Songs For Change

He’s tall, perhaps six foot six. Young, thin, beautiful -bruises,
needle holes and all. Soiled adhesive from band-aids long gone,
line both arms.

At his age, and at this time of year, he should be at the senior prom.
He’d be king, valedictorian, heartthrob -some parent’s pride and joy.
Instead, he’s on the street, busking guitar songs for change, doing his best
to get through another day. He’s ignored or judged by
the passersby of life -the ones who really need the “change”.
I close my eyes and think to him “You’re MY pride and joy!!”

He begins playing a very lovely song,
nervous and off rhythm because I’ve stopped to listen.

He hesitates, and in that space where magic is allowed,
disappears back into the song.
Maybe it’s the only place he feels he belongs,
-alone, lost to the world. Finding a world of himself in music.
I can relate.

The notes find his fingers. The words find his voice.
He’s gone, out of “here”, into being, singing. Ringing into light.

The song eventually comes to an end.
He lingers there briefly and finally opens his eyes, as do I.
He sees that I see him.
And he sees that I am gifted by his giftedness.

As I hand him some money, I ask
“What was that you just played?”

He turns sideways to me, as if addressing someone else.
Words tumble out -avalanche style, in a single breath,
as if he can’t wait to be silent again.

No way for me to make out what he said, so I shift the subject and
tell him a bit about the music I like to play.
Calmed, he nods and chimes in from time to time,
in avalanche speak.

Our conversation begins to trail off and I
-wanting to let him return to his work- bid him goodbye
and begin walking away.

He shouts out “Hey!”

I stop and turn, not facing him but sideways, listening
avalanche style. Smiling.

Slowly, with painfully deliberate enunciation, he says
“The …… song….. was…. Fake Plastic….. Trees
…… by….. …… Radio …Head.”

As a fellow musician, I’ll add that lovely song to my repertoire
and always remember and honor that
beautiful young man when I play it.

And to the poor passersby of life, I hope
one day you’ll realize that life’s not really about big money, spare change,
power or possessions, but the gifts that someone would share with you
if you would just stop, even for a moment, to see the beauty in
another human being and in doing so, catch a glimpse of it in yourself.


The honeymoon is over. The heady days of pop star politics, sexy history and the Audacity of Hope seem to be fading in America. How many times have incoming administrations ridden a parade float of promise fueled cynicism down Main Street to Pennsylvania Avenue? How many times, once the streamers and confetti were swept away, did the voter feel duped. How ’bout every time? Disappointment is non-partisan.

Did the American voters think Barack Obama would and could fix Washington? Does he have the answer? I believe so and that he already gave it to America -even before he was elected. He had a very powerful campaign mantra that people bought into -not because it was slick and seductive, but because it is true. The most powerful primordial truths are often overlooked as cliche but they are nonetheless self evident.

The words “Yes we can” were spoken by one man and repeated seemingly by the whole world, “YES WE CAN”? Don’t lose sight of the power in those words America, but know this: WE = 308 million x “I”. Obama didn’t say “Yes I can” or “Yes my party can” because it’s not true -he knows it and America knows it. Now he’s living at the mouth of the great beast called business as usual -a beast that lives on America’s table scraps, and its lifeblood is ignorance and apathy. America needs your help Americans, and the best news of all, you help most by helping yourself.

Main Street needs to remember that it holds the keys -it runs the show. Where do we go from here then? Only know that you fill in the blank of what comes after the words “Yes We Can _____.

Answers usually begin with a question, and the better the question…
Here are a few to try on. Ask even one of these even once in awhile and follow your heart to the answer.

Who is my primary health care provider?
Who creates wealth in my life by creating value in the world?
Who controls every penny of my discretionary spending?
Who decides for me if I can borrow my way to happiness?
Who is responsible for putting knowledge in my mind (not just a diploma on my wall)?
Who chooses where my investment dollars go?
Who is responsible for the peace in my heart, under my roof and in every area of my community?
Who does my political representative answer to and how often?
Who can reduce my dependence on not only foreign oil but on any energy source that harms my world?
Who looks after my happiness and spiritual health?

Congratulations America. You wear the ruby slippers. Your beauty lives under your roof and in your own mirror. Newsflash (dateline- you decide): America rediscovers its greatness in three words shouted from a campaign podium. Oh by the way, the candidate was a black man.

Have you lost your mind? Would you know where to check for it if you weren’t sure? Scientists have spent decades trying to locate it and as science discovers new ways of looking, the mind becomes more elusive at every turn. Whew, now I don’t feel so bad when I scratch my head and say “What did I come in here for?”.

“Show me your mind” is a command which Zen masters commonly ask of their students. The master doesn’t know the answer, nor does he care. He’s like the accupuncturist or Quigong healer who doesn’t know what or where Qi is but knows how to control its effect. Of course, traditionally, some would say that the mind is in the brain, but if that were true, why when we perform a simple action such as wiggling a finger do neuro-scientists record the firing of “motor” and “feedback loop” signals before the “decision” or “intent” fires in the brain? “Fire, Aim, Ready!” is supposed to be the disparaging description of an out of touch bureaucratic management style, not the scientific description of the structure of basic human behavior. Science won’t even step toward the rabbit hole closely enough to ask where intent comes from. Even junior high school Newtonian physics would say that this energy had to have come from somewhere.

How has humankind manged to come this far with a hardwired body that operates by act, intend, consider, in that order? Why aren’t we living in a comically disastrous Jim Carrey movie? The master script writer must be somewhere else, and the question is where? And even who? Enter the Zen master who asks ” Who am I?” and this time offers the answer in the same breath -“Don’t know!”. It seems that the power of faith lives beyond the furthest outpost of our ever expanding intellect. Ask a skeptic if he has a mind or has ever been in love, and if he has, ask him to show you the scientific proof.

I love the modern scientist, the ancient sage and every skeptic, sucker and seeker in between. Is our curiosity the original sin? We’ve spent so much time and have fought too many wars finding our way back to where we began. In any debate, the poet should have the final word:

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

— “Little Gidding” T.S. Elliot

Greetings world. Welcome to yourself -version 2010.

How odd that number appears to me. How are we going to begin verbalizing the calendar year in which we are – coming out of a time comfortably referred to as “Oh-Nine”? I guess it’s similar to coming out of  “Ninety-Nine”, however, we had an esoteric way of referring to the year 2000 as Y2K. It was never “Oh-Oh”. Just “Two-Thousand” seemed to suffice. I’m going with “Twenty-Ten” until something sexier comes along.

Does it feel like a decade has just passed? Not really. Perhaps I’m ambivalent because I’ve yet to watch any retrospectives or “top 100” lists. Maybe the power of the “old media” has lost much of its sway over the way I see things. God save the newpapers -we can’t wrap our fish and chips in digital information!

Things are changing so rapidly. The times we lived in even two years ago seems so foreign, how can a decade be characterized? The world seems to change much more quickly than my way of looking at it does.

I was in a cafe recently and a group of older women were huddled around a table engaged in actual mouth to ear conversation. The entire group was enthralled with and hanging on every word of the woman speaking. A few tables over,  a gaggle of early-teen girls were united in inattention. One was on the phone, one was texting, and a third was rocking out on her i-pod. I walked home -my way lit by humming streetlights and the glow of  computer monitors in nearly every window- pondering the change.

Like it or not, we are at a cusp of a revolution in human social structure. Part of me has great hope that the freedom of mass exchange of ideas will take us in a new and positive direction. Part of me disagrees. The US State Department recently asked Twitter to postpone their scheduled server maintenance until after the  Iranian election, although I think the hot Tweet topic at the time was -as usual- the unfolding of modern day archetypal mythology and how close Tiger Woods was flying toward the sun.

Now we’re here – our ideas have ever increasingly spacious and accessible places outside of ourselves to reside.  We can wear our heart on a global sleeve. We’ve gone from scrawling on cave walls to bathroom stalls – from floppies chugging out kilobits on the local BBS, to Blu-rays and wirelessly streamed tera-bytes. Are we headed into an intellectual new world order or “plus ca change”? I wonder where (or if) we’ll be in “Twenty-Twenty”.