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“Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same.” –Ronald Reagan

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Today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day.  It’s hard to fathom, this is where we find ourselves right now as a country. Ever since the 2016 Presidential election, like many people I’ve been troubled by the myriad of realities that we as Americans, and the rest of world, will have to contend with in the coming months and years. Yet, I keep come back to one, existential problem that I can’t resolve.   Perhaps we don’t have the luxury to ponder existential problems right now. Never the less, I’m honestly struggling with this single question:

How are we going to be the good guys anymore?

jackie-robinsoneI realize that the world is complicated and that American history is wrought with hypocrisy, ulterior motives, and acts still left to be atoned for. That withstanding, I always believed it was our collective goal as a country, and as a people, to always attempt to live up to our own mythology and our highest ideals. I’m beginning to believe that our mythology is important and valuable.

Mythology shapes our most idealist selves, both individually and collectively. Mythology reveals our highest and greatest good, while exposing our deepest and most fatal flaws. In myths, there are heroes and villains. There are good guys and bad guys.

cool-soolderThe good guys don’t condone torturing people when they are captured. The good guys liberate those who may be tortured from their captors. The good guys respect women and, (dare I say), protect and defend them when necessary. The good guys don’t molest women and then brag about it in the locker room. And, the good guys are also women.

The good guys come in every color and every religion; and they don’t blame an entire people, race, or religion for the acts of a few. The good guys honor their fallen soldiers and don’t deride, insult, and debase their families. The good guys stand up to bullies, they don’t become them.

2016-08-01t173451z_1370061699_s1betsyybbaa_rtrmadp_3_usa-electionThe good guys stand by their allies and honor their commitments to one another. Finally, sometimes even the good guys make mistakes. And, once they realize they’ve made a mistake, they admit to it and work harder, to not make the same mistake again.

 

I have lived through republican presidents and democratic presidents and I have disagreed with many of their policies. However, never did I doubt their commitment to the core values of freedom, and justice, and respect for all people. I may have disagreed with them but I knew they weren’t five_presidents_2009villains; no matter how flawed their policies, or they personally, may have been. They were still on the side of the good guys. This new President-elect just isn’t one of the good guys.

Our president, (no matter who he or she is), is not just a leader, he/she is also supposed to be a symbol.

A symbol that reflects our ideals and mythology; not some undignified, rude, insulting, petty, tweet-storming, coward. Not some man-child who pits himself as a victim, while cowering behind the shielded veil of a social media platform; where genuine engagement is not possible. And so, I am struggling with how we are ever going to be the good guys anymore.

Our mythology is at cross road.

mlk-rfkI was raised to believe that “what makes America great” is that, while we have committed great sins, decade after decade we continue to strive to do better. We continue to examine where, we may have been wrong, or guilty of wrong doing, and work to get it right. Whether it’s civil rights, waging unjust wars, or protecting nature from our own destructive tendencies. This is the narrative I was taught. It is a narrative that comes from our mythology. I find it hard to believe that the narrative and mythology I hold faith in, is exclusive to democrats or to liberals.

The day after the presidential election I was sitting on my patio and I looked up and saw a hawk land on a tree, a little more than a hundred yards from me. It was being chased by perhaps ten to fifteen mocking birds. Mockingbirds don’t normally fly in flocks, but they will band together when necessary, to drive out a persistent threat.

attack-mockingbirdI don’t know if you’ve ever seen a flock of smaller birds go after a hawk but, a flock of mockingbirds is a force to be reckoned with. They are fierce and fearless. They flew at the hawk, cawing, screeching and taunting. Even though the hawk was twice as big and ten times as strong. And, then the hawk lifted from the tree, trying to get away and the mockingbirds were right on it’s tail. They did not relent.

I’m a strong believer in signs from the natural world. When I saw those mockingbirds on the first day after the election, I knew what the message was; and just the thought of it, exhausted me. But, then I was reminded of something else. When I was child, I had to recite the Pledge of Allegiance at school. Every morning, I put my hand to my heart and spoke aloud,

“I pledge allegiance to the flag and to the United States of American, and to the Republic for which it stands, One Nation, under God, Indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for All”.

I spoke those words. I took a pledge. I believe in my country. I believe in the mythology and ideals I was taught. I believe there are tens of millions of Americans who share this narrative and mythology with me. And, now we may be called to defend it.

6168085_origI believe we are Republicans, and Democrats, and Independents, and liberals and conservative. All of us are going to have put down our differences and join together and go after the hawks if they stand to threaten our freedoms, our Constitution, or our journalists: or put our soldiers, our allies, or any peoples, in harms way, if it is not in direct defense of liberty, freedom, justice and equality.  I honestly don’t care what your politics are, if you’re willing to join in to defend these ideals, even if we only agree on this one thing. Because this one thing, is the only thing that matters. If we value our freedom and want our children to feel safe; and continue to have the right to keep arguing about what it all means.

220px-northern_mocking_bird_displayAs a new year begins I am going to keep remembering my Pledge of Allegiance. I’m going to dust off my guitar and I am going to show up. And, I am going to answer to the call of the mockingbird. I am going stand with my fellow Americans and be fierce, and fearless, and relentless, armed with the hundreds of calls that mocking birds have at their disposal; banded and bonded by our singular Pledge of Allegiance to the United States of America.

We do not have to cave or acquiesce to anyone or anything, that pries and feeds on our deepest and most fatal flaws. Nor do we have to cower from people, or policies, that run counter to our sense of human decency. We have the courage and the strength to overcome it. Because, no matter how naive or idealistic it may seem, I believe to my core, we are, for the most part, a good people; and however daunting and challenging the task may be, we are, and still can be the good guys.

On this day we honor Martin Luther King Jr., a great American leader, and a great American hero, who contributed and helped to shape these ideals and values; and it was he who said, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” 

If you too, want to stand, and answer to the call of the mockingbird, but don’t know where to start. Here are a few resources below. I hope you find them useful and I hope to see you out there.

Find your congressional representatives and how to contact them: http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/
Find your State Senators and how to contact them: https://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm?State=MI
Find advocacy groups you believe in: http://www.politicaladvocacy.org

Find activist organizations you believe in: https://resist.org
A newly formed progressive leaning, anti-authoritarian organization: https://www.indivisibleguide.com

If you’re a progressive, Organizing for Action: https://www.barackobama.com

The Dark Cloud

“Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And when you look long into an abyss, the abyss also looks into you.” ~Friedrich Nietzsche

angrymob1The other week I was walking by a T-shirt stand that was fully stocked with libertarian and right wing political slogans. As I walked by the stand, I tried not to look. It was like rubber necking. I was fascinated and frightened, all at the same time. Never-the-less, I glanced, and there it was. The T-shirt said,

Donald Trump for President
Fuck Your Feelings

I felt my gut churn. I couldn’t get the hurtful, rude, hateful slogan out of my head. As I continued trying to absorb this belligerence, it suddenly struck me as an odd thing for a Trump supporter to say. Since, all I seem to hear from Trump and his supporters are [his] and their feelings.

Their anger, toward apparently, Everyone who isn’t them. It’s the Muslims, or the Mexicans, or the Blacks, or the Jews, or the Gay’s, or the Up-idy women who won’t shut their mouths, or ‘Obama’ [who, they almost never seem to refer to by his dignitary title, that is President Obama]. All the while, seemingly able to find an endless source of people to blame for their fears, discontent, discomfort, and misery.

bigotry-jpeg.jpg

I have a deep and instinctual fear when I encounter bigotry of any kind. I understand on a visceral level, how quickly, ugly language can turn without warning into human barbarianism. How quickly, people can dehumanize one another, and start to feed off the stench of false notions of power, and entitlement.

Right now, it feels like there’s this dark cloud hovering over America. This dark cloud has always been here. It has always been everywhere. It comes from thousands of years of human history. Back through the genocide of Bosnian Muslims; back through Apartheid; back through the Holocaust; back through African American Slavery; back through the Genocide of Native American peoples; back through the Crusades; back through the Dark Ages; and beyond.

Heavy-Dark-Clouds-HD-WallpaperThis dark cloud, is always out there waiting, slowing and patiently. Hovering like a shadow till we’re just vulnerable enough; or just frightened enough; or just disempowered enough; or have just lost enough; or have just endured enough; not to trust, what we know to be our deepest truth.

Demon-Dracula-HDGiven what’s been happening in this country and all across the world over the past few months. I’ve been thinking a lot about this dark cloud and I’ve come to believe something. Most people aren’t evil. But, there are plenty of evil, devious ideas out there. And people can latch onto those devious ideas.

They take those devious ideas in, just like a demon. The devious idea flatters them. Makes them feel powerful, (when before they felt so powerless). The devious idea soothes them; and assures them, none of the hurt or struggle they feel, is their fault. The devious idea tell them all of their feelings are justified and emboldens them. The devious idea makes them feel less alone. And slowly, they breath in all their self doubt, and all those questions they have no answers for; and breath it all back out, as hate and self-righteousness.

candle 2We can fend off the dark cloud and the devious ideas. When we dig down deep. Really deep, into the crevices of where our, (almost always, unspoken), darkest fears reside. Right next to those fears is a tiny, little light. That is the light of hope.

That tiny little light has the power to outshine the greatest of darknesses. And, when we answer to it, it wins every time, because hope is a tangible thing. Devious ideas are just ideas. We enact and manifest those devious ideas, when we lack the courage and insight, to face the darkness and our deepest fears.

debateIn light of recent events I think it’s important to consider the possibility, no matter how convinced any of us may be, of our “rightness”; that who is right, and who is wrong, is always a perspective that comes from somewhere, from someone’s experience. There are reasons why we feel the way we do; and the more time we take to understand that, the more likely we are, not to de-humanize one another.

When we say, banal, bland things, like “love is the answer” it’s about as meaningful as saying “liter is bad” and about as productive as saying, “fuck your feelings” [albeit; less hurtful]. If any of us really believe love is the answer, (and I do), then perhaps, we need to start enacting it by taking the time to understand someone we don’t, without judgement.

listenI know what I need to do next, and maybe you do, too. I need to sit down with someone I don’t understand and listen to their story—how they came to be who they are and what they believe. I need to listen, without trying to convince them of my rightness. I need to listen with the sole purpose of trying to understand them and their experience. I don’t need to worry about whether or not I get the chance to be heard. I just need to listen without trying to get them to be more like me. Listen, open to the possibility, that what they share may change what I think and how I feel. And, that is not a weakness, but a strength.

When we listen, without judgement, we learn. When we learn, we begin to understand. When we understand, we learn to find compassion. When we find compassion, we stop fighting one another, and begin the arduous task of actually having a conversation.

hugsA conversation where we all have the opportunity, to take ownership and responsibility, for where we find ourselves. A conversation where we all have the opportunity, to take ownership and responsibility, for what we may or may not have done, or participated in. And also, finally, a conversation where we all have the opportunity to forgive, to ask for forgiveness, and to be forgiven.

In a republic or a democracy, none of us will ever get everything we want. But we can learn to live with giving a little more; getting a little less; and thereby living together, disagreeing, arguing even, but always, sharing, and growing, as we all cultivate together, what it means to be an America.

 

“You will face your greatest opposition when you are closest to your biggest miracle.” ~ Shannon L. Alder

blog_1I’ve never really cared for New Years or birthdays. I’m just not a big fan of mile markers. They tend to force me to look back and become painful aware of whatever I failed to accomplish. It’s been a tough year for a lot of people. Death, divorce, illness, heartbreak, some unforeseeable crisis; it seems like almost everyone I know, had something truly challenging happen to them this year. And those are just the personal, private challenges. Violence, mass shootings, acts of terrorism, and displacement seemed to abound, leaving tragedy in it is wake.

blog2Though, one thing I’m beginning to appreciate about getting older. Is knowing, no matter where you are in life, (on top of the world, or at the bottom of the barrel), no one is exempt from random shit just landing on them, and fucking them up. It’s never personal. It’s just life. Life has joy, and beauty, and laughter, but no matter how pristine we try to make our environments. No matter how safe we think we are. Eventually we can’t escape that life is struggle. In fact, it’s been my experience, the more we try to run from that truth, the more of a struggle life becomes. Which is why it’s still important to believe in miracles.

mosesWe can become dismissive and cynical about the notion of miracles, because when we say the world “miracle” we think of, Moses parting the Red Sea or Jesus healing people. We think of otherworldly acts of magic. To me, miracles exist, through benevolent and random acts of kindness. Do I believe, that there may be divine intervention in the timing and outcome of such acts? Absolutely! But, almost all miracles (at least the one’s I’ve witnessed), came from one thing, and one thing only. Our capacity to love one another and the tenacity to believe, against all odds, that even when we can’t fix an entire problem. Doing what we can, with whatever we’ve got, will at least help. Miracles never come from fighting, belligerence, ambition, envy or jealousy. Miracles come from compassion.

blog 5When I look at the things I’ve been challenged with this year. And the myriad of things the people I love have been challenged with this year. I’m reminded, that all of us are doing what we can with what we’ve got. What has made the difference; what’s made it all okay, is that we have all been there for each other, large and small. We have all, at one time or another, taken each other in, and taken care of each other. Literally and metaphorically, we have held each other close and, (in our own generosity of spirit), offered whatever we had available to us. The miracles come from believing that what we have to give, will be enough.

loveI mentioned divine intervention because it is my belief that it does come into play. Think of it like an energetic domino effect. Because love, if nothing else is an energy. And energy has the power to move things beneath the surface in ways that we can’t see. I’ve been told that when people are ill, those who are prayed for, have better and more miraculous recovery rates. I don’t know if that’s true but I’d like to believe it.

helping handsSo, as this year comes to a close and a new one begins; I’m going to try hard to remember. That looking back on what I have or haven’t accomplished in a year is meaningless. Looking back and realizing, what I have been given, and what I have to give, on any given day, in any given year, at any given age, is where the miracles lay. There will always be struggle. There will always be challenges. There will always be pain. But the miracle is in knowing, when we reach out and help each other, (in whatever way we can), the spirits come rushing in, to make the most of each, and every, miraculous act of love.

 

earrings“No man has the right to dictate what other men should perceive, create or produce, but all should be encouraged to reveal themselves, their perceptions and emotions, and to build confidence in the creative spirit.”  ― Ansel Adams

I remember when I was in my early twenties, dating a guy, and finding a pair of diamond earrings, still in the box, in his dresser draw. I knew instinctively, these earrings were not meant for me. So I asked him who they were for. He told me he had bought them for his last girlfriend (before me), but they had broken up before he had given them to her, and he just never got around to returning them. I know this sounds like the story of cheating man but it isn’t.

I then got kinda jealous of the ghost of ex-girlfriend past, and asked, “How come you never buy stuff like that for me?” To which he replied, “I don’t know. It never seemed like you wanted stuff like that, but if you want me to buy you diamond earrings, I can do that. Or you can just have these?” At which, he held up, the ghost of ex-girlfriend past’s, diamond earrings in offering.

MarylinIt was at that moment, I realized he was right. I didn’t want stuff like that. Which left me a little confounded since, I wanted to be the kind of woman that a man bought diamonds for, but in actuality, had no interest in them whatsoever. Nevertheless, I took the (bought for ghost of ex-girlfriend past’s) diamond earrings anyway, out of principle. What that principle was, I can’t say but it felt like principle at the time. I still have those earrings and I still never wear them.

imagesI also know that was a defining        moment for me because that was when I realized, if I wanted to feel like a princess, I was going to have define what princess meant to me. Since, I could no longer follow the Walt Disney model I had been fed, up until then. My style was more Pocahontas than Sleeping Beauty. And I grew up before Walt Disney had come to the marketing epiphany, that not all American girls were white, Anglo-Saxons, longing for a dance in glass slippers with their prince.

Okay, most of us still want the prince, but we’re hoping he’ll think we’re just as beautiful, bare-foot and in rags as in our ball gown. As a result, over the years I’ve had to developed my own sense of style, so to speak, along with millions of other women and girls beset with the same problem.

My generation of women were the first to be told [en masse] “You can become anything you want”. We were the first generation of women [en masse] to benefit from the women’s movement. soccerWhen I was 8 years old, I, along with Kimberly Gray, were the first 2 girls in our town allowed to play on a little league soccer team. Which sounds awesome, but way less awesome when you’re the only two girls showing up at the soccer field; being greeted by twenty boys and a male coach who didn’t exactly roll out the welcome matt.

My first day, the coach put me in “goalie” position.  I have no idea where he put Kimberly because I was too busy dodging the ball that was being pummeled at me, like I was target practice. If that sounds like a challenge, the hardest part was, as girls we wanted the boys to like us. And there was no example or play book, on how to be the kind of girl, boys liked, and also be the kind of girl that could do anything the boys could do.

astronautsWe were the first generation [en masse] to become astronauts, and scientists, and serious journalists, and lawyers, and rock stars. This left the boys of my generation in an equal quandary. Since, all the things they had been taught would distinguish them as men when they grew up, were now apparently so unremarkable, “even a girl could do it.”

And, while it’s always been a man’s world, I’ve come to realize that perhaps men too, could use a little encouragement in the Aniliberation department. And be reminded, that sometimes truly expressing yourself, may take a little courage but once you do it, it’s something you’ll never regret. If women could re-define what makes them feel feminine and what femininity is; then men can also re-define what makes them feel masculine and what masculinity is.

suitsThis is one of the reason I  love designing jewelry for men because I feel like I’m filling a void that’s been around much too long. The idea, that the only way men can express themselves, barring becoming artists, is by purchasing, and displaying generic, over priced, designer goods that lack creative imagination and reek of status conscious, one-upmanship.

etsyEverything I make I imagine on a man. In particular I imagine it on the kind of man I’d like. What I think is hot, if you will. The kind of man that has fashioned his own brand of style and isn’t particularly interested in what you or fashionable people think. The kind of guy that has a sense of himself and is more interested in expressing rather than impressing; a man that’s looking for quality and something that will tell the world who he is.

I’m not the only one with this vision. There’s other designers out there. One that comes to mind, is Karus Chains,  who just featured my work, along with quite a few other’s in their blog. Here’s a link http://karuschains.com/blogs/news/19135583-from-gold-chains-for-men-to-skull-rings-and-everything-in-between-men-s-jewelry-that-we-like-part-1-by-karus-chains . I look at a blog like that and think, “That’s what I’m talking about!”

bill & deppWhat I like best about men’s jewelry as a means of self expression rather than a means to impress people is, he can display it proudly or just keep it tucked under his shirt or shirt sleeve. Whether he is shy or flamboyant, subtle or gregarious, straight or gay, black or white, Asian or Latina, Native or mixed raced. Whatever kind of piece he chooses; it will be a symbol of who he really is and what the truth of his heart is. I think of it as a small token that serves to remind him and communicate, “This is how my soul shines!”

the-creative-process“You see, in my view a writer is a writer not because she writes well and easily, because she has amazing talent, because everything she does is golden. In my view a writer is a writer because even when there is no hope, even when nothing you do shows any sign of promise, you keep writing anyway.” ― Junot Díaz

Below is an e-mail I sent to all my patrons today. Patronism.com is a new approach to helping musicians and singer-songwriters survive, thrive, and dedicate as much time as they can to living a creative life and sharing their work with the world. I am sharing this letter on my public blog just incase someone out there would like to join in the fun a become a patron too. So without further ado.

Dear Patrons,

Happy New Year!

I hope you’re all doing well. I’m writing you because I want to thank you for having become a patron and supporting me on Patronism.com . As we enter a new year I’ve been thinking a lot about what kind of changes I could make to re-invigorate my creative process and feel more connected to the people I share those things with. I have thought a lot about what I am about to share with you so I hope you have a moment to read it through.

For a while now, I have felt that I have been unable to hold up my end of the bargain on this site. And, on some levels I felt I was doing you all a dis-service. My first thought was to shut the page down. To instruct the administrator to cancel your credit cards and let the account “float” in an inactive status until such time that I felt I could participate, through it, in a genuine and consistent manner. I came very close to doing just that.

The current market, as I see it, demands a constant churning out of material and social engagement that I struggle to maintain with any sense of consistency. Writing songs for me has always been something like an exchange. It is not something I can always force. It’s always been a dialogue between me and some kind of higher, unexplainable power or energy. When I was younger I wrote songs because I needed to be understood in someway. As I matured, that exchange changed and I found I no longer needed to be understood; so much as I craved, on some deep level to understand.

For the past year I’ve been struggling to find inspiration through songwriting and, just as much trouble finding motivation to put that work into the world. So, rather than shut down the page, thank you for your support, and say goodnight. I thought it might be interesting to invert the equation and see, if through these tools I might derive a way to let you inspire me. Therefore, I am going to make you a proposal.

For the next 6 months I am going to try and write 1 song a month that I will post on-line for you to see/hear. I may share it through an audio recording, a video recording or both. I haven’t decided yet. What I would love from you, if you’re so inclined, are prompts! A prompt can be a simple as: The prompt is ‘Home’. Or the prompt is: ‘drinking coffee at night’ . Whatever you can think of! I would ask you not to make it too complicated, since a prompt is meant to act as a creative “spark” not a full scenario that needs to be explained.

And by the way, if some of you are budding songwriters yourselves, (pro’s or hobbiest) and you want to join me in this challenge and write a song [yourself] from the prompts I’ld love to hear what you come up with! My hope in doing this, is to make our relationship more symbiotic and interactive without either of us feeling obligated in the exchange like it’s goods and services.

I do hope this is something you are interested in being a part of! You’ll be notified when the first song of the month is written. When it is, know this is something I’m doing for you, but just as importantly, something I might not have been able to do without you! So, send me those prompts and I’ll get started!

Thank you so much again!

All the Best,

Stefanie Fix

Please note: I will only be taking prompt requests from active patrons on http://www.patronism.com I do hope you’ll consider being part of this project. If you want more info go to http://www.patronism.com/StefanieFix and sign-up! Looking forward to sharing with you in this new year!

party life

“We are becoming the servants in thought, as in action, of the machine we have created to serve us”. ~John Kenneth Galbraith

I was recently on my way to a gig when I ran into a friend I hadn’t seen in quite some time. We began to chat and she said, “I’ve been seeing you on facebook. You seem so busy. That’s awesome! Congratulations!” I was taken aback for a moment.

Suddenly, it dawned on me that I’m not the only person, who gets on facebook and sometimes feels like everyone else’s life is so much more fabulous than mine.

 

tranqAnd, to be clear…my life is the opposite of busy. I’m a songwriter, and a jewelry maker, and as you can see I write these essays. These are all activities that require quiet time. I don’t have noisy kids that need to be carted everywhere, or messy relationships that need to be sorted out. For the most part, I live a fairly quiet and uneventful life. To me, life is about balance.

I’m not interrupted incessantly by texts messages and notification. I don’t watch or look at the news everyday. I’m a quality over quantity type of gal and I’ve never been too impressed with information overload. Which, given our gilded age of technological advancement; and the seemingly, universal celebration of “the glory of all things information” is a genuinely inconvenient predilection to have.

rushIt’s seem’s like there’s a premium these days on being busy. Everywhere I go, I hear people lamenting about how busy they are; and most don’t elaborate much about what they’re busy doing. Like it’s some massive faux pas when asked what you’ve been up to, to say, “Oh ya know, taking time to smell the roses. I sit outside a lot, drink coffee, listen to birds sing, and make stuff”.

For a while now I’ve thought the problem was just me. After all, I can be, well, a little particular. I kept wondering why I can’t just stand up and fly right and embrace the movement like everyone else?

imagesWhy can’t I develop an umbilical attachment to my smartphone? Why can’t I find witty repartee to share and tweet for every benign moment in my life? When I go to dinner with friends, why am I almost always the only one, who doesn’t have my phone on the table? Why can’t I look at selfies as sharing rather than see them as a public billboard that says, “Really, I don’t even have a friend to take my picture right now?” And why, oh why, can’t I believe that my life in 2 sentence, one hundred and sixty character snippets, is truly interesting to other people?
koolaidReally! I want to drink the Kool-Aid! I really do! Life’s easier when you drink the Kool-Aid. I’ve learned this the hard way. I remember once when I was a teenager being at a party, where I was the only one not tripping on ‘shrooms’…trust me when I tell it was not pretty to witness, and that’s a lot of what this feels like now.

But, now, I’m not sure it just me. My epiphany came in two parts. The first is the recent conversations [over the past few months] I’ve had with almost everyone I know, who almost unanimously report feeling more, and more, disconnected and isolated; and not knowing why? When by all standards we are by far more connected.

advertThe second, is the recent, rapid, accelerated,  mutation of facebook “social network” to facebook “social advertising agent” (and socio-economic experimental database). Where we can now “sponsor” our posts for hard earned cash or fall to the waste side of “obscurity” if we are unwilling to drop coin. All of this insidiously coupled with the subtle shift in facebook’s user format into two different news feeds ‘most recent’ or ‘top story’. It doesn’t really take a brain surgeon to figure out why these changes were rolled out at the same time.

What I’ve noticed about social networks is that it seems like there are particular personality types that thrive and succeed on them. It requires a psychological finesse with a healthy dose of bloated self-importance; coupled with an engaging sense of humor. It requires understanding, how to be just enough about yourself that viewers want to be about you; while at the same time appearing just enough about others [or world peace, or inner zen, or anything that appears altruistic] that people are convinced that you care about something other than yourself. The kind of personality that’s more comfortable projecting who’d they like to be rather than just honestly being who they are.

sleep textI say viewer because to some degree that’s what we are becoming to one another. This kind of engagement is the opposite of intimacy. But when mastered, you can be fooled, or fool people into feeling, [at least for an instant] that maybe they are experiences something better than intimacy: instant, gratifying, attention. All it requires is maintaining a consistent, relatable, endearing, responsive persona.

It’s like there’s this strange vortex, where we can’t quite see yet, the line between our natural human urge to want to be liked; and our live’s as one long, continual presentation where we are neither genuinely liked, nor disliked but rather we are disdained, ignored or admired. It’s as if we’re all becoming micro-corporations even when the only thing we’re selling is ourselves.

textThat, to me is at the core of why so many of us are feeling isolated in this sea of connectedness. We are viewers and posters. Whether it’s social networks, text messaging, instant messaging, youtube, chat rooms, whatever, pick your poison; but none of those activities are anything like genuine conversation or genuine engagement. And because of social networks, and text messaging, and dating sites, and instant entertainment at our fingertips 24/7; I think many of us are staying home more, and more, and gathering in real time, less and less. Unfortunately, instant gratification tends to disappear just as instantly; leaving us helplessly hungry for more.

porch 2We used to sit in kitchens, and porches, and bedrooms and dens, hanging out, talking, laughing, crying, confessing…we still do, but not nearly as often; and almost never are those moments uninterrupted by our devices anymore. More and more, we sit alone (even when we’re with people), texting, while we’re check something on a social network; while we’re doing our laundry; while we’re glancing at a tv; while we’re IM-ing with someone else; while we’re checking stats on the new on-line business we’re launching; while we’re reworking the marketing approaches to our new on-line business; while we’re ordering takeout. While we’re studying SEO’s. While we’re typing a proposal. While we’re touching up the photos we took from the outing we took last Sunday. While we’re editing a video. While we’re writing a song. While we’re re-working a budget. While we’re…

lonely bearThis, I’m pretty sure is what most people who tell you “they’re so busy” are pretty much doing. Multi-tasking, on top of multi-tasking, on top of multi-tasking, rarely giving any one thing our undivided focus and attention. Which begs the question are we busy? Or are we just running as far and as fast as we can from the human condition of loneliness; head long into a vacant chasm? Many of those things lead to tangible achievements [outside, in the real world] but I would venture to guess that if we break it down only a small percentage of those multi-tasked activities actually contributed to tangible activities and/or achievements.

From what I can tell. We are not being encouraged to have a conversation about this. Everywhere we turn we are being asked to ignore the question and just drink the Kool-Aid; imploring us not to be left behind. Not surprisingly, this message comes most strongly from the corporations that are most heavily invested in us embracing their products. I keep coming back to an advertisement I’ve seen a number of times for iPhone. Here’s a link to the ad on youtube: 

In it, we see musicians, and performance artists, dancers, scientist, athletes, choreographers all connecting, and seemingly being creatively inspired, and becoming their Best-ist selves through their devices; while a song (by The Pixie’s) with the benign lyrics of, “Gigantic, gigantic, gigantic, big, big, love” are couched in an infectious groove, with images that urge us to be part of the “movement”. I’m almost sold till the closing clip.

A woman is standing, in what we presume to be a school gym, with children sprawled out on sleep bags on the floor; as she magically projects an astronomically correct projection of the celestial sky with the names of the constellations on to the ceiling through her magical [iPhone] device. That one snip-it is the ad’s undoing. Because,when I see it all I can think is, kids campingWhy is that better than just turning the damned phone off and taking the kids camping?” Do we really believe that an artificial reproduction of the stars in a gym, is somehow more spectacular than witnessing the real thing? What are we really teaching them when we keep widening the divide and separating our children from nature? We’re teaching them to drink the Kool-Aid! Because the further those kids get from experiencing and understanding nature first hand, the more intimated they will become by it.

momThe most painful thing I see today is parents buried in their smart phones while their infant child sit, helplessly unstimulated, staring at their parents who aren’t looking back at them. Go to any airport, or laundromat, or anywhere people are “waiting” and you’ll see this. We think it’s just a second. It never is. It’s lots and lots of consecutive seconds, as a continual distraction. And what’s being communicating every time our eyes are focused on a phone rather than our children is “this is more important than you” and “this is more interesting than you”.

There’s also mounting evidence that this is hindering, the ability for our children to develop basic vocabulary, and rudimentary communication skills. Because, early language learning is heavily dependent on eye contact. What that’s going to translate too when these kids grow up is anybodies guess?

light trainI’m not sure what the answer is. Maybe there really is no way to stop the train. But I do think it worth talking about. In real time, face to face, where people have the time and space to muse, ponder, question and perhaps even change their minds. This is a dialogue that can’t be vetted intelligently via any communication device. Nor should this discussion be interrupted by them. Because, while we may care deeply what direction that train heads I can assure you, that the train has absolutely no concern whatsoever, where it takes us. It’s up to us to decide.

“I have sung in hobo jungles, and I have sung for the Rockefellers, and I am proud that I have never refused to sing for anybody”.~Pete Seeger

I found out last night around mid-night that Pete Seeger had passed away. I thought to post something on social networks in the way of paying my respects but the more I thought of it, the more I realized I needed to honor his passing with more than a cursory RIP.

 

As I thought about him and what I might say, I realized Pete Seeger has had a greater impact on my life than perhaps any other performer I can think of.

Pete Seeger changed my life not just as an artist but personally. From my early teens when I volunteered at ‘The Hudson River Clear Water Revival Festival’; to working and living on the actual boat, ‘The Clearwater’; clearwaterto fashioning most of my life as a traveling troubadour. I suppose, I imagined myself as some angst-ridden, Woody Guthrie meets Bob Dylan; but really it was Pete Seeger who taught me the meaning and virtue of living my truth.

I am most grateful for the handful of times I got to meet him. Most especially those opportunities when I was child. When I look back, I’m amazed now by [what was] his patience, kindness and generosity of spirit. No question was too small or too big. He always seemed to have time for all of us. The only times I ever saw him angry was when he encountered defeatist, negating, cynicism. That pissed him off.

Later, as an adult I remember being asked to perform at a demonstration. Pete Seeger was to headline. It was a miserable, cold rainy, Upstate New York day.  Pete showed up with a smile on his face and a spring in his step. Eager to rally the people and fight the good fight. Every opportunity he was given to bring people together (no matter what the cause) brought him joy. He love to galvanize and empower people.

pete on stageI had the honor to sing behind him that day with maybe half a dozen other singer-songwriters as we joined him on Woody Guthrie’s, “This Land is Your Land”. Backstage I said hello and he had no recollection of me, but he was kind, and warm, and gracious. It seemed everyone wanted to meet him that day. He was in his eighties, surrounded by perhaps 20 or 30 people all clambering to get a word with him. I remember Toshi trying to get him to leave because she was worried, he was getting too tired and it was really cold. But Pete was determined to stick around, he considered it his duty to stay until anyone who wanted to talk with him got a chance.

bonfirePete Seeger never had any faith in the ‘powers that be’. He believed, heart, mind and soul that the power was, and always would be, with the people. I believe to him, creating meaningful change in the world was like building a bonfire.  Start with a few twigs, set the spark, and blow on it, till it catches. Then keep blowing and adding wood, till the fire is raging. Because if you’re going to take the time to build a fire, then build one to be reckoned with; and never forget, all fires start with the tiniest of sparks but one spark is all it takes.

05-01_PETE_SEEGER_H_108_02WEB-e1390894992509When I think about what he’d say to us now, now that he’s gone, I imagine him saying something like this, “I appreciate your love and concern but don’t waste too much time crying. There’s still too much work to be done”.

Goodbye Pete. Thank you for everything you gave to us. Rest in Peace.

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