Music Is Life.

Music Is Life.

That's why we need to listen.

Welcome, Friend!

I explore an unconventional mix of rock music, guitars, personal development/self improvement, and mental health.  I invite you to come with me on my journeys, so I can share what I learn.

Ari Portrait by Amy Colleen


Music Commentary
As a music fanatic, it means a great deal when a song speaks to me.  Good songs are like air and food to me, I need a steady supply of them to fuel my life....
Life Insights
I'm constantly on the lookout for deeper meaning and understanding of life, with a particular focus on psychology and mental health.  I'm forever a student of life, and they say the best way to learn...
For Musicians
Music is a challenging pursuit, so I enjoy sharing lessons learned with my fellow musicians.  Particularly, I have something to say about songwriting and guitars, but I sometimes touch on arranging, singing, recording production and music...

Song Reflections: System of a Down “Deer Dance”

This is a sobering song.  I listen and be humbled, and in that humbling feeling I find a sense of relief. Being proud and arrogant takes a lot of energy to keep up the pretense.  There is a relief in admitting that we fall short.  We make mistakes, we fail, we disgrace ourselves.

Here is a very angry and political song, but at the core of it, it makes us face our weakness, our tendency to try and get away with taking advantage of other people.  When you know they can’t fight back, you know you won’t get caught.

I’m a Japanese living in US, two countries that have history of invading other countries, appropriating what they have and shoving its own culture down other communities’ throat.  But on a more micro-scale, I’m a father.  And as much as I love my children, I often feel the temptation to get away with things I wouldn’t dare pull off in front of other adults.  If I was a true man of integrity, I’d uphold the principles and values I intend to impart on my children — but when it’s inconvenient or when I am feeling frustrated then I may give in and pull something on my own kids.  Something I wouldn’t do if I really thought I could get caught.

Which relates to the idea of bullying.  Bullying may be an evil act but that doesn’t necessarily make bullies evil people.  They are carrying their angst and frustrations and are without resources to fight off the temptations of the situations where they won’t get caught or hurt. You could even argue that an entire country or government may be the same — certain groups of people within may be in a situation where they can’t and won’t fight off the temptation.   It does not excuse or justify their actions, but it helps us realize something important.

Some acts have more dire consequences than others, but even if our transgressions are of forgivable sort — we need to own up to the fact that we fall prey to these temptations.  We need to become aware, repent, ask for forgiveness, and seek to improve.  I believe that these growth won’t occur while we’re spending our energy keeping up the pretense of being high and lofty.

So I listen to songs like Deer Dance, and wonder if or when I have “pushed the weak around” myself.  And be humbled.

Song Reflections: Pet Shop Boys “You Only Tell Me You Love Me When You’re Drunk”

We’ve all been in that dysfunctional, unstable relationships.  One where you’re tip-toeing around the other person wondering, “is this working out? Is he what I perceive himto be?  Am I safe here?”  And you’re tossed about like a leaf on a stormy sea, with every flip-flop of the other party’s whims sending you spiraling down in every which direction.  Is it me or is he just in a bad mood?  All the wondering and straining, trying to figure out what’s going on inside somebody else’s head.  It’s taxing and stressful.  Some people give up and choose to be alone instead.

To look at it on a positive way, my perception is that being drunk is more revealing than concealing of truths.  Pretending takes more finesse and control, and you have less of those resources when you’re compromised from substance.   So the good news may be that he loves you, but then the question is — how often is he drunk?  Which person are you with more?  If he shows his affection to you only when he’s drunk, then you may be temped to keep him drunk more often — but I’m sure there are downsides to that.

Sadly, as much as we’d like to think that we are consistent, same person all the time, in truth we are not.  I am a different person when I’m in a bad mood.  I will not be the same when I have had 2 hours of sleep the night before or a raging headache or digestive problems.  It’s a bit like everybody has a very minor form of multiple personality disorder.  The grumpy me may not remember what a happy me feels like, how he thinks about things, how he treats other people.  The same is true on the receiving end, too.  Your perceptions and assessment of other people are colored by your own past experience, fears, and stories.  It’s hard to see everything clearly, all the time.

So it’s a dynamic, ever-changing landscape, this thing called relationship.  There are best practices, of course, but some of it just comes from accepting it for what it is.  This song is a bittersweet reminder of the changing nature of a relationship.  It may not offer solutions or ray of hope — but it’s nice to know, that someone other than myself knows what it’s really like.

Song Reflections: Carpark North/Michael W. Smith “Save Me from Myself”

The original song is by Carpark North, but it’s Michael W. Smith cover that brought this song to my world.  The original is great, too, MWS is a bit too slick and produced for my taste, but one twist that he added really moves me.  Listen to the last chorus — and see how the underlying chords, which stay static for the first two, all the sudden move up.  That moment always lifts me up, coupled with that title line.  It’s a sense of relief, finally accepting that I can be vulnerable.  That I can ask for help.

Save me from myself — that sounds rather self-absorbed and silly.  But that’s always been the struggle inside me.  There’s a scene in Lord of the Rings, where this character Gollum has a conversation with himself — and I remember being in awe how well that scene was put together, and how deeply it resonated.

When it comes down to it, I’ve come to realize that I am the only one I can control, and I am the only one wholly responsible for how my life turned out.  Not luck, not fate, I made my life and I chose who to become.  Sometimes I was choosing without realizing that I was doing so, but still.  If I am not who I meant to be, then I am the one to blame.

Which leads me to where this song is.

This is a song about relying on somebody else.  To admit and accept that I can’t do it alone.  To be vulnerable, to expose my weaknesses.  But to say it with full of hope, not of shame or remorse.  To believe that somebody can help, somebody can love me even though I have lost and failed again and again.

It’s at once both humbling and uplifting, to come to this realization.  I need help living my life, being who I can be.  But that’s the truth, and dropping the pretending to be otherwise gives me back more of my life.  I am grateful.

Song Reflections: Socionic “Epiphany”

If you work hard, you’ll get rewarded.

When we’re looking for something — achievements, inner peace, happiness — hard work is what will get us there.

That’s one of the values I was handed.  But it’s not as true as I’d like it to be.  We work hard, but sometimes we bang our heads on walls.  Get stuck.  Hard work is not reaping results.

The title of the song could be referring to one of the two revelations here: that of enlightenment, a break-through, or that of realizing that we can’t get there, that we are forever stuck, that we must surrender.  While the song does dwell on the latter, it’s been my experience that a break-through often comes only after you accept things for what they are.

The ways to get to the destination often aren’t limited to one specific ways.  When we focus on a particular path and get too fixated, we would get stuck if we run into these impenetrable walls.  But it may just be that you were knocking on a wrong door. And the experience of that getting stuck can be an eye opener, to look at a wider perspective and continue your pursuit from a new angle.

This song is about being stuck, and being angry about it.  But anger, as you can see in this propelling song, has a lot of energy. If you were truly stuck and truly giving up all of it, you’ll wither and embody lethargy and apathy.  You only get angry because you still care.

And if you still care, that means you haven’t truly given up — perhaps the particular path you are taking is a dead-end and you need to accept it.  But I’d say, it’s just a moment to take a deep breath and look around.  Be angry, scream in frustration, but also remember that you still have that energy.  There are always more doors to knock on.

Song Reflections: Christa Wells “Renovate”

I appreciate Christa’s music because it comes across as very transparent and honest, as I’m really hearing her heart speak out.  This song in particular is meaningful to me, because my life and my growth have been a long series of shedding.  Things I used to do, things I used to enjoy, things I used to be addicted to — I’m letting them go as I grow older.  So many of them just stop working for me, I come to realize that I don’t need them any more. That said, the process of letting go, discarding things that you’re used to having — it’s not a smooth transition.  In fact, a lot of the times it’s like dragging a kid who’s refusing with all his might, kicking and screaming in protest.

Therefore, my growing older feels like becoming leaner as a character, just shaving off the excess, being left to just my essence.  I am happy with what’s left, but the process is often painful enough that I resonate with the concept of renovation that Christa is talking about here. I am familiar with the vulnerability and apprehension you feel, from trusting that someone who’s molding and guiding you.  Telling the little kid inside me to just trust and stay calm, when you need to put forth your naked arm to receive a shot.

Take all the time you need
Make something out of me
Even if you have to
Tear me down to renovate

There are days where I do wonder if there is an easier, better way to go.  But I really haven’t figured it out.  I suppose the dramas are becoming fewer and less severe as I mature, but at this point I’m plenty scarred and broken, from the long history of tearing down and rebuilding, tearing down and rebuilding again.

So when I listen to Christa sing this song, I can’t help but tear up.  This is how it feels, my life.