New Lyrics Update

In a certain school of thought having to do with musical theatre, the composer-lyricist writes the music first — having a general idea what the song will be about — and then writes the lyrics second.

I’ve talked to a lot of singer-songwriters who think this is totally backwards, But there’s a method to the musical theatre mania.

Cole Porter was one such composer. All those great tunes — “My Heart Belongs to Daddy,” “Night and Day,” even “Love for Sale” — were once instrumental pieces of music with no lyrics whatsoever. I am of his school of thought. If I were to write the lyrics first, the music would suffer. I would be trying to squeeze music to previously provided lyrics. As a composer, it would seem as though it wasn’t even my own music. The lyrics would also suffer, because they wouldn’t have the benefit of there being good music already prepared to match them.

Now, I realize that my argument is illogical such far, because I have made no effort to demonstrate the primacy of music over lyrics in the little world of musical theatre that lives inside my head.

Therefore, I can only make too more-or-less empirical observations:

(1) I very much enjoy finding lyrics that match my previously composed music. Yesterday I did it twice — I finally wrote lyrics to “I Know Who You Are” and “Bone of My Bones” — two songs whose music I wrote in Berkeley in 2016. And Keva’s going to sing them, and I’m jazzed.

(2) Whenever I have written a musical play, people invariably report that among the three main components of a musical theatre libretto — book, music & lyrics — the lyrics are the best. With The Burden of Eden, for example, people mostly said: “Lyrics are outstanding, script is very good, music is kinda so-so.” For Eden in Babylon, it was mostly: “Music is great, script seems all right, but man those lyrics!”

Now I don’t want to toot my own horn here, but if there were ever a renaissance of a culture that had an appreciation for traditional musical theatre mores, I would be right there. Since there isn’t, I just want to thank everyone who has purchased our Keva album, and let you know that the lead sheets to “Bone of My Bones” and “I Know Who You Are” are in her inbox, as we speak.

Two down, three to go.

Keva Album Update

Here’s the situation on the album Keva & I are releasing.  You can hear the first song “Time Will Tell” without paying for it.  But you can only hear it three times for free.  To download it, you have to pay $3 USD for it.

If you download it, you will also receive full lyrics to each song, as well as a brief history of the songs — when they were written, who else has performed them, and so forth.

You can click on the thumbnail to get the entire album.   

Right now there are five tunes on it, all for $10.  Ultimately, there will be ten songs on it.  If you buy it now, you get all ten songs for the same ten bucks.  If you wait until all the songs are on it, you may have to pay more than ten bucks.

Finally, if you wish to pay more than $3/song and $10/album, feel free. Many of us are strapped these days, however, so I can understand if you don’t. But I hope you will kindly consider supporting this endeavor at this time.

Gratitude List 1796

(1) Sleeping much better lately, including an eight hour bout last night. This may be due to my exercise program. The four mile run on Wednesday was particularly exhilarating, and three mile brisk walks before bedtime have helped as well.

(2) I have 153 subscribers on my YouTube Channel now. (Last I checked it was just over 100.) This is motivating me to practice more regularly on the grand piano at the church, and also invest in some new duds. (Getting more plays on my SoundCloud too).

(3) Had a great experience playing at a nursing home yesterday afternoon (an ongoing volunteer gig that Cody landed for me). Exchanged numbers with the pastor, who had just ran a half-marathon and whose Christian leanings are akin to my own. Also got the number of the lady who runs the program, a widow whose husband was involved in Theatre Arts at WSU, and who herself is a musical theatre choreographer. Turns out she shares my philosophy.

(4) Keva & I are both jazzed about doubling the size of the current BandCamp album. I’ve been writing lyrics to some of the music I wrote in Berkeley, and this one tune is coming out quite nicely. It’s jazzy and suits her voice. Haven’t done this kind of lyric-writing in a while. It’s been a rush to get back in the groove.

(5) I often get a little tear in my eye when I think about the Kids. They could have just gone their way after the workshop and had nothing further to do with me. But they didn’t. And now that we’re not under any particular pressure, I find all the relationships to be much more rewarding. God is Good.

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.

New Album (Me & Keva)

If anyone wants to support us, click here and take it from there. For $10+ USD, you’re not only getting the five tunes currently on the album, you get the next five for free. Or $3+ per song.

I wrote all five of these songs in the 70’s except for “Daylight” whose music I wrote in 1982 with lyrics added in 2018. Histories of each song are included with the album, along with lyrics to all songs.

The next five songs will consist of stuff I wrote between 2013 and 2016 in Berkeley. It will be a month or more before they are released. So you’re getting a sneak preview.

I’ve removed all free versions from everywhere, except for one YouTube of “Time Will Tell” that’s been widely distributed and well-received.

Please consider supporting this endeavor at this time.

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.

Barriers Toward Escaping Homelessness

This Wednesday’s podcast is a recording of a Zoom meeting held on October 1, 2021 involving Amber Peace, the Recovery and Special Programs Coordinator of the Latah Recovery Center in Moscow Idaho; Shaun Hogan, the Crisis Services and Volunteer Coordinator of the Center, April Hawley, an LRC employee, two young students named Laura and Ashley from Lewis & Clark State College, and myself.  All incidental music is from The Burden of Eden © 1994-2008 by Andrew Michael Pope.

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.

Gratitude List 1795

(1) I found double-sided tape at the dollar store which makes it really easy to post all these positive reminders on the wall facing my desk. The positive reminders say things like:

— In your anger, do not sin
— Don’t be overcome by evil, but overome evil with good.
— Run Read Rest Recover
— Create Beautiful Things
— Don’t Postpone Positive

These reminders are incredibly helpful, whilst I work.

(2) Yesterday I really freaked out when I thought I had washed a pair of pants with my wallet in them and that both pants & wallet had been stolen from the laundry room. When I finally stopped freaking out and decided to go into town anyway, I casually reached for a pair of socks in the top dresser drawer and discovered that I had unconsciously neatly folded the pair of pants (with washed wallet as well), and placed them beneath all the socks and underwear. Needless to say, I was really grateful. (All the cards still work, too.)

(3) I went downtown to pay my rent yesterday and learned a great lesson while I lingered. The downtown situation increases my anxiety so hugely it’s best to avoid it as much as possible. I again found myself taking my mask on and off neurotically depending on whom I thought was judging me which way. As I rode away from downtown and hit the trail on my bicycle, the glaringly bright sky immediately turned to a mellow pastel, and my spirit was soothed in a way reminiscent of San Francisco.

(4) Another great lesson was learned last night as I found myself stressing over the podcast soon to be released, again running counter to the ideal of maintaining a quiet life in my retirement. Abandoning the anxiety, I took a brisk three mile walk between nine and ten at night. On my return, my spirit was at peace — and I more-or-less magically knew how to make the podcast better!

(5) The first podcast involving staff members of the Latah Recovery Center discussing the barriers faced by homeless people will be posted at high noon today. Don’t miss it! I have never encountered anything like it, in all my day.

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.

Gratitude List 1794

(1) This coffee tastes really good this morning.  I invest in Seattle’s Best Portside Blend, and try to make it just right.  A decent cup of coffee really gets the day started on the right foot.

(2) Slept seven hours solid last night, the most sleep I’ve achieved in a single shot for a while.  A good night’s sleep has a way of making me feel “normal.”

(3) Started my new church job officially yesterday.   Played my first service at the United Church.  It went seamlessly.  Also I really enjoyed Jodie’s sermon.  Tuning into her, I realized she has a great gift.  That’s always been the best part of a church piano job — the part where I get to leave the piano bench, take a seat in the pews, and listen to the pastor’s sermon.  I also am happy to find that, after all these years, my sight-reading skills are still intact.  Moreover, the congregation truly appreciated me.

(4) Interestingly, Ian from our circle also started his new job yesterday — as the pianist at First Presbyterian Church.  I am happy to have been able to help First Pres find a piano player, and very happy to have been instrumental (no pun intended) in helping Ian land his first job.

(5) On Friday, I participated in a Zoom meeting involving two staff members from the recovery center, a Center employee who is currently homeless, and myself, as we addressed the concerns of two students from the State College who were curious why health care is so challenging for homeless people to attain.   It evolved into a much broader discussion on the theme of homeless rights.  I excitedly found the time to edit it for this Wednesday’s podcast, adding introductory music at the beginning and inspirational music at the end.   Best of all, I left the meeting with a renewed sense of hope.  And I enter the new week with focus. 

Great effort is required to arrest decay and restore vigor. One must exercise proper deliberation, plan carefully before making a move, and be alert in guarding against relapse following a renaissance.
— Horace

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.

Gratitude List 1793

(1) For the first time, I received a substantial donation to Eden in Babylon from a name I did not recognize. Maybe that’s a sign that things are looking up.

(2) This is the most consistent I’ve been with running since I moved to Idaho. I did 2 1/2 miles last night, 2 1/2 miles two nights before that, and 4 miles the previous morning. I’m sure I’ve lost significant weight, though have not yet been to a scale.

(3) Got another column published. I’m grateful to have been given the opportunity to express my thoughts as to how some aspects of Christendom in contemporary American culture are extremely off-base.

(4) Am officially signing a W-4 and beginning my new job at the United Church next Sunday. Yesterday was Cody’s last day. I provided special music, and we had a ceremony afterwards in which Cody’s five years as their pianist was honored. The anxious fire that incessantly burns within me was once again soothed by the spirit of love and peace that prevails over this most accepting church.

(5) Zazen committed to a month’s worth of vocal coaching and I have my first official private music student since moving to Idaho. It’s wonderful how many new possibilities have opened up in my retirement, to permit me to do the work that I most love.

Hard work is painful when life is devoid of purpose. But when you live for something greater than yourself and the gratification of your own ego, then hard work becomes a labor of love.
— Steve Pavlina

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.

About Who to Ask for What

This is a completely spontaneous request of my readers to give me feedback on a delicate issue.

When I was homeless, I spoke the words “can you spare some change?” exactly once. From the reaction of the two men walking past me, I told myself instantly I would never put myself through that awful combination of guilt, shame, embarrassment, and anger again.

From that moment on, I either busked or sat silently flying a sign which read:

BROKE AND HOMELESS
OFTEN HUNGRY
PLEASE HELP IF YOU CAN

If I had it together well enough to busk (e.g., had a musical instrument I could keep from getting stolen or from the fear thereof), I would sometimes make up to $100, and on one unusual occasion got $100 for a single song (that I was singing while playing drums on my pants legs). The guy who gave me the $100 (a Ben Franklin) later turned out to be a street dealer suspecting me of being a “meth-head” and looking for a customer.

I never talked to him again and in fact $60 was stolen from me later that evening. (I didn’t like to keep cash on me because it would get around, and one of the local alcoholics had witnessed the deal from nearby.)

I don’t think anyone particularly likes to ask for money in any context. I feel weird about even having a donate button sometimes. But there is a parallel between “flying a sign” and a “donate button.” In each case, I am not verbally requesting money. I am only presenting the fact that I would like some.

I know some fairly well-off people in town here, who will testify to the truth that I have never asked any of them for money for personal needs, although they have seen the “donate” button on my blogs and newsletters.

What are your feelings about asking for money? On the one hand, I don’t like to go through that awful sensation. On the other hand, I sometimes think that — given my circumstances — I am just too afraid to ask.

I also do ask God sometimes for money, and sometimes later on somebody gives me some money, sometimes even the exact figure I asked for. This leads me to believe that God probably wants me to ask Him first, no matter what choice I make later. But those events are far and few between. God doesn’t just dish out the dough like a sugar daddy.

Matthew 6:33

Gratitude List 1792

(1) Had a nice talk yesterday with my dear friend Holly in California.   Hadn’t touched base for several months, and it was good to hear from her.   Nice to have friends.

(2) Though I am still as spaced out as ever, and though my spacey nature continues to inconvenience me, I have noticed that I am much more content with being a total space case now that I no longer have a bunch of hard deadlines to meet.  It’s a lot easier to accept the fact that it’s taking over an hour to find your smartphone when you don’t really need it.

(3) Though the morning started off with a strange blast of forgetting to put the filter in the coffee maker and ultimately getting coffee grounds all over the kitchen, the good news is that it gave me the final burst of motivation I needed to attack the dirty dishes in the sink.   (Coffee tastes pretty good, too.)

(4) There’s a 50/50 chance on a paid composer gig for a new musical.   The other guy being considered is a pretty huge Broadway guy, so I might not get it.   But that guy might also not be interested in the material. He’s looking over the script right now, and if he declines, I’ll get the gig.   I got jazzed talking with the playwright about it — and “jazzed” is usually a good sign, when it comes to this sort of endeavor.

(5) Ran unusually fast yesterday.  Joined the Palouse Running Club.   I want to be as earnest about it as I was when I was President of the North Bay Chapter of the Christian Runners Association back in the 80’s – just older, wiser and stronger — God willing.  His blessings abound.  The LORD is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear?   The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?  I will offer Him sacrifices with shouts of joy.  I will sing and make melody to the LORD.

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.

Gratitude List 1791

(1) Beautiful weather following a much-needed rain.   Bright, crisp & fresh.   This will be a nice day for a long bike ride and maybe a jog down the Latah Trail.

(2) Caught up on my sleep, this doppio tastes great at the One World Cafe, with cinnamon roll.

(3) Decided on what five songs from Eden in Babylon to use for the demo and have posted them here for free, and in a more elaborate and costly form on BandCamp. With script & score essentially intact, I feel that our ongoing workshop has been a success.  Grateful to be feeling greatly relieved of a huge perceived burden attached to preparing this musical for production.

(4) It looks like I do have the job and have actually officially been hired.  Pastor Jodie hired me to be the pianist for the United Church, replacing Cody who is departing on October 1st.   I provided special music this Sunday — an improvisation around the main theme from Finlandia by Sibelius, seemingly suggested by the profound yet gentle spirit in the pews that morning, and very well-received.

(5) Crafting a new stage in life of spending about twice as much time outdoors, exercising about twice as much as before, and spending about half as much time behind the computer screen (or playing with the new-fangled smartphone device) — so far so good.    It’s not so much how much I am able to accomplish, but the quality of life in the process.   Thankful for freedom, rightly applied.

“If everyone is thinking alike, then no one is thinking.”
—  Benjamin Franklin

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.

Zazen’s Version of “Secrets”

You may not have caught this earlier. I’m not sure how widely it was distributed on or around January 22nd of this year, when it was first created.  I recall being critical of my accompaniment at the time in a way, and I believe that was my reservation..  In any event, such petty grievances are immaterial to the outstanding performance of Zazen Matossian on “Secrets” from my musical, The Burden of Eden.  

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.

Gratitude List 1790

(1) Running is actually going well this time, and I don’t sense I’m going to slip into another slump. I’m actually keeping it up, still losing weight, and becoming more efficient and effective in my day to day life.

(2) I’m nowhere near as gluttonous as I was about a year ago.. Though I haven’t been to a scale, the reason I know is because the prices if I buy a meal at the Co-Op — which are determined by weight — keep getting lower and lower. What used to look like a decent full meal would sometimes cost me $12. Now it’s more like $6 or even $4, though my perception of what constitutes a “full meal” has not changed. Therefore, I am eating smaller and smaller portions of all meals I eat, and I cannot help but lose the unneeded weight.

(3) Tracy published a column of mine in her “Understanding Prayer” series. She chose the image, headline and sub headers, all other words are my own. I think both of us did a fairly decent job. Also, my friend Danielle has been contracted to write for the site as well. I’m about halfway through the first draft of a new column about which I am excited, and I am very grateful to have the opportunity to write for this site.

(4) The summer workshop is officially complete, and I count it a success. Web site is being redesigned to place greater focus on the submission of this musical, and the demo is already up and live.

(5) A departing pianist at a church position has recommended me to replace him. It’s not a 100% shoo-in, but it looks good. Just the fact that my name would even be brought up in such a context is a far cry from my previous life on the streets of Berkeley California. I have a lot to be grateful for today, if I really stop and take a look at it.

“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, they are a new creation. The former things have passed away; all things are are becoming new.” – 2 Corinthians 5:17

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.

G-List Counting

This is a bit anal, but I really wish I could figure out where I started counting wrong in these gratitude lists. There’s a whole series of lists in the 1600’s and all of a sudden we’re in the 1500’s.

Knowing me, what I probably did at some point was mix up two digits, not notice it, and proceed. While I truly do wish I could figure it all out, there’s something unnervingly OCD about a guy who needs to number all his gratitude lists.

Maybe that’s the inherent life lesson that always resides in all our weird worldly experiences. If I never figure it out in this world, God will know once we get up to heaven. Then again, once we’re in heaven, why would we care?

Gratitude List 1573

(1) New backpack finally arrived today after an unusually long delay.   I can now look forward to riding my bicycle with laptop safely secured in backpack, and alighting upon some of the local cafes.  There, I have found some very pleasant situations, conducive both to work and mild social interaction. Sure beats pacing the floor at home all day, occasionally striking a key or dragging a mouse (in between making sandwiches, taking naps, and that sort of thing.)  Atmosphere is important — and a backpack paves the way to get me there.

(2) Have been steadily losing weight — I can tell — though I’ve not yet been to the scale to see if I’ve dropped below 200 yet.  Just now finished a night run of 2 miles, and I clearly felt lighter than the last time I ran (ten days ago).

(3) Beautiful weather here today – sunny, breezy, not too hot, clear air.   Out and about for a good portion of the day, I noticed that people I encountered were in good moods, smiling.

(4) Meetings with Kurt and Ian went well today.   Interesting about Kurt, that he’s not just an intellect, he’s an intellect with an agenda.  His agenda doesn’t differ widely from my own, however, which tends to give our discussions a sense of mutual purpose.   I’m learning a lot from that particular intellect.

(5) Despite my sometime complaint, I really am very grateful for my apartment.   It’s the first time in years I’ve been able to sustain a decent living situation for as long as I have.   It’s definitely not to be taken for granted, nor should it be easily forsaken.  Though I think about moving a lot, I feel that the changes I would best make at this point are internal.   When I improve what’s inside me, what’s outside has a way of taking care of itself.   Things always look brighter through a polished lens.

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.

Gratitude List 1571

(1) Although I lost my wallet yesterday, I was impressed that when I went to cancel my debit card at the bank, they were able to issue a new one right on the spot. So I’ve already replaced one of the cards. I’m also appreciative of its being a small town, in this case. At least they know me at the bank and I didn’t have to go through a big to-do in order to verify my identity.

(2) Exercise has been going well except for that all the bicycling has my legs very heavy, thus making it harder to run. I did get up to four miles last Friday but have not run since. However, I’m grateful for the inherent message; to wit, I better start stretching. Just stretched my quads and already my legs feel more limber. Thank God for walking, bicycling, running & push-ups. I find it to be a great balance, though I have to go easy on the cycling (since it’s the laziest — it’s a little too easy to replace walking or running with it, on the spot, on the fly.)

(3) We recorded Urban Elegy at the church on Sunday and then proceeded to a cast party at an ice cream place. The Elegy is actually the 6th song in a supposedly 5-song demo soon to be posted, and the only one not done with studio equipment and engineering. Haven’t heard back from the Kids about it, but I’m working behind-on-scenes on a way to get a real studio version rendered (just in case they want to do it over again, for some reason). Anyway, I’m grateful for these Kids – for their devotion, and for the fun we had afterwards at the party.

(4) Managed to complete a column for the Understanding Prayer series on the religion-related news site I write for. Had me working on into Saturday — but I did take a chill day yesterday, for which I am grateful.

(5) I seem to be in pretty good spirits today, all things considered. I noticed as I rode my bike out for errands that it’s an unusually gorgeous day. I’m taking today to slowly redesign the web site in order mostly to promote my musical. Grateful for new high speed Spectrum Internet at the same monthly cost as the old DSL that wasn’t working too well; and grateful for a good coffee maker and good coffee. Life is good.

“Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”   —  Thomas Edison

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.

Fed Up with ADHD

I keep getting all these likes on “Gratitude List 1642,” as though somebody’s trying to tell me that at some point I counted wrong. If anyone’s bored today and would like to advise me of the error of my ways, I’ll send you a restricted link to a bunch of free piano music. I’m so spacey I’m still trying to get to removing the one category on my categories list that looks like this:

Apparently, all the tags for that particular post acted as though they deserved to be considered a brand new category, in and of themselves. Not to mention the word “Bible” always has a small “b” affixed to it, which is a tiny bit disturbing. And many similar such spacey scenarios abound.

I think I need a lifetime personal assistant to help me organize my efforts here. (Female preferred). Either that or I need to finally convince some doctor to give the meds that WORK and believe me when I say I will take them regularly like a mature adult and not abuse them like the juvenile delinquent that these local psychiatrists sometimes confuse me for.

Somebody get me my Adderol so I can quit starting the day with quad shots of espresso after major hour-long freak-outs trying to locate all the missing items that I randomly toss around the house, including the full glass of water I’m supposed to drink after taking my levothyroxine (wherever it may be.) I’m starting to risk tearing up my stomach lining.

Chasing quad shots with coffee is an expensive workaround solution, but when you can’t find all the Classic Roast coffee you just bought from the convenience store (while still in your pajamas, by the way), you get a little desperate.

End of rant.

The Host Awaits

People would think I was crazy if I claimed that the woman who spent the night in my guest room two nights ago was an “angel.” But in a way she was. One definition of angel is “messenger from God.” I think I needed to receive the message that this person may have come to give me. If she did not consciously want for me to receive that message, this is even more beautiful. Somebody wanted me to get the message all the same.

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.

Tuesday Tuneup 115

Q. Where would you like to be?

A.  In a place of less clutter.

Q.  What kinds of things are cluttering up your place?

A.  Lots of things.   But we can begin with WordPress.

Q. What do you mean?

A.  I don’t have much of a commitment to blogging.   At least, not in its current form.   And the idea I keep having on how to expand and enhance this blog seems unwieldy.

Q. Unwieldy?

A. Yes.  The idea is to post six times a week with different themes on each day of the week.  But this is unwieldy.   It gets in the way of others things that I not only can do, but that I must do.   Blogging is not something that I must do.   And it ceases to be enjoyable or worthwhile, when it is done out of a sense of obligation.

Q. Obligation?

A. Obligation.   Take the gratitude list I made yesterday, for example.   It took me a good hour to come up with five things I felt comfortable with posting online, five things for which I was truly grateful.   But I wouldn’t let go of the task, because I felt obligated.  

Q. Who is obligating you?

A. No one other than myself.  But the point is, if it’s become such an obligation, why do it?

Q. Why do you do it?

A. Two reasons that I know of.  One is habit.   The other is hard to describe, but it comes from my dad.  He was very disappointed in me, because I was the first-born son, and I was supposed to follow in his footsteps.  But I wasn’t cut out to get into the things that he was good at, the things he was trying to teach me.  He also intimidated me, and I had trouble concentrating when he tried to teach me something.  So he wound up very often shaking his head in disgust and saying, “Andy, I’m afraid you can’t do ANYTHING right!”

As a result, I have become a person who won’t give up, even when I’m beating a dead horse.  I keep trying to please my dad.  I keep trying to “get it right.”

Q. Is that why you keep on blogging?

A. Well, it’s why I keep thinking I’m ever going to accede to a six-day-per-week strict schedule.   I could maybe keep blogging every now and then, like say posting an essay of some sort, when I really think I have something to say.   But all this other stuff — it just gets in the way.

Q. In the way of what, Andy?

A. In the way of the fact that I’ve got a musical to produce.   I don’t know if anyone will ever produce it, but I’m passionate about the prospects thereof.  To focus on the production of the musical, something’s got to give.

Q. But what about balance?

A. What about it?

Q. You can’t spend all your time working on your musical, can you?

A. Of course not!   In fact, the musical’s done.   Just a few more bits and pieces to get it ready for complete packaging and submission.   But it’s essentially done — I could submit it now, and supply the loose ends later.   I can balance all that out with things that don’t take up so much time and energy as blogging – especially when I find I can’t keep to the six day schedule anyway.   That is, it’s very difficult to — and not very rewarding when I succeed.

Q. Why not?

A. I feel that, no matter how many times I try to make the blogs tasteful and not too personal, and no matter how many times I try to make social statements and not personal statements, personal statements still leak through.

Q. What’s wrong with that?

A. I’m trying to get a musical produced.   Does the world need to know my personal issues?

Q. Does the world read your blog?

A. Not right now, but they will if I actually get my musical produced.

Q. So what’s your solution?

A. People can find my piano pieces by subscribing to my YouTube channel, and I strongly encourage those who have enjoyed my gratitude lists to create their own.  Counting one’s blessings is a valuable tool for the sustenance of well-being in a challenging world.   My articles may be read wherever they are published, and I can continue to communicate with the five or six people who faithfully read my blog through other interfaces.

Q. May I ask a final question?

A. Only if it’s final.

Q. Isn’t your musical about a personal issue of yours?

A. Not at all.   But you’re just going to have to read the script to find out.

The Questioner is silent.

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.

Gratitude List 1570

(1)  Having lost weight steadily during the period when I wasn’t running, it was a lot easier to run the three mile course than it was before.   Ran it, did 21 push-ups, and ran again this morning.   I feel good physically, but the main reason I’m grateful is that I’m still at it — after all these years.

(2) Had a good meeting with Kurt this afternoon.  I’m grateful for Kurt because he’s such a fountain of intellectual theological information, as well as a great guy.   Also had an interesting email exchange with Ashley Peterson over the weekend, concerning the so-called problem of evil.  I’m glad to be engaged in such discussions. It’s something I’ve not known at other times in my life.

(3) My version of An Affair to Remember now has over 2.5K views on YouTube.

(4) Very nice conversations with my daughter these days.   Grateful she is in my life.

(5) Well, I lost the entire week last week to things it would pain me to belabor. This week’s starting off all right, though not without challenges.  There’s a light at the end of the tunnel, and there will be a new season — a new stage of experience.  It’s in the works — and I have faith.

“Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”  — John 12:24

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.

Gratitude List 1569

(1) Just when I’d thought I’d run out of tooth paste and could not possibly squeeze any more out of the tube, I noticed a small courtesy pack of Colgate sitting inconspicuously on the counter of my sink.

(2) Although I haven’t been running much–and in fact have missed 13 consecutive days–the good news is that I’m still losing weight. This is partly because I’m still riding my bicycle a lot, and partly because I’m not eating nearly as much as I was there for a while.

(3) Grateful that the heat wave has died down, prompting me in part to issue this bit of a brief spoken statement when struggling to express a related thought. Grateful for pleasant weather and good vibes in general.

(4) Being as I’m currently engaged in the first-time process of syncing a written piano score to a previously played piano part — exact tempos and everything — I have found my ADHD to be challenged at new and unexpected levels. The good news is that I finally figured out a process that accommodates rather than aggravates the ADHD. Let me explain.

Suppose the process consists of 225 steps, each step containing 8 “sub-steps.” Don’t ask me how I did it, but I figured out a way for the 8th sub-step of each step to be identical to the 1st sub-step of the following step. This has the pleasant benefit of sidestepping the Deficit that would logically take place between the final sub-step of the previous step and the initial sub-step of the present step. As a result, a fragmented process has been transformed into a continuous process, wherein my ADHD is beneficial, not detrimental. I’m very grateful for this discovery — (and if anyone understood any of that, I’ll be even more grateful.)

(5) I seem to be coming out of a funk that seems directly related to the amount of time I have been spending alone in my apartment. I may not be actually getting more accomplished today, here at the local coffee house, than I’d have accomplished in the same period of time at home. But I somehow feel better about what I have accomplished. I am grateful for the ongoing sense that I am a functional part of a struggling humanity — and not just an outsider who does not belong.

“Although I am a typical loner in my daily life, my awareness of belonging to the invisible community of those who strive for truth, beauty, and justice has prevented me from feelings of isolation.” — Albert Einstein

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Awake the Dawn

Hey I realize I’ve been MIA as far as the blogosphere’s concerned.  I’ve been in the process of creating a midi-convertible piano score to replicate all the temp changes and other nuances just like I played it on the recording you hear below.  Then all kinds of voices will be heard singing overhead.   But this is going to take some more time.  Here’s how it sounds with piano alone:   –

Voices are in the domain of the Sound Designer and will be revealed pending further communication with him.  In the meantime, there is so much else I could share — mostly along the lines of Keva and I having met to learn a new song Time Will Tell.  That clip is about the third time she had tried to sing it with me on the first day of rehearsal.  She’s a very quick study, and grasps the entire concepts of songs, right off the bat.

Otherwise, I’m still out and about.  I told Dave I’d get this midi-convertible score turned in soon, so I do need to attend to this.  Not sure when anything more will be happening, officially.   Andy Pope · Awake the Dawn

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Gratitude List 1568

(1) Both sessions recording “Awake the Dawn” with full chorus went well on Tuesday and Wednesday nights respectively, though Wednesday’s was by far the most productive.   There was a positive spirit about the whole team, and the performance on the part of the Kids was outstanding.

(2) I’ve been engrossed in the first-in-a-lifetime task of creating a midi-convertible piano score based on exactly how I happened to play a certain piece (“Awake the Dawn”) on a certain night.   This is something needed by Dave, the new sound designer, and which I agreed to get done for him by Friday.  What’s nice is that, not only have I made substantial progress, but much of the experience of originally composing this piece years ago — of recreating the early pre-dawn moments, with the high female harmonies likened to the chirping of the night birds — is being rekindled.  So it’s a creative experience, as well as technically challenging.   This makes it much easier to stay grateful.

(3) PTSD therapy went well again this morning, though it continues to be very challenging.  I like the therapist.  She’s very dedicated, but also very light of heart, and easy to engage.

(4) Keva finished her job at the day school on Friday and has also decided to stay in the area and enroll at a nearby University.  I asked her about exploring the work-in-progress-album further and she responded excitedly that she is very eager to pursue this.   I’ve also thought of another older song of mine, “Time Will Tell,” to add to the four clips on the playlist, and also of a newer song I wrote in Berkeley that can be transformed for Keva’s voice.   This is a very meaningful musical connection — and it appears to be ongoing.

(5) Had a really nice time playing at a memorial service at the United Church on Saturday.  I was also paid in cash by the family (and paid well) but aside from that, it was a heartwarming occasion commemorating the life of one of the older theologians in town, a retired Disciples of Christ pastor with a Doctor in Divinity.  I stayed for fellowship afterwards, and once again sensed the feeling of everybody knowing me as “Andy,” though whoever they are, I have no idea.   Life in a small town can be warm.

“An arch consists of two weaknesses which, leaning on each other, become a strength.”  — Leonardo da Vinci

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Gratitude List 1567

(1) It’s nice for there to be a café here in town where they say, “Hi Andy!” when I come in, and “Bye Andy!” when I leave.  It makes me feel welcome (quite the opposite of my experience in the San Francisco Bay Area, where they’ve had been more likely to suspect me of stealing something, and at the same time, didn’t really care what my name was, because they’d figure I’d be giving them an alias anyway.)

(2) Did a really fast 2 1/2 mile run yesterday morning because I was mad at the time.  Passed my doctor twice on the path.  (He looked encouraging the first time and concerned the second.)

(3) As I rode into town this morning through campus, it dawned on me just how bike-friendly this town is, compared to just about any other town where I’ve ever lived.

(4) The new sound designer and I agreed on a certain figure for his services, and I was able to procure the full fee as of yesterday.

(5) Filled in for Cody at the United Church yesterday.   Aside from being a paid gig, it was a warm experience.  Most of the small congregation consisted of older couples, and we enjoyed each other’s sense of humor.   The ‘Joys and Concerns” period was particularly moving.  Also, it was the first time since 2017 that I’ve played an entire church service somewhere (thereby confirrming for me that I still know how to sight-read hymns out of hymnals lol).   Very fine occasion, and I’m thankful for my home community.   

“When ‘I’ is replaced with ‘We’, even the illness becomes wellness.”
       —Malcolm X

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Love Story

I’m taking requests now. I’m backlogged about five weeks worth of requests, and all of them are songs I’ve never played before. So this will be a learning experience. Thanks, Ashley Peterson, for the first request — good choice.   I’ll be back with “Circle of Life” next week, God willing.

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Taking Requests

I began making a podcast yesterday morning when I was in a depressed state. Actually, I’m not supposed to use the word “depressed” in this context (I am told) so as not to confuse my state with that of someone who suffers from Major Depression, which is a serious mental health condition. I’m supposed to say I was “despairing” — and anyway, that’s more accurate.

I disliked the podcast at the end of the day because my despair was interfering with the point I was trying to get across. I was going to just junk it, but when I got up this morning and started listening to it, I actually became jazzed. (For those unfamiliar with the terminology, “jazz” is the opposite of “despair.”)

So I’m touching it up a bit. This could take several hours. But when I submit it (at some point today) it will seem as though I think today is Thursday. Please overlook that disparity. Today is Friday (I think.)

I’m ceasing to make much sense, so I’ll close. But first I want to ask if anyone has any requests, and I’ll try to play one of them on the piano. I tried yesterday but couldn’t think of any songs I could particularly get behind. So I’m taking requests.

Uh – please do not request “The Piano Man” by Billy Joel. It’s one of several songs I will refuse to play. You’ll find out what some of the others are as you request them.

All that said, request away.

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Gratitude List 1566

(1) My weekly meeting with Kurt took place yesterday “on the real” for the first time since our mutual vaccinations.  Nice to have the air-conditioned Co-Op where we convened, and nice not to have to concern ourselves with missed connections and outages.

(2) Looks as though the workshop will come to a satisfying conclusion at some point during the next two weeks, which is all the time we have with the new sound person.  Communication has been good, and I’m actually pretty pleased with what’s happening, slow but sure.

(3) Tracy published a piece of mine and expressed gratitude that I was able to turn something in anyway, despite having announced I’d be wrapped up throughout the summer.  I’m thankful for the person who gave me the idea in the first place, by asking “Did Jesus ever doubt?”   Also thankful for the many subsequent pertinent thoughts that have crossed my mind post-publication.  I like it when I get the sense that a certain theme can be expanded.

(4) I have the third session of Cognitive Processing Therapy in about a half hour.  Interesting the similarities between street life and combat, in terms of some of the kinds of trauma reactions.   I like Cathy the therapist and am glad this issue is being addressed.

(5) I want to add that I’m grateful these days for the enhanced time spent outdoors.  It’s great to get out on my bicycle and go riding along the nice shaded pathways, through campus and around the outskirts of town.  Nice to have freedom and fresh air, in life.

Doubt is a question mark; faith is an exclamation point. The most compelling, believable, realistic stories have included them both.
      — Criss Jami

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Gratitude List 1565

(1) Exercise is going well, especially now that I got my bicycle fixed. I can always do long rides on the days I don’t run. Even in the heat, they’re not burdensome, because the air creates a breeze as I ride. I’m also getting “addicted” to my 2 1/2 mile running course, and I’ve twice run it two days in a row now.

(2) I got a gig writing out piano parts for the songs of an old friend. He happened to call from Arizona, right on the evening when I realized the workshop would have to be truncated.

(3) Had the second day of cognitive processing therapy for PTSD. Although the course seems to have been designed with veterans of combat in mind, I can see a lot of parallels between street life and a life of active combat. The triggers are often very similar, and I believe this will be helpful.

(4) Been very absorbed the past few days getting tracks ready for Dave, the new sound designer. It’s been an interesting process which I’m for the most part enjoying. Looking forward to our session tomorrow night.

(5) No matter what happens with the workshop, I’m glad Keva is going to stick around the area and that she and will remain in touch. Great to have someone with so much potential, learning how to sing my songs.

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Lead Me on Level Ground

Hear my prayer, O LORD;
give ear to my pleas for mercy!
In your faithfulness answer me, in your righteousness!
Enter not into judgment with your servant,
for no one living is righteous before you.

For the enemy has pursued my soul;
he has crushed my life to the ground;
he has made me sit in darkness like those long dead.
Therefore my spirit faints within me;
my heart within me is appalled.

I remember the days of old;
I meditate on all that you have done;
I ponder the work of your hands.
I stretch out my hands to you;
my soul thirsts for you like a parched land.

Answer me quickly, O LORD!
My spirit fails!
Hide not your face from me,
lest I be like those who go down to the pit.
Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love,
for in you I trust.
Make me know the way I should go,
for to you I lift up my soul.

Deliver me from my enemies, O LORD!
I have fled to you for refuge.
Teach me to do your will,
for you are my God!
Let your good Spirit lead me
on level ground!

For your name’s sake, O LORD, preserve my life!
In your righteousness bring my soul out of trouble!
And in your steadfast love you will cut off my enemies,
and you will destroy all the adversaries of my soul,
for I am your servant.

— Psalm 143

Did Jesus Ever Doubt?

Somebody messaged me the other day saying they had a “religious conundrum” they wanted to run past me. I told them I wasn’t sure I could be of much help, but that I would be happy to entertain their conundrum. It was then that they asked me: “Did Jesus ever doubt?”

Yes,” I answered. “He doubted because He was human.”

Then I cited two instances where I believe Jesus expressed doubt. One was the famous event at Gethsemane, when He prayed that, if it were possible, the cup might pass from Him. He also prayed: Not as I will, but as You will.” (Matthew 26:39) So the way that Jesus distinguishes Himself from the Father may seem to contradict one of the more notorious of His statements: I and the Father are One.” (John 10:30).

However, as I told my friend, Jesus was both fully human and fully divine. He was human, born of his mother, and divine, born of God the Father. So the human part of Him doubted — thus He spoke: “Not as I will.” I, in this context, refers to the agency of his humanity. “You” – in this context — refers to divine agency.

But what did He doubt? I don’t believe He doubted God’s sovereignty. He knew He was about to be subjected to brutal torture, whipped and beaten and nailed to a Cross for hours on end, culminating in the death of his human body. Naturally, this made him afraid. So, in my opinion, what He doubted was His own ability, as a human being in the flesh, to handle it.

Then a second instance came to mind. As he neared death, after hours on the Cross, He cried out: “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46, Mark 15:34)

As I see this, He was so near to death by this time, that He envisioned the separation of His Spirit from his body, and his highly weakened human self was despairing. But then (after a period of time), He said something else: “Father, into Your hands I commend my spirit!” (Luke 23:46)

The way I read this, He had a moment of doubt, feeling that God had forsaken him, but as he overcame that doubt, He gained in faith.

Consider also where the words of his question originated. Psalm 22, a psalm of David, begins “My God, My God, why have you forsake me?” It goes on to describe a situation not unlike Jesus’ agony on the Cross — even though the Psalm is attributed to King David, who lived many centuries before Christ.

““I am poured out like water, and all my bones are disjointed. My heart is like wax; it melts away within me.” (Psalm 22:14)

This could easily describe a state of agony that our Lord was experiencing at the time.

For dogs surround me; a band of evil men encircles me; they have pierced my hands and feet. I can count all my bones; they stare and gloat over me. They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing.”  (Psalm 22:16-18)

These verses enter a level beyond speculation. The Lord’s hands and feet actually were pierced, as He hung crucified. The centurions actually did divide his garments, and cast lots for his clothing. These words, written long before the Crucifixion, depict a very similar, very challenging event.

But as the Psalm proceeds, David begins to call upon the Lord, despite his initial despair:

But You, O LORD, be not far off; O my Strength, come quickly to help me. Deliver my soul from the sword, my precious life from the power of wild dogs.”  (Psalm 22:19-20)

As the Psalm progresses further, David changes his mind about his God having forsaken him:

For He has not despised or the torment of the afflicted. He has not hidden His face from him, but has attended to his cry for help.”  (Psalm 22:24)

Then the rest of the Psalm is full of expressions of praise and thanks to God.

Could it be that after Jesus expressed his moment of doubt on the Cross, He then silently recited the words of Psalm 22 within himself? Could He possibly have gone through the same progression — from doubt to faith to prayer, and finally to praise?

I don’t doubt it. This is a progression that we believers are called to enact. Our first reactions are always in the natural; that is, in the flesh. In order to do the right thing, we need to effect a progression from natural to spiritual; that is, unless the right things have become ingrained in our beings.

As Jesus returned to a position of faith, as the Psalmist had done long before Him, He then took the leap of faith: “Father, into Thy hands I commend my spirit!”

Jesus was humanly compelled to sin as we all are, yet He remained free of the sins He was tempted to commit. (Hebrews 4:15). Had He yielded to sin, had He acted on His doubts, He would not have been able to die on the Cross for all the sins of humanity.

So my answer is “Yes.” Jesus doubted because He was human. But He did not yield to His doubts — because He was divine.

© 2021 by Andy Pope

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