Airports have become so familiar to me that I’m beginning to build friendships with airline staff and TSA employees. Even the customs officials welcome me home or see me off with congratulations on my gigs. Homeland Security officials grew to know me over the years, mispronouncing my name at first, to questioning the validity of my jobs overseas, to eventually asking for autographs and pictures. Their gradual awareness has become the meter on which I have measured my success. Thanks TSA. You’re my TMZ.
The Heathrow lounge teems with quiet excitement like a study hall. It’s here, on my way to Istanbul, that I get time to brush my teeth, lengthen my spine, and thanks to free wi-fi, share an awesome video with you.
As you may or may not know, I keep track of flights and offset the carbon emissions by planting trees and supporting organic farms and gardens. Below is the TED talk from Graeme Sait, who’s research linking soil health to human health will open your eyes and blow your mind as he connects the health of our food to the health of our whole system. As both an organic farmer and a man of the world, this TED talk speaks directly to me, proving that there IS hope for humankind. All we have to do is humbly bow to the Earth.
In the age of information, ignorance is a choice. Thanks for spreading the message and doing your part. xo
When I lose someone, the hardest part is that I am no longer able to tell them I love them.
The music community celebrates Felipe Canete, who sang, danced and played guitar as an integral member of Luc & The Lovingtons. His Chilean heritage brought an authentic latin flavor to the heart-centered band, fusing music of many rhythms and styles to help create their unique sound.
This weekend I had the pleasure of performing again with the new generation of The Lovingtons’ musical family, who are currently on the road fulfilling the tour that Filipe booked. (You may remember The Lovingtons from previous years’ tours, or by their hit THE FREEDOM SONG, which I recorded for my album last year.)
In a small private setting yesterday, musicians and friends who knew Filipe gathered to sing and share stories, shake his percussion instruments, and honor the mystical, magical spirit of a friend who will now live on inside all of our hearts. His passing reminds me to celebrate life.
In addition to being a father and a good friend, Felipe was also a teacher, blending language lessons with music to help his students connect more intimately and joyfully with the classroom curriculum. Joy was his modus operandi. Joy and Filipe were never not seen apart.
Despite having a diagnosed condition, Filipe only always lead with this heart; suggesting to me that having compassion for your weaknesses only makes you stronger. I will miss his smile, his accent, his dance moves, and immeasurable excitement to improve the attitude of the world, but he will live forever in the music and through the many hearts of those his touched.
The Los Angeles community will honor Filipe & The Lovingtons this Tuesday, July 16th at the Roxy’s intimate upstairs room in West Hollywood. Send your love!
Last weekend I ran in the Hey Day 5k alongside pal, Jesse Billauer, to raise money for Life Rolls On, an organization he founded to fund spinal cord injury research and to help those with spinal cord injuries continue to live extraordinary lives. Jesse was injured & paralyzed in a surfing accident 17 years ago when he was just 17. After spending now half of his life in a wheelchair, Jesse mustered up the strength and courage to use what limited ability he has remaining in his arms to roll his first official 5k. We came in together just under 30 minutes.
On the run were many other athletes, some there to run, some there to roll, some to raise money, but all having fun. Thanks to those who donated and/or came out to strengthen our numbers and muscles.
At the starting line just before the race, I met Misty Diaz, runner on a mission, and walking canes! Born with Spina bifida, one of the most common birth defects with a worldwide incidence of about 1 in every 1000 births, Diaz has undergone 28 surgeries to stay on her feet. Most people with spina bifida never walk, but Misty is on zero medication and runs 5ks, 15ks, and half marathons to inspire others; showing us that one’s dreams can still be reached, no matter how long a road may seem, no matter the circumstances we are given, just so long as we never never nevergive up. Misty’s finish time was an impressive 45 minutes.
After learning about Misty’s mission to share Never Never Never Give Up with others living with spina bifida, I sent her a copy of I Won’t Give Up (9 Theory Remix) to add to her race-day playlist hoping it would support her mantra and keep her looking up. You can hear I Won’t Give Up (9 Theory Remix) by clicking on the icon below or visiting my soundcloud page.
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.
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.
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