Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Beauty Is Everywhere

One of the most comforting things i can think of is that there is beauty everywhere.

about 9 years ago, in my work as an artist i began to realize that A) there is a Voice that is singing its song undercurrent of everything and its song is amazing beyond what i had ever dreamed, and B) this Voice and other things like it are the reason why there is this idea that has spanned the centuries, that there is a Fountain of Life.

the more i have studied it and listened to it, and adored it, and been taught by it, the more i am certain of its existence, and the amazing quality of the ideas and visions it gushes forth.

Nowadays this idea is so comforting to me because it means that i never have to come up with anything. i just have to listen, watch, listen, watch and dance with it when i see it and hear it.

a couple of days ago in the evening (this time of year in boston evening means about 4:30), i was getting something out of a dark room in my apartment. my eye glanced out the window and something about the colors had a beautiful depth to it. it would have been possible to see it, enjoy it for that second, and then get back to what i was doing, but i have come to love to show my reverence for Beauty by giving it attention and exploring it closely when i see it. then, i see it a whole lot more, and my life is SO much richer. turns out it is like that with all good things. so, i ran and got my camera and spent 10 unplanned minutes at a few windows taking pictures of the night sky through the barren treetops. what a sweet poetic life. and what a gift this world gives me. thank you world.

it is so life affirming, so comforting, so completely enriching to have an interaction with Beauty, one of the many perfect offerings from this Fountain of Life. one's problems or worries seem smaller, inconsequential. there are possibilities everywhere. and this Voice (still, small) is ALWAYS singing some wonderful thing.

how have you interacted with Beauty recently? how would it feel natural to you?

Look at the difference between the night one and the day one! (taken the next morning) the difference is like night and...

Monday, December 28, 2009

Joy Is A Shining Spiritual Mountain

today morning as i explored some neighborhoods on my morning constitutional i was thinking about the city of boston. after having been away for so long, i am seeing and feeling the city differently. after 10 weeks on the road, singing praises to god, meeting people everywhere, celebrating the goodness of life with total strangers, the city feels sad. looking around it seemed like so many of the folks i saw were heavy with worry, or boredom, or confusion. something that is perhaps familiar to all of us. and i began to think of all the things that might might make us feel weighed down. lack of change, fear of not having enough, guilt, dissatisfaction... the list can go on and on, but mostly it is about feeling trapped in a life that doesnt isn't up to snuff.

it all seemed so wrong, so pitiable, after spending all fall so joyfully.

as i thought about i remembered this line from isaiah, "And he [God] will destroy in this mountain the face of the covering cast over all people, and the veil that is spread over all nations." certainly that "veil" is the weight of sadness or fear, missing the boat of life's goodness. and in this verse from isaiah we have the indication that it is God who takes away that fear and sadness.

as i walked i prayed, thinking of the opposite of sadness - the perfect joy of god. it is in spirit. it is not found in matter, in the flesh, or in human will. that perfect joy which is the destruction of the "covering cast" is spirit.

i have come to love the feeling of spirit burning away some bad thing in my thoughts. and this morning, as i thought about the joy of god, and its being only in spirit, i loved that all the people i saw were actually in spirit. i am learning to base my life and thoughts on spiritual joy, and i love to feel its radiant light actually burning away sadness. nothing can keep us from joy. it is the nature of all of us to feel that joy of life - not as fleeting, but as the very rock of life. in fact, i began to see in my mind's eye, an image of that rock that IS joy. it was a beautiful crystal, filled with colors, and we were all standing on it. it was one of this mornings wonderful gifts of the spirit.

i am resolved to be a window for joy, and let joy do its beautiful work. we can grow out of sadness!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Air Guitar Challenge!

2 new songs up on myspace, "sony walkman" and "star". both are rock'n'roll christmas songs. when you dig them, it will likely enhance the experience if you play some air guitar right along with it. or maybe listen to it a few times so you can get the rhythm, solo, etc. down. then, it will be a great idea to video yourself air guitaring along with the songs. and the next logical step would be to post the videos on facebook or some such place. right? it all seems very obvious i suppose.

merry christmas night, and quiet next day after christmas tomorrow.

onward into the great next adventure!

what are we celebrating on christmas?

i have had 2 thoughts on this that have brought me delight.

1. last week in the christian science bible lesson i read "jesus was the offspring of mary's self-conscious communion with god." (Science and Health 29:32) it struck me that there was an "offspring" from this communion. then it dawned on me, this communion with god took the place, in this case, of physical human sex in creating a child. now, physical sex is a materialistic symbol of real communion, one idea interacting with another in the most intimate way. and when this intimate sharing takes place, it brings forth fruit! if it is spiritual sharing it brings forth a beautiful, new, amazing spiritual idea. the more purely spiritual the interaction between ideas, the more powerful, individual, and useful the fruit it produces. i think of this all the time in making art or writing music. where do these "children" come from? these songs and paintings come from my intimate communion with the spirit of love, adventure, insight, creativity, etc.

The American Heritage Dictionary defines communion as "The act or an instance of sharing, as of thoughts or feelings." mary "communed" with god, and there was an outcome! an amazing outcome. therefore, when we commune with god (share thoughts or feelings - and in this case to share with god probably means holding them in common, not so much telling god our feelings) there must be an outcome. it MUST bear fruit! this caused me to think of all the good that can come forth from our heart's communion with infinite Love.

for all the time, energy, thought, and media spent on sex, we will certainly bring real LIFE to fruition more and more to the degree that we seek this spiritual intimacy - spiritual communion. and when we see the amazing fruits, the delight, the salvation that it brings forth, it makes it much easier to seek.

we are celebrating the gifts, the amazing fruits (an orange in your christmas stocking!) that come forth when mary, and all the rest of us commune with god.

2. have you ever been grumpy and mad and all you wanted was for some special person to come and tell you its all ok and try to get you to be happy again? i have. and i have found that sometimes that person comes, and sometimes they don't. but! god did.

angry, impatient, hungry humanity is like the older brother in the story of the prodigal son, waiting outside the party, grumbling. in that story the father, comes right out to the son and kindly speaks with him, entreating him to come into the party. its just what we all would hope for if we were the older brother. jesus, the "only begotten son" was, on the mega scale, god coming out from the party, entreating us all to come into the kingdom of heaven.

at christmas we are celebrating the generosity and magnanimity of our good god, who didnt stay inside the party while we grumbled and had hurt feelings outside. he sent his only begotten to us, entreating, teaching, comforting, leading us back into the party, where we belong.

merry christmas my dears!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas Presents!

Now that Tree Of Life is safely and completely up and available for listening on stonebalancer, there is no need for it to be up on my myspace page. so! the fun part about that is that now there is all that myspace space for OTHER STUFF. given the billions and billions of other songs that exist in the Alex Cook Backlog ("I've Got A Million Ideas That I Ain't Even Rocked Yet!" who knows what song this is from?) i have made this plan:

every few days (2-3) from now until anon i will put up a new song on my myspace page. right now there are 3 new (to your ears) christmas songs. they are originals from my 2008 christmas album.

over the past many years i have been developing a theory about snow in boston. it is basically this: it never really snows until january. as much as you want it to snow before then (for a white christmas, etc.) mostly you are disappointed because the grass is green on christmas morn. however, the last 2 winters have proved this theory horribly fallible. as i type, (december 23) there isnt a blade of grass to be seen and we are frozen in solid with glaciers that likely won't melt until april.

the first of these christmas songs, "filled with light" has a line in it (written early december 2008) which details in poetic fashion this snow theory of mine. the amazing thing was that literally the day after i wrote it we were hammered with the first of 3 sledgehammer-like december blizzards that left all of boston dizzy and shoveling for weeks.

the second one, "wrapped up in ribbons" was penned on one of those shut-in days from last december. it features jessica hays on flute and jenna fisher and jessica hays on singing.

the final one is the awesome "psalm 100" which features some rad and straight to the heart words from the bible, and a funky riddim. also some silly falsetto background vocals by yours truly.

tune in to that same myspace page on christmas day for the next installment.

merry christmas to all of you!

let every heart prepare him room!"

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Quick Transformation, with Stripey Socks

hey y'all,

i made a picture that i love in my sketchbook several years ago. it goes like this...

i was thinking all about how it is spirituality that must lift us out of conflict, abuse, stress, etc.

someone recently saw it on and wanted a version of it for his daughter for christmas. for him it was an image about following your inner compass, your dreams, etc., and he was wanting to communicate this message to his daughter. it turned into this!

the first one is a painting, with a couple of pieces of paper pasted in there and then painted over to cover up mistakes. the second one is a collage in which i painted whole pieces of paper and then ripped and cut them, and then pasted them together to make the image. (dig her stripey socks!)

here are some pictures by a favorite collage artist of mine, Romare Beardon. (1991-1988)

so nice, right?

Friday, December 18, 2009

It's in my interest!

one thing this tour tought me is that music is not simply entertainment. it is a tool. at its best music is a tool of spiritual uplift and healing. that is to say, the communication that music affords can transform lives.

the other morning as i was mulling over this thought it occurred to me that it is in my best interests to sing the very song that will do the most healing. it is in my interests to do whatever i can to bring healing about. why? the answer is simple, when healing happens people are happier, they work together better, the world is more enjoyable to live in.

i had often before thought of healing as a work of selflessness- something you do because you just love other people so much. (it assuredly is selfless, in that it causes us to think of god more, and ourselves less). but it turns out that healing, giving, contributing to the world is entirely in our own interest - the more good you do, the more good you have!

so now i think, more than ever before, not, "what song do i feel like playing?" or "what song will they like the best?", but rather, "what song will communicate the thought that will heal?" This is the true riches of performance - feeling the heart and thought that is going on in the room and responding to it, meeting the hunger with spiritual sustenance.

so, what if we thought of our jobs (whether it be singing songs or working in an office) as the means by which we were going to heal people? it's in our own interest!

Monday, December 7, 2009

the end is in sight!

oh friends, there are just 3 shows left on this beautiful, beloved west coast tour.

before i left boston 10 weeks ago a friend told me "when you come home you are going to be a different person." those words have been in my thoughts on and off during the whole adventure. of course she was right. as i process and try to understand and catalogue all the things i have learned about music, expression, confidence, god, communication, working as a team, and what seems like a thousand other interesting issues, i am filled awe at just exactly how much this adventure has changed me.

what are the things in life i would most like to have in my bag of tools? expression, clarity, confidence, art, and the ability to communicate the deep spiritual reality of Soul. and these are the gifts that god has given me more of than i have ever had.

doing new things causes us to change. it is taking part in becoming a new creature. we are put in situations we have never been in before and it causes us to learn, think, expand.

i have learned on this trip, more than ever in my life, that spiritual music, art, is the expression of god's voice, and it does the work of healing lives. it moves in peoples' thoughts. it causes them to think, ponder, and see things anew. music, art, goes to places where other kinds of communication can't, and there, as in jesus' parable of the leaven, it changes thought.

a vision of purity causes the one who sees it to ponder purity. that idea of purity then begins to work in that person's thought and causes them to wrestle, or to delight. a vision of sincerity, or beauty, or insight does the same. art, at its best, is presenting these virtues to human thought, and causing us to have to assimilate those virtues. it makes us better people.

i love to be an artist. and i love to learn more and more of the power of this occupation. i feel, with great awe, the opportunity we all are given (not just artists!), in that we have the ability to communicate with one another. the ability to communicate the deep, important, life-saving things.

one more show, and then back to boston! thank you all for tuning in. i am going to continue with this blog even after this tour is over - because God never stops giving new and fascinating ideas!

onward in the adventure of new things!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Yesterday afternoon we played at the "kids club" of an affordable housing development here in santa barbara, california. we got to play frisbee and skateboard with the kids beforehand. i never knew there was affordable housing in santa barbara!

it was sweet, playing for all these children, most from mexican families, and the adults who run the program. ah, togetherness! how we love to play.

but, the truly great thing was that one of the teachers then invited us over to her house to perform that night. she invited some friends over and we went on to have one of the best shows of the tour. in her livingroom, on the spurr of the moment. never has an audience danced so hard, sung along so courageously, and played the triangle in our stead so emphatically. music truly is a gift from God, with the power to take willing hearts and open them.

2 nights ago we arrived in SB and went straight to Pershing Park where we were expected. there is a longstanding "homeless church/meal" which takes place there. in a big white amphitheater we performed the sweet singalong beatitudes as the 100 or so folks happily were served soup from a huge cauldron. after about an hour the park was filled with folks eating, chatting, being together. it is no wonder the original christians are known for eating together. we all felt love that night.

again and again i think, "this is living!"

thanks to god!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Band Photos

Some of these pics may end up being the cover, inside cover, or back of our new, self-titled album. The album, recorded in Portland, Oregon at Becker Studios, has 11 songs, including one which, "You're Serious", was written on this tour. 7 of the tracks were written by me, and 4 by Ben Vaughan.

The album features the Blessing Tree sound – acoustic guitars, 3 part vocal harmonies, and arrangements that range from deeply gentle to hilariously, gloriously silly. They are songs of praise, acknowledgment, forgiveness, and joy.

The CD will be available very soon at concerts and via mail for $20. just email or facebook me if you are interested!

If you haven’t already, check out both me, Alex Cook, and the Blessing Tree on FB.