dani talks musicians

There are many, many reasons why I admire Britt as an artist. One of them is this recent viral nugget, which is AWESOME.

Another reason, which you can see in this video, is the fearlessness and dedication with which she encounters her creative work.   The thing about acting is that it is hard to forget you’re doing it while you’re doing it.  It’s hard not to watch yourself in your head while you’re doing the thing that you’re supposed to be doing. (…My brain just imploded.)  But Britt beautifully gets lost in the imaginative joy of it all.  

I was reminded of this quality of Britt’s the other week when she mentioned her song-writing adventures with her brother, which will be happening a lot more now that they are ROOMIES!! WOOOOO!!!

 Have any of you out there in internet-land ever tried to write a song and totally failed to?  What was it that stopped you?  Even if you are in an empty room with no one watching, it takes a lot of courage to just express yourself freely, especially using music.  EVEN IF you have the courage to be honest enough with yourself to allow your truth to come out, EVEN IF you can own your point of view enough to express it: It is so easy to stop yourself, to judge your own skill as a musician, your voice, your rhyming abilities, whatever. 

I have never successfully written a song. But I do have a lot of musician friends, and I can’t express how absolutely precious it is to me when one of them pulls me aside and says, “Hey I just wrote this song–can I show you?”  This means that my badass, fearless friend has let something awesome coming pouring out of their soul, and I admire the hell out of it.  For example, I had the great “misfortune” of growing up with a very talented musician for an older brother.  In his current band, he writes sweeping, masterful 7+ minute long instrumental post-rock songs with Red Hands Black Feet, which I will now shamelessly pimp out:  


If you have 7 minutes of leisure time in your life, they will take you on a soul-soaring journey.  Also, their album is free for the downloading.  PIMP.

In the spirit of admiring musicians, check out this excerpt from Ursula K. Le Guin’s 1986 commencement speech at Bryn Mawr, which I have been obsessed with lately:

“Early this spring I met a musician, the composer Pauline Oliveros, a beautiful woman like a grey rock in a streambed; and to a group of us, women, who were beginning to quarrel over theories in abstract, objective language – and I with my splendid Eastern-women’s-college training was in the thick of the fight and going for the kill – to us, Pauline, who is sparing with words, said after clearing her throat, “Offer your experience as your truth.” There was a short silence. When we started talking again, we didn’t talk objectively, and we didn’t fight. We went back to feeling our way into ideas, using the whole intellect not half of it, talking with one another, which involves listening. We tried to offer our experience to one another. Not claiming something: offering something.

How, after all, can one experience deny, negate, disprove, another experience? … People can’t contradict each other, only words can: words separated from experience for use as weapons, words that make the wound, the split between subject and object, exposing and exploiting the object but disguising and defending the subject.

People crave objectivity because to be subjective is to be embodied, to be a body, vulnerable, violable.”

Over a year ago I was having lunch with my friend Will, a mountain of a man, and I was seeking his advice about something; really floundering for words and struggling to communicate.  He just looked at me with this sort of empathetic amusement in his eyes and said, “It sounds like you’re not accepting the validity of your experience.”  Those words have been resonating with me ever since.  As our good friend Ursula says, “How, after all, can one experience deny, negate, disprove another experience?”   Musicians and songwriters, in a huge way, accept the validity of their experience and turn that into art.  I think that’s what all artists do, and it’s especially why I admire songwriters so much.  They offer their experience as their truth.  Here’s some more Ursula:

“Singing is one of the names of the language we never learn… Yes, but it can be speeches and science, any use of language when it is spoken, written, read, heard as art, the way dancing is the body moving as art. …you hear the coming together, the marriage of the public discourse and the private experience, making a power, a beautiful thing, the true discourse of reason. …This is their baby, this baby talk, the language you can spend your life trying to learn.”

That is what I am doing with my life.  I am trying to to learn this unlearned language, and offer my experience as my truth.  This blog thing is a part of that, so thanks for reading.

Imma have to end this post with some Gaga.  Whatever else you may say, she is artist who owns her point of view and turns it into some awesome shit.  Hot damn.  

dani talks compartmentalization

You guys.  Let me just say up front that this post may be kind of controversial.  Let me further explain that it all started because I was listening to a special series on NPR called “Losing Our Religion,” about the fact that less and less people in the U.S. are identifying themselves as religious.  

I know that sounds heavy, but this post has been bouncing around in my head ever since that program interviewed young people about why they were turning away from religion.  Although each of the 6 people were very different in their spiritual journeys, the language they used to talk about them was extremely similar:

They all felt fragmented.

If you look at all religions, the core spirituality is the same:  God=Love, Do no harm, Love others, Give freely, Forgive.  You can sit in any religious service and listen for those truths and you will hear them, no matter what language they are wrapped in.  Believe me, I have been to the services of over a dozen different religions, and heard those nuggets of truth in all of them.  But something happens to that core spirituality within the context of religion.  It gets analyzed, split apart, shoved into doctrine and dogma and debated until you need entire religious orders devoted to rationalizing the cracks in reason and plastering over the flaws with the justification of Faith. 

All the young people in this series were struggling with this compartmentalization.  If God doesn’t exist, does life have meaning?  If God does exist, how does science fit into it?  If God made me homosexual, why are my sexual urges automatically evil?

Every religion has 100 answers for all of these questions.  I am not inviting an open forum on these topics, because I am not whipping out my notes from 17 years of Catholic School and 3 years of Comparative Religions classes in order to engage in intense dogmatic debates about the merits and failings of each one.  In fact, I have no desire to talk about religion in that way anymore.  I will, however, pose the question:  What image pops into your mind when you think about God?  Chances are, that whether if you are from the Western world, the image is of God the Father, whether you are from a Jewish, Christian, or Muslim background.

I’m pretty sure that in this image God is smelling a fart.  If you don’t believe me, give “God” the ole’ GoogleImages search.
Let me share with you this visually pleasing quotation from an inspiring woman names Ursula K. Le Guin, one of my favorite authors, and a Portlander.  She also has a blog which she apparently uses to post pictures of her cat, but don’t let that throw you off the trail of how brilliant she is. 


There is a fundamental problem with this compartmentalization.  You can’t just split the world up into mentally convenient chunks and place them in opposition to one another.  It contradicts a spiritual concept central to all religions: God-Allah-Brahma-Jesus-Yahweh = ETERNAL LOVE and God-Allah-Brahma-Jesus-Yahweh is within us, permeating everything.  When you compartmentalize the world into God/Man, self/other, man/woman, dominant/submissive, you set the world against itself.  

There is a theory in Psychology called the “Locus of Control” theory.  Basically, there is a place for each of us where we feel that the control of our lives rests.  Some people perceive that this control center is within them, some people believe that it is somewhere outside of themselves.  “People with an internal locus generally feel that they have control over their lives and circumstances; they take initiative and seek to positively change their lives. Individuals with an external locus feel that their lives are controlled by circumstances; they feel dis-empowered to do anything about their lives, leaving everything to ‘fate,'” –Christopher Zabamba

Can you see how fragmenting a personified “giant-scary-judgmental-Father-God” from humanity and setting HIM at an unreachable distance and making HIM omniscient and omnipotent over your life might create some psychological (and spiritual) distress?  Today, my dear friend Liz sent me the link to this blog post, about taking personal responsibility for your actions.  And how doing this is totally empowering and liberating.  The author isn’t even talking about religion, they’re talking about exercise!  But it’s the same fundamental concept that dividing your human experience into chunks and then acting confused when they butt up against each other DOESN’T MAKE ANY SENSE.

Anyway, my point is that you create your own reality.  And unfortunately, reality is not particularly selective.  If you drive your car for 10,000 miles you can’t just NOT effect the ecosystem, because the reality is that you are part of the ecosystem.  If you tell a young homosexual child that he is an abomination in the eyes of God you can’t act surprised when that child grows up experiencing pain and disillusionment.   If, ohhh I dunno, I choose to drink a bunch of left-over party-beer on a Tuesday night that will also effect the reality of how I am going to feel in the morning. PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY BITCHES. 

But I don’t mean to sound so harsh.  It is all part of an intensely personal journey towards allowing your spirituality to permeate your life and all of your actions. It is a choice to live consciously and eliminate some of the cognitive dissonance that allows you to do things that don’t ultimately work towards your own good, or even the greater good.  It is hard enough to be a human, and even harder to do it with intention.  We’re all in this together, y’allz.

Let me round this out with a laser-cat picture of myself in existential crisis, as usual, and Britt in a state of pure joy.  Ursula K. Le Guin, your blog would be improved with more laser-cats.