The first noble truth of Zen Buddhism is that life is suffering. In practical terms, this means (to me) that we cannot escape suffering, or discomfort. The Zen approach to this truth is to learn to sit with whatever state of being you find yourself in. If you are angry, observe the anger without judging it as "bad", just "be angry", but be aware of it. If you are uncomfortable, rather than squirming to find comfort, rather than running away from the discomfort, sit with it and "be" uncomfortable. If you are sad, don't try to "not" be sad, just experience sadness, but with awareness. Sit with it. Observe it. And recognize that it is ok to feel what you are feeling, that you don't need to feel "something else" (or worse yet, the judgemental "something better"), that this "unpleasant" feeling is not going to kill you, and it may have something for you that you can only find in the moment. And whatever you do, don't forget to breathe!
Another Zen approach I have tried to learn over the years is something I first read from Thich Nhat Hanh - "Present Moment, Wonderful Moment". Not wanting this to be something else, not judging this moment with our own ideas of how it "should be", but receiving what this moment has for us, letting it be whatever it will be. "it is what it is" is one way of saying this. it is only in our minds (creating illusions) that this could be something other than what it is. Karin offers a similar quote of wisdom on Sunday: "Comparison is the thief of joy". but I'm getting ahead of myself...
Before the concerts begin on both Friday and Saturday, I wander down to the front of the stage to see if I can meet and talk with some of the people I have only known online, at a place known as "The Orchard" - Over the Rhine's message board. I've met a couple people from The Orchard before, and this helps. On Friday, Kent is one of the first people I see there that I know from meeting in Grand Rapids a couple years ago, and he is also one of the friendliest people you will ever meet. He's also a music junkie who makes some of the best mix CDs from the seemingly unlimited amount of new music he continually discovers... Zayne is someone I first met at Cornerstone sitting front and center waiting for Over the Rhine. I talk with her for a bit, and she introduces me to Steve (who she drove up with from Nashville), one of the other "music geeks" at the Orchard....I also met Keith from NY, one of the nicest people online, whose concert resume' makes my head spin it's so good. I think he even went to the original Woodstock(?). I find out later that there are also people here on Friday night that I wish I had met, people I used to "know" online from the early days of the mailing list (pre-Orchard), especially Shelly and Snoop Dug, but I had no idea they were there, and I have no idea when I'll have this kind of opportunity again.
On Saturday night, The Orchard has planned to have dinner together at an historic bar/restaurant downtown called Arnolds. they've reserved the upstairs, and Bill, Heidi and I head there to join them. The place is literally right across the street from Ohio books, and I don't know how we didn't see it this afternoon. We head up some very creaky, narrow wooden stairs and rearrange some chairs to sit at one of the tables. At that table I meet Patrick, Steve, Trish, and one of the people I've been looking forward to finally meeting after talking online for years, Kylie Jo.
most everyone else has been here for about an hour already, and those first moments seem a bit awkward for us, as first meetings tend to be, especially when the others seem to know each other. It is one of the times I have to choose to just "be" in the moment, to just let it be what it is, to just sit in the awkward semi-silence of first encounters. Many years ago, two things helped me relax in "conversation lulls", one was the influence of Thomas Merton, and the other was a discussion group David Dark was hosting in Nashville, in which lulls in the discussion weren't considered something that needed to be filled, but rather moments of reflection, comfortable moments where people could sit with their thoughts without needing to "say something". Usually an uncomfortablness at social silence has more to do with one's own perception and lack of center than with any outward reality. The others are certainly friendly, and we do talk a bit about the concert last night and what's been going on this weekend, Patrick initiating a lot of the conversation, easing some of that out-of-place tension I feel. Kylie is a professional photographer, wondering if they'll let her in with a camera that size. I tell her about the Trinity House Theater that Bill runs and how it has the best background for concert pictures.
Having cheated back at the motel and eaten a sandwich so as to save money on food, I only get a salad, and I sneak a bite of Heidi's lasagna. Everyone agrees that the food is excellent, and after dinner we head to the Taft for night two. If we knew our way around here better, we probably could have walked, but it's noticably colder tonight, and driving a few blocks isn't a bad idea either.
Later on tonight, after the show, I'll have the chance to get to know quite a few members of The Orchard a lot better as we all go out to a local bar for drinks and Karaoke. I prayed last night for a deeper connection with others, for friendships to form and relationships to grow out of all this. For more than just passing small talk. May this not just be another weekend of concerts. May this be the start of something more. a beginning. Later tonight felt like an answer to that prayer. this whole weekend feels like a new beginning after a very dark year. like the darkness has been kicked at long enough and is finally bleeding daylight. Tonight I will be grateful once again, purely grateful, for the first time in quite a while...
But for right now my thoughts get lost, once again, in the music of Over the Rhine...
Monday, January 05, 2009
I am now an officially published music critic. This past summer, at the Resurrection Band reunion show at Unity Fest on the other side of Michigan, I met a guy (Carl) who has this online music magazine, GreaterThan, which features a lot of the classic artists I love. The latest issue features Glenn Kaiser & Resurrection Band, and I contributed a review of that reunion show. You can go download and read the magazine here, for free (for now).
Sunday, January 04, 2009
How much of this was meant to be?That's a question I've asked in one form or another for more years than I can remember. Discerning the voice (and work) of God from that of the deceiver, whether in the world or just in my own head.
How much the work of the devil?
Thanks to Aron for showing me this video via his blog. I didn't know this existed. one of my favorite songs from one of my all-time favorite artists...
How much of this is failing flesh?
How much the course of retribution?
my, my, how loudly we plead our innocence
long after we've made our contribution