In many ways, more than I can safely articulate through this medium, 2011 has been as challenging a year as I can remember. My posts during most of this year reflect that. No need to rehash, except to say that I find myself now at a place with deeper perspective.
Wildernesses are hell. Always. But wildernesses journeyed through tend to bring focus and clarity where it is most needed. And what is "most needed?" Invariably, it's that of us too long enabled, or denied. It's that which perpetuates dis-ease. It's finally confronting the cumulative effect of going along to get along. It's wrestling with the failure to share the genuine self crippled by the fear that to do so is to jeopardize life as we know it. It is a spiritual death by a thousand little cuts.
I begin 2012 with a keener sense of liberation. My ministry partner these past many years is want to employ the phrase, "you get to pick" when it comes to the choices we make in life. And for all that I've ever believed or taught about free will being a sign of God's love and grace I'd found it difficult to make real in me when guided more by fear than the liberation that comes from living in grace.
It's one thing to say "I'm free." It's quite another to live freely. As it is with all expressions of freedom, there is an expectation of responsibility. But that responsibility is not to make sure everyone's happy. It is the responsibility that what is being lived out is true in me.
2011 was a significant year to draw that distinction into high relief.
It would be a lie to say I'm thankful for the wilderness. It sucked.
But 2011 brought with it some wonderful rites of passage -
A high school graduate and now college freshman whom I've so enjoyed watching taking the same field I did 30 years prior with the same trumpet I played and playing the same fight song. It's not that I'm living vicariously through him. Rather, I remember me when I was that age. I remember what I did and who I did it with, and that makes me smile.
I've got another teenage driver who could not believe that I was about to write a check for his car. How'd he think I was going to buy it? That car is him. My growth in the depth of my relationship with "L'il Bit" is among the things for which I am most thankful in the last year. He's quite a young man.
And then there's the 10 year old. He is my constant puzzle to figure out. None of my old tricks work with him. "He's not scared of you," I'm told. It's not that he sees me as his equal. I think he sees himself as my boss. And while I know you're supposed to encourage reasoning for decisions made to help the development of good choices...let's be honest, sometimes when you, the parent, says, "It's time for bed," the following 20 minutes should not be a debate. "Because I said so," sometimes needs to be enough.
Pre"Occupy"ied - I've not commented on "Occupy" phenomenon except for a multi-threaded, at times heated, Facebook exchange. Here's where I am on this. What I hear is lament. Yes, there is anger at the clear abuse of power and privilege that is perpetuated by a manipulation of rules. Yes, there is anger that the political system either knowingly conspired to put the pieces in place for the 2008 financial crisis, or they were too inept to know the difference.
I hear lament in the manner of the people Israel exiled from their Promised Land crying out in anguish and anger that the chance to have the life they prayed for is gone and there's nothing to be done about it. The unthinkable for the people Israel was that they could ever lose the reality of that promise. And yet, there they were in Babylon crying out, "How can we sing the Lord's song in a foreign land?"
Whatever you think about "The American Dream," there is a hue and cry from those who expected to have a fair shot at it finding that the rules of the game were changed by those in charge. It is the collapse of the American middle class. It is the unconscionable disparity of wealth in our country. And when that is acknowledged out loud critics call it "class warfare."
And they're right. It is class warfare...a war waged by stealth until the consequences could no longer be hidden. It began when those with most figured out how to get even more.
Pillars of the financial system weren't playing with house money...they were playing with yours. And, in the most audacious example of "heads I win, tails you lose," they bet against terrible risk clients that they would default while insuring themselves that if/when there was default they still got paid. Pretty sweet if you're in on that deal.
To label these folks as drum banging hippies is just too easy. It's one of the things we do. If we can put a label on someone that demeans and disparages, we really don't have to listen to what they say. Everything is filtered through our image of them.
The other critique too easily called upon is to compare how we have come to our station in life with theirs. Invariably, it is because they are lazy that they have no job, we'd say. The presupposition that each of us has the same shot at success just ain't so. So before we slip too much further into this new Gilded Age, we good Jesus people would do well to remember that it is the use, abuse and lust for money with all the implications thereto appertaining that Gospel writers have him speaking to most.
And then there's this - "Those to whom much is given, much is required." Just sayin.
The "Hobby" - So, I found one this past year. Some might say I've found two, that walking is one of my hobbies. But it's not. Walking is for survival. I walk to live. I do it instead of taking meds. In fact, walking is a daily medication that must be taken. That's how I've made sense of it.
So, if not walking, then what? Recording.
I first recorded with Glad River back in the mid 90's. What a wonderful time that was. Didn't have a clue what we were doing, and what I'd give to be able to go back in and redo project knowing what I know now....and yet, when people think of Glad River, that's the project they remember.
We did a little two song deal in the late 90's and then another CD in 2003.
John Kilzer and I did our Travelling Cokesburys CD in 2010.
I've always wanted to record material that I'd love to sing but would otherwise have no way of doing. I have musicians in our contemporary band who have recording equipment, and I thought I'd ask for help to record some love songs for Kristy when we had our anniversary last May. So I spent a couple of nights and put together a little 7 tune project just for her. It went so well it made me think of doing something more my mother, who always asked me to just sing something for her and give it to her for Christmas. Right.
Technology has come so far, though, that I started entertaining the thought of doing something that would suit my own expectations, that I could do myself in my own timing, and be fun to do.
You know, iPhone's are pretty versatile things. So here's what I did. Bought an adapter that allowed me to override the internal mic and plug in my EV N/D767a, my solo mic I use when I sing in public, and monitor through headphones. I downloaded the Vocalive app, a four channel recorder with vocal effects. I then went on an exhaustive search for the best and most authentic backing tracks to Standards from the American Songbook, and began to record, here and there, when I could. I began in June and finished 13 tracks in November. I burned them on a CD, had my buddy Mike take a pic for me, wrapped it up and put a bow on it. Mom opened a CD with me on the cover in black and white except for one thing - the title? "I've Got Blue Eyes, Too."
My love of the Standards is life long. I had more fun doing this than I could have imagined. The creative moment of working with a group or in an actual studio is unmatched. But because I was functioning as artist and engineer simultaneously, it was a bit of a rush.
I did -
"Days of Wine and Roses," "I Left My Heart in San Francisco," I'll Be Seeing You," "Lazy River," "Here's That Rainy Day," "My Funny Valentine" "The Way You Look Tonight," "Don't Worry About Me," "Moon River," "Embraceable You," "The Shadow of Your Smile," and "One For My Baby, and One More for the Road."
Mom has the one and only "official" copy. There is a ghost copy that exists that I shared with someone for "quality assurance." I'm not telling who it is, but he's my drummer.
As I finished up in November, Kristy said to me "You know, when your mother opens this, your sister is going to want it, too." But I really only wanted mom to have this. I decided to put something together for her that captured the music I remembered growing up with her starting in late 60s. So, with a quick turnaround and not as much time to perfect it, I did 10 tunes for my sister on a project titled "Sealed With a Kiss."
It's got the title song, "It's Not Unusual," "Bridge Over Troubled Water," Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me," "He Ain't Heavy He's My Brother," "Brandy" (You're a Fine Girl), "Precious and Few," "More Today than Yesterday," "Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word," and in an intentional homage to Joe Cocker (and probably some Belushi doing Joe Cocker) I did, "With a Little Help From My Friends."
The thing about this that I take away, beyond the obvious fun and the hard work that went in to it, is that I've never been quite so willing to put myself out there like that. I'm long known as the one who's always running with shields up. This was an exercise in learning how to drop the shields and just be. It was good for me.
I did take note that after they had opened their presents and before than had even listened to them they asked for another one next year. Really?
No, I'm not going to miss 2011. But I'm beginning to suspect that when I look back on it years on it will be what emerged from me in 2011 that helped give direction to life thereon.
But for now? It's time to turn the page.
But for now? It's time to turn the page.