Tuesday Tuneup 36

Q. Where would you like to be?

A. In a place of greater resolve.

Q. Resolve?

A. Yes, resolve.  That is to say, resolution.

Q. What is it that needs to be resolved?

A. A dissonant progression.

Q. And how can this dissonant progression be resolved?

A. With a consonant cadence, obviously.

Q. Are you not speaking in strictly musical terms?

A. Not strictly. I use the musical analogy of a resolving cadence as a metaphor to the dissonance that needs to be resolved in my life.

Q. What do you find to be most dissonant?

A. There is discord between the nature of my relationships with those whom I know today in this town, and the nature of my relationships with long-term friends and family in the place where I used to live.

Q. How does that discord sound?

A. Ugly.  

Q. Do you feel you have the power to resolve it?

A. Yes and no.   I have creative power, as the composer of my life, to resolve any discord I wish to resolve.  That’s the “yes” part.

Q. And the “no” part?

A. I just haven’t found the right chord yet.  I don’t believe I can find it on my own.  It has to be given to me.  In a flash.   Once I find it, I will resolve the discord.  In so resolving the discord, I will complete this first movement to the Symphony of My Life.  And then, on to the Second Movement.

Q. How would you describe the feeling of the first movement?

A. Tumultuoso.

Q. And the second?

A. Grazioso.

Q. So all you need is a single concluding chord?

A. Yes.

Q. How best can you find that chord?

A. By subjecting the dissonance to proper theoretical analysis.

Q. You can do that, can’t you?

A. I can.

Q. Did you not receive very good grades in Music Theory and Composition at the Conservatory?

A. I did.

Q. Well then — what is the proper analysis of the dissonance?

A. It can best be symbolized as 20th Century Harmony morphing into a tension of atonality.

Q. What do you mean by atonality?

A. It lacks a tonal center.  In other words, I don’t know what key I’m in.  I only know that I’m in a different key than my old friends and family.  In fact, they all seem to be singing in the same key.  It’s an old key in my experience.  A minor key, associated with much sadness and despair.

Q. And you wish to resolve the piece in a major key?

A. Yes.  That would end the tumult, and usher in the 21st Century Harmony of Grace.

Q. So how do you get from the chaotic cacaphony of debilitating dissonance to the conclusive cadence of harmonious grace?

A. By reducing the power of the minor key in which my old friends and family members so sadly sing.

Q. You mean — you need to turn down their volume?

A. Now you’re getting it.

Q. But how can you have any power over the volume of their sadness?  Can’t you only turn down the volume of your dissonance?

A. By George, I think you’ve got it!  

Q. How so?

A. That’s the key!  I need to turn down my own volume.  They will then therefore turn down theirs.   

Q. Will you then find resolution to the dissonance?

A. Indeed I will.  For the dissonance will resolve into a major chord of unsurpassed, unprecedented power and joy.

Q. So your major chord will be stronger than their minor chord?

A. Ha!  They don’t stand a chance.

Q. And when will you go about turning down this great volume of yours?

A. Hmmm…. good question!  Off the top, I’d say, midnight of January 1st sounds about right.

Q. And how far down will you turn your volume?

A. All the way down.  

old newQ. Is this your New Year’s Resolution?

A. It is indeed.  Tired of having to prove myself to those guys.  They never let me know how they’re doing.  All they ever do is give me advice on how I ought to be doing.  And their advice no longer pertains to my reality.

Q. Why is that?

A. Because they’re still in the Old Story.  They just don’t know it yet.

Q. Why don’t they know it?

A. Because every time I contact them, I only engage the Age-Old Story.  

Q. Is this why they never hear the New Story?

A. Precisely.  No matter how loud I shout it, it is impossible for them to hear it.

Q. Why is that?

A. Because shouting at them is all part of the Old Story.

Q. And in the New Story?

A. I shout to the heavens.  I shout: “Hallelujah!”  Out with the Old – and in with the New.  The New Story has at last begun.

The Questioner is silent.

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Gratitude List 830

(1) I have a roof over my head.  (A lot of people don’t – and for a long time I didn’t either).

(2) Running water.   (There are people all over the world who lack it.)

(3) I can take a shower without having to wait in a long line with people whom I would worry might steal my things while I was showering.   (In fact, this is the first time in years that I have access to a shower without having to deal with other men trying to access the same shower.)

(4) Great 3 1/2 mile run three days ago, and nice 1 1/2 mile run before bedtime last night.  After all these years — specifically, since April 9, 1976 — I still have two strong legs and a good set of lungs.

(5) There are two comfortable spots to sleep in my apartment – a Queen size bed in the bedroom, and a cozy couch in the living room.  For many years, my mattress was three layers of cardboard on a concrete slab.  Nice to get a good night’s sleep.

(6) When I was homeless, my strengths were disregarded and my weaknesses illuminated.  Now that I am indoors, my weaknesses are overlooked, and my strengths revealed.

(7) I used to speak all kinds of misleading falsehoods in order to try and impress people.  Today I speak my truth — and if they don’t like it, don’t believe it, or don’t understand it, c’est la vie.  It’s easier on the spirit to speak the truth plainly, than to try and keep track of all those woeful webs we weave.

(8) This.

(9) I used to live here all alone, and was relieved and grateful, but lonely.   Now I live here with the woman I love — and am inspired, joyful, and fulfilled.  

(10) I was once rich in money, but lacking in faith.  Now I am lacking in money – but I am rich in faith.  I wouldn’t trade my present “poverty” for my past “wealth” for all the money in the world.   May the God of Love be Praised.

 

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I Want to Be Homeless

I have these two friends I’ll call Randy and Roger.  Both of them are what I would call “rich.”  Neither of them would call themselves “rich.”  Most people would call them “rich.”  But they live in these insular, wealthy worlds in which everybody with whom they contact would be at least considered “upper middle class.”  Occasionally, they fish out a poor person and help that person out, just to assuage their guilty consciences.  But neither of them will ever do the one thing that a poor person needs the most, which is to offer that person respect.

Neither Randy nor Roger ever listens to me.  They both constantly lecture me.  If either of them does, on rare occasion, appear to be listening, they show no confidence that the viewpoint I am espousing might be valid.  Instead, they sort of look blank for a moment or two, and then go on lecturing me.  I have known Roger for almost fifty years now, and Randy for twenty years.  But there was a time when the three of us were all in the same boat.  We were all what I would now call “rich,” and what in those days we might have referred to as “upper middle class” – or at least “middle class.”  For me to be making $50,000 a year and have $13,000 saved up in an IRA and a market rate savings account definitely does not spell “poor.”

Now I’m getting around to something.  A while back, when I was frustrated that I couldn’t find singers for my project who would work for free, I sent a joint email to Randy and Roger, asking them if they could help.  Randy replied by suggesting I was having an “episode.”  Roger did not reply, but the next time I spoke with him, he insisted I should be “taking my meds.”  I am searching for my email in my Sent Folder now, among myriad other emails addressed to one or the other of these guys, and I can’t find it.  I’ll be sure to show you it once I do, but I can assure you there was nothing in the email that a reasonable person would hold to be an indication of a mental health crisis.

Not to mention, taking my “meds” isn’t going to help me find the singers I need for the project.

KJV_Luke_16-26One of the points I often stress (that neither Randy nor Roger will listen to) is that it is unfair to those of us in the poorer socio-economic classes to be told that our abject poverty is the result of, or indicative of, a “mental health condition.”  Granted, we all have our mental health issues.  But there have been so many times when I have had a problem that could simply have been solved by money, and that a rich friend of mine, unwilling to let go of their money on my behalf, attributed to my “mental health disorder.”

Another thing I’ve noticed about these guys is that neither of them has a “concept” of respect.  I once very respectfully asked Randy to stop introducing me to people as “bipolar.”  I told him that this is a personal matter, and that I had mentioned my alleged mental-health diagnosis to him, because was a trusted friend.  

So – what do you think Randy did?  Nothing at all, in terms of actually honoring my request.  He continued the same pattern, introducing me as “bipolar” to every person with whom we mutually came into contact.  One day he sent me a copy of an email he sent to a Choir director, trying to get me a job as an accompanist, which contained the words: “Andy does have bipolar disorder, but he still can be trusted.”  Did I get that job?  Of course not!  On to the next applicant.

Similarly, when I asked Roger to kindly leave all talk about psychiatric medications I should be taking to my doctor. my therapist, and I; nothing at all changed. Instead, he ramped into high gear, and indulged such talk even more so.  Why?  Well, this is my point:

People in the higher socio-economic classes who feel inwardly guilty over the plight of those less privileged than they will invariably attribute functions of abject poverty to those of anything other than abject poverty in order to avoid the guilt they would have to face if they saw these factors for what they are.

The past few days, I have been so angry at both of these old friends of mine, it has really weighed me down.  Because I’m a Christian, I know I have to forgive these guys.  But how do you “forgive” somebody whose behavior never changes?  They seem to act as though there is nothing about themselves that should ever change.  Their money entitles them to all kind of behavior that, if it were me, I would certainly want to take a look at, if somebody pointed it out to me.  

Something tells me that I’m supposed to just let go of the whole idea, but it irks me that they both claim to like my music so much, and yet when it comes down to my financial need to produce this demo, not only will neither of them budge an inch to help me, but they have to attribute my legitimate request for help to some kind of “mental health crisis” or “episode’ on my part.  It just seems that if they were really my friends, they wouldn’t need to belittle me like that.  So I’m bipolar.  So what?  They’re not my damned psychiatrists, for God’s sake.

Here’s the thing about my two old friends that gets me the most: Randy and Roger have never met each other.  Yet they live three blocks apart.    To me, that’s just insane.  How can they possibly be two of my closest friends, and live so close to each other, and over a twenty year period of time never once think it a good idea to meet?   It just makes me sick to think I ever lived the life I once lived.  Being poor isn’t a whole lot more fun than being homeless.  In fact, being homeless was a lot more fun!  If things don’t get better for me financially, if I can’t find another job around here, I think I’ll just pack up and go back to Berkeley and live outdoors.   Why not?

Homeless-ManHere at Friendship Square, I am forced to hang around every felon, ex-con, tweaker and sex offender that my landlord sees fit to rent to.  I’m not like that.  I’m an Artist.  I want to write.  I want my space.  But they won’t give me my space.  Not anymore.  In a little over a year’s time, I somehow, though all I wanted was space, wound up knowing everybody in all forty apartments.  

I’m tired of it.  I want to move forward with my project.  Since I left my job in mid-April, I’ve spent the latter half of each month starving.  Starving!!  Would I be starving on the streets of Berkeley?   Hell no!  In Berkeley, there are thirty-five free meals a week — many of them with unlimited free refills of Pete’s coffee.  And not only that – but in Berkeley, there is inspiration.

I keep trying to pretend that moving indoors was a good thing for me — but it’s not in my blood.   I’m tired of not being able to move forward with my project.  I’m tired of rich people dismissing my need for financial help as some kind of “mental health issue.”  I’m tired of waiting.  I’m tired of having to kiss up to rich guys to make money I need — either for the project — or just to go on living.  I’m sixty-four years old.  I brought up a daughter and a stepdaughter – halfway anyway, or at least I tried.  I’m tired.  I’m old.  I’m tired.  I’m old.  Rich people have everything.  I’m sick of it.

Three more days till I get my pay.  I want to just hit the road.  I want to be me.  I’m tired of living in a box.  I want to be homeless.  I want to be free.   

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Social Statement

Because I have been recently lamenting a tendency for some readers not to recognize that my posts are generally “social statements” rather than “requests for advice” (if you can possibly grasp that there could even be a relationship between the two), I am entitling this post “Social Statement,”  just in case there’s any doubt about where I’m coming from.  Granted, it’s a lousy title, but let’s begin.

I was blessed last night to spend the night at my pastor’s house on his farm, where I learned that he is also a farmer, and not only a pastor.  It was  great to be out in the beautiful country, away from the city, and away from Friendship Square, if only for a single night.  It was funny, too.

It was funny — because when he invited me to stay the night, my first thought was: “In all the years when I was homeless, when I lived on the streets, how many times did anyone ask me over to stay the night?”

zero

When I was homeless, and I asked somebody if I could stay the night at their house, what was their answer?

no-no

Herein lies the gist of a social statement.  It may not be headed in the exact direction you are suspecting.  My fellow homeless people and I naturally became more and more discouraged the more these statistics accumulated.  But we also naturally asked ourselves, “why” did close friends and family members categorically refuse to let us stay the night at their houses?  Even for one night?   In my case, even when I offered money to let them stay over one night and take a shower  –  or even just take the shower itself – they said “No.”  Why?

Eventually, we all concluded what I am about to describe.  They all knew that we were homeless.  They also knew that we had a number of other problems, but that none of those problems had ever made us homeless.  They had let us stay over when we were total slobs.  They had let me stay over when we were addicted to drugs.  Often, they themselves were addicted to drugs. They had let us stay over, whenever we were passing through, as long as we had not yet lost a place to live.   So why didn’t they let us stay over when we needed a place to stay?

The answer is simple.  All the problems that they had known about had never made us homeless.  Now we were homeless, and they did not know why.  Therefore we must have some problem that they did not know about, and that problem must have made us homeless.  Obviously, they thought, we had somehow screwed up our living situations in some way — otherwise, we wouldn’t have become homeless.  Since that had to be the case, would we not similarly screw up their living situations as well?  Sure we would.  

They were not concerned about our problems of which they were aware — they were concerned about our problems of which they were unaware.  Everyone has a little fear of the unknown, don’t they?  That fear prevented each and every one of them from ever letting us stay at their houses when we needed to.

You can’t imagine how difficult it was for me to call up a very close family member ten days after I had become homeless in 2004, and ask him if I could stay for a while in his spare room, and hear the word “No.”  When I asked him why, he said, “I don’t care to expand.”  Whenever I asked him over the years if he could elaborate, he said: “No.”

Why?  Because he himself did not know the reason.  He was not afraid of what he knew – he was afraid of what he didn’t know.  What he didn’t know was why I had wrecked up my living situation, and he didn’t want to take the risk of my wrecking up his as well.

The simple truth was that in the urban area where I had become homeless, the demand for living situations far exceeds the supply.  When I lost my last rental — for whatever reason — I could not readily get another one — for whatever reason.  I then fell down into the hole called Homelessness — a whole so deep I tried for twelve years to climb my way out of it.

0519d869c2f17b567099948384b9099bf8a86d-wmIf you can imagine the hurt and the pain I felt from hearing my own brother refuse to let me stay in the spare room at his house ten days after I had become homeless, try multiplying that level of pain by fifteen.  One by one, my closest friends and family members told me that I could not stay with them, nor even take a shower at their homes – not even in exchange for money.  So the discouragement that was strong enough, became fifteen times stronger.

Whatever enabled me to become encouraged again?  Encouraged as I still remain today, despite depression, despite mania, despite a medical condition, despite the loss of a job?

The amazing commonality that I shared with my homeless brothers and sisters on the streets of Berkeley, California, almost all of whom were enduring the same indignity as myself, affirmed our common dignity.  Our conversations, over a five year period, eventually lifted my spirit out of that hole, even though there did my body remain.

I’ve since been in touch with a Berkeley social worker.  I asked him how my best friend Lauren was doing, if she was still on the streets, and if her health was holding up.  I broke into tears when I learned that somebody had finally helped her with the initial deposit and last month’s rent, and she was now able to live on her disability in her own apartment somewhere in Southern California.  I have also heard similar stories, all across the board, of homeless people in my tribe pulling out of that gigantic hole, because our spirits had finally become encouraged by the hugeness of our common dignity, so much so that our bodies were soon to follow.

In Lauren’s case, it was her own brother who finally stepped up to the plate.  In my case, it was a retired music teacher who knew what I was made of, and fronted me a one-way to Idaho and enough money for the deposit on an apartment.  But the dramatic lift in spirits is common in all cases.  I went from being homeless on the streets of Berkeley, assuming I was to die a miserable, meaningless death on the streets, to having a job and an apartment in Moscow, Idaho, faster than the twinkle of an eye.

If that’s not an inspiration, I don’t know what it is.  But remember  – it is not just my inspiration; it is the inspiration of hundreds, maybe thousands, of some of the most inspired people on the face of this Earth.  That inspiration can make a difference.  Please,  let us make that difference — before it is too late.

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