stop thinking about it.  It’s a happy thought for me.

j j j

Can’t Create What I’m Not Capable of Creating

If I wanted to be an Olympic gold medal swimmer, then it’s given that I need to train and be able to swim fast.  I can build assumptions about the level I need to be to have a shot at Olympic gold from the times of the winners.  I can aspire to be one and start swimming in competitions, but I know it’s really not possible until I develop the capacity to swim at gold-medal-worthy time.  That capacity needs to be cultivated.  It will not happen by chance.  And changing my approaches or environments by themselves will have little, even if noticeable, impact.

Similarly, I believe that if I want to be rich, I need to have capacity to be rich.  I need to have mental discipline to manage my money without it managing me.  Like gold medal swimmers, I need to study the mindset, lifestyle and techniques of those who excel at acquiring and growing wealth, and cultivate my own capacity to produce riches.  I don’t believe in lottery because luck will not give me this capacity, even if I were to temporarily command a lot of money.  If I don’t have the muscle, I can’t keep up the weight, even if wind helped me lift it up higher than I should have been able to.

If I wanted to be happy, then I need to grow the capacity for it.  Changing stuff in my external environment may give me temporary lift, but they themselves are not the answers.  If I was unfulfilled at my job, I can look for a new one, and it’ll give me fresh perspective for a while.  It may even be a step up.  But in order to be successful in finding a better-suited job I first need to do some internal work on myself.  I need to learn what it is that brings me fulfillment, what it is about the current environment that’s not working for me, and what qualifications and abilities I need to acquire and then demonstrate in order to land that better job.

If I want to create art that deeply resonates with people, I need to become capable of creating such a piece.  I need to keep practicing my craft and be able to create pieces that move me first.  I need to get more comfortable bring up my own deeply bottled emotions, so that listeners feel comfortable doing the same while experiencing my creations.  Then open myself up to critique from other perspectives and incorporate suggestions that make sense (not all suggestions are applicable, especially for a subjective field like music).

I believe that human beings are more limitless than we realize.  But the limits we do have that we also don’t realize are our inner blocks made of stuck emotions.  There are many dreams that I have been able to realize in my life, because I successfully grew my capabilities.  Then there are goals where try as I might, I haven’t been able to  achieve.  There are some things where I don’t have talents so growing the capacity is difficult.  But the underlying root causes are my inner blocks.

If a conduit is blocked, I can’t break through no matter how hard I try, even with strong willpower.  I need to chip away at the blockage.  These blockages are made of stuck emotions, so chipping away means feeling them.

For example, my past attempts to grow my audience base all failed miserably, because the feeling of failure overwhelmed me and stopped my efforts before any of them could come to fruition.  I jumped to the conclusion that it was failing, and understanding that it takes time in concept in my head wasn’t enough to keep me from letting my blockage convince me that they were failures.

But that jumping to conclusion is a result of stuck emotion distorting my view.  So the last few months I’ve allowed myself to fully embrace that grief and shame of being a failure.  I sobbed, wept and wailed, lamenting what a miserable failure I have been.  That may sound counter-intuitive but by feeling the stuck emotion unconditionally (as in without thinking “I shouldn’t have to feel this way”) I started chipping away at the blockage in my conduit.  I don’t know how far I have to go but I can tell my worldview started changing.  I do less of that judging myself or fearing the failure.  There are setbacks, lessons I need to learn, and many things that don’t turn out the way I wished they would.  But none of them will make me a failure, because I will have shed my need to experience the devastation of judging myself a failure.  Life is not a race or a contest.  I set my sights on growing my capacity to create something, and however much capacity I manage to cultivate in my life time, will be well worth the investment of my life.

Whatever it is that you want to create, whether it’s wealth, health or sexy lifestyle — the work begins inside.  If your capacity grows enough, then wielding that power to changing the external elements will be much easier.

 

j j j

What I Don’t Want You to Know

I believe that keeping secrets take energy.  It takes mental discipline to maintain secrets, so having too many of them becomes a burden.  In the other words, living a life of complete honesty and transparency may be very relaxing and relieving.  That is, if you are not seriously bothered by the consequence of telling and living the truth.

I have many secrets, and secrets mostly originate from fear.  Fear that something bad is going to happen when they are revealed.  A secret is a social convention — there’s no secret where there are no “others” to think of.  So the main motivation behind secrets may go along the lines of: “if others knew [your secret] about me then they’ll think/say/do this which will be bad.”

Notice there are a lot of assumptions in there.  In a way, you are putting words into others’ mouths.  But what others think of you isn’t really the problem.  The real problem here is what you think others think, and when your fear is the one dictating that, there is no escape — it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.

So we keep up the pretense, and indulge in our own illusion of what others think of ourselves by concocting images of ourselves that we feel are desirable and appropriate.  And it hurts a lot when you perceive that someone found a chink in your armor.

One of my fears that I struggle with my music is this fear that if I somehow set out to make this sort of morality-driven music, then people will expect me to be a “good” person.  As in ethically perfect, morally upright, do-no-wrong human being.  If I write compassionate music, I surely must be someone who gives abundantly to all charities and volunteers at the local shelter and go build houses for the homeless.  I don’t know where such an idea comes from, but judging from people’s reactions to politicians and bands like U2, I do perceive that kind of expectation.  When you put up conscience as part of your identity there’s expectation of you being 100% that.

Well the truth is that I am a struggling human being.  I set out to achieve my dream in music over 20 years ago and thus far I failed to achieve it.  The truth is that I’m a lone basement musician.  The truth is that my office/studio is a filthy mess.  The truth is that I consume illegally distributed media.  The truth is that I have failed at keeping consistent routines of practicing, dieting, and exercising.  The truth is that I was trying to show only my good sides so people will think I am an expert or I have some value to offer.  The truth is that I lie.

The weird thing about being an artist is that there is a perception of audience seeing the art and equating that with the artist.  That’s only partially true.  What gets put into the art is a distillation of a particular aspect of who we are.  Few art, even a body of work can represent a real, whole human being.  They are not meant to do so.

I am making music because my life feels so hopeless and pointless without doing so.  I write about empathy and compassion because that’s what I care about.  If it happens to have a positive impact on someone’s life, I’ll be ecstatic, but that’s not the main reason why I do this.  I’m just an idiosyncratic, quirky, erratic, inconsistent, selfish human being.  I have a lot that I’m hiding, but I will do my best to come clean on them, because keeping up pretense sucks my energy.  Sometimes I wish if I was a hobbyist musician, content to make personal creations in his basement just for his personal enjoyment.  There’s nothing wrong with that, but that’s not what I am.  I make creations to share, and by sharing, I am also presenting me, the artist.  And I will do my best to minimize my secrets because I am trying to reduce the parts of my life that’s driven by fear.  Whatever the consequences are of being who I am, I better learn to live with it.

Because the consequences of living a pretense are even more devastating.  I’ve lived with that long enough to know.

j j j

My Single “If I Miss the Deadline” Debuts on YouTube

“If I Miss the Deadline” is a song I released earlier this year (May 2016).  For the past 6 months its only public exposure was on my SoundCloud, but yesterday I released a slightly remixed version on YouTube.  YouTube doesn’t allow you to swap a posted video, so putting anything up there requires a greater degree of commitment — the only way to correct any mistakes is to take the video down and put up a new one.  The original mix revealed some places that I wanted to explore for improvements, so I’m glad I did it this way.

In 2015 I spent a lot of time making videos, some of which were about songwriting.  But it occurred to me that while I preached about songwriting, I wasn’t actually writing songs.  At that point Minnasia was on back burner for months, so I set out to write songs for myself.  Here are the conditions I set for my new songs:

  • I needed to be able to play the guitar and sing the song at the same time.  No complicated guitar riffs.
  • The song needs to come across fine in a solo, acoustic setting, at least as a truncated version.  I’d allow myself long instrumental section for the full production recording, but that part may be omitted if I were to play by myself.
  • I needed to feel that the song represents where I am now as a songwriter.  I have a stash of old songs that are not yet recorded and that was part of the reason why I wasn’t writing new ones — why write songs that I don’t have occasions to record or perform?  But I really needed to see where I was as a songwriter after spending some time analyzing other people’s songs.

The song started out as “Drought.”  I loved the simplicity of this one, very introspective and vulnerable.  When I finished writing it, I was very excited.  I set out to write a song that was “me” and there it was.  Actually I wrote two songs in that stretch, and the other one turned out great also.  My faith in myself as a songwriter got a big affirmation.

After that I vowed that there will never be another extended period in which I’m neither writing nor recording original songs.  I am a musicmaker, and my passion is to make songs that say “I’m with you” to those who are hurting inside.  I need to honor this desire, I need to be doing this all the time.

It’s been about a year since then, and I now have four ready-to-record songs in my stable.  Of which this is the first song to see the light of day as a full-production recording, with another almost finished.  These are long songs (between 7-10 minutes each) so they take time to develop, but I couldn’t be happier with my creative pursuit.

Thanks for listening.

 

j j j