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.
Someone recently asked me, What are you like when you’re in love?
When I’m in love, I’m at my best. I feel strong. Willing to serve. Willing to share. I’m a better listener. And I’m able to give all of my attention to my work, as well as my relationship. Love makes me feel superhuman. After all, Love is what we as human’s do best. (see population explosion.)
In all my “research” on Love, I conclude it has nothing to do with partnership, that’s secondary. Love begins within. When you listen to the little voice in your head, or to the urge in your gut, and you obey it, you will likely lead yourself down the path which you were meant to travel all along. By ignoring your intuition or disobeying your dreams, one becomes stuck, the body grows heavy and tired with incompletion or defeat, and sadness finds it’s way into the movie of your life. When you let your heart lead you, Love triumphs and fills you with the experience of being happy and successful.
When you take action to live the life you truly wish to live, you become illuminated in love. You lose yourself entirely and become what in many religions call, a servant of God, or a servant of Love. Others will take note of your glow, either with attraction or envy, both of which inspire. And if partnership is on your wish list, it will find you. You will attract it with your walk and talk and worry-free demeanor.
This Valentine’s Day, worry not about impressing your crush or partner with a surprise gift. Let your gift be your invitation to create something together. You are after all, two bodies with one mind; two individuals on entirely different journeys who have agreed to stand side by side as you each grow, develop and unfold into the beings you were brought here to be. And if you’re not in a relationship, think of those people, pets or projects you love and give yourself to them.
The difference between vinyasa-flow and Bikram yoga is who I am after class. After a grounding flow class, if someone cuts me off, I calmly press on the brakes and let them go. After Bikram, if someone cuts me off, I toot my horn and call them an a-hole.
If we do not discipline ourselves, the world will do it for us.
– William Feather said that.
And it is so true. If we don’t take care of our bodies, sickness will arise and force us to reconsider our health. In the cold season it’s important to stay warm with soups, teas, comfort foods and cozy clothing. To catch a cold literally means that a certain part of the body will freeze, shut down, or get blocked, preventing overall energy from circulating properly. This weekend I am taking my last 4 of 86 total flights this year. Had I not had the discipline to manage my immune system, keeping hydrated, and avoiding all airline food, I doubt I would’ve maintained a clean bill of health for the duration.
Having an audience or someone else to live for always helps. Being love is being for others after all.
I can’t express enough how much I appreciate there being audiences to share with. I liken it to having a family to live for, or a garden to tend. You are needed, and that makes all the difference in the world. Audiences become my thousands of mothers, fathers, siblings, cousins, lovers and friends, all of whom call on me for love and support.
Concerts are agreements between myself and others to meet at a scheduled time and place to enjoy music together. Rough estimates tell us that we played live to nearly 1 million fans in 2012. Therefore I have a million reasons to be healthy, present, and prepared for our events; giving each crowd my very best. Whenever I come up short, I don’t sleep very well. It feels like the world is collapsing in on me, which then forces me to flex my muscles, get back on the horse, apologize, and/or grovel at the feet of my million masters, praying the game isn’t over and that I get to continue.
Discipline shouldn’t be rigid and boring though. After all, it’s meant to enhance life, not diminish it. Therefore it’s important for me to allow life to happen and avoid trying to control it. This means accepting all changes in the emotional landscape, accepting evolution and any expansion or retraction of ideas, having compassion for a constantly changing environment, and being patient, which is not about having an ability to wait, but more about how I act while I’m waiting. Allowing the world to be what it’s choosing to be is integral in balancing my otherwise strict routines. It keeps things interesting at least. A few years ago I tried locking myself in my house, thinking I could keep anything bad from entering the property. It worked, but I also felt I was keeping a lot of joy from entering as well. Discipline needs it’s allowances.
In my previous post, I shared my nervous experience onstage in Myanmar. Performance panic shows up in my life about once a month and I usually connect it to a lack of preparation. I went there thinking I could give the audience a similar show as I would give to any other city – thinking they deserved to see the same kind of show we would play to New York or Paris – but realized too late that it was a different beast altogether. The lessons I learned will only enrich all future performances as I now have a slightly better understanding how to approach a stage of that caliber.
Looking back, I had similar experiences when I first starting playing big stages; opening for Dave Matthews and The Rolling Stones for instance. On the first gigs I felt I was out of my league, almost resentful of my management for putting me there, but with experience and preparation I found I could coast right through it and make good use of my stage time, connecting from a grand stage as I would from an intimate corner of a coffee shop.
In 2013 I will not be traveling with Tricia, who’s been my partner in transformation, food guru and yoga teacher for many years. This means I will be required to be even more disciplined than ever, managing my own meals and yoga practice. (Thank you @BeingTricia for being a part of my life and amazing journey. I am incredibly grateful for you and how you tirelessly serve others. I will keep you in my heart and imagine you there still kicking my ass and making me laugh, and I will demonstrate my gratitude for your service by integrating into my life everything you’ve taught me about health, wellness and success.)
In Myanmar, the common greeting is Mingalabar, which means, “May you have auspiciousness or causes of success.” That is my wish for you this holiday season; that you have auspiciousness and many causes of success. May you know how much power you have in your breath, present in this moment and the next.
Thank you for reading. And thank you for your comments and additions. I appreciate them all.
Now sit back and enjoy this delightful holiday retrospective from my ancestors.