Monday, April 26, 2010

we are made to do this

to me, it is incredibly relieving to know that god made everything.

i used to have terrible fears that i would run out of ideas. as a person who felt totally committed to a life of creativity and expression, that was an awful thing to think of. if i ran out of ideas, i would not be able to live!

over years i wrestled with the question, and ultimately my fears were comforted and ultimately completely swept away by a growing conviction that all ideas come from god and grow out of simply living life. god will never run out of ideas. and creativity is not a frenzied personal experience of inspiration - here one minute and gone the next.

rather, i have come to see creativity as walking through the orchard of my thoughts, picking and choosing the apples i love most. i dont have to make the apples - they are already there. they grow on the trees. all i have to do is be interested in them. i have to be interested in my thoughts. i need to have a great love for thoughts. i have to notice when i see something that moves me, and then respect that feeling.

i have learned that creation (on my end) is not making anything. rather, it is a record of my exploration of ideas. when i go on one of these walks through that orchard i am encountering thoughts i have never had before. and when i encounter new thoughts, i have to explore them. and as i think and feel because of these new thoughts, i make records of what has happened. these come out in the form of songs, paintings, poems, whatever.

i will never, ever feel afraid of running out of ideas - because life keeps moving forward. there is so much progress to make, so much improving to do, so much to explore. and i dont have to make up a single one of them. they come naturally with exploration.

the only way to not have this happen is to not explore. without exploring, there are no new ideas. if there are no new ideas to encounter, there is no "creativity".

if we want to be creative, if we want to feel the juices flowing, we have to be interested in things. we have to be open to newness. interest, fascination, appreciation, attention - these things are the beginning of creativity. we never do anything first. we are always responding to life, to the inner voice, to wisdom, beauty, wonder, in whatever form it takes.

new ideas cause us to change. they transform us. with creativity there is no remaining the same. real creativity forces us to grow. and there is no way to foresee what this growth will be. it will be what it is, and it will be for our good.

we are made to do this.

progress is from god

i have been thinking about how 2 years ago, most of the songs i am performing these days were not yet written, i was really nervous about performing, and really, the whole thing was only an idea whose fullest expression was me playing my songs at home. oh, and the blessing tree didnt exist.

now, i am in the middle of my second big tour, have sold hundreds of cds, performed for hundreds and hundreds of people, love performing more than almost anything, and can honestly say that my whole life has made a fabulous and interesting change.

it's really quite humbling to look at the events as they have happened, and see how profound the changes have been and how much progress has occurred. and the whole thing is something that i could never have MADE happen. i mean, for abotu 10 years i tried to make bands happen. i tried and tried - put up flyers, played with people, but it never worked when i tried to make it happen.

for years i had been working and working, pushing and pushing, to get over what felt like great nervousness about performing. i loved writing music, but it was never very fun to perform it. i felt self conscious. it was hard to get the notes right, let along to be expressive on stage.

in these last 2 years of continued prayer, hope, desire, and willingness to grow and change - every last fear of performing has fallen away. now, in some ways, i feel more comfortable on stage than otherwise. i love to open my mouth and communicate about things that i believe in. no more do i perform trying to "put on a show". instead of putting on a mask to perform, i am opening the doors of my heart, saying, singing what i think and feel most. it is a great feeling of freedom.

creative breakthroughs are an incredible blessing. and it always is a matter of throwing off self, and telling the truth. and while it has been happening quickly and powerfully in the last couple of years with this music, i am sure that the many many years of pushing and pushing were indispensible in moving that old stone.

sometimes nowadays i tell folks that i used to be afraid of performing and they are shocked. i used to be really shy too! if these things are any precedent (which they are) we all have the logical right to look forward to a time when every fear, limitation, and constraint is gone. then we will live, communicate, love, sing, work, and think with total freedom.

Friday, April 23, 2010

artistic triumph!

once in a while i come across a piece of art that, to me, shows what art can do. like Philipe Petit who in 1974 walked a tightrope between the twin towers in NYC (chronicled in the amazing movie "Man On Wire"), like the movie "Lives Of Others", and the sweet book of essays, "Small Wonder" by Barbara Kingsolver. these truly feel like a victory. a victory over all expectations of failure or sameness - over the awful notion that art is somehow "enrichment" rather than a necessity - over all the cruel voices that tell us not to express.

recently i saw such a thing.

it is called the City Museum, and it is in saint louis.

what is it?

it began 12 years ago with a sculptor who owned an old abandoned building in downtown STL. over the last 12 years he, and lots of others, have filled it with amazing, AMAZING art made entirely of recycled materials, found objects, cast-off industrial materials.

i was near tears for a good portion of my visit to the museum. the art is beautiful, entirely indulgent of creativity, joy, play, and function. there are slides to go down (including one spiral slide that is 6 stories tall), dinosaur mouths to crawl into, a 1920's theater organ, mosaics everywhere, a huge bug collection, arcade games from the 1930's, corndog art, and a maze of wire pathways 100 feet up in the sky.

i can list the things that are there. i can swear to you that it is wonderful. but nothing will do it justice.

apart from being beautiful and well made - it attracts hundreds, thousands of people (and i think they were all there today) and opens countless minds to the availability, wonder, and all around awesomeness of creativity, play, and vision.

if you are ever in saint louis. please, go there.

speak about what you know

on wednesday morning i gave a talk at principia college about creativity as it relates to spirituality.

i love public speaking more and more every time i do it. i was feeling a little nervous before this talk - it seemed like a very broad subject, and, while i have a lot to say on the subject, i feared that i would just blather on, full of enthusiasm, but lacking a real point.

i have come to love the time spent in preparation for a presentation that i dont know how to do. sometimes i have lived for hours, or even days, fearing something that i have to do, but dont know how to do, but, the fear decreases by 80% when, rather than waiting around, i start to plan for it. it comes down to realizing that i dont know how to do it, and then simply thinking of the best way i can think of to deal with the fact that i dont know how to do it.

so, i made some notes, thought of some stories from my life that would illustrate the points i wanted to make, and forged ahead.

i have recognized for a few years now that my style of speaking is largely extemporaneous. i love to give myself a basic skeleton of what i am going to talk about, and then go.

this talk was no different. and, as always, i found that once i started, rather than being afraid, i was in heaven.

we are made to express. and when we get to do it - to express what is truly in our hearts, we feel ALIVE.

i think the fear that we feel before things like this is that stupid old "little hater" in thought that just doesnt want us to know what life is all about. but when we do it, we learn and learn and learn. and others are benefited by our expressing of what is in the heart of hearts.

i recognize that i love to speak to others about art, god, creativity, defeating fear. and i watch for this to open more fully as an avenue of expression in my life. amen!

people are fountains of ideas

also at the principia lower school i have been working on a mural with the 1st through 5th grade art classes. what a great break from singing!

we began with the broad themes of childlikeness and the environment. from (amazing) sketches that the kids made based on these themes we arrived at some central images.

i have to admit, given these themes, i thought i knew what the kids were going to draw - trees, suns, kids playing, maybe some water. i was so wrong!

the kids were way more imaginative!

not just trees, but these wild tree houses with a million stairs, roller coasters that covered the whole page, a sun with a clock face, a fire breathing iguana (which does that fit under - childlikeness or the environment?), and a million other things.

i was delighted to see how not-in-the-box they were.

so, we took the main images that they arrived at and put them all together into a drawing of a fantasy land on a 6' x 10' canvas. over the next 3 days all 5 classes spent one period each painting this thing.

making art is a really good way to play together, meet one another, and share good ideas. our hearts can connect.

drawings for songs - a trade

yo, i been in saint louis, let's get ready ta do dis
i'm writing my blog, sweepin a way the fog
of mystery, that surrounds my endeavors
pushing the buttons and pullin the levers
im about to tell you what i been up to
all kinds information is about to erupt, ooh!

well, so there was a little rap for a friday morning.

just to let you know, i have been rapping a lot. long car rides, the ease of access to rhyme - its an obvious way to pass the time.

anyway, i have been in STL for abotu 5 days now, played 3 shows so far and another on sunday.

last sunday i was at the lafayette square CS society. this awe-dience was great. we all felt really tuned in and together.

another great show was yesterday morning at the principia lower school. now, i have not performed for audiences of kids very much. i didnt really know exactly how it was going to be...
but it went really great. in fact, it makes me want to write lots more audience participation songs and sing-a-longs. these kids were an amazing group, and bold sing alongers (way better than a lot of adults! yes, thats a challenge.)

in fact, they were so wonderful that they made me a book of thank you drawings right afterwards. here are some of them.

how bout them apples?

Saturday, April 17, 2010

a brief history of time

ok ok, im a bad friend. i mean, lazy blogger. but maybe you've noticed, what i lack in regularity, i make up for in charm.

so, let's get down to business-

when last we spoke, it was cold and rainy, (and it might have been the early cretaceous period) but now it is spring for sure, and, at least where i am, it is warm and sunny.

the last concerts i mentioned were in DC. after that the faithless members of the blessing tree left me in the dust and scurried back to their respective homes. while i heroically forged onward, into the warm, blossom laden breezes of the south.

heres a list of what happened:

1) drive to raleigh NC
2) stay with wonderful friends (including 2 fab little boys - lots of playing games and guitar lessons)
3) great little performance at Raleigh church
4) drive to athens, GA, my old stomping grounds (1998 - 2001)
5) stay for 9 glorious days at the Orange Twin Farm
6) painted this truck

7) read a biography of abraham lincoln
8) was given a book of plato dialogues, quickly fell in love with socrates
9) worked on the farm
10) saw this rad grafitti under a bridge on one of my favorite train tracks

11) drove to knoxville tennessee
12) played a fun house show there
13) drove to nashville
14) played 2 shows there in one day - the first was sort of a show - it was where i and the handsome and talented JJ Jones walked around in this park and asked if folks wanted to hear a spiritual song. almost everyone we asked said they did, we had lots of good conversations, lots of handshakes, and even a hug. 2nd show in the CS RR that night. the evening show was rousingly opened by the dapper and creative JJ Jones.
15) on the way to ST. LOUIS, stopped at the national quilting museum in paducah, kentucky. they have an admirable mission:

16) i am here in STL. the arch is rad. i made up lots of raps on the drive today.

i will be here for one week. i will be giving at least 3 shows in the next week, and doing a mural at a high school in the area.

i miss you all!