Gratitude List 1556

(1) This morning I ran 4 miles in 57F degrees along Paradise Path.  It was my first decent run in over a week, and it felt really good.   I feel kinda cleansed now, and grateful.      

(2) Enjoyed a second scheduled video chat with my friend Lynne Fisher this morning on WhatsApp.   Thankful for our friendship and for WhatsApp, which makes it seem as though my friend from across the ocean is right there sitting in front of me.   

(3) I keep adding to the arrangement I’ve been working on, and it’s getting closer to being finished.   It will be interesting how it sounds with the singing over it, once we reach that stage.  Thankful for Finale music notation software.  

(4) Rehearsal went well on Tuesday, and it looks as though we’ve another one scheduled for Wednesday.   Thankful that the church has been letting us meet once a week in small groups, observing social distancing.   Even more thankful that most of the progress on the project is being made by individuals sheltering at home.   

(5) I must say once again, I’m thankful for my apartment, that I have all to myself in solitude.  I got up at three in the morning and spent the quiet hours reading and writing as I pleased.   Then, when I came home from running, I downed a Gatorade and plopped down on the sofa exhausted.   Now I’m smelling the coffee.   Sheltering in place is a lot nicer than living in a place where there isn’t any shelter.   Believe me — I’ve done both.   

“Sir, my concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God’s side, for God is always right.”
   — Abraham Lincoln 

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Gratitude List 1555

(1) Stocked up on groceries last night during the wee hours.   Glad I didn’t postpone it much longer, it already being the 6th.  Enjoyed a brisk two mile walk to Winko’s, and took a cab back with multiple bags.  Seeing all the food in my cupboard gives me a great sense of abundance.   Chances are, I won’t go hungry for another month — and for that I am grateful.   

(2)  I had begun to think the players were drifting again, but now it appears we’ve been able to manifest a major rehearsal on Tuesday.   The idea is to be ready to film our respective videos on site, and thus successfully add new female back-up vocals to the piece we’re working on.  I suspect it will all come together by Friday.  

(3) Good thing the Kids didn’t resurface for rehearsal till when they did, because in the interim I heard something fantastic in my head.  It’s a beautiful adjustment to the back-up harmonies — much more authentic than the previous harmonies.   Whereas before, I had constructed the harmonies almost arbitrarily according to my knowledge of four-part theory, now the true harmonies are emerging from a place that transcends four-part theory.   (And the Kids show up just in time to sing them!)  

(4) Paid the rent, did the laundry, and am putting things in place.   Enjoying the vigor of  hunkering down for another month of sheltering in a place of my own choosing.

(5) Getting ready for a 7-mile bike ride, for which last night’s brisk 2 mile walk was like a warm-up.  Looking forward to my morning run tomorrow.   When I lived outdoors, I used to feel this rush of gratitude every time I happened to get inside and have a place to myself for a while.   Now I live indoors — and since sheltering in place I’ve discovered that same rush of gratitude every time I step outside to exercise alone.   The Lord works in strange and mysterious ways.  

“Let us temper our criticism with kindness. None of us comes fully equipped.”
—  Carl Sagan  

 

Update

I was fairly certain I’d finish the piece I’m arranging by about now, according to the hope I expressed on Tuesday. I’m not done yet, but not for a bad reason.

Just after I made that allusion, the Kids started turning all their parts for our “Ode to the Universe” project. So I got sidetracked over to what is realistically a higher priority, and wound up doing my own piano track and singing track for the Kids as well.

I’d have told you earlier today, but my computer keeps getting wrapped up in all these uploads — trumpet videos and what-not. When it does, I can’t log on. The uploads might also be faster at some other locale, but here I am sheltering.

Anyway, I canceled one of them just to let you know what’s going on. I’ll have a snippet of “Ode to the Universe” and also the piece I was working on, but I can’t tell you when. Probably later tonight or sometime this weekend.

That said, Happy Fourth of July to whom the holiday applies. And to all, stay tuned and stay safe.

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Tuesday Tuneup 79

Q. What’s going on inside?

A. Decision making.

Q. And what are you using to make your decisions?

A. What kind of a question is that?

Q. What do you mean?

A. Well uh — using as in what?   Am I using a slide rule?   Am I using a compass?

Q. No no no – I mean, are you using your sound reason to make decisions?   Or are you using your fickle and volatile emotions?

A. How dare you accuse me of making my decisions based on emotions!

Q. Methinks he doth protest too much?   Ya think?    

A. All right, smartypants.  I’ll admit I’m a bit of an emotional guy.   In fact, the subject came up last night in counseling.  I do seem to have made a few decisions based on strong emotions lately.

Q. Such as?

A. I gotta tell you – I was so jazzed about rehearsal on Tuesday, it just went so great — when I came back home, I was sky high with elation.

Q. Don’t tell me –  you then made a decision based on elation?

A. Yes.

Q. Did you go out and celebrate?   Did you party?

A. No, I did not.  I cranked up the headphones and my new Finale 26.3 music notation software, and I didn’t stop until I’d completed the whole accompaniment score to the opening number of my musical.   

Q. Then how did you feel?

A. Even more elated.

Q. But why?

A. Because I didn’t think I could do it!

Q. Why wouldn’t you have been able to do it?

A. Well, I hadn’t really worked with the software before, and I hadn’t used Finale much at all since 2016.

Q. What happened in 2016?

A.  You already know.   I emerged from years of homelessness in the Bay Area with a bunch of tunes in my head, found a coffeehouse and with a nice little round table, sat down, and sequenced most of the music that had been whirling around between my ears.

Q. So you did it then.  Why did you not think you could do it now?

A. I dunno.   Low self-esteem maybe.   Lack of confidence.

Q. But you did do it?

A. Yes!

Q. And this led to further elation?

A. I believe it’s called over-elation.   

Q. Ah.   Then did you make a decision based on over-elation at that time?

A. Not so much a decision — more like an expectation.  

Q. What kind of expectation?   

A. Well, I was really rockin’ on that song, man.  In a way, it kinda was like a party.   I was snappin’ my fingers, boppin’ my head, and rockin’ out to the beat.   A friend of mine was also rockin’ too, a gal named Kathy – ordinarily a very quiet and studious person.  As I was working on it, I sent her updates.   She kept writing back and saying: “Yeah!   Makes me want to get up and dance!”   So I was further spurred on by her enthusiasm, and —

Q. Cut!  You haven’t answered the question!

A. Sorry, I was getting around to that.  My expectation was that, since me & Kathy had rocked out to it, everybody else would too.

Q. And they didn’t?

A. Only on WordPress.   Nobody anywhere else ever said anything about it, so I may assume they did not listen to it.   Either that, or they listened, but didn’t rock out.  :(

Q. How did that make you feel?

A. Ultimately, thankful for WordPress.   But at first, I was pretty disgruntled.  And maybe a little angry.   More than a little, perhaps, at moments . . . 

Q. Moments?

A. All right, so I was mad for twelve hours straight.   Pacing the floor all night, messaging people, talking out loud, trying to figure it all out, and not getting a wink of sleep till five in the morning.

Q. How do you account for this?

A. First off, the expectation that people would groove on it like me and Kathy did was pretty unrealistic.   Most people didn’t even know I was working on it.   Secondly, why should they listen to my music at all?   Especially these days — people naturally have a lot of other things on their minds.   But thirdly, and most importantly, I believe that when I found myself disgruntled, it was the natural reaction to the over-elation.  Law of gravity.  What goes up must come down.

Q. And where are you now?   Up or down?

A.  Neither.   I’m in the Middle.   

Q. What are you going to do from there?

A. What do you think I am going to do?   I’m going to start working on the second song in the show!

Q.  Do you think you can do it in three days?

A.  I tell you what — why don’t you check back on Friday and find out for yourself?

The Questioner is silent.     

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Gratitude List 1552

(1) Nice to be inside, out of the rain.

(2) I’ve been realizing that I don’t have to believe all the things that people at my church believe, or swallow the pastor’s theology hook, line & sinker.   We can “agree to disagree” at this church, and this is beautiful.

(3) Ran three miles surprisingly well last night.   Being all off schedule, with many things weighing on me, it will be a beautiful night for a light jog once the rain lets up a little.   Glad to be living in a place where it’s safe to run at night.   

(4) Rehearsal went remarkably well on Tuesday — excitingly so.   I was so jazzed afterwards I dove into a full arrangement of my Opening Number and mapped out a plan to create a complete Piano-Conductor Score.   After that, I really will be done with this baby.   People will be able to do the show anywhere, without my even having to be on board.    Maybe I can even find a date for Opening Night.    Maybe I’ll win a Tony Award for Best Musical of the Year.   The sky’s the limit when you’re on a roll.

(5) I’ve been feeling more hope for the future lately, despite things having been rocky.   If we don’t drop the ball, we might even win in November.

“The fool speaks because he has to say something.   The wise man speaks because he has something to say.”
        —  Plato
 

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“Sirens of Hope” – Completed

In case anyone’s been wondering where I’ve been, I’ve been working on putting together the full accompaniment score to my musical, beginning with the opening number, “Sirens of Hope.” I posted a portion of it a week or so ago, and here it is, a finished product. The tenor line replicates the solos of Winston Greene, the main character, and the Three Girls who sing back-up are referenced in the siren-like string sounds throughout. Hope you like my work.

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Gratitude List 1550

(1) Once again I have rediscovered the power of sleep.   Grateful for the blessing of being able to go back to bed this morning and recharge.   Three hours later, I felt thirty years younger.

(2) In the past week, an almost supernatural sequence of events has caused all kinds people to come together in support of my project.   I am particularly grateful for a special ensemble of young people who seem to keep hanging with me, no matter what.  I may be grouchy in my old age, and yet I do not know where else on earth I could have found a bunch of Kids so devoted.

(3) Also grateful for the students I’ve picked up on Skype and Zoom since we’ve been quarantined, and for Zoom meets in general, which are less anxiety-provoking (for me) than the real live gatherings.    

(4) Although I enjoyed completing my Vocal Score, I wasn’t looking forward to the arduous task of creating a piano score.  So I’ve immersed myself wholeheartedly in the more exciting task of creating a full score for the pit orchestra — a score that will be electronically replicated for our interactive production.   The piano part is still the most tedious, but now that it’s a smaller part of a much larger project that engages and excites me, the arduous tedium is worth it.  Grateful for the new confidence that I will not only get the job done, but will do an even bigger and better job in the process.   I’m serious!   I have total new confidence — and the proof will be in the pudding.

(5) It’s a beautiful sunny day at 75F degrees in spacious North Idaho.  Even in the midst of a pandemic and ongoing concerns about climate change, we are still granted the blessing of a beautiful day.   One Day at a Time.   

“Treat people as if they were what they ought to be, and you help them become what they are capable of being.”
      –Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Sirens of Hope

I’ve been arranging the Opening Number of my musical for our interactive production.  This is a teaser.  It stops and fades about halfway thru the number.   You can check the script and picture the singing that will be coming on later.     

This was done, by the way, with Finale 26 music notation software.  No real human musicians were used at any point.   

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Gratitude List 1546

1. My voice is coming back now after a treacherous bout of laryngitis.  I’m especially thankful for this, especially as I have to sing a solo on our interactive presentation of my song “Ode to the Universe” from my musical Eden in Babylon. 
 
2.  The thunderstorm two days ago was a deterrent to exercise, but a brisk five mile walk yesterday beat most of the heavy wind and rain.   Great five miles to Staples & back to get a mouse, stopping only at the café for doppio.  Winds are only 5mph in light rain and I’m about to go on a run in the sunset.   Thankful–and somewhat amazed–that I can still do it.
 
3. Grateful to have finally landed on a definite plan on the presentation.  All I gotta do is stay on the even keel, and it will show consistency to the Kids — and they’ll come through.   Bowen is confidently turning in a great part, Maria emailed me to get together to practice in real-time, and I just heard from Richard, who want to jam at my house later in the week.   It’s not as though the Kids are not into it.  I just somehow have to rise to the occasion in ways that have challenged my comfort zone.   I’m getting the hang of it now, though — I can tell.
 
4. There are a number of similar things that I’ve been doing differently since sheltering in place.  Allow me to enumerate:
 
(1) I’m reading a lot more, especially news articles and scientific or psychological articles.   Up to  15 or 20 per day, I who didn’t think he could read.
 
(2) I’m listening to the music of others, having finally tuned into Spotify for a free three-month Premium account.  It’s great to have music in the background, something that usually wouldn’t have crossed my mind.  (I’m planning to do the same thing with movies, like with Netflix maybe.  It never crosses my mind to watch movies either, but it would enhance the quality of life.)
 
(3) Purged and cleaned the Lenovo desktop, and now the desktop is organized for optimal use.
 
(4) There’s a variety of different kinds of foods in the cupboard and fridge.   This is similar to the variety of different kinds of music I’ve been listening to..
 
(5) I’ve been cleaning up my website, making everything simpler and easier to access, and less confusing.
 
(6) Rather than keep hiding the ASUS laptop with the broken screen, keyboard and touch pad in the dresser drawer, I now have it all set up in the bedroom with external keyboard, monitor, and new external mouse!   I even got a wireless mouse since I will never remove the ASUS from the house and can always keep the plug in the port.   So now I have two computers at home, one that I can carry with me outside, and one that stays.
 
(7) In order to make room for the ASUS, I finally removed the big bookshelf that was such an eyesore in the bedroom, and all its shelves.   It was right in front of a power outlet anyway, and that’s the logical place for the other computer.   I’ve got two other dressers and another set of shelves anyway.   Bedroom looks great now!  I even made the bed.  
(Anyone who knows me knows that ordinarily I would have never done any of those things, but would have continued to reduce the quality of my dwelling space to that of a largely unattended “crash pad.”  Sheltering in place has brought out the better part of me.)
 
5.  There’s is a light rain outside my window, I got my work cut out for me, I don’t have any interfering appetites, and I’m eager to run in the rain.   After that, I’ll come back into my house and feel grateful to be inside, and out of the rain.  Come to think of it, I can’t lose.
 
“No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.”
      —  Albert Einstein

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Free Piano Music

On these four albums, you will find compelling improvisations around contemporary classics you may recognize.   These and other albums were sold as CD’s between 2018 and 2020, mostly locally.  As of today, I’m offering them for free.   Any charitable donation will of course be appreciated.  

 

Piano clip art black piano transparent clipart god clipartcow

Exile 


Abstractions 


Pinnacle


Suspended 

 

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Hunted

This is a take-off on the song “Hunted” which is the opening number of Act Two of my musical. Tom & I actually did this yesterday, but it was a rush job because of the conditions at the church. It doesn’t really represent the song the way it’s presented in show context. I had to sleep on it to consider whether it might stand on its own. You decide.

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A little bit goes a long, long way. 

Love Theme

This is from a while back.   Something told me it would be pertinent, so I revisited it.  It’s the Love Theme from the Zefferilli film Romeo and Juliet, by Nino Rota.  It’s somewhat mercurial – but I think it winds up addressing many levels of love.

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Tuesday Tuneup 78

Q. What’s going on inside?

A. Upheaval.

Q. What do you mean?

A. I feel like I’m being shaken up inside.

Q. Is that bad?

A. Probably not!  It’s just unfamiliar.

Q. New territory?

A. Yeah.

Q. Do you also feel torn?

A. Yes!  That’s it — torn.  

Q. Well, what is tearing at you?  What are you torn between?

A. I’m conflicted between a number of different internal narratives, and the unresolved conflict is distorting my view of reality.   I believe this is called cognitive dissonance.

Q. How long have you been like this?

A. Probably longer than I know.

Q. Why do you say that?

A. It goes at least as far back as being homeless.  I would ask fifteen people if I could come stay with them for a while.   Even for a night.    Sometimes I even only asked if I could come over to take a shower, and leave.  Sometimes I offered to pay them.   Or just ask to come over for dinner on a holiday.   “Can I come by on Christmas?”  But nobody would ever let me in.

Q, Why not?

A.  Because why should they?  It wasn’t their responsibility.   But they never came out and said that.  They said lots of other things, though.  They gave all kinds of reasons.   Some reasons made more sense than others.   Some of them seemed kind of cold – others kind of paranoid.   I think there might have been a general sense that if you give someone an inch, they’ll take a ruler.   Nobody wanted to take a chance.

Q. How did this feel?

A. Not good.  I could tell that not all of their reasons were honest.  Many of the reasons were implausible.  I got the feeling somebody wasn’t telling me something — something about me.   There must have been some reason why I deserved homelessness, rather than the chance to get inside and get back on my feet.   But I couldn’t figure out what it was.

Q. What else?  I mean, what did that feeling conflict with?

A. The fact that it wasn’t all me!  They were doing things wrong.   They weren’t being honest with me.   I wanted them to come up front. 

Q. But what is the essence of the dissonance?

A. The essence of the cognitive dissonance is that I could never tell how much of it was my fault, and how much of it was their fault.  

Q. Why does it have to be anybody’s fault?

A. Well, somebody had to be responsible!

Q. But aren’t you the one who’s responsible for where you stay the night?

A. Yes, of course!  And I failed — because I couldn’t find anyone who would let me stay the night with them.

Q. But why should that be their responsibility?

A. What does it have to do with responsibility?   They were the ones who had roofs over their heads, not me!   What was I going to do, ask another homeless person to let me stay at his house?   

Q. But why is this all on your mind this evening?

A. Because the same dissonance is occurring, only with different variables.   And I do not believe that the dissonance started with homelessness!   It’s something in me!   It keeps happening, in different ways, even though I’ve lived inside for years now.   

Q. PTSD?

A. Yes.  I’ve been triggered.  

Q. Again?

A. It happens.   Every now and then — you can’t know when the triggers will arise.

Q. What is it this time?

A. If it were just one person saying to me, why they can’t show up, why they don’t have the music, why they didn’t make the deadline, why they can’t do the project — it would easily be believable.  But because it’s a conglomerate of people, I start to think: “What’s wrong with me?  Who do they take me for?   A fool?   Why are they playing me?  Why aren’t they coming up front?   What’s wrong with everybody?  Why do they lack compassion?”

Q. And that’s what you used to think when people wouldn’t let you stay overnight at their houses?

A. Yeah.  In both situations, I have felt like they’re not letting me in.   

Q. So what does this tell you?

A. That it must be me.   Just like, when all those people weren’t letting me inside their houses – whether they were being truthful with me or not — I was what they all had in common.   It was I whom they all held at bay.

And now, when all these people aren’t doing their work, or it seems like they’re not, and the team seems to be fizzling, it’s kinda like my friends — my family — they’re gradually abandoning me — they didn’t even start talking to me again after I got a place to live, after I’d stopped trying to cling to them —

My friends – my family — we don’t talk anymore, there’s my daughter, there’s no friends from the old people – no family — and these Kids —

Q. Go on.

A. These Kids — are going to leave me.   Just like my friends  – just like my family  – – 

Q. Why  —  why do you think so  —

A. They won’t let me in.   My brother, my sister — they won’t let me in.   Winston and Taura — the Kids in the show — the directors, the musicians, the producers, the venues —  they won’t let me in.   The Family won’t — let – me – in . . .

Q. Dude!  Dude – can you grab a hold of yourself?

A. Sorry, I’m flashin’ man –

Q. Are you sure this isn’t just drama?   Or words for dramatic effect?  To call attention to yourself when you’re feeling oversensitive, and easily abandoned, and you’re desperate for community and camaraderie?

A. Are you calling me a narcissist?  

Q. Did I say narcissist?

A. No –

Q. Why is narcissism on your mind?

A. Because that thing that happens — that pattern — that syndrome — it didn’t start with homelessness.   It started long before, with those very same people — and that’s why they didn’t let me in.

Q. When did it start?

A. With the Internet.   Way back in around ’99 or so, when I got my first computer.   I didn’t become homeless till 2004, but the Internet was a driving factor.

Q. How so?

A. I realized I could send the same message to multiple people at once.  I realized this about two weeks after I’d sent my first email.   A friend had sent a big email entitled: “Timmy Needs Help!”  He sent it to about forty people when he was on the verge of homelessness.

Q. So you learned you could do the same?

A. Yes!  Only since I didn’t become homeless for five more years, I sent the group emails for other reasons.

Q. What kinds of reasons?

A. Oh – if I’d lost my cell phone and needed somebody to call it.

Q. Isn’t that called cross-threading?

A. That’s right, I just remembered.  They told me I was “cross-threading.”  It isn’t cool to ask ten people to do something that can be taken care of by one.   

Q. Didn’t you lose a job that way once?

A. Yeah – that was the job I lost, that made me homeless, in 2004.  They were the ones who told me.   First job where I had to use email.  One day, I emailed five people to ask for help moving a piano, when one would have sufficed.  So two of us moved the piano, and four people showed up later, and got pissed.

Q. Is that the only reason you lost the job?

A. No – but that was a reason.  I was doing things like that all the time, and my boss told me to please stop cross-threading.   But I didn’t.

Q. Why not?

A. I’m not sure.  I think – I don’t know!   It seemed like — I couldn’t!   They told me I was having a first-time manic episode, and that it was all part of the episode.  But to me, all I knew is I’d gotten into a habit where whenever I sent an email, it had to be sent to ten or fifteen people.   I just became an Email Dispenser —  dishing out emails to everybody all day long, right and left.

Q. So – did they dish ’em back?

A. No.  They ignored me.  I used to send music for them to hear, too.  Songs I wrote.  If they listened, they never told me so.

Q. And these are the people whom you asked to stay the night with?

A. Yes, by and large.  A few add-ons, and some drop-offs, but  basically the same list.   

Q. I would assume they all said no, didn’t they?

A. For the most part.  That is, if they said anything at all.   

Q. Ever get the feeling you’ve been barking up the wrong tree?

A. Yes.  For longer than I’ve known, and in more ways than I know.  

The Questioner is silent.

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A little bit goes a long, long way. 

 

Gratitude List 1542

(1) Just ran 2 1/2 miles on a gorgeous afternoon.   That’s three days in a row I’ve managed to run.    Am now at a pit-stop on my 12 mile bike ride.  Good thing too, since sheltering in place has had a way of making me fat.

(2) I was again gifted with a month’s worth of groceries through a combination of two Winko’s cards that people gave me.  I’m all stocked up now with a variety of foods, and glad the monthly trip is out of the way.

(3) Connected with my daughter this morning, which was positive.   Good that she is in my life, and nice that I’m on terms with her boyfriend now, as well.

(4) Grateful for the “soft opening” of local businesses and, in particular, this pleasant cafe where I have alighted to find a free doppio awaiting me, courtesy of an appreciative regular customer.   Happy to be granted a glimpse of the friendly faces of the many like-minded souls whom I have come to know and love during nearly four years of sojourning in this charming little community.

(5) The fellow who helps me do the piano recordings has agreed to show up with his iPhone every Thursday to help.   They will probably only be audio recordings for a while, but I’m grateful to be back in the groove.   Moreover, I feel my playing has been helped for the break — I’m still loud, but less furious in my passion.   I guarantee you, however, I’ll still be loud.   (Some messages are best heard at higher volumes.)

“The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are so certain of themselves and wiser people so full of doubts.”
   —  Bertrand Russell

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A little bit goes a long, long way. 

 

Morning Call to Nature

A call to Nature in the early morning is of the Spirit.

One ought to seek Nature early in the morning, and go for a run, or walk, or bicycle ride – as one is able — or even find a spot and sit somewhere outdoors (weather permitting) — if for no other reason than to commune with Nature.

When I was homeless, I was forced by circumstance to do this one good thing; that is, to be outdoors in the early morning, often before the dawn, to watch the sunrise, and to participate in the waking of the day.

Since I’ve lived inside, I am no longer forced.   For a while, I was lax.  Then I learned that, unlike when I lived outdoors, I can only keep the morning sacrament through force of habit.   

But it’s a very good habit to have made.   

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A little bit goes a long, long way. 

 

Tuesday Tuneup 77

Q. What’s going on inside?

A. I’m not sure.  It feels like a cross between transition and turmoil.

Q. Can you describe each sensation?

A. I’ll try.   Turmoil feels like things need to change, but they’re having a hard time getting themselves adjusted in such a way as to understand and effect the needed change.

Best Practices for Planning a Smooth CEO Succession | Directorpoint

Q. Kinda like indecision?   

A. Kinda.  Or hesitation, or reservation, or doubt.

Q. What about transition?

A. That’s what results when doubt is removed.

Q. How does it feel?

A. Much better than turmoil.  In transition, there is hope.   Hope that the place I’m headed will be better than the place I’m headed from.

Q. Will it?

A. I think so.  Ultimately, yes.

Q. But there may be turmoil in transition?

A. Yes.  It’s not going to be a quick or easy ride.

The Questioner is silent.  

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Seventh Column Published on Religious News Site

My seventh column has now been published on Spokane Faith and Values, thanks to editor-in-chief Tracy Simmons.   I wrote it to show how the current combination of a patriotic people who also feel very entitled could easily lead to a spirit of Fascism such as engulfed Nazi Germany in the 30’s.    

Capture

Entitlement and Patriotism 

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Musical Script Available

If anyone wants to read the script to my musical Eden in Babylon, I’ve got it posted right here:

EDEN IN BABYLON (MUSICAL LIBRETTO)

I had been working on some revisions, mainly removing some of the harsher “street language,” so as to increase the likelihood it might be produced at the high school level.   Prior to COVID-19, we began discussing shooting for a high school production, since at that level, there is no taboo against producing large-cast shows.   

As an American musical in the tradition of Rodgers & Hammerstein, Eden in Babylon has a cast of 27, which is fairly large.  This makes it difficult to produce in a world that naturally values economy.   The musical is usually rejected these days on cast size alone, without anyone actually looking at the script.

Theatre Masks Clipart | Free download best Theatre Masks Clipart on ClipArtMag.com

I knew this when I was writing it.   But I guess I had a chip on my shoulder.  You see, I like the traditional American musical.  It’s a nice medium between the straight play (Shaw, Albee, etc.) and British Comic Light Opera (such as Gilbert & Sullivan.)  It’s also a uniquely American genre — though perhaps that point can be argued.   

I had this crazy idea that if I used the traditional American musical concept — which is to present life not as it is, but as it ought to be) – and wrote a musical in traditional American musical form, I might just be able to appeal to those who can afford season’s tickets at community or regional theaters — you know, people who enjoy musicals.

And the final Scene definitely does not present life as it is.   But it sure presents it as it ought to be.    So — hope you like my work.   

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Gratitude List 1532

(1) I am thankful that my daughter is in my life today.   It makes me feel good to know that, whatever might have gone wrong, I’m not the type of dad that I keep hearing some of these Kids tell me about.   I’ve made mistakes — but at least I care.  Some of those so-called fathers did not even care — and worse.

(2) Thankful for this desk.  For my Lenovo IdeaPad, which safely returned from a warranty fix-up.    Thankful for Audacity free audio editing software, because I got into the multi-tracking and the mixing last night or the first time, and it was all I could do to stop mixing Zazen’s song, I was so thrilled.  This opens up a whole new world of creative possibilities.  I can actually even place musical underscores at key moments in my oral presentations.  It’s amazing what technology can do, if properly utilized.

(3) Grateful for the revelation that when I lost my cool recently, I was basically mad at all the other people on the team because I wasn’t doing my job.   True, they weren’t doing their jobs either, but it’s my job to make sure they do their jobs, and they’re definitely not going to be about doing it without pay and without pressure of definite deadline if I don’t kinda gently get on them about it, now and again.   So, I’m glad I saw the light.  I got my work cut out for me now.

(4) Just ran six miles — my longest run since I’ve been in North Idaho, I’m ashamed to say — and it feels great.  Looking forward to getting a lot of work done tonight.

(5) Looking forward to meeting my new student on Zoom for the third time tomorrow, and to having coffee thereafter with my buddy Tom, the fellow who helps with the four-hand job of putting the smartphone on the tripod.  But other than that once-or-twice-daily step-out, I mostly continue to be grateful to be sheltering in place.  It’s teaching me to be grateful for the place I have for shelter.   For a long time, there was no such place.   Things really could be — and have been — a lot worse than they are today.

“I believe I am better than the people who are trying to reform me.”
— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe 

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Midnight Screams

I’ve not given you any music for a while, though I said I would.   Here’s Zazen Matossian singing “Midnight Screams”  from my musical Eden in Babylon.  We got the right groove on the song this time, though it could use some development.  Zazen is a junior at Moscow High School in Moscow, Idaho.   

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Entitlement, Patriotism and Fascism

Submitted to Spokane Faith and Values on May 15, 2020.

We’ve all been hearing recently about protests that are taking place as a reaction to some of the more disturbing ramifications of social distancing. It is only natural that a rebellion should arise, while so many Americans are out of work and forced to stay at home. Naturally, people begin to feel oppressed under such circumstances, and it is to be expected that some would take to the streets.

However, there is something unusual about the nature of these protests. We see people showing up at City Hall with assault rifles, waving American flags, flaming with indignation over their privileges having been removed. Ostensibly, tyrannical governors are to blame. There is a feeling that these anti-American authority figures are exploiting the current crisis in order to rob their constituents of their Constitutional rights.

alt right protesters
Protesters outside City Hall in Topeka, Kansas on April 23, 2020 (Jay Biggerstaff, USA Today Network.)

One such protest occurred in Spokane earlier this month, in response to Gov. Inslee’s having extended the stay-at-home order through the end of May. Their rallying cry was: “Freedom is the cure!”

But let’s examine that statement. Is freedom, in and of itself, a “cure?” What does the word “freedom” suggest in such a context? And what does that freedom cure? Obviously, to put oneself and others at greater risk of contracting a deadly disease could not possibly be a cure for that disease. But what does it cure? Where is the healing power in an excessive show of freedom?

We need to start thinking like Americans again,” one of the protesters is quoted as having said. But how is an American supposed to be thinking in such a situation? Is it “American” to demand personal freedom at the expense of the health of countless others?

It would seem that such an attitude is actually antithetical to the spirit in which this country was founded. Here we have been taught since grade school that each of us has the right to do whatever we want to do, so long as it does not interfere with the rights of others. But the more wanton form of freedom that these protesters appear to be advocating does interfere with the rights of others. If people are going to be congregating in my vicinity without wearing face masks or paying attention to my need that they be safely distanced from me, that interferes with my right to take reasonable care of my health.

So it can’t possibly be really about freedom. What it’s about is entitlement.

In a USA Today article dated April 29th, former Chief of Homeland Security and Governor of Pennsylvania Tom Ridge has this to say:

These self-absorbed and selfish Americans complain they are irritated, anxious, bored, upset — unhappy that their lives have been affected by this temporary restraint on their freedoms.”

Ridge, who was awarded the Bronze Star for Valor for his service in Vietnam, is keen to clarify that true patriotism is not about entitlement – it’s about sacrifice.

In this war against the indiscriminate and lethal enemy, nurses, doctors, ambulance drivers and countless other health care workers are serving on the front lines. While wearing a different uniform, they are surely putting their lives at risk just as I did as a young Army staff sergeant 50 years ago.”

Ridge continues: “As a veteran, I look at these protests with a different perspective and believe many veterans would agree.”

One can only imagine how people displaying such a flagrant sense of entitlement might appear to heroic men and women who have made great personal sacrifices in the service of their country. It is also disturbing that these demands would be associated with “patriotism.” If prisoners of war who loved their country could serve years in foreign jails, why cannot our own citizens, professing that same love for America, last out more than a couple months of sheltering in their own homes?

It is understandable that with all the economic and emotional factors involved, the nature of social distancing would drive a lot of people mad. But that’s not the point I’m driving at. It’s the combination of entitlement with patriotism that is of concern here.

It’s one thing to have an entitled attitude. We run across it all the time. It’s another thing to mix entitlement with nationalism. And where have we seen this before? The spirit in Nazi Germany might not have been much different than this.

Hitler’s followers committed abhorrent atrocities in a spirit of total entitlement. In addition to feeling they had the right to participate in the murder of six million Jews, they felt justified in targeting the weakest elements of society – the disabled, the terminally ill, and the homeless – and sending such people to concentration camps and to their deaths.

While I don’t want to indulge a trendy comparison of modern America to Nazi Germany, I think it is interesting to see where such references emerge and who is saying them. Often, we find people accused of being “Fascist” by the very people whom I observe to be moving in the direction of Fascism.

At a Trader Joe’s in Palo Verdes, California, a woman was kicked out for refusing to wear a mask. Her reaction was captured on video, where she went on and on about this being the “land of the free and the home of the brave.” The inference is that they had no right to remove her from the store. The truth is that store owners have the right to decide on whatever policy they choose.

What is even more interesting is that the people who promulgated this video on youtube, who call themselves the “Lockdown Channel,” refer to the people wearing masks as “sheep” and to those who enforce such rules as “Gestapo.”

She advises the employees and customers that the fear of a pandemic is being used to take away our freedoms, there is no law or reason to wear a mask and that they are acting like Gestapo and Sheep!”

In reality, there is nothing about setting a store policy regarding the wearing of masks that even remotely resembles the actions of a force composed of nearly 600,000 Germans who by the end of World War II were killing thousands of people every day.

But there is something about the combination of entitlement and patriotism that resembles the spirit of Fascism that engulfed Germany in the 30’s. If we are to look at today’s events in light of history and reason, we need to be careful to discern where the nexus between Fascism and America truly lies.

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Theology Afield

“Theology Afield” is a group of spiritual seekers, comprised largely of members of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Moscow, Idaho.  Though I am not a member of that church, I was welcomed into that group when we still met in the reading room of our beloved One World Cafe.  Below is an excerpt from our first Zoom meeting, held last Thursday the 16th.   Kenton Bird, the group facilitator and Professor of Journalism at the University of Idaho, asked I and the others a very timely question.

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A Musical Note

I’ve been sorely tempted to post one of these two new piano tracks that I recorded on the Baldwin Grand at my church with the help of my pastor’s Motorola smartphone.   This is an especially strong temptation in light of my having promised to post more music, and less written text, at this time of our common trial.

Eighth Note Blue clip art | Clipart Panda - Free Clipart Images

The reason why I haven’t been posting more music can be summed up in two words: technical difficulties.

The reason why I don’t want to post either of these two new tracks is on another plane.  They’re supposed to be piano tracks used in our interactive production of my musical, Eden in Babylon.  If I posted them prematurely, without the other musicians and singers involved, it might hex it.

So, I guarantee you that you will soon see a singer, a bass player, and a pianist (Yours Truly) performing my song “Midnight Screams” in three different places at three different times.   The beauty of it is that it all comes together at once.  

This all is reminding me of a time when I asked a woman to marry me.  She said yes, but told me not to tell anyone yet, because it might “hex” it.  Of course, I told everybody.  Five days later, her ex-husband found out about it, and she was more-or-less forced to call off the engagement.

Oh well.  Perhaps our sudden mutual feeling of having fallen in love was little more than a fleeting infatuation.  Still, I have no desire to repeat past indiscretion.  As you all know, I am virtually already married to Eden in Babylon.

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Sixth Column Published on Religious News Site

My sixth column, concerning how the coronavirus has been impacting homeless populations, has now been published on Spokane Faith and Values, thanks to editor-in-chief Tracy Simmons.   The column includes interviews with a number of people currently experiencing homelessness in very different parts of the country.  

Capture

HOMELESSNESS DURING COVID-19

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Gratitude List 1510

1. The main thing that I’m grateful for, in the midst of this worldwide trial, is that I have realized how sweet it is for me to be more of a homebody. As I slowly begin to make my abode a more pleasing place to dwell, I remember — bit by bit — all kinds of visions, dreams, and prayers from a former time, when I was homeless. Thoughts of how I would fix up my home if ever I would be so lucky as to live inside again.

2. Another thing that has been a blessing is this. Rather than feel a need to rush to get out the door to get to church in the morning, I can slow down, take my time, and listen to sermons being filmed in empty sanctuaries all over the world.

3. The impact of COVID-19 has also rekindled an athletic spirit that somehow, throughout time, I have lost. Three days ago I ran three miles before sunset, faster and more freely than usual. Yesterday I did a nine mile bike ride before sunset. A rhythm of cross-training is unfolding: walk, run, bike; walk, run, bike – in 3 day patterns.

4. Producing an interactive version of Eden in Babylon is also an idea that would never have come to any of us who have struggled for nearly a year and a half now to overcome all the obstacles toward a live stage production. And yet, it brings out the best in me and others, in a way that a live stage show could never have done.

5. In believing that a cure will be found, and encouraging us all to pray in that direction, maybe history will show that this is a time when all of us and our families chose to turn inward for reflection, and turn to God Above for guidance.  We may find in the process that we have become the best people we can possibly be. There is always hope — and hope has seen the human race through trial after trial since time immemorial. We of the planet Earth are not a people who ever gives up hope.

“Jesus looked at them and said: “With man it is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”     — Matthew 19:26 BSB

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Seven Reasons Why People Lie

I just read the excellent post, “Lost on the Spiritual Path” by the blogger known as Grady.  The post is about lying, and how toxic this practice can be for those who are on the spiritual journey.   Because the theme had been on my mind a lot lately, I had recently produced a list of seven reasons why I think people lie.

1. They’re trying to cover something up. Typical is when one makes it seem like their being a victim in a certain situation had nothing to do with a poor choice they had made, and was solely the effect of some surprise ambush.  An example would be someone who emphasizes how badly they had been abused, when in reality they were the one who started the fight.

2. They’re exaggerating the severity of a situation in which they were mistreated in order to deflect attention away from some poor choice of their own.   An example would be someone whose business was closed down by the Internal Revenue Service.  They might extol the horrors of the I.R.S. so that people won’t focus on the simple fact that they didn’t pay their taxes.

3. They’re minimizing something that makes them embarrassed or ashamed. An example would be saying “way back when” when the event occurred only three or four months ago.   “Oh, I had a drinking problem way back when!”  (Actually, they just had a drink last night.)

4. They’re trying to sustain a positive false impression in the eyes of someone whom they don’t want to know the truth. An example would be someone telling their parents they had a full time job with benefits when actually they were unemployed.  Or maybe they would tell them how happy they were in their relationship, when actually it was on the rocks.

5. They themselves are in denial. They inwardly don’t want to believe that things are as bad as they are, so they develop convenient, convincing falsehoods that most people will not question.

6. They are story tellers. They like to create colorful stories, and often do so at the expense of truth. Such people are probably deeply dissatisfied with some aspect of reality.  So they feel they need to adjust it a bit in order to cope.

Lying clipart - Clipground

7. Finally, they do not believe that there is, or should be, an absolute truth. Their truth varies according to whoever they’re talking to, depending on which falsehood they think will best serve them. They think everything is “subjective” or “relative” in a self-defined Universe that is elusive, and constantly in flux.

These sorts of people give themselves free reign to change all the time, so long as they can get away with it. Such people are usually extremely overconfident, and in a sense self-deifying. They overestimate their capacity to “create their own reality” at the expense of acknowledging the reality that’s actually happening.

They will fly closer and closer to the sun like Icarus, until finally they crash and burn.  People like these are known to hit swift and certain bottoms at some point in their lives.  They need to be shocked out of their unreasonable self-indulgence before they realize who they truly are.

If you pray, please pray for all of these kinds of liars — especially for the kind described in Point Seven.  The irony is that they are often very intelligent, with great gifts to offer.  For my part, I pray they come to realize that the Giver of all good gifts is God.

For your part, what are some reasons why you think people lie?

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An Intriguing Dream

When I was 18 years old, during the summer just before I left home for college, I had a very memorable dream.  

Magic fairy wand clipart clipart kid - Clipartix

A being like an angel appeared.  But she was more like a fairy, really.   She had a wand, and she waved it.  And she said:

“You will have many friends,
And you will have many enemies.
But you will need to know hate
Before you know love.”

The being in the dream disappeared, and then I awoke.  It was morning.

Every now and then that dream resurfaces in my consciousness.  What do you think it means?   

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Tuesday Tuneup 76

Q. What’s going on inside?

A. Philosophical speculation, as usual.

Q. On what themes do you speculate?

A. One in particular.  The idea of worrying about what other people of you.

Q. Do you do this?

A. Sometimes.  Not nearly so much as earlier in life.

Unapologetic Blogging- I'm not sorry for my content

Q. What gave rise to this particular speculation?

A. The other night, someone told me that they were worried about what somebody else thought of them.  I found myself saying something I had never said before.

Q. Did you say, perchance, that “whatever other people think about you is none of your business?”

A. No, I did not.

Q. Why not?

A. Because I find that cliché to be harsh.  It’s true that what other people of think of you is none of your business.  But it can come across like: “Hey! Mind your own business!”  

And then, the recipient of that rebuke might feel like: “Geeze, it wasn’t as though I was dipping into your personal stuff, bro!  All I was doing was worrying what somebody was thinking about me, for crying out loud!”

Q. Isn’t that an pretty sensitive response to an intentionally humorous cliché?

A. I’m a very sensitive person.  Next question, please.  

Q. Very well then.  How did you respond to this person’s concerns?

A. I said: “You really shouldn’t worry what she thinks about you.  The only person whose opinion of you matters is God, because God’s the only one whose opinion is perfectly true.”

Q. How did she respond?

A. She didn’t.

Q. What happened next?

A. I thought it was odd that those words came out of me.  I’d never had a thought like that before.   So I called my friend Danielle.  And she added to the thought.  

Q. What did Danielle say?

A. She said something very profound.  She said: “It is inbred in the human condition to worry about what somebody is thinking about you.  People who don’t believe in God don’t realize that this is because God has created us to be concerned about what He is thinking of us.   People simply transfer the object of the concern.”

Q. Fascinating!  But don’t people who do believe in God worry about what other people are thinking about them?

A. Sure they do.  But that’s just the other side of the same coin.  None of us except God is perfect.  So we can’t perfectly stop worrying about what all the other imperfect people are thinking about us.

Q. Can you think of anything to add to all this?

A. Not at the moment.  Maybe my readers can.

The Questioner is silent.

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Mountaintop of Gold

the mountain as presented
seemed not risky, but inviting.
the suggestion, ever tacit,
was that in scaling her peaks,
you might find the way to heaven.

or so your father thought before you,
therefore showing you the marvels of a dream.
yet you saw him often rising,
and then falling to the foot,
each time fearing that this plunge would be his last,
and that those depths might lead to death,
or even hell.

so you were ashamed for your father,
and you denied even the God
he sought in such futility to follow
and you made your way without him
as you reasoned out a life for yourself
and for many fragile men
in whom you found the remains
of his image.

your father called this failure,
and that thought he could not face.
so he found hidden shadows of your figure
in the voices of surrogate daughters,
who became as his princesses
in the world of his successes,
where his image shined with radiance,
his crown fixed firmly on his head,
as they looked to him as to a king,
and they never beheld his shame.

oh echo of his folly,
how awfully he deluded you,
and how hardly could he face
the sheer horror of it all!
at the same time as deceiving you,
he fooled himself as well,
as he dwelt in the illusion
of the girls who had replaced you
and who were what he once had wished for you,
and what you might have once attained.

to those daughters then he turned,
yea, he clung to them like honey,
and he drank his fill of their respect,
and gave them all he had.
yea, he even gave the gift rejected
by the echo of his laughter,
in the person of the daughter
of his long-forsaken past,
while with irony uncanny,
he did write his name forever
on the mounts of the immortal,
where his torment would not linger
but his works would yet remain.

though her pinnacle were worldly,
still he scaled that looming mountain,
wishing boldly you might follow
when you saw him without shame,
when at last you would depart
from all the fools who took your substance
for to find your newfound father
in the reaches of his fame.

and the prize that you rejected
might be luminous in glory,
as the honors are accepted
on the evening of your pride,
that no longer should you follow
in the footsteps of the foolish,
but instead you might rejoin him
for to celebrate his dreams.

and your heart will be unhardened
for the love you will be given
in the day you stand together
on the mountain of his splendor
on the peaks of your decision,
and the gateway to rebirth,
thanking countless newfound sisters
on a mountaintop of gold.

Copyright © 2007 by Andy Pope

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A Song Called Him

There are going to be a few changes in the concept of this blog. Due to COVID-19, I’m receiving a lot of suggestions that I provide more piano music, and less of the other stuff. The reason for this is because Music has a way of getting people through hard times. Music can comfort and inspire in a way that mere words are not meant to do.

Words have their time and purpose. Many words have been comforting and inspiring, and have transformed the hearts of men and women throughout the history of this earth. But this is a time when largely, words fail me. I don’t know what to say about everything that’s happening. But I know that when I play my piano, I’m saying something to somebody — without even having to open my mouth.

So there will be more music, and it won’t always come towards the end of the week. I’ll try to keep to the Friday schedule, but I’ll also post on whim. It just seems to be the energy of this transition that we all share. I can’t explain why. It is something I feel in my heart.

I’m in the process of preparing a new piano piece.  It’s a song by the name of “Him.” No, it is not about Jesus. I was not a believer when I wrote the song. I wrote it when I was 19 years old, and it is part of the first musical I ever wrote. It’s interesting that its name is “Him,” but I did not become a Christian until I was thirty.

You’ll note that there won’t be a youtube video. The nice man named Tom who has been helping me is not going to gather with me at the church, nor am I going to that building to prepare the piece. There may not be videos for a while, because it’s a two person job for me at this stage, and I am only one person, sheltering in place.

In my apartment, however, I own an upright piano. It’s not of the quality of the Baldwin Grand, but it has its own flavor. You may hear background noise, and I’m pretty sure one of the keys just lost its tune. The piano is almost 100 years old.  But it will do the job.

Now, if you don’t believe in God, consider this.

About two years ago, I was given a free piano by a woman I hardly knew at the time. She was moving to a new house, owned three pianos, and could not fit them all in. She knew I was a piano player, so she asked me if she could give me a piano.

Prior to this time in my life, I have never owned a piano. Now, at the age of 67, I do. I not only got it for free, but she even paid for the movers to bring it over and place it where it sits right here in my house.

The piano was horribly out of tune. The next day, a 19 year old guy from Kansas happened to be passing through town. He stopped at my church to ask if there were a piano he could practice on. We said: “Sure!”

I then proceeded to hear an absolutely dazzling rendition of the Pathetique by Ludwig van Beethoven. So I approached the young man to query of his experience. He gave me his card, and it turned out he was a piano tuner.

I had previously called the local piano tuner. But he wouldn’t have been able to get to me for six more weeks. This guy not only tuned it, he gave me a 25% discount, and came back the next day for a touch-up. Then he went his way, as he was only passing through town.

So now I had a free piano, freely delivered — and actually freely tuned as well, since a friend of a friend then offered to pay for the tuning. Overjoyed, I sat down at the piano. Something immediately seemed familiar.

“I have played this piano before!” I exclaimed.  

But I hadn’t really — I had only played one of its kind:

Howard Baby Grand piano made by Baldwin 1916 | eBay

“My God!” I shouted. “This is the same piano that Dad had!”

Not the same, of course, since my father — the ragtime piano player, Dave Pope — had converted his vintage 1921 Howard piano built in Cincinnati to a player piano.  This new one did not have the player. But it felt the same.  And more importantly, it played the same.

So I sat down and joyfully played a song called “Him.”  For a song called “Him” was composed in 1972 on the spittin’ image of the 1921 Howard upright that I so mysteriously received in 2018.

Is there a God?  Maybe not.  Could it be coincidence?  Odds are astronomically against it.  What about the Universe?   Just another name for God.   Synchronicity?   A creation of God.  Manifestation?  Even the most powerful among us powerful human beings do not have that much power.  Besides, I never asked for it, never prayed for it, and never tried to manifest it.  It was just dropped in my lap.  I had absolutely nothing to do with the arrival of that piano.

“But why does it have to be God?”

Good question.  My answer?   “God” is just a word.   Words have meanings.  Ask ten people what the word God means?  You get ten different answers.  This is why a book was created – was manifested, if you will — by the Universal Spirit Being whom in English speaking countries we call “God.”

That book is the Word of God.  God is a Word.  “In the beginning,” says St. John, “was the Word.  And the Word was with God.  And the Word was God.”

And I have found that — unlike other gods — my God keeps His Word.

Now, please enjoy the music of the amazing Pathetique — at a time when every other word has failed me.  

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Resolve

I did this one a few months ago, back in the good old days when I could still go to that church and hook up my rig with the tripod, and traverse the keys of that amazing Baldwin grand piano like there was no tomorrow. Sadly those days have been replaced by more difficult days, as we all know.

But anyway I am posting this medley of “Moon River” by Henry Mancini, “Wintertime Love” by Jim Morrison, and the old English version of the hymn “In the Bleak Midwinter.” I call it “Resolve.” It’s a cut on an album called Abandon. If you want a copy of the entire album after hearing this, hit me up and we’ll work something out.

Never did look at this video until tonight. I ripped it to mp3 at the time to stick it on the album, and for a reason that ought to be obvious to anyone who knows me, I only glanced peripherally at the video.

(By the way, if the reason isn’t as obvious I think it is, go ahead and tell me you think it is. If you’re right, maybe I can give you some kind of grand prize on my way to the bank, if and when.) Enjoy, folks.

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Dives and Lazarus

Somebody sent me this little gem last night.  It’s the old English ballad “Dives and Lazarus,” based on the story of the rich man and the beggar in Luke 16.   The tune is incidentally often heard in 3/4 time as the hornpipe, “Star of the County Down,” and in some hymnals it becomes “Canticle of the Turning.”  The violinist is my multi-talented friend, the late Paul Anders, whom you may have seen on other instruments on this site.  I’m not sure when we did this one, but I recall it was a beautiful night.

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Tuesday Tuneup 75

Q. What’s going on inside?

A. Elation.

Q. Elation?  Are you out of your mind??

A. Not that I know of, no.   Why would I be?

Q. Well, what on earth is there to be elated about?   Don’t you know what’s going on in the world?

A. I do.   

Q. Then why are you elated?

A. Elation is an ephemeral state.  It won’t last, you know.   I just happen to be elated right now.   

Q. What about?

A. Something really great happened, and it got me feeling good.

Q. What happened?

A. I figured out how to pay the phone bill in time to keep the service on before they disconnected it.

Q. You figured it out?

A. Yes.

Q. What is so hard about paying a phone bill?

A. Well, I don’t know.  Have you tried lately?

Q. What do you mean?

A. You got to get the money off of one card to the other card, switch accounts, deal with voicemail loops, get it to revolve on the day when you have the money, deal with them lying to you, trying to get the money out of you earlier, shortening the days in the business cycle, hoping you won’t notice, not to mention —

Q. STOP!!   Are you having a manic episode?

A. Not at all, sir.  I’m merely elated.

Q. Just because you were able to pay a phone bill?

A. Well, you should have seen me last month and the month before.  It isn’t easy these days for me, given all that goes on between my ears, to pay a phone bill.   Both of the previous months they turned off the service until I could manage to get to the office and have the guy there take my card and go through the motions for me.

Q. So you paid the phone bill, and proceeded to feel elated?

Q. Overjoyed, man.  Happy, chipper, and high.   

Q. High?

A. Figuratively speaking.

Q. What about literally?

A. Literally, no.  In fact, I resisted that one.

Q. How so?

A. Well, when I became elated, I wanted to celebrate.  I felt myself cycling over toward the marijuana dispensary three miles down the road.  

Q. Marijuana?

A. Yeah.  This stuff:

Marijuana high: Strains, smoking, vaping, and edibles

Q. Why would you want to smoke marijuana?

A. Psychological association.   There was a time when I would reward myself with a celebratory bowl, every time I accomplished something noteworthy.

Q. Such as pay a phone bill?

A. You got it.

Q. But this time you resisted?

A. Yeah – I felt myself headed in that direction.  So I took a different turn.

Q. What turn was that?

A. I located a local homeless boy and gave him five bucks.

Q. How did that keep you from smoking?

A. Oh it made it easy!  It was the last five bucks I had left after paying the phone bill.

Q. You’re that broke?

A. Again, an ephemeral state.  I won’t be broke at all come Friday.  End of the month, you know.   Poverty Culture.   We kinda live month to month, fend, try to enjoy life, the best things thereof being free, and all that.

Q. Isn’t it a bit crass to be broadcasting your personal financial situation?

A. Not where I come from.   I’ve been in some societies where it’s crass to bring up money at all.

Q. And in your society?

A. You mean Poverty Culture?   We talk about money all the time!   We talk about small amounts.   We loan each other fifty cents and back.   How can we even co-exist without talking about money?   There’s only so much to go around.

Q. What are you driving at?

A. Nothing really.  Just shootin’ the breeze.

Q. What about COVID-19?

A. Sheltering in place.  

Q. Wouldn’t that be the perfect place to smoke your weed?   Where nobody is watching?

A. It’s been done.  But believe me, I like myself better without it.

Q. But aren’t you way more hyper than you used to be?

A. Is that a problem?

Q. I don’t know.  Is it?

A. Not for me.  Not home alone.  Not here all by myself.   Who’s to complain about my level of energy?   Who’s to call me manic?   Who’s to call me on anything?   I’ll be as manic as I want!   Any of you psych agents wanna try to medicate my precious mania out of my system, you go right ahead.  I’m an Artist!! I will generate a manic episode if I think it’s going to help my work!    But WOAH!!! WOAH!!!!!

Q. Did you just feel an earthquake?

A. Yes I did.   

Q. Aren’t earthquakes pretty rare in this part of the world?

A. Maybe.  I don’t know.  Gotta check Facebook.

Q. Facebook?   Why not check USGS?

A. Good idea.   Somehow I assumed Facebook would be the more authoritative source.  Hang on a minute . . . no, nothing at USGS yet.   Oh – here it is!   6.3!  Wow!  

Q. Did you actually just have an earthquake right while you were writing this post?  

A. Sure did.   Check the link.   

Q. Still elated?

A. Naw.  I think I blogged it out of my system.   It’s a good thing, too.   Elation can be very deceiving.   There’s a cooler, steadier energy at work here, slowly creating finer facts and fiction — but it works behind the scenes.   

The Questioner is silent.

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Cold This Season

Something made me put all this together, at some point.  First, this is my song “Cold This Season.” It goes into something Old English, then some Sondheim, and then finally the song “On My Own” from Les Miserables by Claude-Michel Schönberg.  It may be stuff you’ve all heard before–in some form–but there’s a certain flow and applicability here.  Hope you enjoy it. Andy Pope at the Baldwin Grand.

By the way, this is a cut off of my newly released Suspended album.   Hit me up for details if you want to buy it.   

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Fifth Column Published on Religious News Site

Just to let you know, my story from the previous blog post has been published on the religious news site, Spokane Faith and Values. Here’s a snapshot of an RT from Tracy Simmons, the editor in chief, followed by a link to the story below.

 

Capture

Social Distancing and the Summer of Love to Come

 

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The Summer of Love to Come

In the summer of 1967, a movement generated from the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco evolved into the now famous “Summer of Love.”

I suggest that our current social distancing is the exact opposite of what that Summer of “Love” entailed. And this is not entirely a bad thing.

The form of love that was exalted in that movement was the passionate love known as eros in the language of New Testament Greek. In that same language, three other forms of love are described in different words. But all those words translate to the single English word “love” in modern English — even in the Holy Bible.

This linguistic cluster has created great cultural difficulties. The slogan of the Summer of Love, “Make Love Not War” centered around the notion that the passions involved in destructive acts of war could be more positively channeled through passionate acts of sexual love. So everybody basically took all their clothes off, did a lot of drugs, and thus inaugurated the so-called Sexual Revolution.

The problems that arose from this massive disregard of common sense are obvious. And they linger to this day. What began as “love” morphed into mass jealousy. STD’s were promulgated alongside vicious rumors. Finally, the rate of abortions rose so drastically it propelled a right-wing reaction, pitting those who were “pro-choice” against those who were “pro-life,” in disregard for the realities in which such a toxic dichotomy were rooted.

Now we are faced with an almost opposing challenge. In an atmosphere of social distancing, we will be touching each other much less than before — rather than much more. While this has its own pitfalls, I would suggest that it might also bring unanticipated advantages.

Rather than exult in the false sense of community that spawned a Sixties travesty, let us all turn inward, and reflect in solitude upon our singular purposes, as individuals immersed in a culture that has changed radically overnight.

Maybe this is the time for each of us to get in touch with our own hearts — our own callings — our own life-purposes and destinies. We will serve the community of humanity in a far greater way if we all take some time to reflect, and to find out what each of us — as the unique divinely drafted individuals that we are — is really and truly all about.

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Love is Blue

This French ballad was composed by André Popp.  (For real!  No pun intended, and he was not a distant relative.)  Lyrics were originally composed in French by Pierre Cour, with English lyrics by Bryan Blackburn.  References to the 2nd Movement — the “Allegretto” — of Beethoven’s 7th Symphony throughout. Andy Pope at the Baldwin Grand, March 12, 2020.

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I’m Seeing Red

In light of “3/11” I decided to do my version of the song “Love is Blue” yesterday.   I’ve been a conservative Christian throughout most of my adult life.  But as of POTUS and Wednesday night, I’m “seeing red”  — for what it is.

There are unfortunately issues with the video.  I will be posting the SoundCloud version as soon as I can get it uploaded on the appropriate computer.

As a side note, it’s very likely that someone hearing this, perhaps of the more classical bent, will protest that Beethoven is probably turning over in his grave. This would be due to my overt references to the 2nd movement — the Allegretto — of his brilliant 7th Symphony.

All I can say to that is that he died on my birthday, and I therefore am his reincarnation.  ;) Neither of us is turning over in any grave right now.   But the national situation is grave. God bless us every one — and God bless America.

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Tuesday Tuneup 74

Q. What’s going on inside?

A. Sorrow.

Q. Sorrow over what?

A. Past behavior of mine.

Q. Isn’t it past?

A. Evidently not.

Q. How so?

A. I wouldn’t be so cocky if I weren’t in such denial.

Q. What’s that supposed to mean?

A. I have been denying that my misfortunes down in California had a whole lot to do with me.

Q. But doesn’t stuff just happen that’s beyond your control?

A. Sure it does.  People get deadly diseases.  They get hit by cars.  None of that is their own doing.

Q. But didn’t you have some kind of mental health breakdown in 2004?

A. I harp on that — and yes I did.  But still, lots of stuff that happened, especially in terms of valued friends rejecting me, was entirely my doing.

Q. How so?

A. I found some emails I sent to some of my friends in 2015 when I was homeless.  They were pretty vitriolic, downright hateful, accusational.  I was accusing everybody of being uncompassionate.  There were expletives involved.  So it’s no wonder they all fled from me.  Nobody wants to deal with that.

Q. But weren’t the circumstances that led to those angry emails really beyond your control?

A. The circumstances were.  But a lot of us were experiencing those same circumstances.  How many of us sent angry emails to our friends and family members?

Q. I don’t know – how many of you did?

A. I don’t know either.  But they couldn’t have been as bad as the ones I sent.

Q. Why not?

A. Probably because I type about 120 wpm and so my emails were longer as well as angrier.  My anger was more detailed.

Q. But you don’t send those kinds of emails to people now, do you?

A. I’m not homeless.  I have no reason to.  

Q. Can’t you just be thankful for that and move on?

A. Probably, eventually. This doesn’t seem like the kind of guilt that will destroy me.

Q. Is there any kind of guilt that doesn’t destroy people?

A. Yes, there is.   There’s the kind of guilt you get when you realize that you’ve done something wrong.  It makes you want to never do it again.  

Q. So your sorrow is actually a good thing?

A. Yes it is.  It brings me closer to my God, rather than further away.   In the Bible, in 2 Corinthians 5:17, this is called “godly sorrow.”  It’s the kind of sorrow that leads to a change of heart — and it is not to be regretted.  But the other kind of sorrow, that contains the other kind of guilt, is called the “sorrow of this world.”  It leads to despair, and ultimately, to death.  It’s best I mourn the death of my former self, and proceed with the Self that’s New.  

The Questioner is silent.  

Growing Up In The Word : A Contrite Heart

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Tuesday Tuneup 73

Q. What’s going on inside?

A. Conviction.

Q. You’ve been convicted of a crime?

A. Not that kind of conviction.

Q. What kind, then?

A. Spiritual conviction.

Q. Can you elaborate?

A. I’m convicted!  Does the word mean nothing to you?

Q. Why should it?

A. Weren’t you around during the 80’s?

Q. What happened during the 80’s?

A. There was a massive movement throughout America, I guess it started in the late 70’s.  35% of Americans began identifying themselves as “born again Christian” — and they were markedly more conservative than the average voter.

Q. What’s this got to do with conviction?

A. It became Christian slang for a person to say there were “convicted” when they believed that the Spirit was impressing upon them some thing that they should or should not do.

Q. Isn’t that more like guilt?

A. Not exactly.  One can feel guilty even if one has done nothing wrong.   There are many sources of guilt, and not all of them are positive.

Q. But conviction is always positive?

A. Yes.

Q. Well then!  What are you convicted about?

A. Gee, I thought you’d never ask.

Q. Are you convicted you’ve been doing something wrong?  Or convicted that you haven’t been doing something right?

A. Both.  But the latter seems more salient, and to the point.

Q. What is that you ought to be doing right?

A. Something that doesn’t come natural to me.  But every sign is pointing that I do it.

Q. But what is it?

A. I hesitate to say.

Q. Why?

A. I’ll sound weird.

Q. Cold feet?

A. Heebie jeebies.

Q. WHAT IS IT??

A. I’m supposed to take on these — um — roles.  In the community here.  One is that of being a mediator.   Another, a mentor.

Q. Mediator?  Mediator over what?

A. I seem to have been selected to smooth relations between two neighboring businesses.

Q. Why you?

A. Because I am involved in both businesses, one on a volunteer basis, and one as a hanger-outer in a coffee shop.

Q. What is the essence of the tension between the two establishments?

A. Culture clash.   You see, the people next door from the coffee house are involved in trying to get their lives back together.   A lot of them  have been on drugs, or on the streets, or otherwise severely traumatized.  Some of them have serious mental health conditions.   The point is, many of them come across in confusing ways that don’t fit the social norms.

Q. But they’re good people, right?

A. Absolutely!  It’s just that the people in the coffee house don’t necessarily know that.

Q. What are the people in the coffee house like?

A. Quiet, studious, and reserved.

Q. And the people from the place next door?

A. Loud, boisterous, and unrefined.  

Q. So you’re supposed to be a go-between?

A. Yes.  I’m supposed to gently tell them not to be too loud around the coffee house, or cuss too much, or refer to themselves and others in derogatory terms.   And I’m supposed to explain and defend them to the baristas who may feel uneasy in their presence.

Q. Well, isn’t this a good thing?

A. Well, yeah.  It’s better than if the owners had decided just to kick them out of the coffeehouse.  But it’s still a strange position for me to be in.  I have no experience in this area.

Q. So how will you go about this?

A. One step at a time.

Q. Will you wear a badge?

A. Not on your life.  

Q. What about the mentoring?

A. That’s a little more down my alley.   You see, this guy died last month.  A dear friend of mine.  Here’s a picture of him:

Paul Anders

Q. Wasn’t he a little young to die?

A. Young like mid-50’s.  Fit, healthy, vibrant.  Paul caught some kind of flu, turned to pneumonia, turned to a staph infection, then sepsis – and he was gone in about ten days.  He was a great musician – and a great guy.  It shocked the entire community, and left a great void.

Q. What’s this got to do with mentoring?

A. Paul was a mentor and a role model for many of the younger musicians in the community.  He played about ten different instruments, freely played music with all, and encouraged all musicians to embrace and develop their full potential.

Q. And you are supposed to do this in his stead?

A. No one can replace Paul.  But I get this sense that I’m supposed to break out of my shell somewhat, and contact some of the musicians, and see if I can be of help in any way.  In fact, there’s these two brothers who play music — they’re both in their early to mid twenties, and one of them is a fantastic bass player.  Their dad actually approached me.  He said point blank that I am the one to fulfill this role.

Q. How does that make you feel?

A. Honored.   And like I said, convicted.

Q. Almost guilty?   Or afraid, maybe?

A. Only because I’ve never done it before.   

Q. Is that really true, Andy?

A. Well — not for a long time.  I used to be a music teacher, and a musical director for musical theatre productions.   I saw that the kids looked up to me, and I enjoyed passing off my knowledge as best I could.

Q. Then what happened?

A. I think you know what happened.  But let’s just say I was no longer in the position where anybody would see me as either a mentor or a mediator.

Q. But now they do?

A. Somehow, yes — however magically.

Q. So what are you going to do about this conviction?

A. I’m gonna just do it.  I called the bass player, and we’re going to jam at my place on Saturday.   Paul’s 26 year old daughter, herself a singer-songwriter, is going to show up later on this morning with her guitar.

Q. Why does this seem strange to you?  I mean, you’re a musician, right?

A. If you want the truth, the reason I feel so convicted is that it’s making me realize what a self-preoccupied egomaniac I have been throughout most of the past fifteen years.  I’ve lived largely in my head, and not in the world of people.  It started when I was — homeless.  The world of people was too painful to face continually.  So I developed my inner creative world to a new peak, in order to block out the pain of the world around me.

But now, in the world around me — at least in my immediate community — there is very little pain.   Yet for over 3 1/2 years, I’ve persisted in living in my head.  This will give me a chance to get out of my head, and do good things for others, for a change.

Q. And how does that make you feel?

A. It makes me feel good.  Today is the first day in forever that my restless spirit has been at peace.    

The Questioner is silent.

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Gratitude List 1423

(1) Thankful for the current mania, because I’m in good spirits and getting a lot accomplished.

(2) Thankful for the recent depression, because I got caught up on my sleep and gave my head a rest.

(3) Thankful that I am only mildly and not severely bipolar, because managing this disorder without medication has been both a challenge and a source of beauty in my life.

(4) When I contemplate how hugely I’ve been blessed, I almost feel guilty that I’m not doing my best to return the favor.  But it’s a good feeling, a quasi-guilt, kinda more like a heartfelt conviction than a self-abnegation.

(5) Am really enjoying Ashley’s book.  She writes very clearly and is obviously an expert on mental health conditions & the DSM-5.

(6) I’m being called upon by the people at the coffee house to subdue the erratic energies of the people from the recovery center next door, which I believe is impossible.  However, what I’m grateful for is that someone would consider me mature and responsible enough to be in such a mediating position.   Usually it’s my own energies that they want to subdue.

(7) I’m also being called upon to fill the shoes of my musician friend Paul, who passed away suddenly last month.   A number of the younger musicians and even their parents are turning to me, because Paul was such a great mentor.  While I don’t know that I can follow his act, it’s a good feeling to be thought of as someone who might.

(8) I’m starting to realize that all these things that I tend to perceive as “Mainstream Stress” — the kind of stress that broke me down in 2004 and landed me on the streets for 12 years — are better seen as marvelous opportunities for me to show my shine.

(9) “To whom much is given, much is expected.”

(10) I’m not too manic, I don’t think.  Tears are happening, and they are cleansing.  One day I believe God will wipe every tear from our eyes.   There’s a lot of good in this Universe — we just gotta find it and do something with it.  God is Good.

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Heartfelt Lie

“But when we were on the streets,”
(or so I texted),
“Wasn’t life so much simpler then?”

The answer came quickly, as expected
(but not as desired):

“Yeah, right.”

And thus I thought:
“This will never work —
me and her.”

But on the streets
(I further thought),
Wouldn’t it have been so right?

We’d have hooked up.
I’d have had her back.
I’d have protected her.
I’d have clearly been the one who cared 
(unlike the others,
who were only taking advantage of her).

We’d have found spots
to camp out together
where we’d have kissed
(under the stars),
and made false promises to each other,
which we almost both believed.

And then,
one or the other of us
would have gotten a little tired,
or a little freaked out,
and more than a little disillusioned.

And then,
one or the other of us
would have awakened some morning
to empty cement
and cold cardboard
where once the other one
had been there —
for us.  

Better to receive a quick text of truth
Than a gradual, well-thought out,
heartfelt lie.

So quick came my come-back:
(lol, fwiw).
And I guess we’ll both just stay put,
for now . . . 

© A. Pope 2020

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Gratitude List 1418

(1) Slept in till nearly seven in the morning – a good night’s sleep.

(2) Am at the Courtyard Cafe getting the free Pikes Peak coffee.  The brew is especially robust this morning, and I’m on my second cup.

(3) This new Topanga 21-speed mountain bike is great!  It’s wonderful that my friend helped me get it, with lock, pump and helmet too.  Did 7 miles on it the first morning.

topanga-1

(4) After a substantial bout of hibernation, I am up to face the day.  I’m a member of the community here.  As such, I am accepted.

(5) I like this version of Jack Straw that I’m listening to now.  Interesting how Google comes up with great things for me to watch on YouTube.  

(6) Just heard from Tracy the editor of Spokane Faith & Values.  She was asking again about my homelessness story pertinent to the city of Spokane, and I again had to ask her if she’d received my story on social media and pleasure-seeking.  She apparently had not, so I was able to resend it.  Hopefully it will be published soon.

(7) A third cup of great-tasting coffee, like Starbucks medium roast.  Very nice, as well as free of charge.

(8) I gave myself a three-day rest from all my usual companions and activities, and am now rested up, and eager to present myself among them once again.

(9) Not wanting to further ride the bike just yet, it feels right to be bundled up and walking briskly through the 36F degree weather.  Thankful for the free time for vigorous exercise.   

(10) God is Good.

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I Will Pour Out My Spirit

“Fear not, O land;
be glad and rejoice,
for the LORD has done great things!
Fear not, you beasts of the field,
for the pastures of the wilderness are green;
the tree bears its fruit;
the fig tree and vine give their full yield.

“Be glad, O children of Zion,
and rejoice in the LORD your God,
for he has given the early rain for your vindication;
he has poured down for you abundant rain,
the early and the latter rain, as before.

“The threshing floors shall be full of grain;
the vats shall overflow with wine and oil.
I will restore to you the years
that the swarming locust has eaten,
the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter,
my great army, which I sent among you.

“You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied,
and praise the name of the LORD your God,
who has dealt wondrously with you.
And my people shall never again be put to shame.
You shall know that I am in the midst of Israel,
and that I am the LORD your God and there is none else.
And my people shall never again be put to shame.

“And it shall come to pass afterward,
that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh;
your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams.

  — Joel 2:21-28 ESV

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