It was election day when we arrived in The Philippines, so the streets were tame; a big departure from the usual parade of jeepneys, taxis and motorcycles that clot the highway arteries in one of the world’s most populated cities.
This mini-tour of Asia, and the upcoming tour dates for 2013 for that matter, are taking us to THE PLANET’S MOST populated cities. Shanghai, Beijing, Tokyo, Seoul, Manila, Moscow, Istanbul, and the 2nd most populated city in the world that I’d never heard of until now, Guangzhou. At first I thought, what are the odds that we’d get to travel through this top 10 list of most populated cities? How cool. But then, as slowly as a winter sun rises in the arctic, it dawned on me. Duh. It’s where the people are. It’s like that time I flew home from college, NYC to RVA, and I couldn’t believe the guy I was sitting next to was from my hometown! What are the odds I’d get sat next to a guy from Richmond VA on a flight from New York to Richmond VA? We had so much in common. Like our des’DUH’nation. …Say no to drugs, kids.
Besides Filipinos being the most spirited and most in-tune of audiences, they are also the craftiest and most clever poster-makers, hands down, (or up rather.) Looking out at the crowd last night there were almost too many good signs to consider, like “I voted for you yesterday” and “The No Wang Wang Zone” (whatever that means) and my personal favorite, “Merritt Me?” Well done Manila. Thanks for giving us such a warm reception home.
While there I also had the pleasure of catching up with the immeasurable Cecelia Oebanda from the Visayan Forum, an organization that rescues girls from trafficking. In addition to the hard work Cecelia does to keep the organization up and running to house and rehabilitate the girls, she also has to deal with death threats from traffickers who wish she’d stop interfering with their business of kidnapping and selling young girls into servitude and sex slavery. WTF? How was your day at the office?
In addition to funding and awareness, Cecelia could use more volunteers, those in psychiatry, healing, and social work to help the girls recover from their experiences. If you know anyone who can help her mission, please spread the word, share the link below and send her some love.
She and The Visayan Forum will be featured in The Fighters, a documentary airing this weekend on CNN International, and later online. Thanks for checking it out. http://www.visayanforum.org/
I would like to make a correction to the previous journal entry. Where I wrote “cooperation” would be the #1 best thing we could be doing to better the environment and save humanity, I would like to change that to Compassion. With compassion, the understanding or empathy for the suffering of others, cooperation would naturally follow suit.
If there’s one thing music & surfing & yoga have in common to teach, it’s compassion; compassion for one’s self; the ability to “just, take it easy,” as sung in live high. Learning to ride waves of water, sound or breath, can be challenging. Such is life. And in order to accomplish anything of great spiritual value, we must understand that from time to time on the journey, there will be suffering.
When I first picked up a guitar at 17, my fingers hurt, and my head couldn’t fathom how the fret-board worked. Becoming a guitar player seemed insurmountable, but I wanted to sing and accompany myself, and the guitar was the sexiest fit for the nomadic lifestyle I was choosing. It was a rough start with slow forming, out-of-tune chords, but compassion for myself kept the guitar buzzing on my lap while I hummed thoughts higher than any reason to quit. The silent agreement I made with my soul was that I’d allow myself to suffer until I was 40. And by that, I would not let any scowls of disapproval from family or community distract me from my goal of becoming a guitar player. Compassion gave me the green light.
I applied the same method to surfing and within 5 years I was in over my head, swimming with sharks. Literally.
I’m still not 40 btw, and the guitar as well as a practice of compassion continues to inspire and enrich my life in myriad ways.
I would also like to mention a lyric change. Shortly after recording I’m Yours, I changed ‘God forsaken right to be loved,’ to ‘God intended right to be loved.’ I’m not religious and nature alone is my guru, but I felt that the Universal Life Force that propels us, which many understand as their God, would not abandon us to give us a right to be loved. Instead, I feel love is what nature intended. At the time the lyric was conceived, I didn’t fully understand it. The song was written in a quick stream of consciousness after all. I was simply turning a phrase. And shortly thereafter I turned it into something else. I mention this amendment because I’d love to hear audiences sing the new lyric, as well as any new covers that may appear in the years to come.
And lastly, in a tweet fired off a few hours ago about which animal was my favorite because they’re all hugs and kisses. It’s the ox. Not ox’s. Which is actually oxen when plural. Thanks for the correction mom.
It’s never too late to stop learning.
I dropped my homeopathic headache medicine on the floor of the lavatory en route to Beijing from San Diego via Los Angeles via Tokyo.
As I bent over to retrieve the pill from the rancid, speckled floor of the latrine, I whispered to myself the magic phrase that somehow makes it safe to ingest something that’s been on the ground.
God made dirt & dirt don’t hurt.
But my mind kept on.
If God made dirt and dirt don’t hurt,
how come humans can be such a-holes?
I unfurled my spine from the amazing forward bend I’d maneuvered in the tiny airplane bathroom and squinted at my haggard self in the mirror, eyes sensitive to the light, hair amuck, follicles hurting if I pushed them in opposing directions. I felt awful. Still, there’s something about lavatory lighting and perhaps being so close to the mirror that somehow makes my in-flight ruggedness appear admirably handsome, the way unshaven actors on the covers of magazines make you want to be them, or do them.
Before a long flight I like to play hard in hopes of being able to pass out when I need to. Time zones are for wimps, or people who agree with punctuality, or people who watch television and live in the central/mountain zone. I am none of those. Nevertheless, on this flight I was suffering a migraine, due either to airplane peanut dehydration, playing hard in the yard the previous night, me against the aphids in the bio-war zone that is my garden, or allowing my mind to weigh too heavily on the plight of humankind. It was probably D, all of the above.
Throughout my travels to highfalutin cities, hippy communities, third world countries, and myriad meaning-of-life seminars, I’ve met lots of interesting people, many of whom are trying to saving their world and many who just don’t give a shit. And I say that fairly, because our modern life is a surprisingly stuck chapter and most of us have few options. This sounds pessimistic, considering there’s a universe inside of each of us, capable of the most extraordinary things. But consider for a moment the fact that in today’s world, money = survival. Not food or water, but money. Why? Because food and water are behind lock and key and only money (or guns) can open it. Therefore, so long as food and water are locked up, there will always be war. Always. And there will always be famine. And poverty. And somehow we’re all okay with that, so long as there’s money to be made. We just shrug and assume this is how life is supposed to go. I think most of us play along because a) it feels like a game or b) we watch too much tv/porn to care, or c) it’s been going on for so long, it’s not really our fault nor problem to deal with so who wants fries? or d) all of the above.
Man’s obvious dominance has been occurring since the agricultural revolution more than 10,000 years ago. As someone who dabbles in farming, I can understand the theory that suggests the same season we discovered farming was the same season we added property lines and fences to protect the fruits and vegetables of our labor. The hunter-gatherer days were behind us from then on, and stock piling resources became the path to each family’s survival. Earning a wage to pay for food, or land, meant our lords were no longer nature itself, but other humans. And if animals wanted to eat our food, we’d just kill them. But if the animal IS food, we’d lock them up and help them multiply. Farming really showed off our true speciesism and the human population has exploded exponentially ever since.
But I have a new feeling humans made themselves separate long before we walled ourselves off and starting killing to protect. I recently heard an amazing idea that inspires and scares the hell out of me at the same time. That idea is de-evolution. As in, man’s fall from grace. This is where man decided he was separate from God, or the Life Force, or the Sun and the Earth if you will. Atheists can play along with this idea too. For man began saying, I can do this on my own. God is up there. I am down here. Mythical Adam and Eve are a common version of this story; two beings of light suddenly find themselves on Earth in human form, dense and material, a de-evolved version from their prior angelic, illuminated selves. And perhaps out of fear, or upset, they invented ego and declared, We got this. We don’t need God. We’ve got each other. We’ve got penises and vaginas and free will! Literally solidifying the humanness, digging us deeper into the density of our existence.
And in that moment, they forgot they were made of the same stuff as the stars, and all the basic elements of Earth. And we’ve been riding that wave as murderous, over-consuming, hoarders ever since.
Now, I’m not sure when and if there was one exact moment when that fall actually occurred. Was it centuries ago? The modern human is more than 100,000 years old after all. That’s a long time to co-exist with nature. Or maybe time is irrelevant and the fall from grace occurs in all of us every morning when we return to our heavy, rigid bodies from the expanded, weightless place we go in our sleep. Perhaps redemption is as easy as remembering that we are all beings of light; remarking at how each atom in us contains the very light that fuels creation itself. If this is remotely true and there is lightning to be harnessed within, then perhaps our modern story isn’t one of doom and gloom after all. We just need be the weightless wonder of sleep and awake at the same time.
Perhaps this kind of thinking is why I’ve had a headache. But having the headache gave me a great opportunity to test the theory that suffering and/or boredom in the modern world can end with the flip of an internal switch.
I returned to my fancy airplane seat, designed to stow lots of baggage, bottles and magazines, and I closed my eyes, relaxing my forehead where the migraine pressure was. From the darkness blinked and blipped lines and spots in and out of existence; fractals of light and various color patterns which appeared to be neither close nor far. The darkness of space that exists behind closed eyes offers little scale. Inner space may as well be outer space. At first, I think I’m looking into a vacant cavern where an active brain should be taking up residence, but I don’t ponder that thought for too long. I do my best to stop thinking altogether. I do this by first focusing on my breath. In and then out. In and then out. If my mind wanders I come back to the in and then out. Rinse and repeat. After only a few minutes I can focus on the stars and laser lines shining on the backs of my eyelids. I recall from an old Deepak Chopra meditation CD to use blue light as a healing energy. I focus my thoughts on two words, blue and light. With a relaxed body I watch, with my eyes closed, all the bright colors transform to blue. Almost instantaneously my headache starts to diminish. After a few more minutes in the presence of this magnificent light, my headache is gone. Magic. Then again, I did eat a homeopathic headache pill from off the floor of the airplane toilet.
My friend Jerry calls this doing, and anything related to Spirit, Yoga, or Veganism, Hocus-Pocus. It’s actually a good overall term for it because the benefits one receives from the practices don’t come from money, they come from the nature within us, or the divine, and that’s just plain magic in my journal. And feeling good without material want or need is proof that we ARE higher than we are led to believe. Humans aren’t a-holes by nature. A-holeness is a bi-product of a) not wanting to do the work, b) hoping that our money or weapons will do the heavy lifting for us, c) assuming we’re separate from each other, and d) making multiple choice lists.
I don’t really know what’s in store for the humans, but the outlook is… different. I wish I could say the outlook is grim, but I prefer to leave doomsday out of it. Regardless, every day we drill for more oil, kill for more resources, and blow people up just to get attention. We still build our homes of wood which we all know has to be replaced every 30-50 years, usually around the time you’ve paid off your mortgage. We still eat loads of genetically modified and chemically sprayed foods, and because anything from nature can’t be patented, our medicines are synthetic in order for the economy to be stimulated.
Sadly, I predict it’s only going to get worse before it gets better; that being the weather, wars, famine, poverty, you name it, which is why sustainability is the second best thing we can be studying right now. The first being cooperation. I enjoy dabbling in food production, energy and water harvesting, and tree planting. I like to imagine there are creatures hundreds of years from now napping under the shade of a tree I planted, drinking clean water I helped protect. I may be long gone from Earth, or maybe I’ll be reincarnated as that very creature, I’m not sure. Maybe I’ll finally have a solid belief system by then. Or not. Beliefs don’t equal survival either. If anything, certainty of one’s beliefs only leads to bickering. (and that I am certain.) See any thread of online news comments, or even the comments to follow this lengthy labyrinth of an op-ed for proof. But whether I think my glass is half full or half empty, which varies almost daily, I’m just glad there’s still something in the glass to drink. I’ve got pills to swallow after all. And toasts to make.
To the a-holes!
May we not shit on each other.
Posted with jet lag, ironically from the financial district, Beijing, China
It’s been a while since I’ve been in the habit of blogging. I get stopped by the slow internet speed at my house, therefore I choose other things to do, like write songs, or get chased by dogs. But like songs, I always want my blog entries to be humorous, informative or inspiring, which means I set the bar high to begin with, which can be a challenge when I sit down to share my thoughts on a blank page. I’ve been re-learning lately that it’s best not to think about any of that stuff and just speak. off the cuff. from the heart.
I always prefer my songwriting be this method. Not thinking that is. Trading in clever for truth. I approach the process not asking, “What you do want to write about?” and instead ask, “What’s going on?” Real life, even a somewhat routine and boring life, if honored honestly, provides plenty of great material.
For example, one day I was planning to sit down at my desk with a guitar and create something new, but I didn’t know what it would be. And I was dreading it. I wanted to work in the yard and play outside longer. I’d just prefer not to say anything at all, let alone put myself through the agonizing process of birthing a song. But when I sat down, I wrote about exactly what was going on with me. I wrote about about not wanting to quit doing whatever stupid thing I was doing. The end result was a song called, Don’t Wake Me From This Dream and it quickly became a global smash. Or, popular in my house at least. Anyway, I roll my eyes when I think about who I was to not want to sit down and let the song come through. I love happy endings. I just loathe the beginnings.
I go to a hot yoga class as often as my schedule and snooze alarm allows. That’s my version of a gym. It’s there I lively-up myself, refilling the body and the brain with new blood in order to approach each day with a freshness, a newness and a now-ness.
All classes end by the teacher asking you to lay down on your back in savasana, the final resting pose. This is to “receive all the benefits of the class.” Muscles relax. Blood and oxygen circulate. You’ve turned your mat and towel into a sweaty, juicy bed and now you get to lie in it. Some people snore at this point. Some people look around and check out other people’s boobs. Me, I’m usually light-headed and dizzy, grateful I made it through yet another 90 minute class without giving up the ghost. And overall, I feel… alive. And that I figure, is the benefit of the practice. It always has a happy ending.
So let’s say your practice is something else, like model ship building, the kind where you build your boat inside an empty bottle of Captain Morgan’s. That task is challenging as well. But you stick it out. You make one move at a time until you get to the end and literally put a cork in it. It’s then that you receive all the benefits of the build. The benefit is you, alive, experiencing another goal met; another task done; another sail raised in a bottle going to grandma’s. Well done you.
And so this morning as I was resting in savasana, it occurred to me, no matter how challenging I may think it is, I should just write a new blog post already. About whatever’s going on. And post it. Just take it thought by thought, without thinking, and let it be. And then, when it’s done, not only I, but MANY could receive the benefits. Because, in summary, the benefit IS the happy ending. Am I right? Or am I running this theme into the ground?
Before I began click-clack-tippity-typing all this down, I thought I would make better use of my technology and dictate the words into my new iPhone while I drove home from yoga, assuming it would do all the manual labor for me while I ate an açai bowl and drove with my knee.
Here’s what my phone managed to capture.
“Doing yoga on Morosgo almost every day Oreo the creation of shallow then I have other out if Maury out during this period my life and head stay long for 2009 in yoga and ask you to lay down on your back”
Maybe I had too much açai in my mouth.
I think where I was headed was to say: I’ve heard lately that some parents are forbidding schools to teach yoga. I guess it’s in fear of turning their children into witches or something. This is a bummer. As an adult, looking back at what I know now, and based on how I feel today as a practitioner of yoga, I wish my school had added yoga when I was in kindergarten. Along with pole dancing.
My request: If there’s anyone out there who loves lululemon and knows anyone at the school districts, speak up on behalf of yoga. It’s basically stretching and isometrics, the same you would find during a warm-up for square dancing or dodge ball, but organized in a way that will improve the health and mentality of every practitioner and not insult them. It’s non-aggressive, non-competitive, non-religious, and nowhere near dangerous. I’ve never seen anyone sprain an ankle or break a nose in a yoga class. If anything it teaches compassion, patience and focus. And humility. If you fart.
Thanks for being awesome and reading this.
The post has now come to it’s final resting pose.
I feel good that is it complete.
The same way I find happiness in a warm toilet seat.
It’s all good.
It’s been nice to catch up with you.
Have a Namasté.
A few nights ago I attended a fundraiser for UCLA’s Institute of Environment and Sustainability, a dept of the school devoted to researching and resolving the climate crisis. Al Gore and Lyn Lear were awarded for their excellence in the field but it was really us, the audience, who were rewarded with their impassioned speeches.
I was there with my band to perform a few songs, and to connect us all by our hearts. The very hilarious Sarah Silverman performed her sexy comedy, connecting us all by our commonalities, with poop jokes.
At Al’s table, front and center, sat Barbara Streisand, an environmentalist since the 80’s, and one of the greatest singers to grace the modern stage. My heart raced during my opening song, excited to be playing for a star-studded crowd, and for the timely issue of climate change that affects all of humanity.
But I wasn’t nervous because Streisand was watching. I’d met her two years ago when I performed at an event for The Natural Resources Defense Council, (The Very Awesome NRDC.) That day she and I found ourselves in the same hallway moments before I went on and she turned to me and asked if I still got nervous before I performed. I do now, I said.
Last night, I decided I would get clear with Al Gore in front of the audience of UCLA professors about an incident that occurred on my expedition to Antarctica last year with the Vice President. An incident that had a profound impact on me, shifting my perspective on the issue of climate change. For those curious as to what the expedition was about, think of it as An Inconvenient Truth, The Ride!
Our vessel sat motionless in a quiet harbor near Palmer Station on the Antarctic Peninsula. I was on the top deck of the ship near the bow admiring an enormous glacier with my camera. Through my lens the landscape looked like a movie set. There was nothing close enough to the glacier to reveal it’s scale on camera and no other colors than the thousand hues of blue and white besides the black rock the glacier was clinging to.
In my patient position I got to witness a large chunk of the glacier break off and fall languidly into the sea, as if in slow motion, falling straight down like a controlled detonation of a building, disappearing into a splash for a few seconds before it bobbled up and began it’s new life as an ice burg. I was witnessing warm weather take it’s toll on the environment.
I stood there drop-jawed, completely humbled by nature, as a gust of wind came racing through the harbor and hit the ship, whirling my hat and jacket in all directions, lifting me up a little, enough that I had to take a few steps to regain my balance. It was a common occurrence on deck. But in that particular whirling around, a wrapper from a snack I’d enjoyed earlier floated up and out of my pocket and into the air! Hands out reaching, mouth agape, breath held, I froze in fear watching this bright green wrapper flutter off like the feather in Forest Gump until it rested gently on the surface of the glassy, pristine, non-human, deep blue water.
My heart sank. And at that moment I wished I could too.
I’m the guy who picks up trash when he goes for a walk. I don’t care if somebody has peed in a cup and it if has a condom hanging out of it, I’m going to put it in the trash. But now here I am in Antarctica on a mission to preserve and protect our natural resources, and I’m the litter bug.
There was my trash staring back at me and I immediately started thinking about how I was going to fix it. SNACK OVERBOARD! Someone throw a life preserver! Of all the downloads I received on the voyage; the inconvenient truth about climate change, nothing was more obvious to me than this; this is what all the fuss is about: Man is having an impact on his environment. This is my fault. This was my trash.
The current was moving too quickly for me to run to a lower deck and retrieve it, besides I couldn’t take my eyes off of it. It stood out in a way that was so wrong, it was almost beautiful. It just didn’t fit in.
It was green and yellow with words on it. Nothing else in the Antarctic is green or yellow and there are no words or advertisements strung or spray painted anywhere. My piece of trash spoke volumes. You couldn’t miss it.
Fortunately, the wrapper drifted into a line of zodiacs returning to the ship and someone snatched it up. Since it would be coming back to the boat, I assumed we would receive an announcement from the Vice President or the ship’s crew, but it never came.
The incident said enough. The things we buy, use and throw away are our responsibility. Someday in a not too distant future, we’ll realize it isn’t money that keeps us alive, but our desperate need of clean water, fresh food, and clean air.
I apologized to Al and the ClimateReality team who were at the event, and thanked them for the invitation to see and experience our planet in a way that ultimately changed me, inspiring me to start a tree planting initiative and planting thousands of trees last year in effort offset the emissions of touring. Then I segued into a song about how it’s never too late to turn anything around, and played 93 million miles, as Barbara Streisand filmed us on her iPhone.
I follow @AlGore and @ClimateReality on twitter because they’re both up to date on science and legislature. It’s good to know what the natural world is up to, and what we humans are doing to save it, and what we humans are doing to save ourselves.
I wish Jason Mraz would go back to his roots, commented a commentator recently. This I pondered.
Do they mean go back to Slovakia? Or only as far back as Virginia? I assumed the wish was music related, but still I wondered if they meant I go back as far as Mr Roger’s Neighborhood, Electric Company and 3-2-1 Contact, programs that kick-started my little musical self into action. Certainly not. I doubt the comment came from my pre-school teacher. The request must have been referring to the origin of my original music; my public debut; The long defunct R&B group, Dressed To Kill.
Yes, my awkward boy band Dressed To Kill, whose influences included Boyz II Men, Color Me Badd (who are still active BTW!) and The Jackson 5. I was the youngest in the group at 13, but I had the highest voice which meant I always sang the Michael Jackson parts. We played such esteemed venues as The Stew Festival, A UCA Cheerleading Competition, and Jennifer Richardson’s 15th birthday party.
The first song I ever wrote I penned during 8th grade civics class. Recorded then over an instrumental b-side of a C+C music factory song, my song went straight into rotation at Skate America. Played only once, but awesome enough that people kept skating to it without noticing a break in the flow. I Think I Love You Girl, was the song that would land me the invitation to join the group who already sang similar hits such as, Baby, I’m Hooked On You and You Make Me Feel Alive, Girl. We spoke a common language, girl.
Some of the other guys in the group were much older. One of them a 911 dispatcher, which may as well have been a police officer, would often tell me to avoid women, which I found strange considering women were the focus of our material. But he said women were like drugs and once I had a taste, I’d only want them more. Just say no he said. So I took his advice and channeled my wanting in song.
It’s also during those short years singing in the group and skating around in circles that my contribution to climate change is at it’s greatest. After all, my hair needed to be aerodynamic for jive skating, so I would empty my sister’s aerosol hairspray every Friday while blow drying all of my hair to the right like a gentle sloping lady-killing wave. Looking back I conclude it was important to feel cool, even if I wasn’t.
By the time I was 16, a year before Justin Bieber came into the world, I had forgotten about Dressed To Kill and began dabbling in equally embarrassing art forms in high school: show choir, drama, cheerleading, jazz, tap & ballet, burying the VHS tapes of the boy band era and, unapologetically, moved on.