Latest Entries »

Tidbits

Today I am just going to share a few tidbits about the last month.

You know nothing- deadYou probably heard the rumours of The Grateful Dead doing reunion shows in Chicago this summer, but what you may have also heard was a lot of dissension in the community. There are many who have stated that the Dead cannot reunite without Jerry. I take exception to this. Jerry was not The Grateful Dead, although he was an integral member that glued the band together. I miss Jerry something awful, but I have to believe that the band can be bigger than the individuals. It is more about a philosophy of life and a musical philosophy. It transcends the Jam Band genre because they were the ones that developed the idea of a jam band in the first place. I am almost certain that Jerry would not have wanted to see the band stop in his absence. In a sense they did not. They changed the name a number of times, perhaps seeking ways to honor his memory while still being “The Grateful Dead”. Nevertheless, the music never stopped and the community are still striving and trying to get to Terrapin.  So, to the people who have said that this is a sad event, or that we can’t have a show without Jerry, my Dead is bigger than that.

So, I did what every good deadhead did, I wrangled together a small savings and converted it to money orders so that I too could partake in the party of the summer. There were moments of uncertainty as I pondered the exorbitant fee for the tickets, as well as the uncertainty of using the antiquated mail order system. But we pulled it together. We sent our money and dreams to California and prayed for the miracle of tickets:

Dead rejection

But this was what we got back in the mail. A rejection letter. It seems despite the cavalcade of naysayers, the office was over inundated with mail orders from other seekers and that meant that many of us were shut out of the shows. I went from excited to angry. How dare my band cut me out of their fold with such ease! As things go, anger gives way to acceptance and I now find myself with a rather bleak faith that I will get there. There is still an online sale date of the 28th and perhaps a long sit in front of the computer, hand on the mouse and clicking furiously, will result in tickets. It is perhaps unfortunate that this band meant so much to so many. However, they have spread enough amazing music to feed the world for a while. So that said, I humbly take my place with all of my fellow dreamers and sing loud and proud…”I need a miracle everyday”

You perhaps remember the last post I placed here. Lots of resolutions and promises right? Well I am pleased to say that for the most part I have kept to the plan. I am working on my new podcast with some well picked friends. It will be called “Rolling for Change”. Each episode we will be looking at the particular facets of the board gaming hobby that are therapeutic and educational. Presently I am working on re-equipping my podcasting studio both to enhance production value on Soundscape, and to make the biggest pitch I can with Rolling for Change. This is going to require an updated mixing board, better mic’s and possibly a new sound card; one made more for plugging the large size earphone jack into and one that does not put a strain on the card when plugged in. I feel good about this next step and I am looking forward to developing the first few episodes and finding the right broadcast network to put them in. The focus will be Dice Tower but there are some spots in the mix should this plan fall through. Also, Gencon is a go. Our presentation has been approved for Trade Day and we are also offering a presentation to the general audience. Ramping up to this, I am researching, testing ideas, and learning more about games and game play. Totally excited for this aspect of my life; even though I have to admit it is moving time along very quickly.

We have music plans all over the course of the year now. We are all set to see Mule and Steven Wilson in the coming months. We are still seeking our outing with The Grateful Dead, and music is on the menu for the forseeable future. That was not the hard part of the second resolution. The setting up of an office and getting back to using music in therapy was. Well the LPC application should be completed this week and I will be sending it up to the powers that be to get certification completed. Once that is finished I will be able to move forward with future plans. I continue to work on my skills as an FFT therapist but my heart and passion are in a closer future and I am excited to be headed in the right direction.

Financial goals- well we are working on them. Setting off in the right direction requires that I not play loose with all of these money sponging ideas. Nevertheless we are closer to the goal and we will continue in that direction. As for health…after an initial push and plan for eating better and exercising, I saw a weight loss of 10 lbs. Back up a few pounds now but I am earnestly setting out this week to exercise daily and to monitor food better.

I understand that this has been a very personlized blog entry and probably only offers meaningful content to a very few people, that is ok for now. Perhaps inspiration will strike soon and I will get some other stuff out to you all. That said I would like you to take a look at this next video, it is full of Steven Wilson goodness. Perhaps not the high level of lyrical meaning as we usually see, but I think this is simply meant to be a filler to set the tone of the album. Rumour has it that this next album will amaze you.

Cheers,

Woody

That resolution thing

Conspiracy of Light Blog

It’s has been a long while since I have written in this blog. Some of the time it has been due to just being incredibly busy. Others it has been out of feeling I had nothing of import to say. Sometimes I wondered what a conspiracy of light was, others I felt I was not being true to the mission if I simply wrote what I was feeling. Regardless, it has been a while, and like all people who come through the crucible of the holiday season, I find that I wish to make positive changes for the coming year. Whether I am able to maintain the goals I develop, something about me, either some deep genetic predisposition, or some cultural more has woken up and wishes to speak. So here I am again, writing in the new year, and hoping that a pledge to write at least once a month (if not more) will be a successful resolution.

BC-returning-sun

Over the years I have come to think of holidays in a very different way. I grew up in a christian family and of course I was taught that the holidays were all about Christ. That is certainly some of the picture historically, but prior to the birth of Christ there were a great many traditions. It is my understanding that the Catholic church, in need of a morale boost and campaigning for most popular religion, usurped many of these traditions and made them “christian”. But there is another side and I tend to think of the holidays in terms of what I imagine were the original circumstances. Upon finally developing science, or keen observation skills, we were able to determine that the light was slowly going away. It was getting darker and thus, very likely it would continue to be that way. Ugg and his friends Eh and Bort all believed that the world was coming to an end. In the absence of any idea of what to do, they did what we all do in time of need, they called out for help. They did this in a myriad of ways (probably, I purport none of this to be actually historical but a fiction with historical underpinnings). They likely sacrificed virgins, held huge rituals, sought out wise men for understanding, took psychedelics, or just hunkered down and cried (as so many do during the holidays to this day). Such fear probably brought the families together but under the guise of fear because, well we may never see one another again. So all of these grand rituals and sacrifices happen, and the cyclical nature of the earth then provides a return of the light. In modern terms we pass the winter solstice. This meant that there was much rejoicing. The powers that be must have favored us, they are bringing back the light. The days began to get longer again, and thus the rituals however bizarre, were reinforced and superstitious behavior was born out of this. (Don’t get me wrong here, I love the holidays and all of the wonderful ritual that comes with them). Seeing that the light returned, Ugg and his friends and family began to speculate that maybe, they had done something to anger the gods in the first place. They were obviously a very thoughtful people. So they began to make amends with one another and take vows to live a good life- whatever it might take to keep the light around. Thus I believe was the resolution born. Ugg gave back the lawnmower he had borrowed from Geh, Sal stated that she would be a better person and stop being mean to Gluh, and many other ancient peoples made promises to make a change in hopes that the sun would stick around.

bacchus

 

So here we are in the modern world, burdened with cultural and evolutionary baggage from the past, aware of the cycles of nature, and yet we still hold onto archaic wisdom, why? For my part I believe we need these rituals of festivity and renewal. They sustain us and keep us going. Perhaps they even warm us through the winter months giving us reason to move forward when it seems that the world is trying to shake us off with bursts of wind and snow. Whatever the case, we have adopted these traditions and I wish to make my promises to the new year public. A recent Ted interview http://blog.ted.com/2014/01/08/the-science-of-willpower-kelly-mcgonigal-on-why-its-so-dang-hard-to-stick-to-a-resolution/ about resolutions suggested that making resolutions public meant that we have a greater likelihood of fulfilling our goals. So rather than believe in the old adage that we break them all very quickly I am going to take her advice and put myself on display for all who care to witness, exhibitionist for one and all. The article also stated that resolutions were better without reference to deficit. Instead we should adopt goals that represent a positive future; not simple things like “I don’t eat healthy, so I should eat healthy”. The author stated that a goal couched in terms of the future we wish to see, rather than deficits we wish to repair, would give us more motivation and produce better results. So that is what I will be doing. Finally the author suggested that instead of large bite goals, we should make our goals require only small changes that are easily achievable. Very often when we make changes, we have grandiose designs on how we are going to revolutionize our lives. At least for me, the typical flash-bang-whiz changes do not stay embedded. We have been operating as we have for a long time, entraining habits and balancing our lives, one burst changes will not stick as they go against the already developed model. Thus the cold turkey approach to change, while necessary for some things, rarely pans out in the ways we would like. For change to last, it has to be easily achievable. Besides, aren’t you all tired of cold turkey at this point? Another nice Ted Talk is below for you to check out.

Ted Talk

My new years resolutions:

1)I like writing, and I like when I have an audience. A lot of good ideas pass through this mind of mine and without sharing them they get lost. I want to stir discussion, even if only among friends and stalkers. I feel good when I get to vent and quietly introduce changes. The Conspiracy of Light blog was born out of the need to write more often, and to catalog some of my better ideas. It is my fervent wish that I do this every so often to at least clean out the pipes, and perhaps to influence others who look in on my fishbowl life. So I will write in the blog at least once a month. If you who are reading this enjoy it, then please encourage me to carry on. Personally I am telling Siri to remind me to write once a month. Ain’t technology wonderful!

2) One of my biggest passions in the past 2 years has been playing and learning about boardgames. This new hobby has sustained me, and even caused me to do a lot of self examination. Games while incredibly fun are also a tool for developing personal insight and suggesting change in thinking and in social interaction. Last year I began formulating an awareness of the ways in which games were meaningful and useful both in my personal life, and in the lives of others. I spoke on the Geek Therapy podcast about using gaming as a therapeutic tool, and I was able to address a small crowd at Dragoncon regarding using games in therapy. Now that dream has grown a little bigger and I am actually going to be able to address a larger audience at Gencon. As such preparation is key. The idea to use games in therapy and recognize the potential for games to build social and mental faculties is of course born of my love of both things. But my personal experience and expertise does not alone support this idea. There are indeed a number of studies and journal articles that have been written on this and as such I need to go into my next presentation armed with all of the facts. I am excited to be presenting this idea to bigger audiences and helping other therapists to develop their craft by using the things they are already passionate about. There are several avenues I wish to explore regarding the research I will do. I would like to look into contributing to the Dice Tower network (and hopefully find some like minded individuals to develop the discussion with on the podcast). Also I would like to continually share the knowledge I develop with those who are interested. Finally I would like to do some personal research into the phenomenological experience of playing games (perhaps doing some surveys on the experience of regular gamers). There is a whole amazing world to explore here and I want to continue that exploration in whatever way that I can.

Geek Therapy with Woody Harris

3) The other passion in my life is of course music. The Soundscape podcast has been running for over 10 years now. We have made the transition to a new station, and the opportunities to support and grow the music have never been better. I will continue to grow Soundscape and provide support to my proggy friends (be they musicians or listeners). By adding the reading club to the Soundscape program, I will be able to meet the goal of reading more throughout the year. (For those who do not know, Soundscape will read 1 book every 2 months and then develop a show based on the themes in the book- the first one we have chosen is Ringworld by Larry Niven and the show will be at the end of February). The other side of this passion is using music in therapy. Last year I was both proud and excited to complete my level 2 program in Guided Imagery and Music. I had some rather intense and dare I say mystical experiences and I am now ready to help others take some of these same journeys. This year I will start my LPC and begin movement towards having my own therapy practice. My time with Family Ties has been an amazing period of growth, and I will likely stick around for a while more, but I will be looking for office space so I can continue my work with music therapy in the next year. Of course the goal would not be complete if I did not set some goals regarding seeing live music. It is no secret that Suzi and I love a good show. Next year we expect to hit two major festivals (Wannee and Lockn), we also hope to see Gov’t Mule play the Ryman, and if David Gilmour hits the states we will find a way to get there. So yes, I plan for music to be a major focus in the next year.

Soundscape Progcast

4) The hardest goal to work on will be the financial goals. I have seen a lot of people go through hard times due to not developing a financial plan. What I will need will be an aggressive plan for saving and making money, while still allowing myself to continue all of the growth I am working towards. This is no easy task, but the two go hand in hand. This will mean seeking aggressive retirement plans, streamlining spending by developing an efficient budget, and taking advantage of the resources we have at hand. This is also the goal I am least qualified to write about as I am no genius when it comes to money. I have lived my life in way that has blessed me with some good results, but money has never been a focus. The difficulty will be in striking a balance but I believe that it will be necessary in order to achieve all of the goals I am working on. Nuff said.

5) The final goal for this post may sound like the typical new years resolution, to be healthier. At 47 I am very aware of my own mortality and I still have a great deal to do while on the planet. I have seen the effects of age and I want to leave some sort of meaningful legacy for those who will come after me. That said, I need energy, motivation, and health. So I need to work out a plan for eating better and exercising more often. The bite size bit will be that I have to not overwhelm my system with change. Walking 2-3 times a week, using health and fitness apps to track progress, and reducing eating habits will help to sustain this goal. I may not ever be a swimsuit model, but I would like to trim off some of the excess weight that is keeping me from moving faster. So my commitment is to log my meals, and develop a routine of walking for about 60 minutes a week (20 minutes, 3 times a week). Hiking and biking will add to the joy of the thing, as well as dancing at every live music show I can get to.

Well those are the top 5 goals. I am not certain if I have effectively put a plan in place for each one, but they do outline my wishes for the next year. I only ask that my reader check in on me to see how I am doing, and let me know what they are working on so that I can equally support them. I am flawed, and often lost, but very happy to be alive and passionate about completing my goals. I want to be supportive to others in the same way so that we can all, around this time next year, feel proud of last years accomplishments and develop the next plan.

dancing cubs

 

My History with Genesis

Hackett

Last week I was very happy to get to see the amazing work of Steve Hackett and his band of merry men. He played at Symphony Hall here in Atlanta Ga. and he offered a mixture of Genesis material from his time with the band. Steve joined Genesis for Nursery Cryme, the same album that brought us Phil Collins as drummer. Since that time he has done multiple albums and shows. The fact that he keeps coming back to his Genesis material is a testament to the time tested power of this seminal progressive rock band. It was a truly fascinating show, but the longer effect has been the afterglow. My seats were nice and close to the stage. I could see the band very well, including the wonderful theatrics of vocalist Nad Sylvan who managed to find a way to present the show without being a Gabriel clone. However, the sound was not very clear. Some distortion in the speakers in our area made it difficult to follow. I could hear that the band were working hard and the songs were played with reverence and respect to the original material, and sometimes I could let go of the critical self that kept wanting clearer sound, but as I said the outcome was more about what came after.

Steve-Hackett-Genesis-Revisited

Back when I was a member of the Columbia record and tape club (hey it only cost a penny), I got my first Genesis album, Abacab. I had heard Abacab on our local rock station and fell in love with it almost immediately. I remember staying with my grandparents in their camper out at Stone Mountain Park and listening to my little boombox playing Me and Sarah Jane while I looked on at children playing in the park. It seemed a more playful song than Abacab and again I was hooked. This cassette got tons of play and probably got played out (I think I even had to do some repair to the cassette).

medium abacab cassette

The next step on the highway was more interesting. My earliest job was as a bookseller in a used bookstore in Stone Mtn. Aspen Book Shop became my base for learning about all of the greatest progressive artists (even if I did not immediately understand some of them at such a young age). The owner was a big Genesis fan. He had tons of tapes of older Genesis and made me aware of their history. From him I learned about Trespass, Nursery Cryme, all of the amazing older Gabriel era Genesis albums. I borrowed these tapes and copied them when I could. They were fantastic journeys delving into musically foreign lands and I was getting brought to these places all the time by my wonderful and amazing boss. He had been a traveler of music for a long while and much of my taste today can be rooted in his guidance- Thank You Paul- wherever you are!

Aspen Books

Now I am a bit older and time has gotten away from me. I do not remember the order in which some of these things happened. But another important story from my fanship with Genesis comes from church. I attended a rock and roll is evil type church service hosted by the reverend Steve Timmons (a sham of a man but we all fell for his bullshit). He presented a 2 hour sermon on the evils of backmasking, and then pointed out that the music was just as bad when played forward. He played snippets of music out of context in this presentation. Of course one of the bullet points was the part of Supper’s Ready titled “Apocalypse in 9/8 (Co-starring the delicious talents of Gabble Ratchet). In this space Gabriel, almost screaming from the pulpit of rock and roll, “666 is no longer alone, He’s getting out the marrow in your backbone, and the seven trumpets blowing sweet rock and roll, gonna blow right down inside your soul.” Of course this was the only part of the song he played for us, so you can imagine that out of context this piece sounded scary to an already guilt filled preteen who was just finding his way through the boundaries of organized religion. So I came away, totally afraid of all things secular rock. All my favorites vanished behind a haze of fear and guilt that if I kept listening I would go to hell. I began listening to Christian music only, but you’d better believe that the Christian music store was setup so that it had a “sounds like” section and there were albums that supposedly sounded like Genesis. I bought many of them, but now, here in this future time, I remember none of them while Genesis still lingers. I told my boss about what was said in church and all I remember of what he said was “the song is right”. It should be noted that Paul was a messianic Jew, so he had a great deal of religiosity to himself, but he made peace with it all and his love of rock and roll flowed freely.

tumblr_mkccimdkli1rlny4zo1_r1_1280

Flash forward again. I was working for a local temp work agency known as Temp Force. Temp work was one of the many ways I really started to experience the work a day world. I entered rather easily into blue collar work, filling vials of pool chemicals, stocking and sorting goods in warehouses, and filling orders for wallpaper. This was a world of working men and I was perhaps the youngest in the crowd. Nevertheless I worked hard and for quite some time made money in this way. One day while filling order tickets for wallpaper, I brought in the Lamb Lies Down on Broadway to listen to during work. It was the egalitarian tradition of the folks around the warehouse to give each other time on the stereo. Most of the time this was reserved for late 80’s pop and R&B. Common songs were things like “Blame it on the rain” and “Ride my pony”. Enter Woody, who decided that amidst a crowd of mostly black men, he would introduce into this workaday world, The Lamb! For those who know the album, you might feel that much of the music is at least melodic enough and vocal enough to offer something for everyone. “It’s the last great adventure left to mankind”, so goes The Grand Parade of Lifeless Packaging. To their credit, the guys around me made it all the way to The Waiting Room. However, it was this song that resulted in a lot of hemming and hawing and finally I was asked to stop playing it. Looking back, admittedly this is not a song that improves productivity and likely just had many scratching their heads in wonder that anyone would even listen to this.

I got to see Genesis live when they did the Invisible Touch tour. It was a happy moment. I bought my tickets last minute and went to the Omni alone. I sat on the left of the stage and I could see the band very well. My favorite moments of the show were when they dusted off the medley with The Cage (also from the Lamb Lies Down on Broadway album). I did not realize what a special performance I was seeing. I mean I was happy to be in the crowd, I loved the music, but nothing in me was aware that this would likely be the last Genesis show I ever saw. I was high on the music. Invisible Touch was another album that stayed with me constantly. Say what you will about the Collins pop era of the band, it still took me places. I still have the cassette somewhere in the remains of the great flood of 2010.

Genesis-Invisible-Touch-1986

So it is, particularly at this moment that I feel indebted to this band. Last week I listened to most of the first three albums, keeping Supper’s Ready on repeat and finding hidden meaning that is not really present. The song for me, at this moment, is a piece about the love of two people and the way that the narrator navigated what he believed was a rift between he and his lover. So either as daydream or as mythic journey he finds his way into a world of strange characters and biblical apocalyptic visions. The song speaks in ways that I cannot easily translate here, but I will put the lyrics at the bottom of the page along with the song for those who want to better understand. No matter which way I slice it, the lyrics, the visions, the feel of this piece of music has ebbed and flowed over me in the last week and I am in a period of rediscovery. This music is almost 40 years old and it still touches me in ways I did not expect. As I mature and see the world anew in the light of fresh knowledge, I rekindle love for different musics. As I prepare for another week of fly by the seat of my pants therapy, I see that I will be looking deep into the pool for the bluegirls and hovering like a fly waiting for the windshield on the freeway. So I invite you all to join me for the ride, whether you dance on a volcano, or live in the Home by the Sea, let me know what your favorite or most meaningful memories of the band Genesis are. Perhaps next week we will do some spelunking into the meaning behind some of these songs.

May your light shine!

I. Lovers’ Leap
Walking across the sitting-room, I turn the television off.
Sitting beside you, I look into your eyes.
As the sound of motor cars fades in the night time,
I swear I saw your face change, it didn’t seem quite right.
…And it’s hello babe with your guardian eyes so blue
Hey my baby don’t you know our love is true.Coming closer with our eyes, a distance falls around our bodies.
Out in the garden, the moon seems very bright,
Six saintly shrouded men move across the lawn slowly.
The seventh walks in front with a cross held high in hand.
…And it’s hey babe your supper’s waiting for you.
Hey my baby, don’t you know our love is true.

I’ve been so far from here,
Far from your warm arms.
It’s good to feel you again,
It’s been a long long time. Hasn’t it?

II. The Guaranteed Eternal Sanctuary Man

I know a farmer who looks after the farm.
With water clear, he cares for all his harvest.
I know a fireman who looks after the fire.

You, can’t you see he’s fooled you all.
Yes, he’s here again, can’t you see he’s fooled you all.
Share his peace,
Sign the lease.
He’s a supersonic scientist,
He’s the guaranteed eternal sanctuary man.
Look, look into my mouth he cries,
And all the children lost down many paths,
I bet my life you’ll walk inside
Hand in hand,
gland in gland
With a spoonful of miracle,
He’s the guaranteed eternal sanctuary man.
We will rock you, rock you little snake,
We will keep you snug and warm.

III. Ikhnaton and Itsacon and their Band of Merry Men

Wearing feelings on our faces while our faces took a rest,
We walked across the fields to see the children of the West,
But we saw a host of dark skinned warriors
standing still below the ground,
Waiting for battle.

The fight’s begun, they’ve been released.
Killing foe for peace…bang, bang, bang. Bang, bang, bang…
And they’re giving me a wonderful potion,
‘Cos I cannot contain my emotion.
And even though I’m feeling good,
Something tells me I’d better activate my prayer capsule.

Today’s a day to celebrate, the foe have met their fate.
The order for rejoicing and dancing has come from our warlord.

IV. How Dare I Be so Beautiful?

Wandering through the chaos the battle has left,
We climb up a mountain of human flesh,
To a plateau of green grass, and green trees full of life.
A young figure sits still by a pool,
He’s been stamped “Human Bacon” by some butchery tool.
(He is you)
Social Security took care of this lad.
We watch in reverence, as Narcissus is turned to a flower.
A flower?

V. Willow Farm

If you go down to Willow Farm,
to look for butterflies, flutterbyes, gutterflies
Open your eyes, it’s full of surprise, everyone lies,
like the focks on the rocks,
and the musical box.
Oh, there’s Mum & Dad, and good and bad,
and everyone’s happy to be here.

There’s Winston Churchill dressed in drag,
he used to be a British flag, plastic bag, what a drag.
The frog was a prince, the prince was a brick, the brick was an egg,
the egg was a bird.
(Fly away you sweet little thing, they’re hard on your tail)
Hadn’t you heard?
(They’re going to change you into a human being!)
Yes, we’re happy as fish and gorgeous as geese,
and wonderfully clean in the morning.

We’ve got everything, we’re growing everything,
We’ve got some in
We’ve got some out
We’ve got some wild things floating about
Everyone, we’re changing everyone,
you name them all,
We’ve had them here,
And the real stars are still to appear.

ALL CHANGE!

Feel your body melt;
Mum to mud to mad to dad
Dad diddley office, Dad diddley office,
You’re all full of ball.

Dad to dam to dum to mum
Mum diddley washing, Mum diddley washing,
You’re all full of ball.

Let me hear you lies, we’re living this up to the eyes.
Ooee-ooee-ooee-oowaa
Momma I want you now.

And as you listen to my voice
To look for hidden doors, tidy floors, more applause.
You’ve been here all the time,
Like it or not, like what you got,
You’re under the soil (the soil, the soil),
Yes, deep in the soil (the soil, the soil, the soil!).
So we’ll end with a whistle and end with a bang
and all of us fit in our places.

VI. Apocalypse in 9/8 (Co-starring the Delicious Talents of Gabble Ratchet)

With the guards of Magog, swarming around,
The Pied Piper takes his children underground.
Dragons coming out of the sea,
Shimmering silver head of wisdom looking at me.
He brings down the fire from the skies,
You can tell he’s doing well by the look in human eyes.
Better not compromise.
It won’t be easy.

666 is no longer alone,
He’s getting out the marrow in your back bone,
And the seven trumpets blowing sweet rock and roll,
Gonna blow right down inside your soul.
Pythagoras with the looking glass reflects the full moon,
In blood, he’s writing the lyrics of a brand new tune.

And it’s hey babe, with your guardian eyes so blue,
Hey my baby, don’t you know our love is true,
I’ve been so far from here,
Far from your loving arms,
Now I’m back again, and babe it’s gonna work out fine.

VII. As Sure as Eggs is Eggs (Aching Men’s Feet)

Can’t you feel our souls ignite
Shedding ever changing colours, in the darkness of the fading night,
Like the river joins the ocean, as the germ in a seed grows
We have finally been freed to get back home.

There’s an angel standing in the sun, and he’s crying with a loud voice,
“This is the supper of the mighty one”,
Lord of Lords,
King of Kings,
Has returned to lead his children home,
To take them to the new Jerusalem.

 

“I can’t pretend a stranger is a long awaited friend”. This statement comes from Neil Peart in his lyrics to Limelight off of the Rush album Moving Pictures. I recently watched the a documentary, Beyond the Lighted Stage a biopic about Rush and their rise to stardom. Lead singer and bassist Geddy Lee was talking about drummer Neil Peart. He explained that this lyric was indicative of Neil as a person. Apparently many see Peart as reclusive and stand offish and perhaps Limelight was his way of detailing his feelings about fame, to a fandom that did not quite understand his way of thinking. Then again, most Rush fans know that we get Neil and his views on life through his lyrical prowess.

It is a small group of Rush’s lyrics that has caught me this week. In my role as a therapist, I have to at least pretend that a stranger is indeed a long awaited friend. I do not really have the luxury of seeing others through a negative lens, instead I have to seek and accentuate the positive, even when the positive is very far from reality. Actually this maxim is written into the dynamics of functional family therapy (my most recent direction in therapeutic interventions). In a recent training the trainer suggested that she would like to take days off just to hate because it had become so difficult to see a problem without seeing that it was a solution in process. But it is not so much this single area of my life that I wish to highlight. I want to talk about lyrics and at the same time I want to talk about the way that Rush’s song lyrics have impact.

From the time I was a teen, first discovering the magical and mystical world of rock and roll, I have held that a kinship to music is a strong support for the adventures and events of our lifetimes. Whether I was in my room listening to Marillion’s Fugazi while pouring over the lyrics, or feeling isolated from what seemed like an uncaring world and feeling it through the music of Pink Floyd’s “Hey You” or “Comfortably Numb”, I always felt that the way music reflected my personal struggles was important and it could indeed be the listening friend I needed when it seemed all else had failed in my world. Music provided a consistent and supportive presence, a reflection of understanding, and a medium through which finding myself became more likely. This side of music was so powerful to me, that as I matured and began thinking about the ways in which music had served me, I conjectured that the music itself must in some way be therapeutic, particularly in its ability to reflect my mood and state of mind in song lyrics. The same is still true today.

At one point in time I thought that I would catalog the lyrical content of contemporary rock music, identifying the moods and feeling templates provided. Thus at some point in my life I believed I would be able to in some sense, prescribe music to those whom I wanted to have a particular experience. Some of this manifested early on in the form of mix tapes. Yes Mixtapes, that time honored tradition of the 80’s and 90’s for delivering others into your personal soundsphere. This blossomed further into radio shows at West Georgia College and finally into the stalwart prog rock vehicle we call Soundscape. To be fair, this original impulse to prescribe has often been superseded by a wish to cull themes and present the new to those who would miss it otherwise. In total now, I seem to try more for delivering an experience of the music rather than speaking to a main emotional theme. Despite this, the philosophy of music as a healing and experiential tool has remained with me to this day and this is where the last week and the works of Rush has started my play with this idea yet again.

One of the lyrics of The Grateful Dead from Cassidy is appropriate here. “Let the words be yours I am done with mine”. Similarly in the past Jerry and other members of the band have spoken about the malleability of a song to the mood and moment. Thus Grateful Dead songs were developed with a necessary ambiguity in order to appeal and reflect to the greatest majority of people. If this is true, if a song were able to perfectly reflect all states of mind, and only the listener determined the meaning, we might have one hell of a song- hell it may even rival The Beatles. Nevertheless this sentiment is often missed by many songwriters. While “Baby your a firework” may appeal to a majority of people, it rarely hits with the emotional potential of something more directive. So in the end, perhaps music should be subdivided into pertinent life themes, existential expressions, and emotional rorschachs intended to provide the prescription to a set of life themes and archetypes. This is what Rush has done through the lyrical prowess of Neil Peart.

It would be impossible to pick through the vast catalog of Rush and deliver each and every theme present. Maybe this is even a worthwhile destination for future articles but for now, perhaps as an attempt to stir your imagination, I want to point out some of the ways that Neil’s lyrics have influenced me.

Let’s begin with “Subdivisions”. The song speaks to suburban pressures and marginalization in high school youth. The lyrics were instrumental in voicing the concerns of less than popular high school kids all over North America. We all knew very well the dominating truth in the lines “conform or be cast out”. We saw the video which depicted the average geek left out of the grand scale life his peers were supposedly living. Unfortunately, I think the music made very little impact on the people it could have benefited the most. Instead it stood as an anthem to the disempowered casting a light on a social theme of bullying- which unfortunately still continues to this day.

Subdivisions by Rush

This week I decided, having viewed the Rush video, to listen to most of the Rush catalog. I was also trying to identify with one of my clients fathers who is feeling run ragged and unable to cope with the situations he is dealing with in his family. From my point of view, he is experiencing a great deal of challenges himself and probably needs his own individual treatment and this has separated him from his family in ways that are very difficult to articulate. Enter an unlikely source of inspiration, “Distant Early Warning” from the Grace Under Pressure album. I recognized in some of the lyrics the exact understanding I needed for this family and this father, “The world weighs on my shoulders but what am I to do. You sometimes drive me crazy, but I worry about you. I know it makes no difference to what you’re going through, but I see the tip of the iceberg and I worry about you”. There, in that lyric, I found my client, I found his teenage son, and I found the feeling I needed to better understand the whole family state of mind. I began to wish that I could prescribe Rush songs to every client. How ideal was this vision of desperation and yet acceptance. If only this father could say this to his son without blowing up, without pushing blame, with total confidence, what a difference would it all make.

Distant Early Warning

The greatest prowess a piece of art can show is to connect with a variety of situations and reflect the vagaries of everyday challenges. How many times has Rush provided a bridge in relationships? On Permanent Waves in the lyrics of “Free Will” many of us can see the battle that is oft played out in the mind as we imagine the role of Gods and luck in our own lives; “You can choose a ready guide in some celestial voice, if you choose not to decide you still have made a choice, you can choose from phantom fears and kindness that can  kill, I will choose a path that’s clear, I will choose free will”. Or what about the way that “Entre Nous” so helps us reflect a sense of loneliness yet reaching out, “We are secrets to each other, each one’s life a novel no one else has read, even joined in bonds of love, we’re linked to one another by such slender threads”.  I can recall a conversation with a friend some time ago in which he said “we are all alone, but we are together in our aloneness”. Whether we trust such an idea or not, I think it is definitely an emotional state we enter on a regular basis. Entre Nous, seems to reflect that sentiment.

Entre Nous by Rush

As I stated, it would be impossible for me to go through every song by Rush. What I wanted to do instead was hopefully peek your curiosity. Sure I want you to listen to Rush, but that is not the point, I want you to examine how your chosen music plays a role in your daily life whether you are a “Blue Collar Man” or someone who has found a wall blocking your path; “It rises now before me, a dark and silent barrier between all I am and all that I am ever meant to be”. Soundscape used to have a feature called lyrical spelunking. The idea was to take a single song and plumb its depths, find the hidden meanings, look for the ways that the song references culture, or depicts a daily struggle for us fumbling humans. That idea did not work so well in the context of Soundscape but perhaps we could do some justice here on the blog. Music itself can be a product of the conspiracy of light, weaving themes through our soundscape and forcing song memes and worms into our growing awareness. As such I invite you all to develop this awareness and do your own lyrical spelunking. Now go listen to Rush!

Rush- Time Stand Still

Yes its a cheesy video!

New year, new goals

I try not to get caught up in the wave of false promises and dedications that is the new years resolution but I thought it might be important, not only for my friends and supporters but for myself, to offer a sort of review of the year and a plan for the next year. You see I want to make it the best year possible and I believe that although it is arbitrary to develop such a set of ideas at the beginning of the year, there is a tradition that supports it. It will be up to me to meet these goals.

Last year was full of decisions and changes. To begin the year, I dropped my PHD even though I was approximately at the ABD stage. I dropped it due to a feeling of overwhelm, a lack of financial support for completing and a feeling that it was no longer meshing with my state of mind. This year the bills for that decision have started coming in. I regret nothing about my time at Saybrook. I made some really great friends, learned from some amazing teachers, and completed all of the coursework necessary to become licensed in the state of Georgia. Just about 6 months ago I received my LAPC and in the next 2-3 months I expect to be fully licensed. That is quite an accomplishment and I owe that to the loving support of my wife, Family Ties, my many friends, and the amazing teaching staff of Saybrook University. I may in the future return to Saybrook, but for now my path lies elsewhere.

Another important development last year was the amount of time we spent in the board gaming universe. To begin with our friendship with Dave and Leslie, the proprietors of Well Played (an amazing gaming company that both delivers and teaches others how to play board games- plus they offer in home parties for any who are interested). What started out as a simple interest in the game company has blossomed into a wonderful and growing friendship that I hope will go on for a long while. In 2014 I hope to work with Dave to bring gaming to non-traditional audiences such as group homes and nursing homes. Far too often the residents of these places get very little attention from positive sources, I look forward to changing that and with Dave’s help I think we can turn it into a therapeutic enterprise. Secondly, we have made many new friends as a result of our relationships with Dave and Leslie. You are too many to be counted, but I look forward to growing with each and every one of you, playing games, and imbibing great food.

It was also this year that through my kinship with the gaming community that I have realized the therapeutic value of gaming. I have played games for a long time, but with the increase of gaming and my awareness of the ways that various game mechanisms expose challenges and support growth, I have dedicated a portion of my time to researching the use of board games as a therapeutic intervention. To this end I have been talking with another new friend of mine, Josue Cardona who runs the fabulous Geek Therapy podcast. Josue and I have been looking for opportunities to collaborate together. At the moment the details of this collaboration are not yet in stone but it looks like I will be writing some blog posts about using games in therapy, talking with Josue on the geek therapy podcast, and presenting with Josue at the Secrets Con game festival, on the therapeutic value of games. Lots of exciting plans here and I look forward to letting you all hear about the results of these endeavors.

On the other end of my creative spectrum is the Soundscape Progcast. This has been a continuing labor of love for the past approx 9-10 years. In the next year I hope to see a few changes in the way our broadcast runs. I have talked a lot about a little project called ‘minisodes’. This is a side project for Soundscape in which I will be presenting a short 1 hour podcast with a bend towards the show being more academic in nature. I would like to do this once a month as a means of supporting continued education about the nature of progressive music and as a catalyst for my own learning about this music that I love so much. Some of the ideas floating in my head have been looking at the themes in the music of Yes, the psychology of improvisation, and the existential nature of Pink Floyd. Heavy stuff yes, but a lot of excitement has been brewing. Also as I streamline the show I hope to develop a greater capacity to interview guests, and bring in more great new music. Ideas continue to line up at the gate of my dreams, so look for some exciting developments.

More close to home, and perhaps meaningful only for Suzi and our closest  friends, is getting our house in order. We have just this last month began work on rerouting drainage in our yard. This has been due to continual flooding in our basement, our finished basement. What we wish to do is get the basement to the point that it can be a library and game room. A place for friends to gather and play games with us. Hosting our own game nights may be a bit of a stretch, but it would be most wonderful if we could once again use this area of our house. At the present rate of work, we may be done by Spring- here’s hoping. Plus with the completion of these home projects, Suzi and I can again start looking into being foster/adoptive parents.

In general, I want to spend more time with family and friends, the people that I love. I want to develop my therapy skills- Family Ties is offering me a number of opportunities in this regard from supporting my ongoing studies in music and guided imagery, to offering education in family therapy and trauma focused cognitive behavioral therapy. I want to make a difference in the lives of the people I connect with. I want to improve my health (the dreaded new years resolution that every new TV ad will shove down our throats) by continuing work at the gym, and changing my fast food reflex to one of choosing a healthier diet. A number of goals await, and I look forward to embracing each and every one of them. Now if I can just shake this winter cold and move forward.

To each and everyone of you I wish a happy new year and wings that work!

Woody Harris

On being a Deadhead

Today is August 9th, 2013. It was 18 years ago today that I was plunged into the heart of a darkness I still cant wrap my mind around. Jerry Garcia, the man who had lit my world on fire with amazing improvisational jams and the kind hearted grandfatherly voice, had died. My friend R gave me the news. It was via answering machine, “Jerry’s dead man” he said in a sorrowful voice.

After watching the death of Brent Mydland, one of the Grateful Dead’s finest keyboard players, I would have thought that Jerry would have been more careful. I was so certain that Jerry only used pot and psychedelics that I ignored those who had told me that he was a heroin addict. I remember long ago 2 deadhead friends trying to tell me that Jerry was a user. I was so sure it was hyperbole and i chalked it up to hatemongering among those who felt the need for something bad to happen. I was blind to the possibility that the long strange trip might indeed have some sort of end.

Despite these feelings, I had already thought about what it might mean when members of the band died. I was hopeful that some benevolent God might see the band as one of the truest voices of direction in the world but I did not really believe that by some magical cast of God’s dice that the band would last forever. Instead I postulated that the band would now and forever rotate members in the same way that Doctor Who has regenerations. The band members would change but the music, already a beacon from another world, would remain, and the world of being a Deadhead would go on far past my own life. Nevertheless the death of Jerry forced us all to come to terms with the impermanence of the world.

Jerry was my grandfather. I mean of course we were not related, and actually we were only about 20 years apart in age, but the voice he sang with, the way that he joked and talked about life, all of his mannerisms reminded me of my grandaddy. It seemed very difficult for those I was close to at the time to understand what this event meant to me. Jerry was dead. Courtney Love went to the media saying that she was grateful that he was dead. It may have been no more than a showpiece to get herself in the news, but she got no respect from me thereafter. While my non deadhead friends were not so callous, they seemed to be surprised at my grief. They tried to comfort me certainly, but deep down they did not know what had really happened. I lost one of my best friends. A friend I would never again have the potential to meet in person. A man who changed my life almost daily.

Jerry of course never wanted to be pegged as any kind of savior. “I’m fine with them following me, it is when they get the cross and nails that I get nervous”- this is a paraphrase of something Jerry said in an interview when he was asked about his fans. In other interviews he stated that he was Ok with being a leader but he wanted everyone to know that he would stumble and fall just as any other person might do. Jerry was a humble man, but he had a great many demons to wrestle with, more than most of us will ever know.

At a fan gathering approx a year after Jerry’s death, some of those of us in the tribe gathered to talk about the role of the Dead in our lives and our missing leader. John Barlow, writer for the Dead and also leader of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, addressed us at this conference. He explained that the band had made multiple attempts to help Jerry get out of the grip of heroin. he told us that the band had told Jerry that it was them or the heroin, Jerry said he chose the heroin. Later in this same gathering, in tears and anger, John blamed us for the death of Jerry. He was emotional at the time, we all were. We had gathered to discuss the future of our tribe but this was harsh. To the best of my understanding, in some sense he was right. Jerry sacrificed himself to The Grateful Dead. The role he held as the defacto leader of what really was a leaderless group, the pressure to keep creating and keep the Grateful Dead machine running, all of these stressors were what ultimately killed Jerry. Don’t get me wrong, I am not absolving Jerry of personal responsibility for his death. There is no divine entity asking for his death to appease the Gods, but the stress of that role almost required Jerry to seek refuge. In another interview Jerry stated that he always wanted to see The Grateful Dead. He stated that what we experienced as audience members was far beyond anything he could imagine and he wanted to understand the experience from the outside point of view.

As I write this I am in a melancholy mood. There is so much to say about that fateful moment so many years ago. That night, we gathered for a candlelight vigil in Piedmont park. Similar vigils were held the world over. There were displays throughout the park that had been made with signs like, we miss you poppa bear, and He’s Gone, and nothings gonna bring him back. The week that followed was one of mourning. Our local radio station held an all live Dead weekend in which they played bootlegs of Jerry’s greatest moments and solo’s all weekend long. Somewhere here in the house I have VCR tapes that I recorded of the event. I just wanted to keep it all, for posterity, for memory, and because the moment was frozen, there was no moving forward from this event.

Now here we are 18 years later. I still mourn but I see the waves that the band created. I see the way that the music, one great cacaphonous and harmonious entity, has splintered into a million myriad mirror images. The remaining band members keep the spirit alive playing a slightly smaller slate of shows than their predecessors. Each new band or configuration, mirrors the original in distorted but amazing ways. It would be near impossible to explain all of these and for those who are not already connected to the flock it would be confusing. Suffice it to say Jerry is with us in spirit in every musical gathering that bears the Dead’s music. He sits behind Phil and Bob, hopefully laughing, dancing, and digging the way the tunes have evolved. He is forever perched above whether in memory or in spirit finally able to experience a Grateful Dead show.

I miss you Jerry!

MoonfloweBear

March 28th, 1989 was when I first met Jerry Garcia. He was at least 1000 feet away but he and his friends shared something with me that would change my life forever.

Some friends and I picked up Grateful Dead tickets. I didn’t what was so important about them. I had seen the oft broadcast “Touch of Grey” video and at the time, I was not terribly impressed. Nevertheless, I was a recent graduate of the Owsley institute, and my friends explained to me that this was one of the most important bands to come out of the 60s music movement. So with high hopes and a lot of confusion I made the trek to the Omni arena in downtown Atlanta.

Omnicoliseum

I might have noticed the parking lot scene but thought nothing of it. I just followed my friends in to the show. Our seats were almost at the top of the Omni. My friend D started to cry because we were so far away. Nevertheless our other friend who was playing the ground control role for this adventure managed to explain that “they are just guys on stage, there is nothing to really see”. I am certain I don’t remember his exact words but he consoled her and eventually things were calm again.

To say I remember the opening of the show would also be a lie. Getting used to the world of The Grateful Dead takes a lot of adjustment. There is a throng of fans waiting for the music with an anticipation that I had never seen before. The lights went down and I was immediately caught by how powerful the appreciation for the band was. Still I did not know any of the songs. They opened with “Let the good times roll”. With hindsight I can see that this was a special opener but at the time, I was just taking it all in.

grateful_dead_bears_walk

I decided to wander down to the concession to get a drink. This is when the bus came by people. I don’t remember if I ever got the drink or not. What I do remember is that I was transfixed by two things. First the Omni had set up speakers on the outer ring, outside of the concert arena so you could hear the music everywhere you went. People were dancing around the speakers, campfire vibrations and good feelings all around. Then there was Opal. She was a vision of beauty though I doubt I could describe her accurately now. So let’s pretend that my memory is good. She was everything you expect out of a little hippy girl, long stringy blond hair, a beatific smile and a come hither young Woody body that had me mesmerized. I stopped and danced with her, completely unaware of all my former shyness. She was the symbol of all of the freedoms that being a fan of the Dead would offer. Dancing with her was a huge surprise to me and she just engaged me so easily as if we had known each other for years. I explained that this was my first show and she invited me to join her and her friends. “Franklin’s Tower” was playing and we were all rolling away the dew. I managed to say that I would come back after I told my friends where I would be. Sadly I never saw her again.

The return to my friends was something of an encouragement session. “You’ve got to come down here and see- they are dancing everywhere”. If my memory serves me, I did finally get them all to come out and see the circus of colorful dancers. My sugar magnolia girl was nowhere in sight, maybe it was all a dream. Mr. Ground Control seemed to think that the girl would have taken me away and I would never have returned…she would have. We would have had a life on the road seeing shows, dancing, and sampling all of the universes pleasures along the way. We would have had several deadhead children whom we would have carried with us from show to show. This whole hippily ever after story evolved in my mind but I quickly let go of Opal and let myself dance and enjoy the music.

29041

The return to the seats was a bit of a letdown after experiencing so much pleasure in the dance ring. A more welcoming crowd you would never find anywhere. Nevertheless we returned to the seats and the intermission passed with little fanfare. It was in the second set that my mind, already bursting with joy juice, was blow to smithereens. Oh, it didn’t happen immediately, but ever so slowly I became aware of an ebb and flow between the band and the audience. It was a communication of sorts, the band would play, the audience would respond and we all became one mind floating in a sea of uncertainty. The Grateful Dead were at the helm of the big ship and the ship itself ran on the music. Not only did the music provide all of our forward momentum, but the words in the songs indicated the space we were in. Whether we were tearing this old building down with Samson and Delilah, or we were barreling into the heart of the night sky with Playin in the Band. I was aware that the audience responded with a different tenor to each song. There was a symbiosis involved and it became clear to me that the audience and the dead were one circuit of information.

imgGrateful Dead4

Drums and space careened through the strangest places I had ever been musically. It was so otherworldly I was both frightened and frozen. People all over the arena were lighting up joints, and the whole place got incredibly smoky. Clearly the songs being played required a mind sacrifice as the whole place seemed to be a smoke filled den. And then we hit Throwing stones- “Ashes, Ashes all fall down” and all of the smoke dissipated. People stopped lighting up and I had the realization that there were rituals for each song. In the long run, I probably did not interpret that correctly, but at the time the communication was clear. The dead were saying, “It’s time to bring the ship back down to earth, cool the engines, walk out of here and go change the world”- They did not verbalize it, but I heard it loud and clear. They closed with Not Fade Away, the old Buddy Holly classic turned worship song. In that song the Dead explained to us all that they would be back and their love would not fade away and we all in turn explained in unison that ours would not either.

Leaving the show was a strange trip. I knew something life changing had happened back there, I heard the altar call, the message for going back out into the real world and making a new start, transforming the world into a better place. For me it was evangelical. It was never spoken, but the clear message was to bring others to the experience. Turn on the masses so that they could feel the same connection and bliss that I did that evening. I did just that.

the-grateful-dead

In my 6 years following the band to over 50 shows, I turned on a lot of people. Not so much to the drugs, but to the experience of being a deadhead. I collected shows, went on long road trips, and almost formed all of my thesis ideas around the prospect that something special was happening here. That was the day I met Jerry Garcia. I did not know his name, nor did I know any other band members but I was called to witness and I have done my best to show others the transformative power of the music. Jerry may be gone, but The Grateful Dead is timeless. It rears up from the depths in every setting in which the music is played. It still catches people long after Jerry’s death. I have met many younger listeners who never saw Jerry alive but they continue to dance and shake their bones at Further shows and the menagerie of Dead cover bands and offshoots that have sprung from the ashes of The Grateful Dead.

The Days Between

jerry-garcia-09

Hi there friends- I have been trying to develop a series of posts- all of which wait on the back burner in editing. This is not to say that I am working hard at them, just to say that they are not yet ready for public consumption. However, this week a very special reason to post has popped up and I am just going to offer you all a set of daily posts wrapped inside one theme- The Grateful Dead.

Aug. 1st is Jerry Garcia’s birthday and this period of time, the run from Aug 1 to Aug 9th the date that Jerry died, have become special to most deadheads. We call  days between his birth and his death “the days between” in line with a song of the same name.

The song in question is a very special song to me and perhaps to many deadheads. While it never had that soaring Jerry vocal that it could have had with a great deal of practice in concert. Bob Weir, rhythm guitarist for the Grateful Dead and heir apparent for picking up the Deads heavy mantel, has made this song his own. When I hear the song in concert from Furthur (the revamped vehicle for Grateful Dead music), it brings Jerry to mind. I can remember being in Simpsonville South Carolina 2 summers ago during a Further tour. We were on this nice thick flat lawn. The sun had heated things up all day but now we were near the end of the show. It was quite a show and perhaps one of my favorite from that year- but that is another story. Bobby brought this song up and sang it with such passion and zeal that it was a fitting tribute to the big man. And I and my newfound pals, (as everyone becomes temporary brothers and sisters at a dead show), were also wailing away. It was hard not to feel Jerry’s presence.

The Days Between- Garcia/Hunter

There were days
and there were days
and there were days between
Summer flies and August dies
the world grows dark and mean
Comes the shimmer of the moon
on black infested trees
the singing man is at his song
the holy on their knees
The reckless are out wrecking
The timid plead their pleas
No one knows much more of this
than anyone can see anyone can see
There were days
and there were days
and there were days besides
when phantom ships with phantom sails
set to sea on phantom tides
Comes the lightning of the sun
on bright unfocused eyes
the blue of yet another day
a springtime wet with sighs
a hopeful candle lingers
in the land of lullabies
where headless horsemen vanish
with wild and lonely cries lonely cries
There were days
and there were days
and there were days I know
when all we ever wanted
was to learn and love and grow
Once we grew into our shoes
we told them where to go
Walked halfway around the world
on promise of the glow
Stood upon a mountain top
Walked barefoot in the snow
Gave the best we had to give
How much we’ll never know we’ll never know
There were days
and there were days
and there were days between
polished like a golden bowl
The finest ever seen
Hearts of Summer held in trust
still tender, young and green
left on shelves collecting dust
not knowing what they mean
Valentines of flesh and blood
as soft as velveteen
hoping love would not forsake
the days that lie between lie between

Even today, 18 years after the death of Jerry Garcia, I mourn his absence. No musician that I know of has had the kind of impact on me that he and The Grateful Dead have had. So I wanted to communicate my love for his music and wisdom in a series of posts that will fill The Days Between. In the next few days I will write about the ways in which The Grateful Dead have changed my life. Hopefully, it will resonate with those who have been on the journey with me, and it will give some vision of the journey that the band took me on from 1989 to now.

116703364_amazoncom-grateful-dead---skeleton-playing-guitar-22x31-

Today I am simply going to post one of my favorite songs from Jerry Garcia. This one comes from Workingman’s Dead- an album of folk acoustic brilliance that took me away to some never imagined place. The album itself was a modern folk masterpiece offering up a mythology cast in the irons of the industrial revolution and speaking of the woes of the peoples that were crushed by the sweeping changes that the industrial age cast upon the common people, the folk. The Grateful Dead took the simple folk melodies and made them sing for me, more than any other folk artist had done. To this day, the album still speaks to me. But this was one of the greatest values in the songwriting of the Dead, every song could be reinterpreted by the listener, a tilted rorschach of personal information waiting to be discovered over and over again by each individual listener. Sure the songs have meaning, but where the Grateful Dead made the most headway was when they could stitch together verse and song to reveal a scaffold of the listener- you can find yourself in almost every song. So here I present to you, “High Time”- a song that has gotten me through many bad times and helped my spirit soar at times when it most needed it. I hope you will enjoy it as well. This one is from 1977 one of my favorite years of live material from the band.

220px-Grateful_Dead_-_Workingman's_Dead

Although I have written many posts here at Conspiracy of Light most remain unpublished. They consist of ideas that I am still working on, venting moments, or half baked ideas. However, the idea that sticks out to me this week is to write about my relationship with music.

Although music therapy exists as a therapeutic modality, most of the books and articles I read only speak of the value of the tune and the emotional tenor of the music itself. Very few recognize or even acknowledge the impact of the word, the lyric. It was for this reason that I introduced a section of the Soundscape Progcast called “Lyrical Spelunking”. The idea was to get at the emotional and philosophical content that was buried in the words of the music. However, that was not complete enough. It did not recognize the way that the tune itself also pierced into our world. So then I introduced musical spelunking. Well, Soundscape is an ever changing animal, built to evolve with time and the motivations of yours truly. It has more recently become a platform for exploring theme and delving into the hidden layers of prog rock. This week we will explore the strange overlap between punk and prog. That is enough for several episodes and I am trying to condense it into one, so needless to say there is less and less room to delve into lyrical content or the meaning of the music.

My relationship to music has always been such that it fuels my weekly life. It motivates me, reflects my mood and thoughts, it serves as a friend in times of distress and a catalyst for all the rebellious energy that hides beneath my otherwise calm appearance. (You know I appear calm so just accept it). As a result I often feel the need to shout from the rooftops the joy and the depth I find in the music I listen to. Actually one of the purposes that Soundscape serves is for me to share my musical adventures with others who are interested. Sometimes though Soundscape is not enough. I need to wax philosophical on my experience. I also still want to be able to connect music to psychological content as I think a connection between clinical needs and music could be made for those who need it.

The piece that lit my fuse this week is from the new Ben Folds Five CD. It is a song called “Do it Anyway” This song has been my motivator this week. Anything I have been fearful about or procrastinating about I have just chanted the mantra “Do It Anyway”. While this song may not be motivational to everyone who reads this, I think you can see how it does motivate. Artists provide a ritual chant, an emotional texture, etc. They pronounce the cultural memes which we will all follow.

You might put your love and trust on the line
It’s risky, people love to tear that down
Let ’em try
Do it anyway
Risk it anyway

And if you’re paralyzed by a voice in your head
It’s the standing still that should be scaring you instead
Go on and
Do it anyway
Do it anyway

There will be times you might leap before you look
There’ll be times you’ll like the cover and that’s precisely why you’ll love the book
Do it anyway
Do it anyway

Tell me what I said I’d never do
Tell me what I said I’d never say
Read me off a list of the things I used to not like but now I think are ok

Sometimes it’s not subjective: wrong and right
Deep down you know it’s downright wrong but you’re invincible tonight
So you
Do it anyway
It’s done
You did it

Despite your grand attempts the chips are set to fall
And all the stories you might weave cannot negotiate them all
Do it anyway
Be honest, anyway
So tell me what I said I’d never do
Tell me what I said I’d never say
Read me off a list of the things I used to not like but now I think are OK
Yeah yeah yeah yeah
Woah woah woah woah

It’s gonna be so very hard to say
And watch the trust and joy all drain from her innocent face
But you must
Do it anyway
It sucks but
Do it anyway

Call it surrender but you know that that’s a joke
And the punchline is you were never actually in control
But still, surrender anyway

Tell me what you said you’d never do
Tell me what you said you’d never say
Read me off that list of things ’cause I used to not like you
But now I think you’re OK
Yeah yeah yeah yeah
Woah woah woah woah

Everybody knows that you just gotta do it anyway

Do it anyway
Do it anyway
Do it anyway
Do it anyway
Do it anyway
Do it anyway
Do it anyway
Do it anyway

Cause you don’t do nothing to avoid self punishment
You won’t do nothing
You won’t feel nothing
Gotta
Do it, do it, do it anyway
Ah
Do it anyway- Ben Folds Five

Ben and his band have sounded a rallying cry several times in my life. But when I think about this, there are so many other bands that feed my fire. When I was much younger (so much younger than today), I found music to be helpful for the issues of the day. I remember listening to Marillion after they put out Fugazi. That album did not connect with me personally so much. I was too young to have been through a marriage, let alone watch one fall apart. But I knew that the efforts put into the lyrics by Fish were coming from real experience. They echoed the sentiments of someone who was dealing with loss.

It was not until much later (after Fish left the band) that Fish put out his first solo album; Vigil in a Wilderness of Mirrors and his words finally connected to my personal life. It was in fact the title song that made that impact. One of the key lines was “For now just our t-shirts cry freedom” that has since been one of my mantra’s. Now for you this lyric may not hold meaning which is precisely the reason that theming music to a psychological diagnosis is so difficult, but for me it connected to a constellation of rebellion. For me that line means, we are not acting on the things that need to be acted on. Instead we wear t-shirts that speak our truths. A cry in a wilderness of mirrors where everything reflects only me and no one else can be allowed presence. The song calls me to a life of action, or at least attempted actions. I do not want to live in a world where the only means of rebellion is to print our favorite band, saying, or mashup on a t-shirt. Instead I want to live a life of being the change I wish to see. I do not want to be just a voice in the crowd, and Fish in all of his marvelous wisdom was using this song to call for uprising, for change, and for collaboration.

Another song that I have found to be quite uplifting comes from The Alan Parsons Project The song is “Turn It Up” and the key motivating lyric for me “If there is something you’ve got to believe in, then the message must get through, so don’t just sit in silence, when you know what to do, Turn it up, Make it louder”. Again a call to action, rise up, don’t get caught in the folds of life, turn up the volume of those things that you find meaning in, and make them louder. Share your voice with the world. Live deliberately.

Each of these songs for me presents a call to action. Maybe I just get off on the call. I find it amazing that I can be lost on my journey and a piece of music can bring awareness to all the ways in which I could yet again move forward, kick start my motor and send me ever onward. This then is a deep interest of mine; How do lyrics propel you forward? Are there moments in your life that you feel lost, and a song either bursts from the depths of your memory and awakens you, or a song you are exposed to sends you throttling forward? A collection of such songs would be very different for each person. Obviously there is a huge catalog of sounds in the world and each calls to us in different ways. My musical taste may not be echoed in anyone else, yet I feel motivated to identify where these experiences cross paths.

For the conspiracy of light to make itself alive, it seeks subversive methods. Our music must reflect the reality we would like to see so that we can propel things forward, and our music must express the mood of the day, the zeitgeist under which we play so that we can express our feelings be they pain or celebration. I ask all of you readers whomever you are, what part does the music you listen to serve and what are the examples of how it serves you best?

 

 

Therapuetic fail

The following short essay is more a message to myself. Writing helps me to release my own inner demons, and often presents new and interesting examples to help me meet personal goals. The intended audience is anyone who wants to see a brief glimpse into my life, and anyone who is interested in developing a healthy dialogue about what constitutes good therapy. I claim no expertise here in that I am a beginning therapist, just learning the ropes of my craft. Sometimes I feel totally competent and I walk away with a sense of accomplishment, others I walk away more confused. I try to maintain a sense of beginners mind in each situation, but sometimes fall prey to personal struggles. This is one such struggle. On reflection it may be quite minimal, but it blew up in my head and sapped my energy, so I here present that internal battle.

“Shoo, go away”- it was the voice of a client trying to get me out of his life. We had been talking about his desire to not have to participate in therapy, and I was trying to elicit his strategies for getting me out of his life. I was hoping for him to do more with the question than just tell me to go away. I wanted to see him truly think about his challenges. I wanted in all honesty, for him to be the man with the solution. But that did not happen and here I sit feeling a little embarrassed by the behavior that followed.

For those who are not therapists, let me first explain that each and every session and child or family has it’s own dynamics. I may pre-plan a great deal before going in, but my plans can easily fail and very often I am left in an improvisational moment in which I am trying to generate healthy dialogue about how to meet the goals of the family or referring agent (DFCS, or DJJ etc.). This means that if I become uncertain of my place in the relationship, I will falter, I will struggle, and on some occasions I will fall prey to my own emotions. In this session I did.

I explained to the client that the therapy would continue until his parents were satisfied. I asked him what he thought his parents wanted, he began a string of very obvious lies about professionals he had spoken to that told him he did not need therapy including his parents. So I called in his mother and explained to her that her son did not think there was a problem, would she please explain why I was needed here. The result was an argument between the client and his mother. She pointed out all her worries about her son, and he seemed to get more and more escalated. Knowing that I needed some time alone with mom, I asked him if he wouldn’t like it better if he were not having to hang out for this, and he seemed relieved to get out of the room. However, he listened just out of earshot, and I caught myself purposely saying things for his benefit. In some instances I sided with mom that he was placing himself in danger on a regular basis due to his behaviors, and on the other I tried to get mom to better see that some of his behaviors were generated as a result of family dynamics. Mom seemed eager to listen to my thoughts and suggestions.

One of the suggestions was that instead of the client just being given the opportunity to have the things he wanted, he should have to earn these things with his behaviors. I explained to mom that if the client did not have consistent boundaries and a clear understanding of how his changing would benefit him, he would not be able to make the necessary changes for mom to feel that he is safe. Mom liked the idea of putting together a behavior chart and agreed to meet with myself and her child later to construct this chart. This was when things went awry.

The client walked into the room, and mom took his mp3 player away from him explaining he had to earn it. Client began to argue with his mom, and gave me a glaring look that said to me “you did this didn’t you”. I did not give him a chance to say anything. I said, “I am just trying to be the evil enemy you expected me to be- I wanted to live up to your expectations of a villain in your life”- this does have context in that we had just earlier been talking about the differences in villains and superheroes. At that moment, I realized this cuff of the moment response was not the most therapeutic choice. I had basically sided with his mother against him and I was not going to be building any rapport with this move. The argument between he and his mother seemed to be escalating and I was feeling less than perfect having engaged the more spiteful part of my personality. I decided it was time to exit, and I left them in what I assume was a massive power struggle.

It is amazing to me, that one little wrong move would cause me to react so strongly. Normally if we follow an incredibly erroneous lead in a conversation with someone, we can back track, say we are sorry, or explain that this was a matter of autopilot thinking that even we as well practiced conversationalists fall prey to now and again.  But for me, it felt like a fight or flight situation and I chose to fly. I reviewed in my mind over and over again how this thing had gone wrong. I had a moment of weakness that may well corrupt my rapport building with this child. It is not so much that I should not side with mom, or that I should not speak my heart- many times these tactics are fair game in a therapy session, but in this case I became a block to this clients personal goals and as such I did not use the tried and true unconditional positive regard I have come to put so much faith in. So now I am left seeking the recovery moment.

Although this particular mistake had me feeling weak, I have been plotting my next move. How do I repair this relationship in a way that will build rapport and strengthen the client? Regardless of his wish to have me out of his life, and his barrage of lies for meeting this goal, I still want to ally with him and help him meet his goals. That’s what I do, I try to help others help themselves. So I have spent the last day trying to identify the best means of recovery. My solution, a straight up apology, “I fucked up, I apologize, can we start over again”. I mean it was a very human mistake right? We all fall flat in our pursuits some times and the trick is to get back up, dust ourselves off, and move forward again. My hope is that if I present myself as human, flawed, and vulnerable, that I provide a good example of how to take responsibility for my mistakes, and model for the child that there are better ways to deal with conflict than to light the fuse and get away, as I seem to have unwittingly done.

What I really want to do is help this guy better recognize his strengths so that he can capitalize on them rather than focus on all of the deficits he experiences. The trick is to get him to believe that he has the solutions, and for him to access his solutions when he is in trouble or feels pulled to do something he is not allowed to. I try to use a mixture of self disclosure and reflection to help a child do this. However, for this client, that recipe was not so helpful.

Too often the kids I serve are told by significant people in their life that they are powerless, or “bad kids”, or damaged goods. What I am trying to do, is retell the story so that others can see that the child is wrestling with the same demons we all would in his or her predicament, and help the child identify the currents in his story that he would like to alter. Sometimes it is just a matter of changing the questions we ask of the story, the text of someones life, to help them see it anew. Where once there was a villain, now there is a secret master pushing our hero to succeed.

Think about it, would the heroes we have be so amazing if they did not have to rise to some occasion? The villain provides the perfect catalyst for causing the hero to rise above his pettiness and become the great man or woman. Without the villain, there is never the hero worship we long for and parade. The goal then is to help the child identify the villain that he must rise against. That could be a personal demon or some outside storyline that pits him against the world. The challenge for the therapist is to be more of the sidekick, not the villain. This can be challenging because the child is already coming with a story of loss, or weakness. Like Yoda, the therapist must help the child elicit the strength to fight the villains. In the end, Luke still made the choice to go and help his friends when Yoda said don’t go, but he at least had enough of Yoda’s teaching that he was able to confront his own weakness, a power that his father was not able to use. So the best I can do, is somehow instill in each child I work with, the personal faith within themselves that will motivate them to fight and achieve success.

I welcome your comments and suggestions and thanks for reading.