time

A common form of contemporary violence

How jam-packed are your days?

Where is the space and stillness in your life? Where is the quiet? Where is there room to linger? To think? To be?

Is there any?

I recently read this quotation from Thomas Merton…

The rush and pressure of modern life ... is perhaps the most common form of contemporary violence. To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit oneself to too many projects, to want to help everyone and everything is to succumb to violence.

I’m doing a daily retreat with my fellow Zen freaks and so I’ve recommitted to my long lost afternoon meditation session.

What a difference it’s making to sit still for 10 to 30 minutes every afternoon. And by afternoon, I mean anything from 2pm to 4pm to 8pm (yes… sometimes the day gets going and my “afternoon” happens at 8pm… which is the whole f*cking point of that quote up above!)

“To surrender to too many demands, to commit myself to too many projects”… that about sums who I’ve been and who I often am.

It does feel like violence to my being.

And when I interact with other people that are overcommitted and full of too many concerns, I see my reflection.

It’s right there in front me. I am them. They are me. No wonder I feel so weird around them, feel their lack of presence, and, basically, want to get away right away.

I am quite sure that is how people feel around me.

Right. Time to stop the violence towards myself and the world.

My 3 Things - August 2017

(The My 3 Things FAQ.)

1. POEM-ING: A little something from Jack Gilbert
Jack Gilbert's poems seem to show up in my life just in the nick of time. After reading and re-reading his book The Great Fires a few years back, I lost track of his poetry for a while.

(Some background: Gilbert received unprecedented fame when his first book received the Yale Younger Poets prize and a nomination for the 1963 Pulitzer Prize. At the height of the hoopla, he left America and its culture and literary scene behind by way of a Guggenheim fellowship to Greece. Though he did eventually return to the US, he never again enjoyed mainstream success. He considered himself a “farmer of poetry." His poems are spare, unhurried, full of life and the living of it. He waited two decades to publish his second book of poetry and another decade to publish his third.)

This month, a friend inserted Gilbert's poetry back into my life by reading this poem aloud to my voicemail. Needless to say, I saved the message.

Gilbert is a master of the bittersweet. Life, he shows us, is both beautiful and painful and there's absolutely no need to resolve the two.


HARM AND BOON IN THE MEETINGS
We think the fire eats the wood.
We are wrong. The wood reaches out
to the flame. The fire licks at
what the wood harbors, and the wood
gives itself away to that intimacy,
the manner in which we and the world
meet each new day. Harm and boon
in the meetings. As heart meets what
is not heart, the way the spirit
encounters the flesh and the mouth meets
the foreignness in another mouth. We stand
looking at the ruin of our garden
in the early dark of November, hearing crows
go over while the first snow shines coldly
everywhere. Grief makes the heart
apparent as much as sudden happiness can.
 

 

2. SEEING: Dawson City: Frozen Time, a film by Bill Morrison
The LA Times film critic Kenneth Turan nailed it when he said Morrison's new film "does so many things so beautifully it is hard to know where to begin."

I wholeheartedly agree.

Morrison’s film tells many stories, but the main one is about how several hundred reels of volatile nitrate film from the 1910s and ’20s were discovered decades after they were presumed lost. Not just lost, but totally forgotten. They were buried (used as landfill) in Dawson City, the legendary Yukon River town in northwestern Canada, considered ground zero of the mid- to late-19th century gold rush.

How the films ended up there, how they were discovered, and how they were saved is a wonderfully strange odyssey that I won't spoil for you. The life stories of the characters involved (including a certain Frederick Trump ... yes, that Trump) are simply not to be believed. 

Morrison's suspense-filled narrative is largely created from what is left of the now un-buried, un-lost films. At times his story boomerangs away. He simply cannot resist a few giddy and mesmerizing silent-film montages and meditations full of visual riffs and rhymes. These beguile and then astonish, as you remember that what you are seeing should not have been seen, would not have been seen had it not been for the permafrost and a backhoe.

When the house lights came up,  I was stilled, utterly spellbound, but Morrison's work is about impermanence and change and my life beckoned. Time is never frozen. 
 

3. DANCING TO: Cheryl Lynn's Got To Be Real

Seven minutes of unadulterated awesomeness. I dare you NOT to dance to this one. It's totally impossible. How real does it get? About as real as this song being considered one of the defining moments of disco. Oh hell yes.

 

+++ OUTRO & FAREWELL +++
It has been a privilege to have you aboard while I row this little boat of mine down the river of life, to point out the changing scenery, to remark on the weather (internal and external), and to luxuriate in the eddies and swirls of thoughts, delights, inspirations, and happenings. 

I have loved writing My 3 Things for you these past two years, so it is with a mixture of happiness and grief that I let you know that this is my last edition.

To all those who ever reached out to me by email or by leaving a comment on the blog itself, I salute you for your courage and I thank you for your humanity and willingness to share. You make my day, every day.

What's next?

I'll be creating and sharing more writing with you, but how much and when and about what? Who knows! I am in that wonderful space of creation and possibility. Life is short. I am dying everyday. Time is not frozen; limits are not fixed.

I look forward to connecting on the next adventure!

One question to rule them all

I just finished a re-read of the book  The ONE Thing by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan.

This book dares you to define your #1 priority (in one area of life) and then do that “ONE Thing” for as much of the day as you possibly can.  

How do you define your #1 priority?  By asking yourself “What’s the ONE thing I can do such that by doing it, everything else will be easier or unnecessary?”  

As a musician, I struggle with this question every day, all day long.  What IS my one thing? There are so many of them.  What’s my ONE thing for today? (Do I practice scales? Learn a new piece?  Review something I already know?  Do I transcribe something?  Will any of this really make a difference in the long run?)