Why I Don’t Want to Save the World

The other day I was having dinner with some friends, and the conversation turned to the KONY 2012 video. You know the one, I am sure, if you haven’t been living under a rock.

I was quite moved by the video, although it did raise a few questions that prevented me from telling all my friends how great it was before I’d had a chance to delve behind the scenes. (Such as “Are we sure empowering the Ugandan government with more military might is a good idea?” And “I wonder what ramifications of  ‘getting  the bad guy’ we have to look forward to that nobody is talking about?”)

But still –  I was moved. This may be partly due to the fact that I am hopelessly unhip with regard to cynicism. It is very much in vogue these days to be cynical. After all, what thinking person, who keeps themselves informed and doesn’t stick their head in the sand, wouldn’t be? I get it that there is much to be cynical about, but it is a conscious choice on my part to fight against it. Cynical people aren’t effective people, and therefore they aren’t going to solve any of the world’s problems. Say what you will about the triteness of “Our thoughts create our reality”, but there is a fair amount of evidence that where we direct our minds determines how our neural pathways develop. (Google neuroplasticity). Therefore I choose to focus on the optimistic as best I can, because I want my brain to be primed to contribute, in whatever small way, to the world’s solutions.

Apparently this makes me a bit of a Pollyanna.

So naturally, my first pass through the KONY 2012 video was viewed through rose-colored glasses.

But during my dinner conversation with my friends, some of those questionable “behind the scenes” details I had been meaning to delve into began to surface.

It wasn’t the realization that Invisible Children (the organization that put out the video) is circulating outdated information (Kony hasn’t been seen in Uganda for about 5 years and is considered far less a threat by the Ugandan people than he once was), or that they are funded by some pretty right wing Christian organizations, or that a key founder of IC snapped and ran naked through the streets, that had the greatest impact on me, although these things did put a considerable tarnish on my warm fuzzy afterglow.

No, the thing that really surprised me in delving into the situation, and the greater dialog happening around the internet, was the notion that the privileged classes have a Savior Complex. There is a perception that far too often, Americans or Europeans want to rush in and play “The Great White Hero” so that they can pat themselves on the back and say “Aren’t I swell” over beers with their buddies. They do so often without a deeper understanding of  the underlying problems that caused the situation to begin with. And they don’t engage deeply enough with the people they are trying to help, which comes across as condescending. They assume that (in this case) Africa needs saving because they are incapable of solving their own problems.

But the thing is – people want to stand on their own. Sure they may welcome help, but as collaborators, not as the damsel-in-distress to some glory-seeking hero sweeping in on his white horse and turning everything into his chosen flavor of happily-ever-after.

I had never really thought about it like that before. I have always thought that people in privileged situations should help others, and that is as far as it went. It hadn’t occurred to me that that help may not always be welcomed. I was reminded of so many “magickal workings”, wherein a well-meaning but ultimately meddlesome magickal group sets out to heal someone unasked. If a person has not asked for healing, you don’t give it.

I do think it’s noble that the more privileged of the world help others. I would like to see us all giving each other a leg up as best we can, whenever we can. But care needs to be taken in how that help is offered. It needs to create a bridge of cooperation and not more disparity between “The Savior” and “The Saved”. Care needs to be taken to respect the people who are living with the situation day in and day out, and to work with them in a way that empowers rather than belittles.

And this sheds some new light on my own quest to “Save The World”. I want to make an impact. I want the world to be a better place for my having been here. And I struggle with that, because so far the life I have chosen has not left me with much time or money to spare for activism. And yet it does make me feel more alive than anything ever has, so I’d be loathe to give it up.  Therefore, I often feel conflicted about whether my choices have been selfish, and whether my path truly serves.

In light of mulling this over, it occurs to me that there is a certain amount of hubris in Wanting To Save The World.  I mean really…no one person can save the world anyway. Not even Richard Branson. Not even Bill Gates. Why do I want to Save The World? So I can feel all warm and fuzzy? Perhaps I don’t need to get all antsy about when my ship is going to come in so I can do Big Epic Things and feel all important.

Maybe Small Everyday Things are just fine. Maybe we can all Save The World together. None of us really doing the Saving, but rather each of us doing a little to make the world we touch a bit better. Which means, perhaps I can start easing up on my feeling that I need to be doing more to make the world awesome than I am already doing. Maybe it really is enough to be excellent in the ways that we are empowered to, and let the rest go. I may not be able to save children in Africa, but I can be kind to the folks I encounter on the street.  When we are all doing the work together, perhaps it is enough that we only affect our immediate sphere of influence.

No, I don’t want to Save The World. It is far too great a burden, and gets in the way of me writing fanciful folk tales and singing them to you. But I can fit  “Making The World a Little Bit Better Wherever I Go” into my busy schedule.

I think I’ll do just that. Because, after all, I am a bit of a Pollyanna.

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Ps – here are a bunch of links that my friend sent me, if you are interested in following the dialog that has sprung up around the internet regarding the KONY 2012 video. I found them interesting enough to write a blog post, apparently.

Links courtesy of Jonathan Korman, who can be found here: http://miniver.blogspot.com/

http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/reality-check-with-polly-curtis/2012/mar/13/reality-check-kony-2012-reaction

http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2012/03/the-white-savior-industrial-complex/254843/

http://www.vice.com/en_uk/read/should-i-donate-money-to-kony-2012-or-not

http://www.voanews.com/english/news/africa/east/Northern-Ugandans-Critical-of-Kony-2012-Campaign-142923415.html

http://blogs.alternet.org/speakeasy/2012/03/11/invisible-children-funded-by-antigay-creationist-christian-right/

http://boingboing.net/2012/03/12/kony-2012-invisible-children.html

http://boingboing.net/2012/03/07/kony-2012-a-viral-mess.html#previouspost

Experts Be Damned – I Am Speaking From The Heart

Most of you reading this know that music is my profession. Like any artist striving to create a small business from their craft, I spend a fair amount of time learning about how to communicate with people in ways that are meaningful to us both. One of the ways I have decided is right for me is blogging. Blogging is a way I can communicate with my people no matter where I am. It’s a place to share new song ideas, muse on the worldview that shapes the songs – which in my case is decidedly magickal – and to generally converse with like-minded folk. While social network sites feel like being at a party, my blog is where I can invite folks into my living room. It’s more intimate, more personal, and ultimately where I feel most comfortable sharing the deeper parts of myself.

Because I am fairly new to blogging, I wanted to learn from those who’ve had some success. I have spent the last year and a half reading all sorts of blogs, signing their mailing lists, working through their workbooks, participating in blogging groups, etc. And they’ve all been really helpful. But at the end of the day – I am throwing much of it away. The time has come for me to stop listening to others’ voices, so that I can better hear my own. Oh, not forever. Listening to others is pretty crucial to having genuine relationships!  But – for a little while, I need to tune into the voice of my own inner expert.

The reasons are twofold:

1) I have come to feel that doing all these programs has become an excuse to distract myself from diving into my own work. “I just need one more workshop to break through my stuck places and THEN I can start!”  I am not saying we never need these things, and in fact I can recommend a dozen if you are finding yourself in a stuck place. I’ve sampled several over the last 18 months! But what I am saying is that for my part, I have gotten what I can get out of them for the time being,  and they have become busy work/distraction from actually applying what I’ve learned.

2) A lot of the information isn’t relevant to me. Such as the blogging formulas that purportedly get people’s attention. Apparently I am supposed to be putting out “How to” blogs to help make your life better. But the thing is…I don’t write “How-to” manuals for helping make your life better.  I sing songs. My blogging isn’t about blogging. It’s about music. Same thing applies to the “7 ways to make your (whatever) more epic”. These blogging formulas are supposed to get me more readers because I am helping you to find the answers you are seeking in your life. And therefore more folks will discover me, leave comments on my blog, and I will rise in the ranks of Google.

That all sounds contrived as Fuck. At least for me.

I know some excellent bloggers who do these things in a way that feels authentic, and I have learned a lot from them. but it is time to move on.

It is time for me to stop “learning” – at least for awhile – and tune into my own voice. I may not have 7 tips for you to lose weight, make money on the internet, or be more like me.  I may not have epically inspiring things to share every day. My most epic work is going to come in the form of songs, because that’s how I roll. I am not setting out to become an A-list blogger. Only to share more about the places my music comes from. If you are moved by my music perhaps you’ll want to read my blog.

A year and a half ago, when I started reading these blogs, and learning how others have built their online businesses, I did learn a lot. But for the past several months I have been trying to extract the same inspiration I got when I first discovered some of these folks (Chris Guillebeau, Goddess Leonie, Connection Revolution to name just a few) and it’s just not there anymore. And the worst part?

It has actually kept me from blogging. Because I go into “second-guessing myself” mode. Is what I am writing “useful”? Am I really helping anyone? Is my content “Epic” enough?

The way I help others is to write music that cracks my heart open. If my own heart cracks open, I know that some others’ will too. And boy could this world do with a lot more open hearts!

So that’s what this blog is going to be. My journey to crack my heart open – through beauty, wonder, mystery, music, hope, joy, sorrow. The journey to feel the depths of this world as fully as possible. You are welcome to come along.

So where am I at right now?

I am raw, my loves. I am doing what I love, what I have longed to do my entire life. And I fear that it is not enough. All the time, I wonder if it is selfish and self-indulgent. Shouldn’t I be more “activist-y” somehow? Shouldn’t I be doing more to “Save The World”?  And always, Howard Thurman’s famous quote comes to me in those moments – “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive”. This is a guiding light for me as I  navigate my way through these feelings.

Also –  the money is sporadic at best. So I confront fear every single day. Every day that I am not living under a bridge and still get to write songs and plan tours is a day that I am allowed to be fully alive. And this compels a gratitude like nothing ever has. And yet I am acutely aware of how fragile this is, and that I must work tirelessly to bring myself to a more stable place with it all.

Now that I am living as a full-time musician, there is no way I could ever stop. I have never felt so alive, so fierce, so full of magick and hope. So I must find a way. And if I can’t, I honestly think I would rather starve than let the songs inside me go unsung. For what? For safety? No way.

Finding and expressing the songs that live inside me is, at my core, what makes life worth getting up for every day.  I will find a way through this path of traveling the world singing my songs, or I will starve. I will not let my fear and uncertainty lull me back to the unsatisfied sleep I was in for so long. I will create my life on my own terms or die trying.

And it is this call, to follow my Siren Song despite the dangers, that compels me to return to the Siren myth as a songwriting theme over and over again.

Do you have a Siren Song you follow? As always, I invite you to share your stories in the comments. It’s so much more fun to share a conversation than to talk to myself!

Imagination Vacation

Happy Monday my beauties! I was feeling a bit drab, so I decided to give myself some sparkle with this collection of places I’d love to visit. I share them here in the hope that you’ll find them a feast for your own senses as well. Can you imagine curling up in any one of these places with a journal, sketchpad, or musical instrument? I can!

Finding such places always helps to remind me that the world is full of amazing people doing amazing things, that nature is beautiful, and that mystery is inexhaustible. May these images kindle your own creative spark, stir the dreamer within, and rejuvenate your imagination as they have mine.

The Power of Commitment

Whew, two weeks have gone by since I wrote a blog post! I strive for once a week but frankly this Song-A-Week Songwriting Challenge is kinda kicking my butt. I’d be lying if I didn’t confess to some abject, unmitigated panic at what I just told my entire universe I would do.

“What was I thinking?!” I though. “I will never, no way in hell, be able to write 4 songs a month, let alone get them recorded so folks can hear and vote on them. I’ll be spending every spare second trying to accomplish this, and I’ve left myself no time for the pursuit of making money. How will I pay my rent?” Etc., Etc., Etc., down the rabbit hole of full-blown anxiety attacks.

But in the last few days, an interesting thing has begun to happen. Twice now, the beginnings of a song have trickled into my head, compelling enough to stop what I was doing and write it down. One of these times was right after my Sonic Alchemy workshop (which went quite well, BTW), when I might have allowed myself some well-earned brain-chilling.  Instead, I felt the urge to jot down some lyrics. So I did.

Two weeks in,  I am already seeing how the power of my commitment is  shifting my usual habits. Sounds pretty great, doesn’t it? Just declare something, and it will magically fit its way into our lives.

Except there is one more piece.

I am a stickler for keeping my word. I have been for years, and while not perfect, I have a pretty good track record. IMO, this is where the magic really happens. Or course, a lot of it isn’t magic so much as plain common sense. Keeping your word demonstrates that you are not a flake. Which sets you apart from a large portion of the population. What’s that saying? “90% of success is just showing up”? That’s a big part of it. Keeping your word lets others know they can depend on you. When folks can depend on you, they want to be affiliated with you, share projects, be your friend, and know about your offerings. Others who keep their commitments –  and have success because of it – invite you into their club. And before you know it, a momentum builds of successful, reliable people sharing ideas, vouching for you, and creating with you. It becomes considerably easier to manifest the life you want.

But there is a magical part as well, and it goes like this: when we develop habits – good or bad – they take on a life of their own. They become automated as it were, and before we know it we are exercising, writing, or smoking without even thinking about it. So when we develop a habit of acting in accordance with our word, this behavior becomes second nature. Because we have spent time consciously restructuring our lives to support our commitments, our brains learn to rise to this occasion, and before long the restructuring happens subconsciously. When we make a new commitment, our brains work behind the scenes to develop a new rhythm that will enable us to keep that commitment. Spontaneous prompts come and urge us to write, to exercise, etc., and it all feels much more effortless. It then appears that we can summon our Wills out of thin air just by speaking them. Which is pretty darned magical if you ask me.

Keeping our Word builds our Will. And over time, renders us able to manifest our Will with much more ease.

Do you have any stories of summoning your Will by the power of your commitments? Will you tell it here, and inspire us?

Here’s a song Winter and I wrote on the topic over a decade ago, to inspire you while you think on a good tale to share –

Musings on a Christ-free Christmas

Harold the Christmas Tree.

Happy Monday All!

Many of us had a holiday yesterday. Whether we wanted it or not, our society shuts down on Christmas day.  For my part, I love Christmas, even though I am not a Christian. The Jesus’  birthday thing doesn’t bother me because I see no conflict with my own traditions. What’s one more Solar hero reborn to bring light into the world at Solstice?

So yeah, the birth of Christ on Dec. 25th feels more Solstice than Christian to me.

Although the symbolism of having a dying tree nailed to a cross in my living room isn’t lost on me. (Note to self: if you’re going to continue this “get a tree” thing,  look into getting a live tree.)

So. I am thoroughly enjoying Christmas. Which is a bit of a revelation for me. Because for many years I divorced Christmas from Solstice, saying I only did Christmas for my family, and feeling vaguely guilty about enjoying it all all. What kind of a Pagan was I after all, participating in this orgy of crass commercialism, when all the true meaning is on the Solstice?

I’ve carried this ambivalence for many years, which has always left me feeling a bit like I’ve missed out on something. Not fully committed in spirit, I don’t fully participate. And then I feel on the outside of it all.

So I am reclaiming Christmas this year, and having a lovely time. I am owning that I want to fall on the festive side of the ambivalence and go ahead and really celebrate it.

I got a tree. (Which Winter named Harold. Because, you know. Harold be thy name.)  I bought gifts, or bartered, or gave something of mine that I thought suited another better. I did not incur debt. I only gave what I could, and what felt good. I planned a nice meal for what family can attend.  I used savings to buy gifts, and next year I will plan even better by saving specifically for Christmas. Which is easier to do once you realize you want to participate.

Christmas has plenty of traditions that hold meaning for me, and really is an extension of the Solstice. And I am a big fan of multi-day festivities, so seeing Christmas as “Second Solstice” works quite well for me. The Solstice is alive and well with the reborn solar hero, Santa and the reindeer, the World Tree, right there in our living rooms.

And the gift giving does not need to be based in crass commercialism. It can be about giving something from the heart. A small token that brings an unexpected sparkle to a loved-one’s life, something that’s special precisely because it wasn’t expected. A small gift that you made or that represents something you believe in, says “I took time out of my usual hustle and bustle to think about something that would bring a bit of joy into your life, and here it is”.  It doesn’t need to be expensive or even cost any money at all.   It can be about sharing the warmth in one’s heart, about sharing the abundance of one’s self with another.  A song or a poem, your awesome home-baked chocolate chip cookies. Some little part of what makes your life joyous, shared with a  loved one. In this way we give a piece of who we really are, and this makes our traditions more meaningful.

With just a little bit of exploration into why I was feeling sad about Christmas – which started with realizing I miss my dad (First Xmas after his passing) and ended with noticing how my own ambivalence has always made me feel like an outsider,  I have managed to reclaim Christmas for myself and make it something special. I don’t need to give up Christmas entirely now that my family is grown, scattered, or passed on. No, I can, and do, choose to do the exact opposite.

I am a Pagan who loves Christmas. So be it!

 

 

My Solstice Wishes for You

HAPPY WINTER SOLSTICE!

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

MAY THE SEASON BRING YOU ALL MANNER OF GOOD CHEER!

I choose Solstice and Christmas as these are the ones I know and celebrate, but my warm wishes extend to all.

My blessing for you this season is this:

May you feel a kindling in your heart, the glow of light and life that comes from a sense of family, friends, and community.

May the sense of well-being promised in those corny Christmas movies be yours.

May your faith in the goodwill of mankind be renewed.

May you find healing and closure where it’s needed most.

May you know love.

May the good things outweigh the bad.

May you have a sense of hope and rightness about the possibilities in our world, and may this fortify you through the darkness.

May you remember that the sun always returns.

May you smell fresh piney branches wherever you go.

May you have more pretty lights and eggnog lattes and less mall parking lots.

May you hear exactly the amount of Christmas music that you want to hear.

May you be nourished, warm, well-fed, and safe.

May you believe that, even just for right now, everything is really okay.

May you remember what childlike wonder and glee feel like.

May the fullness  of your heart spread this warmth and goodwill to all you touch, that they too may be ignited and pass the spark to others, on into infinity.

And may you know that, if you are reading this, I am grateful that you exist. Even if we’ve never met, we find ourselves connected in this small way by sharing these words. And to share this sentiment with you means a lot to me.

May all these blessings be true for you, and all you love, and all they love, until we find ourselves living in a beautiful world.

Happy holidays, my friends!

(And yes you may share this. That’s the point, after all :+) )

To Re-enchant the World

The re-enchantment of the world is a big theme for me.  I talk about it a lot. I haven’t yet blogged about it much, but I’m gonna. So I probably ought to explain what I mean right out of the gate.

To re-enchant the world implies that it has been disenchanted. The concept of disenchantment appears to have been coined by a turn-of-the-century German Sociologist named Max Weber, to express the loss of mystical, magickal, or religious worldviews in favor of purely scientific, mechanistic, and capitalistic worldviews. During an admittedly quick search – because ultimately I am not so interested in where these terms come from as their ability to captivate our imaginations in this moment – I came across an article written by a fellow named Albert J. Raboteau, which sums this concept up nicely. Here’s a little excerpt:

“The world became disenchanted (Max Weber’s phrase, I think) at a certain point in the history of Western Europe — victim to the scientific revolution, the industrial revolution, the triumph of rationalism in the Enlightenment. …The world becomes flattened, surface, ordinary, spiritless. And in response we succumb to the pseudo-enchantment of addiction to entertainment, to food, to alcohol, to sex, to possessions — out of our deep innate hunger for mystery, for spirit, for glory. Like Esau, we trade our birthright. We settle for glittering treasure, dragon bait, but then the dragon wakens and eats our souls. We become the hollow men and women that T. S. Eliot described. We may not know how to name it, but we are no less deprived, impoverished, hungry. The gnawing feeling that our lives ought to be more possesses us. And we are right.”

(Note: this entire article is well worth a read and can be found at  http://www.crosscurrents.org/Raboteau.htm) –

The crux of the matter seems to be that we lost a sense of magic and wonder as the scientific worldview took over. We came to trust only what could be proven. It now seems, however, that we have paid a steep price for this “either/or” thinking. There is so much that simply cannot be measured let alone proven, and many of these “unprovable” experiences  appear to be crucial to our well-being.

There are a whole lot of mysteries in this word, and if we discount them simply because they don’t coincide with what we can prove, right now, we may be missing something. A whole lot in fact.

Am I betraying science, to say these things? I don’t think so. My stance is, it doesn’t have to be either/or. To give up science in favor of magic is to become superstitious. But to give up magic in favor of science is to diminish our humanity. To cut ourselves off from the parts of the world we can’t explain. And therefore to narrow our vision.

No one has a corner on the “truth” market. No matter what worldview we adopt, we are seeing the world through colored glasses. Science itself reevaluates positions that once seemed rock-solid every generation or so. As we speak, the Theory of Relativity is being called into question by the discovery of neutrinos that appear to be moving faster than the speed of light.

Rationality is very useful, and a very trustworthy mindset upon which to make decisions. But it is not everything. Intuition is a just as valid, and oftentimes proves itself to be more useful. I have frequently gotten better results solving problems by NOT thinking about them, i.e. during states of meditation.

Don’t worry, I’m not about to go all “religious nut” on you, and argue that science is false and that my God is “The Truth”. The point I am making here is, there is a whole heck of a lot of mystery in this world, and a willingness to consider the potential wisdom in relating to the world as mysterious may behoove us in a lot of ways.

Also – do we need our worldview to be “true”? Or just useful? Maybe any kind of absolute truth is ultimately unknowable. And maybe this is okay.

I am a Pagan. (well, sort of a Zen-Pagan-Buddhist at this point but that is a story for another day). Which means I have chosen to anthropomorphize forces of nature. I do this because to poeticize natural processes, i.e. science, in this way kindles something in my brain. It opens doors in my mind that make me feel inspired and expansive. I do not do this becasue I believe literally that there is some dude named Thor hurling thunderbolts down at us every time there is a storm. In other words – I don’t need Thor to be literal. But having him there in my imagination is useful to me, in ways that I don’t even fully understand. However, I don’t necessarily need to understand. I can make my peace with mystery, knowing that for whatever reason, this poeticization of nature’s workings inspires me. And an inspired mind is a creative mind, and a creative mind solves more problems than a closed mind.

What we believe shapes our experience. Our experience becomes our truth. Our truth becomes the world we live in. What kind of world do you want to live in?

I propose that we can relearn to see this world as a glittering jewel of infinite miracles. And in seeing the world this way, we begin to take actions that shape our world accordingly. What kind of person do you suppose is going to have the most positive impact on the world? Someone who beleives in infinite possibilities? Or someone who accepts only what can be proven to the rational mind?

I want to live in an enchanted world. Where fairy tales just might come true.  Where synchronicities do exist. This is my great thought experiment. What will come to pass in our lives, what doors might open up, if we make it a habit to believe 6 impossible things before breakfast?

As I see it, to re-enchant the world is to shift our perception to one where we see the world as alive, and ourselves as part of a connected whole, rather than a discrete part in a mechanical world, where nothing is alive and we are separate, disconnected, and isolated. To re-enchant the world is to learn to see between the cracks of “accepted” reality into a place where there is wonder, light, beauty, and infinite possibility, to rekindle that sense of  magic we had as children,  to remember that our imaginations can open up windows in the mind, the soul, and in nature.  And that through these windows can flow an inexhaustible energy that feeds us, inspires us, and gives us a direct experience of the Infinite.

Will you join me in keeping our minds open to the improbable, the impossible, the infinite? Will you experiment with me, and see what happens when we believe 6 impossible things before breakfast? Will you leave a door in your heart open to the infinite mystery of life? Shall we re-enchant the world together?

Howard Thurman and the Art of Everyday Activism

“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” – Howard Thurman

Well, I have returned from my road-warrior adventures, and am settling back into my Bay Area routine. Part of that is that I have committed to blogging more regularly. So as I sit here in front of my laptop, I contemplate all the things I could blog about. The Pro Bloggers say I should offer you all something useful; you know, some helpful tips from my own life that will surely enhance your own.  Or I should say something witty and inspiring.  “27 things I’ve learned from doing (insert ‘thing you wish you were doing’ here)”.  But that all feels rather contrived just now.  Now – and most times really – I would rather just speak from my heart, and maybe that will connect to you in some way that is meaningful for both of us. For really, we’re all in this together, right?  We all have hopes and dreams, we all share uncertainty about our future and the future of our world. We all strive to be good people and create a better world, and we all struggle with feelings of failure on that front.

So here’s where I’m at today. I have slipped into the typical post-tour depression I knew would come.  It always happens – I get home, and realize that I have transformed overnight from “Musician” to “Unemployed”. I don’t have another tour lined up nor have I solved the problem of what work I do when not on the road. The work I’ve been doing when not touring has become spotty at best. And this time out we didn’t make enough to float us for the few months it usually takes to generate more gigs. I know, I should have been booking while on the road, but due to computer problems, this became more difficult than it already is when most of your time is spent driving, performing, or visiting folks you haven’t seen in awhile.

Also – the world sucks. Not that that’s news. But it just keeps sucking and I wish it would stop. I won’t go into the ways in which the world is sucking, you all know. The point I’m musing on today isn’t so much all the suckitude, but rather, our own – my own – reaction to it. Part of the sadness comes from wondering if who I truly feel I am at the core of my being is relevant to where the world is. This is a strange feeling, and one I have struggled with for years. So it’s not the “Unemployed” element that bugs me so much as wondering if the world really needs a fantasy-folk-rock singer to come around and spin tales of pirates and phoenixes when they aren’t even sure if they’ll be able to buy groceries next month. Living my idyllic life and telling you all about it on my blog seems trite at times like these. Shouldn’t I have a more “serious” life? A more serious mission?

Now before you all chime in and tell me I’m swell, let me say that I am not revealing my vulnerabilities so that you’ll bolster my confidence by saying “Sharon you rock”.  I don’t really need that.  Because, I eventually end up remembering that quote by Howard Thurman that I included at the beginning of this post.

“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

And I remember that I want to live in a world that is shaped by magick, imagination, and creativity. I want to live in a world where people are passionate about what they are doing with their lives. I want to live in a world where beauty is a priority. And the best way I can live in that world is to live it myself, every day.

So I strive to create beauty with song. I strive to create beauty with the clothing that I make for myself and for others, I strive to create beauty when I cook and in the way I arrange my home. In every movement, in every action I take, I strive to convey a sense of beauty. And kindness. I can choose to be one of the people that doesn’t cut you off on the freeway, that smiles at you in the grocery store, and that feeds your parking meter.

I don’t need to be somebody other than who I am to do these things.  I can find ways to incorporate actions into my life that shape the world in the direction I want. It is one of the finest awareness practices we can undertake, and one that is deeply rewarding if we can cultivate it as an ongoing discipline. This is a commitment I have made to myself. And as I remember this, I feel better.

At times when I feel the world bleeding and wonder if I am relevant, if I shouldn’t instead be an activist, or a farmer, or a revolutionary, it helps me to remember that we can engage in everyday activism by being present to who we want to be in every moment. That, in being genuine, we give the world the greatest gift we have to offer.

With that, I leave you with another quote from Howard Thurman –

“There is something in every one of you that waits and listens for the sound of the genuine in yourself. It is the only true guide you will ever have. And if you cannot hear it, you will all of your life spend your days on the ends of strings that somebody else pulls.”

Neofolk Romantique – New Music!

We have new music, which was just unveiled last night at our show with Wendy Rule at Serpent’s Kiss in Santa Cruz.  Just in time for our cross-country tour. Yay!! This is a collection of traditionals and new originals that have yet to find their way onto a “formal” album. It also introduces our self-proclaimed musical genre, Neofolk Romantique. After years of  listening to the staunch Celtic traditionalists proclaim that my music is “Not Celtic”  I have decided to create my own genre. Neofolk Romantique is what I like to think of as an innovative and fresh interpretation of folk music; it contains a goodly dose of stark melancholy and reverence for ancestral tradition that one thinks of when one hears the term Neofolk, but also has a romantic and fanciful spin. Romantique, in fact, for our love of antiquity and old world charm. Rather more flattering than “Not Celtic”, wouldn’t you say?

Neofolk Romantique gives me far more flexibility to reflect my own world without getting bogged down in annoying trivialities such as facts. Facts have very little place in art, as far as I am concerned. Give me Steampunk over Reconstructionism any day.

So – reinventions having been thus proclaimed, let me tell you about this album.

It is indeed romantic and fanciful. All acoustic and very sparsely instrumented. A highlight for me is a song I wrote for a storm, who’s beauty swept me away completely. It’s called Mistress of Maclyr, and the vocal performance is one of the most emotional I have ever given. It isn’t technically perfect, but that is part of the charm of this album, and left this way intentionally. Enchanting performances by Winter and Tim Rayborn are also featured.

It also includes Saucy Sailor, a feisty English traditional about a carefree sailor lad. I have always loved the spirit of this song. Then there is an A Capella poem by William Butler Yeats, and a fun little tune I wrote called The Captain’s Flask. And of course we had to include Henry Martin, one of our best loved songs when we play live.  We also recorded an acoustic version of Pandemonaeon’s Queen of Shadows which came out surprisingly well. The album contains 10 songs in all.

We consider this a pre-release, which means this:

These particular versions of the songs will only be available for a limited time.

Some of these songs – particularly the traditionals – will only be released on this album and not on the formal release. Therefore they will only be available for the duration that this pre-release is available.

These songs represent a sparse, paired down interpretation of our music that is much more akin to our live shows than our full-production albums. They contain the flaws, vulnerabilities, and intimacy of a live show and as such give a different feeling than our lushly crafted studio albums.

You can listen to the album in it’s entirety – and if you like, purchase it – on our bandcamp page. Folks who purchase this album will get $5 off our formal studio release, due out within the year, simply by mentioning they bought the Neofolk Romantique pre-release. We beleive in the honor system because we believe you are honorable.

Enjoy!

“Important Statements” – I Like Them

Yesterday I arrived in Staunton, Virginia to perform at Blue Ridge Beltane – which was lovely by the way.  But rather than write about that, which I am sure you can imagine just fine without my help –  I sang at a festival with a maypole and pretty ribbons, you know the story – I want to write about something I read.

I was in a charming little down home cafe, the Pampered Palate, and I was reading their local newspaper.  In it a touring folk musician who is apparently well known for his funny stories was interviewed. (Can’t remember his name but it’s not relevant to the story). In the interview, he commented on how much he dislikes folk musicians who think they need to make “Important Statements”.  He says if anyone changes because of something he says, it’s their own fault. He’s not interested in changing the world.

And I thought “Wow, not me”.  I want to hear about the stuff that’s important to folks. In fact, I am far more interested in hearing folks’ “Important Statements” that the usual chit chat about what TV shows they watched or what they had for breakfast. To be fair, this guy was talking about performers and I suspect this was his way of saying he feels put off by the “preachy” element. That I understand. When I see a performer, I want to be entertained, not preached at. And I don’t want to feel like the “Important Statements” are contrived. But neither do I want to listen to some guy who’s just being funny without any kind of point.  I like to be inspired, not just entertained. I like it when someone changes me for the better – as Henry Rollins did a a month ago. I like that we all shape each other and inspire each other.

But then again, I do want to change the world.