Saturday, April 03, 2010

From Dark to Light (or "How did a Metalhead become a Contemplative?")

On April 1st and 2nd, I performed my Ambient guitar music as part of the Maundy Thursday and Good Friday services at St. John United Church of Christ at Bellevue. Both performances were wonderful and all too brief opportunities to put my music in the best live context possible which is a spiritually motivated, contemplative/reverant setting.

This is quite a contrast from what I thought was the "ideal" setting for my music some 20 years ago when I was playing in Heavy Metal bands in the SF Bay Area. Then, it was about sweaty clubs with drunken attendees, hopefully some "loose" women, and maximum volume to display our "ROCK OUT WITH YOUR C#$K OUT" attitude. Somewhere between then and now, something's changed (duh!).

After the Good Friday performance, I was asked about my music (what's my inspriation, have I always played that type of music). That got me re-examining my musical journey, which is directly linked with my personal journey. While I won't revisit every step of my journey between my "Metal Days" of the late 80's/early 90's to now, I can point to one period in that journey as the turning point, a point I call my "Spiritual Ephiphany". That would be the winter of 1990.

When I say "Spiritual Ephiphany", I don't mean that God spoke to me in an audible voice or that a shining light (e.g. "The Blues Brothers") showed me the way to some higher awareness. Nothing like that at all. It was, rather, a period of time, prompted by a series of events, that led me to a point of such great physical, mental, and spiritual pain, that I realized something had to change on a deep level with me if I was going to find some relief.

Now, you might be saying, "what's that got to do with your music?". Well.......EVERYTHING! Like I said, I'm going to spare you the details but when I made a decision to make a fundamental change in my life, all sorts of "dominos" starting falling in my life, and for the better. It didn't happen over night. I didn't just all of a sudden "find God". Rather, I made the simple decision that I was going to learn how to live a life that wasn't detrimental to my or anyone elses well-being. As I began progressing down the path based on that decision, my priorities and inclinations began to change and this included the inspiration stimulus for my creativity.

In many conversations I've had over the years regarding the contrast in my music between "then and now", I've been asked if I just all-of-a-sudden went from Metal to Ambient, as if I wasn't capable of contemplative music then or "metal-trashing-mad" music now. I have always been a fan of both extremes as well as the many other "shades of color" in the musical spectrum. When I was a kid of 11 years old, my 1st two favorites albums was Kiss' "Alive" AND Vangelis' "Heaven and Hell". I suppose the main difference is that I respond more to different inspirational stimulus that I did back then and that stimulus is more from the "spiritual" realm than the "material" realm. Yeah, I know, sounds a little "airy-fairy" but...whatever.

If anyone has paid attention to the titles of my music, they can pick up on my fascination with the contrasts and contradictions that are evident in life. Some people go back and forth between extremes on a regular basis. Some don't know or care about the difference. Some are content to life in the middle of those extremes. I can point to a specific point in my life where I made a concerted effort to quit lingering in the dark and start walking to the light, all the while, trying to pay attention to where I've been and where I'm going. I sometimes trip and fall backwards and I'm not the most articulate in describing the journey but......I'm still walking.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Random Thoughts in the post-Health Care Debate/Pre-Holy Week Moment

On this early Spring day, I'm struck with a few observations made over the past week.
I can understand the division of opinion regarding the just-passed health care reform. It only looks like Congress, Obama, and a few Democrats are happy with it. Many Liberals think the whole thing is a waste of time with the only winners being the insurance companies. But "Conservatives" (and I use that term loosely because what passes for mainline conservatism in the U.S. today hardly resembles the conservatism as advocated by the father of modern American conservatism, Barry Goldwater) are getting ridiculous in their anger. It is absolutely cool to have debate and disagreement but when it gets to the point of threats, "sky is falling" predictions, and just irrational behavior, then maybe its time to take a few breathes and examine one's motives. And isn't it ironic that that same provisions in this bill were advocated by Republicans back in the early 90's as an alternative to the Clinton health care reform proposals?

My own opinion is that this bill is not going to change things for me a whole lot. There are still loop holes for insurance companies to deny coverage. And those insurance companies are still going to get richer and richer. In fact, the law mandates that everyone goes to the insurance companies or gets penalized. I wish someone would pass a law stating that everyone has to buy my CD's. I could live with that. It will probably cost more than is stated right now. And, yes, I do believe this country is heading towards an economic reckoning that may be hastened along by this bill. However, that reckoning has been decades in the making. The fact that the "Conservatives" are blaming Obama for our financial woes is intentional ignorance and denial. Know your history. Take a look at the economic policies/actions of every administration going back to Kennedy and you'll see the "cause and effects dominoes" go back quite a ways. And, yes, that would include that pillar of conservatism, Reagan.

And here's some Easter related thoughts (kinda):
I just got done reading "The Shack". A good fiction story with a very cool depiction of "The Holy Trinity". I won't give too much away but, for much of the book, God is manifested in the form of a big, jolly, black woman. Apparently, that has created lots of controversy. Personally, I believe God takes the form of anything/everything/nothing. If he/she was to manifest as a big black woman, I would be alright with that. To book also touches on Jesus' sacrifice on the cross in a manner that makes good sense in modern terms. Check out the book.