Categories
Creative process

Time Off

I’m taking a week off from blogging due to personal issues.   God willing, I’ll be back next Thursday.   Hope to see you all then.  

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Categories
Berkeley Homelessness Playwriting

Tuesday Tuneup 70

Q. What’s going on inside?

A. Composing.

Q. Composing what?

A. Music.

Q. This happens inside you?

A. Yes.

Q. But don’t you use music notation software?

A. I do.  But that’s for the notating of the stuff that’s already been composed.

Q. And it gets composed inside you?

A. Yes.

Q. But what if you don’t have music notation software?   Do you just write it down?

A. I could, but it makes my hand hurt.  Besides, I always lose the pieces of paper I write it on.  So I’m left with a hurting hand, and no record of the music.

Q. But you haven’t always had music notation software, have you?

A. Of course not.

Q. What did you do before music notation software?

A. Nothing. I just tried to remember it all.

Q. And then, when they finally came up with notation software, what did you do?

A. I didn’t get out of my bathrobe for about two weeks, and I bugged the heck out of the entire Finale tech support team.   I didn’t answer the phone or the door.   Everybody wondered what had become of me.   I sat inside my rented room in November of 2004 and didn’t stop notating until the entire 15 page piano vocal score of my song, “Where is Eden?” was arranged.

Hideout 20clipart | Clipart Panda - Free Clipart Images

Q. You wrote a song called “Where is Eden?”

A. Of course.

Q. What about when your laptops would be stolen, like say when you were homeless in Berkeley, what did you do then?

A. I replicated the various instrumental sounds on my body.

Q. Where did you do this?

A. Where do you think I did it?  I was homeless, wasn’t I?  I did it outdoors.

Q. So people saw you do this?

A. Yes.

Q. Wasn’t that kinda rude?

A. “Rude” comes with the territory.  “Vindictive” might be a better word.   

Q. How so?

A. I figured Berkeley was treating me like shit.   So I got back at Berkeley — in protest.

ugly

Q. But don’t you love Berkeley?

A. I most certainly do.

Q. Then why be vindictive or rude?

A. When in Rome, do as the Romans do.

Q. Are you saying the entire city was vindictive and rude?

A. Pretty much.  At least, in comparison to where I am now.

Q. What are they like where you are now?

A. Kind, courteous, considerate, compassionate, caring —

Q. Isn’t that how Berkeley used to be?

A. Yes.  And hopefully it’s how Berkeley will be in her future.

Q. Berkeley will no longer treat her own like shit?

A. Let’s hope not.  And I pray.   Berkeley has fallen.  But I believe Berkeley will rise again.

Q. Is there something special about Berkeley?

A. Yes.  Even in all its rudeness, violence, and hypocrisy.   There’s a spirit in Berkeley that, though it be quenched, cannot be killed.  And that spirit, ultimately, is of respect for all people.  It does not treat anyone like shit.

Q. How was Berkeley treating you like shit?

A. How do people in congested urban areas treat homeless people?

Q. But don’t homeless people in Berkeley treat people who live indoors like shit?

A. In Berkeley?   They sure do.  A lot of them do anyway.  And most of that is vindictiveness.   It’s hard to tell which came first — the chicken or the egg.  And of course, there are exceptions to the rule, on either side.

Q. So when you were writing music so flagrantly, weren’t you afraid people would steal it?

A. Of course.  That’s a fear all composers have.  But I have plenty of proof that I wrote the music.   And we’ll cross that bridge if and when we come to it.  Next question, please.

Q. Do you think people even knew you were writing music?

A. I tried to disguise it, but some people knew, I’m sure.

Q. How did you try to disguise it?

A. By acting crazy.

Q. Why did you act crazy?

A. So I would fit in with all the other crazy people, and not be conspicuous or stand out.  

Q. How did you act crazy?

A. I think I’ve told you already.  I walked around town, loudly singing melodies by going “bop bop bop,” playing drum beats on my pants legs, and playing keyboards and electric guitars in the air.

Q. What about the bass parts?

A. Oops, almost forgot.  I used my tummy.

Q. You think people figured you for crazy?

A. Crazy, or annoying, or both.   One time a fellow with a foreign accent emerged from a nearby store, and shouted back at me: “Bop Bop Bop Bop Bop!”  He did so in a very mocking way.

Q. How did you respond?

A. I turned to him and said: “If you were a composer, and you had no place to live, and your laptops were constantly being stolen by violent thugs on the streets, and you couldn’t access your music notation sofware, how would you compose music?”

Q. Then how did he respond?

A. He apologized.  He said: “Oh, I’m sorry, sir!  I did not know!”

Q. Did you ever explain what you were doing to anyone else?

A. Sometimes, to Americans.  But they never believed me.   The foreigner both challenged me, and believed my reply.   The Americans, every one of them, only told me I was crazy, and often told me to shut up.

Q. What about the cops?

A. They just waved at me.   They knew I was Andy — one of the local wingnuts — as they called them, and that I was harmless.

Q. Why are you releasing all this information?

A. Because I have recently begun to compose music again, after a long lull.   I felt that the music, composed internally, was actually coming from an invisible external realm.  But it seemed to depend upon homelessness.  When I got inside, I couldn’t compose anymore.  I have composed one and only one song since I got inside, a song called Anthem.  I sequenced it with Finale software.   It was difficult for me, and then I gave up.   

Q. But now you can compose?

A. Yes. It took three and a half years, but I got it back.  And it’s also coming from an external realm, but being processed inside of me.

Q. Is the external realm — the Beyond?   The place you described in Tuesday Tuneup 68?

A. No.  The stuff I wrote in Berkeley came from Beyond.

Q. What about this stuff?

A. It’s from Above.

Q. What’s the difference?

A. A very good question, that.

The Questioner is silent.   

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Categories
Artist gratitude Musician running Writer

Gratitude List 1397

This morning’s daily gratitude.

(1) Though I slept only four hours sporadically, I did get a solid afternoon nap yesterday and also have confidence I’ll sleep more deeply at some point in the near future.   I’m grateful for a light schedule these days that doesn’t hassle me or make me too uptight, and I’m always thankful for the power of needed sleep.

(2) Grateful to have a nice quiet apartment to myself, where I can enjoy the quiet hours of darkness before the dawn, and usually get a lot of writing done, unhindered by interruptions from others.

(3) Nice to hear the rain pitter-pattering outside my window.   After so many years of sleeping outdoors, it’s nice to be inside.

(4) The six-piece praise ensemble at my church really did an outstanding job premiering my first-ever worship song, “I Want to Worship You,” yesterday.  They were so gentle and genuine with it, I was so honored for them to have selected it.   They put their hearts into it, and I was blessed.

(5) I’ve been faithful to meditate twenty minutes daily, with a few days off here and there.  It’s helping me to effect a better balance in life, and not be so self-destructively driven in the area of creative output.  Also, a local math professor gifted me with a copy of The Cloud of Unknowing in contemporary English.   That’s the book that influenced my pastor’s meditative practice, and it’s helping to inform mine, as well.   

(6) I also just found a free pdf of the book Please Understand Me online.  Eager to delve back into David Kiersey’s unique Myers-Briggs type descriptions, from which I learned so much in the 90’s.

(7) Today marks three and a half years that I have lived indoors after many years of struggling on the San Francisco Bay Area streets.  I’ve paid my rent on time every month, and have mostly lived alone here, with a few house guests here and there.   Between my music and writing gigs, and a healthy retirement income from the government, I have not had to suffer for bread.  Everybody thought I was going to die a pathetic, meaningless death in a gutter.  And now, in the midst of life’s trials and setbacks,  I am nonetheless happier than I have ever been in my life.

(8) Been walking about seven miles a day lately, briskly.  I even did fifteen push-ups in a single set the other day.  I’m thinking I can get by on running just twice a week, and still do the Eugene Half Marathon in April.  It will be a rush to run at sea level again after training at such a high altitude here in North Idaho.

(9) Very grateful for the community of artists, writers, and musicians that I prayed for so desperately for so many years, when I had found myself instead surrounded by hustlers, hookers, and thieves.   The community has come together even more in the wake of the death of a dear friend — a musician named Paul — one of the most vibrant and magnanimous people I have ever met.   He will be remembered in his glaring absence at the Open Mike on Friday.   May Paul Anders rest in the same joy and peace he brought to us all.

(10) God is Love.  

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Categories
Christ Christianity Psychology

A Way in the Wilderness

Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past. 
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up;
do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland.
— Isaiah 43:18-19

 

Categories
Artist Creative process Musical Piano

Troubled Water

My improvisations toward — and away from — the classic themes of “Bridge Over Troubled Water” by Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel.   Unlike recent recordings done with an iPhone 10, this one was made using my pastor Norman’s old Motorola.   It gives it a nice effect — I hope you like it.   

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Categories
Homelessness Music Spirituality

Dangers of Liberation (Part Four)

This is the fourth in a seven-part series I am posting on consecutive Thursdays.  Though the series is only quasi-chronological, I urge you to leaf through the first three first.  

Soren Kierkegaard (1813-1855) Drawing by Granger

The Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard referred to the moment, not as “an atom of time,” but as an “atom of eternity.”  That’s how the moment of August 8, 2006 felt.  One might say that time stood still at that moment, and I had a glimpse of the eternal bliss we might experience in heaven.

This is one reason why I framed this series as I did.   A chronological order of events would not be as meaningful as a spiritual progression, which in a way defies time.  My first day of homelessness was not August 8, 2006 — it was May 17, 2004.  But the night of May 17, 2004 was a night of fright and awful uncertainty, afraid to make myself prone on a bench at the Burlingame CalTrain station, but sitting up all night, nodding off periodically, and watching for cops all the while.

By contrast, the event of August 8, 2006 was one of momentary ecstasy, but where did that moment lead?  Down the tubes fairly quickly, as I recall.  Its memory, however, did not fade.

That memory was in fact felt in retrospect.  For on March 19, 2004, I took a look at my badly beaten car, its front end crunched like an accordion.   As I discovered the freedom of public transportation, of leaving the driving to those more capable than myself, I was granted a foreshadow of the more complete liberation I would know two years in the future.

The horror that marked my final three years in Berkeley was also foretold.  It wasn’t until June 24, 2013 that I first found myself pistol-whipped, as I watched a pair of young hooligans making off with my laptop.   But on some unknown date back in June of 2004, I had known a much more serious violation, of the kind that in civil society it is not thought proper to discuss.

The complex confluence of incongruous influences that comprised the conditions of homelessness was never considered a drain or an overload, in the way that the Mainstream had been.  The overload of the Mainstream was death to my soul. But all the excesses of stimuli that combined to create the Homeless Adventure were health to my spirit, and marrow to my bones.

“Naked I am!” I shouted.  “I am stripped of all I have ever thought I would be!  I have made myself naked and vulnerable in the face of a fully mercurial and often hostile Universe!”

I saw all my possessions be burned to bits before my eyes, the act of an unfeeling young juggaloe who hadn’t slept in days.   I was hurled to the ground by deluded gangbangers, shouting “I’m going to kill you White Motherf—-r!” — as they hit me again and again with the barrels of their guns, on the head I had bowed before them.

Yet through all these atrocities, I found it in myself to sleep on my back without bedroll in a thunderstorm, exerting pelvic thrusts in the direction of the full moon, and reveling.

“Bring it on!” I screamed.  “I want more!  I want more!!”

Then, getting up, fully clad and with shoes on — (for I always slept in shoes, so as to be ready) — I suddenly shivered.   So what did I do?   Of course, I ran as far as I could, as fast as I could, till I warmed.

When the sun shone, and the daylight burned, I walked about the City of Berkeley and composed music in protest, having not paper nor pen, neither software, nor laptop, no possessions at all, save the clothes on my back.

“Bop bop bop!” came the singing of the melodies.   My weathered trousers were as sets of drums.   Keyboards and electric guitars anointed the air, while passersby mocked and mimicked me, shouting: “Shut the f—k up!”  Meanwhile, seemingly unbeknowst to them, I composed the score to Eden in Babylon— to my proud estimation, the finest music I have written thus far, to date — in the timeless spool of life.

“That’s your whole problem!” my naysayers chided.  “You think that your music is more important than God.”

“Ah but no,” I replied.  “It’s your problem.  You think that your Mainstream is God.”

There was nothing Mainstream about the Uniqueness that was Homelessness in Berkeley.  So for all of the fears, the highs, and the rages, it yet remained sacred — to me.

“How do we get inside again?” my friend Jerome had earlier queried.   “How do we get back inside, and yet not get sucked back into the Mainstream?”

In search of answer, I shouted at the Most High in outrage.

“WHY am I hanging around pimps and hookers and drug dealers and thieves and criminals and hustlers and panhandlers?   WHY am I not among Artists and Writers and Musicians and Actors and Directors — and people more like myself!?  I know — I know — these are the people whom JESUS hung out with!   But I’m NOT JESUS!!! I’m NOT JESUS!!  I’m only f—ing human!!!  Give me a god-d—–d break!!!!”

Many times did I scream to the God of my youth.  Many times someone screamed back at me: “Would you just shut the f—-k up?!”

Then came the terrifying threats of the night.  “This guy,” said a jealous man, pointing my way, “is not going to live much longer.”

“You know what?” I told myself.  “He’s probably right.”

So on June 24, 2016, exactly three years after the first of a series of violent assaults against my person, I went down to Bill’s Computer Store on Shattuck Avenue, bought myself a refurbished Dell laptop with my government check, and walked quietly away from the City of Berkeley without saying a word.

God then proceeded to answer every prayer I had hurled toward Him, facing His Infinite Love with hatred and vitriol.   He answered those prayers sevenfold, nay — seventy times sevenfold — in spades.   And He provided a way for me to live inside without getting sucked back into the evils of the Mainstream.   In so doing, He showed me the hugeness of His unfathomable, unconditional love.  

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Categories
journalism Social Media social statement

My Story on Cancel Culture Published in the Spokesman

I had the honor this month of being the guest columnist in the Faith and Values section of the Spokesman-Review, the main newspaper of the city of Spokane, Washington.   The story may be found online here, and a verbatim transcript is below.  

CaptureWhat is cancel culture? In a nutshell, it’s a subculture that consists of people who have eliminated other people from their lives, based on perceptions of their having behaved inappropriately. Those who perform these eliminations also encourage others to eliminate them as well, on the grounds that their offenses are irredeemable, and so no one should have to tolerate them.

None of us particularly relish the futility of arguing against someone’s egregious conduct. But the problems with advocating such a full-fledged “cancellation” of another human being are ultimately more serious than those which arise from that person’s unacceptable behavior in the first place.

On October 29, speaking at an Obama Foundation event, the former president declared: “Among certain young people, and this is accelerated by social media, there is this sense sometimes of: ‘The way of me making change is to be as judgmental as possible about other people’ and that’s enough.”

That’s not activism,” Obama went on. “That’s not bringing about change. If all you’re doing is casting stones, you’re probably not going to get that far.”

It’s interesting that Obama stresses how this phenomenon is propelled by social media. I’ve often been aghast at what people get away with on social media that they couldn’t do in their real, non-wired lives – such as block someone from a group and still participate in that group. In real life, this wouldn’t be possible. You’d either attend the group or not. You wouldn’t be able to simply render yourself invisible to somebody you don’t want to deal with.

But when it comes to cancel culture, people come close to doing just that. Those who have been “cancelled” are not only blocked on social media, but in every aspect of their lives. From that moment on, there is no prospect for redemption on the part of the offenders. They are like condemned buildings, destroyed by the wrecking ball. And who has condemned them? Fallible human beings, who may later find themselves condemned as well.

What about the First Amendment? An open debate over difficult differences is a touchstone of democracy. As Obama said in a speech to college students, as early as 2015: “Anybody who comes to speak to you and you disagree with, you should have an argument with them, but you shouldn’t silence them by saying you can’t come because I’m too sensitive to hear what you have to say.”

What is at the root of such a twisted culture? In a certain light, it can be seen as just another instance of our human urge to seek personal glory at the expense of the greater good. When someone succeeds in calling out an adversary, of course that person feels exalted. As Obama explained: “If I tweet or hashtag about how you didn’t do something right or used the wrong verb, then I can sit back and feel pretty good about myself.”

The idea of removing others from our sight is not something that serves humanity on the whole. It’s self-serving. And it’s been around for a long time. People used to be “banished” in the Middle Ages. Even today, how often do we walk past scores of homeless people on the sidewalks, and act as though they don’t exist?

In my view, we could all open our eyes just a little bit more, and start doing the small things for others that will gradually help us to rebuild a broken society. If we don’t, historically speaking, something will happen to open our eyes for us. And those events have not normally been very pretty.

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Categories
Berkeley Creative process philosophy

Tuesday Tuneup 69

Q. What’s going on inside?

A. Processing, as always.

Q. Processing thoughts?

A. Yes.

Q. Where are these thoughts formed?

A. In the mind.

Q. Not in the brain?

A. No.  They are processed in the brain, but formed in the mind.

Q. And where is the mind?

A. In the Beyond.

Q. Head in the clouds, I see.   So what else happens to thoughts in the mind?

A. Glad you asked.   Besides thought formation, three other activities occur, as pertain to thought.

Q. What are they?

A. Identification, application, and preservation.

Q. How is a thought identified?

A. When it is completed and defined.  You see, all thoughts have the power to merge with other thoughts.  When two thoughts merge, they become a new thought consisting of a composite of the original two thoughts.  Similarly, three or more thoughts may merge, and affix themselves onto other thought forms, and become still newer thoughts.  There is thus no end to the number of thoughts that can be formed.   But at some certain time, one puts a stop to it.

Q. One?

A. One’s will, that is.  One wills the thought merging to stop and defines a certain conglomerate of thoughts as a single thought by identifying it.

Q. Identifying?

A.  Yes.  By naming it — by giving it a name of its own.

Q. Who is the One who does this?

A. Whoever first thought it up.  Ultimately, God.  God is the one whose will is operative in Universal Mind.   But we humans also assign names to thoughts.   After all, we were created in His image, and granted that initiative.

Q. So once the thought is fully formed, it is then identified?

A. Correct.

Q. Then what?

A. It is applied.

Q. Meaning?

A. It is sent to a thought-container where it may be put to use.

Q. Is the human brain a thought-container?

A. Yes.  It’s not the only thought-container, but it’s one of them.

Q. Then what happens to the thought?

A. It is preserved.

Q. Who does the preserving?

A. Many sentient entities have this power.  But the only one who does it perfectly is God.  Others preserve it only impermanently.

Q. Why does this remind of me of something?

A. Probably because you work with computers, and you see the parallel.

Q. The parallel?

A. Yes.  Thoughts formed in the mind often wind up in files, where they merge with other thought forms until the file is named; that is, identified.   These identified thoughts are then applied by sending them into folders.   The folders and then saved — that is, preserved, on the cloud.

Q. Is the brain then therefore a computer?

A. Yes.  It’s quite like a hard drive — a central processing unit.  

Q. But the mind is not?

A. No.  The mind, at its core, is divine.  It exists in an intangible realm of the Spirit.

Q. This is what’s called the Beyond?

A. It can be called that, yes.

Q. Why do you back off?

A. I am often hesitant to use misleading labels.  Even speaking of Universal Mind would peg me a theosophist, which I am not.

Q. You’re a Christ Follower, aren’t you?

A. I try to be.

Q. Then why does this information strike me as —

A. As?

Q. I can’t quite tell you.

A. Then I can’t quite answer.  But probably what you’re picking up is that this has nothing to do with good and evil; that is, with morality.   And morality is what is commonly associated with the Christian faith.

Q. Is that common knowledge fallacious?

A. Not at all.  But it’s only part of it.  The Word of God has a lot to do with precise language, with the meanings of names.  Words associated with the Christian faith have meanings that are often misunderstood.

Q. Like what?

A. Like sin, for example.  Most people don’t know what sin actually means, and they shy away from the concept.

Q. Another example?

A. Faith.   St. Paul says “whatsoever is not of faith is sin.”  But if one has a false idea of faith —  or of sin — that statement will be misinterpreted.

Q. When did you learn all this?

A. In the year 2012.

Q. Where were you when you learned this?

A. Berkeley.

Q. How do you know all this?

A. I’d like to save that answer for later — if you don’t mind.

The Questioner is silent. 

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Categories
Christianity gratitude journalism running

Gratitude List 1385

This week’s gratitude list is from last Thursday morning, the 16th.  

1. Slept 6 hrs from 9 till 3, deeply w/dreams.

2. I’m gettting to read Proverbs 16 (my favorite chapter) this morning, with 16:7, my favorite verse.

3. My piece on Cancel Culture is being published in The Spokesman.  I have to edit out 300 words to meet their requirements, and it’s due tomorrow. But I can do it. It’s a priority, as The Spokesman is the major newspaper of the 2nd largest city in the State of Washington.

4. It dawned on me during Bible Project that I would probably think more clearly and have less anxiety if I ate a little more properly.   So I resolved to start with eight forms of food that I read are good for people with ADHD in that they adjust dopamine levels in the brain: milk, eggs, fish, strawberries, apples, bananas, almonds and dark chocolate.

5. Ran 1.2 miles from the church to my landlord’s office to Ace Hardware in spikes & street clothes in 24F weather with the wind on my back, nice brisk run. Ran/walked 1.8 back against the wind, since Ace couldn’t copy my mail key and I had to go to the locksmith in the mall on 3rd Street. Good exercise. (Gives “running errands” a new meaning.)

6. Looks like it’s 31F degrees and less snow on ground. I can probably do a significant run this morning, yesterday’s jaunt being a warm-up.

7. Good Folger’s coffee at my own home out of my own Black & Decker coffee maker. Grateful for this place and for the amazing way it came together without my having to pay a deposit or them runing a credit or background chack, thanks be to God and Young Paul, the college graduate whose lease I took over.  Grateful to finally be no longer surrounded by tweakers, in life.

8. Got my daughter’s youtube of her song “Sparrows” from the open mike at the Starry Plough, a work of genius.

9. Got the Street Spirit check and 3 complimentary papers, along with a Happy New Years and a thank you from the editor-in-chief.  Also, John C. paid me the $10 he owed me on a Suspended CD, so I made $35, which ought to cover the utilities bill.

10. Excited about my theology group tonight, which will be on Martin Luther King and Gandhi. I’ve got three writing deadlines before Friday, and this will be a welcome restbit. God is Good.

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Categories
Classism Psychology scripture

The Plight of the Poor

All the brothers of a poor man hate him—
how much more do his friends avoid him!
He may pursue them with pleading,
but they are nowhere to be found.
— Proverbs 19:7