Tag Archives: music

Hymns for an Atheist “Poison the Parish”

“If I dare to believe at all, it leaves me deflated.”

Once again, the magical intersection of music and life experience has occurred for me, I share it to inspire and encourage.

It’s not easy living as a non-believer.  I have a friend, a former JW, raising her boys without religion but with curiosity and inquisitive minds.  She often frets over the possibility of her parents shunning her, as they did her brother, because of it. A preacher I heard recently accused non-believers of seeing themselves as ‘god’ – as if a human being could exist and live without any kind of god-like figure head – and condemned us for our prideful ways.

Currently, my husband and I live with and take care of his grandma, who is a firm believer in all things christian.  She’s lived a high quality life thanks to our efforts.  She gets a decent, home cooked, well balanced meal every night for dinner (important for a diabetic).  We do her shopping, run her errands, pay her bills, keep up her yard, keep up her house, take care of her dogs, all of which she could do herself, if she wanted.  We do this out of respect, on top of jobs and our own kids and pets to tend, because there’s a strong sense of doing what is right and having a clean conscious when we lay our heads on the pillow each night.

It matters not.

We are perceived as bad, evil, lost, gone astray.  We are treated with alternating contempt and condescension.  Take for instance the gossip and condemnation of us we hear during her phone conversations with friends.  Many times this takes place with my grown son in the next room, able to hear every nasty insult hurled towards his own mother.   I walk my talk, so I am certain he sees that my words and deeds match up, nonetheless he is exposed to a fair amount of negativity and there are days I’m certain he struggles because of it.

And then nearly every morning, like clockwork, she gets a call from a chick who is a gambling addict but apparently a believer.  There’s an entirely predictable arc of conversation:

Her:  “I messed up again.”

Grandma:  “We will pray for forgiveness and that God gives you the strength to overcome.”

It’s one of the most perverse things I’ve ever witnessed:  It’s okay to keep falling in the same mire, it’s okay to keep blowing rent money and food money, just as long as you believe in Christ and ask forgiveness.   But if you don’t believe – in anything – yet still maintain a daily focus to do good in your community, still work hard and take good care of your elders, still keep track of the words coming from your mouth, you’re held in contempt of some court to which you don’t even belong.

We are in the process of moving so as to alleviate the crazy stress involved with such a situation.  It is, however, immensely challenging  to continue to live graciously while knowing and understanding that we could be alcoholics or cheating on each other or fighting all the time; yet if we believed, we’d be given a pass and a prayer to be healed and all would be right in the world and our house.

Such an acknowledgement presents the temptation to become cynical, judgmental, or live in perpetual anger.   Meditation helps to keep the mind calm, choice allows us to stay positive and focused, and thoughtful, engaging music encourages.  I am particularly grateful for Seether’s latest album, “Poison the Parish”.  Many songs on it speak poignantly to the unbelievers dilemma of coexisting in a world of sanctimonious religiosity:

“Will you catch me when I fall and keep me elated?”

The music and lyrics provide a safe place for me to declare my frustration and feelings of betrayal.  They inspire me to keep to my path, they remind me there are others out there in similar, or worse, situations.   If that’s you, if you’re in this kind of place, I’ll beg you to have a listen to the album, specifically the tunes “Against the Wall” and “Emotionless”. The work is a source of meat and sustenance to me at just the perfect time, may it minister to your hurting heathen soul as well.

I am, as always, grateful for the intersection of music and life experience.

I wish for you much peace,

Frankie

 


Dark Polish

Finally, today, I can break out the fun colors.  Pinks, purples, corals, blues, and even bright happy teals.   I’m talking about fingernail polish.   For the past year I’ve confined myself to wearing only dark, dark shades.

I’ve done so as a means to mourn the death of my mother.

The traditional ways of mourning the death of a loved one have fallen by the wayside in our shiny, busy world.  I mean, I thought about wearing black for an entire year, but that wouldn’t go over so well at work because of uniform requirements as well as the nature of the job.

There was a moment I wanted (needed?) to stay home for a couple of weeks and just be sad.  I was feeling like I couldn’t contain myself and would break down into a puddle of mush any minute – I didn’t want to do that in front of my colleagues. But, of course and like most, I’m only allowed a couple days off for a family death. So I mustered the strength and with  monumental effort shoved aside all that pain, plastered a smile on my face that I was certain looked as fake as it felt, and drove myself to the high school where I worked.

I had to get creative.   I had to find a way to mark the grieving period,  a way to show respect to my mother who lived a life full of challenges yet exhibited a toughness and fierce independence, she deserved that honor.  So in my own little corner of carved out existence, I thought about some gesture that could fill the job of acknowledging my grief, at least to myself, while still going about the business of being a citizen in a frantic society.  I realized that one action I could take was to wear only dark fingernail polish until the first anniversary of her death.  I made a vow to do so.

It was indeed a small gesture, but to my surprise it was exactly the right one.  It wasn’t easy.   This decision came at the beginning of summer when bright orange or yellow would typically decorate the end of my phalanges, shouting to the world that I was ‘with it,’ and ‘on trend’ with the fashionable hues.  Besides, I am generally a big fan of  vividly colored fingertips, they scream fun!  energetic!  this is me!  Yet, there I was with mud browns, black purples, and dark blues that captured zero light and received no compliments, living out the promise I made to the universe that I was setting aside this time for my mother.

Winter came and went, including a couple of firsts that were difficult to endure:  mom’s birthday and Christmas.  It wasn’t so hard to keep to dark shades then, the weather and lack of daylight was in keeping with my mournful aspect.  But I did find myself growing weary of the same five nail colors and when I usually break out an iridescent orange in the middle of January as an instinctive reaction to missing the sun and yearning for summer, I instead slathered on one more layer of ‘Gunmetal’, but with a smile of contentment: I found it somehow healing to deny myself this small thing out of deference to my beloved mom.

Spring arrived after enduring days and days and days and days of rain.  I ran out of two of my favorite dark colors and was rotating between just three others.   On the premise of “I only have a few more months left, I don’t want to waste the money.” I didn’t purchase anything new.  I found I was okay with the narrow selection anyway:  as the anniversary grew closer, the more meaningful the memorial became.

I was able to end that memorial yesterday, the first anniversary of my mother’s death.   There’s a sense of relief in it’s arrival – all the ‘firsts’ are out of the way, I’ve survived them.  Her birthday will come and go, but none as painful as that first one without her.  I can announce to myself that I am done mourning now.  I can throw out the three remaining dark shades of polish, and keep bright happy colors on my quick typing fingers the rest of my days, if I want.

Grieving the death of a loved one is work.  It requires time and attention and the ability to step aside from life for just a moment in order to process the pain and adjust to a new reality.  The society we’ve built in the US doesn’t allow us that.  In fact, it would deny the mourning process altogether if it could.  I recall the words of President Bush after 9/11 when he urged us to ‘get back to normal’ as soon as possible.   After the loss of a loved one, there is no normal as we know it.  We MUST have time to reflect and assimilate our new life.  Anyone who has denied themselves the room to grieve will attest that doing so only makes it worse to deal with later, or it solidifies into a mass of anger which no one can identify.  In our current society, we have to be strong and rely on our ingenuity and adaptability for ways to mourn the departed while still functioning at the hundred-ten percent capacity required by the system. Maybe its a once a week trip to the Synagogue that you normally wouldn’t take, maybe it’s a black tie that can be worn every Wednesday, maybe it’s a black curtain in the kitchen window, maybe it’s strictly dark nail polish for a year.  Whatever the solution, there still remains the ability to set aside holy time for a loved one, in some way, that enables the healing process.  I encourage you to find one that works for you if ever the unfortunate need arises.

Yours,

Frankie

 


Nook, Current Events, and a Sampling

Caysee Rides: A Story of Freedom, and Friendship is now available on Barnes and Noble’s Nook.   I am excited to be able to publish on this venue as well and look forward to connecting to a wider audience  (also published on Amazon’s Kindle).

In light of current events, the timing of this release is fortuitous.   With an uncertain political landscape taking form, conjectures about things such as California’s succession from the union and state’s rights are being discussed more openly and with sincerity.

In formulating the circumstances of Caysee’s story, I felt compelled to stay true to a somewhat plausible post-United States scenario, utilizing my historian’s eye in the process, and sourcing from Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine.    The connections of today’s sociopolitical climate and the possibility of a state-driven republic are wholly relevant in Caysee Rides. 

I leave with you a sampling from the book, in which the reader learns the history of the breakup of the United States and the subsequent formations of Provinces; with the exception of the Pacific Republic which I further examine here.

Thank you for reading,

A grateful Frankie

“So many people died. It must have been awful.”  Caysee only thought of her parents, she just now realized that other people lost loved ones as well.

“It was.  Still is.  I don’t think anyone expected the country to be split up and separated the way it happened.  We aren’t used to closed and guarded borders, but it was the only way that the Execs could get their way and be successful, too many people opposed the corporate takeover.”  MeeMaw was dishing out large portions of mashed potatoes, fried chicken, and green beans on their plates as she spoke, “So many, in fact, that it became a serious threat to them and they eventually just decided to militarize the entire nation to keep everyone in line, that’s when the Exec Revolution started. ” 

“How were the Provinces were formed?  What was it like before?” Caysee wondered.

MeeMaw sat down to her own plate, a heavy sigh gave away her exhaustion, “I don’t know how much of early U.S. history you know but in the beginnings of the Old Nation the states were hell bent on having their own rights, separate from the central government.  If I remember right the idea was to keep a balance of power and make sure the central government didn’t have too much. The issue of slavery became too big to ignore though and tested the fragile relationship between the central government and the state’s rights.  The Southern states soon declared their independence from the Union and set up their own shop, so to speak, elected their own president and everything.  Once the Civil War came to an end, the Confederacy, as they called themselves was welcome back into the Union but the states never really got over the loss of their independence.  When the chance came for them to separate again during the Exec Revolution, they grabbed it without hesitation. The South set up their own government, built fences around their borders and pledged to keep everyone out.   After that, the Execs sort of just split the rest up into convenient chunks according to their purposes and called them Provinces. But there were enough people and resources in the Pacific Republic states that they decided they wanted complete independence from the New Republic.  They didn’t want Execs running their business, they wanted to keep the democracy intact, and they had the ability to feed themselves, so they built their own border, and that’s how the New Republic came to be the patchwork of Provinces that it is now.”

“Everett mentioned that people try to escape the Confederacy just to go work in the NP.  Things must be bad there if the NP is where they want to go.” 

“Well, even before the Revolution, the south was a bit of a backwater, poverty stricken and closed minded.   Once the Province sealed itself up, all of those issues became worse, apparently thousands alone died of starvation and disease.  They keep closed off from the rest of the world; many people try to escape just so their children have a chance at a better education.”

Mac’s matter-of-fact voice broke into the serious narrative, “Right.  There aren’t many choices in the NP, but I can see how it would be better than a life completely cut off from the rest of the world.”


Living in the Ether

There’s nothing new under the sun.

We have the ability to create some beautiful things to be sure, the compositions might change, the form might differ, but the elements and building blocks are the same.

There will only, always be twenty six letters in the English alphabet.  There will only, always be four letters to our DNA code.  There will only, always be eight notes to an octave.

We can combine the letters to make an almost infinite variation of words.  Nature combines DNA to make an almost infinite variation of plants and animals.  We use eight simple notes to create an almost infinite variation of music.  But no matter the creation, they all share the same elements and foundations.  Such is the life that lives within the ether.

I noticed this concept in a serendipitous yet pivotal moment in my life.  Having spent over a decade in church, self-righteously cut off from any worldly music and culture, I was unaware of what was going on in Seattle and the whole grunge rock movement.  When I broke out of that small world and began to explore the things I missed, I was struck at the similarities between some things ‘in church’ and ‘out of church’.   Nowhere was this more apparent than in music, and I suspect the ether is to blame for it.

I know music: more than most, perhaps not as much as some.  I sang in my high school a-capella chamber choir, I sang in college, learned to play the guitar, and spent my enlistment in church as a member of the worship team.

When I stepped out the the sacred and into the secular, I found myself listening to stuff that was similar to what I was hearing and singing in church.  The lyrics were obviously different, but in the music one could hear the same sense of soul calling unto some deep where an epiphany might provide a glimpse of hope or a new direction.  I could picture the musicians, aiming for a different satisfaction, yet using the same tools and expressing the same sentiments. I learned that it didn’t matter whether I was listening to ‘God-approved’ music or not, the chords and words still inspired greatly, still gave me a sense of peace among the life storms of anxiety, still drew from the same ether, still contained the same rhythm.

Science voices its support for an ethereal commonality with ideas like Jung’s ‘collective unconscious’ and  Sheldrake’s ‘morphic resonance’. It makes perfect sense really, we all pull from the same components that are available to the universe in which we reside, we cannot help but see commonalities within our expressions no matter how ‘varied’ we try to make that expression.

Yet:  we are individually unique in many ways so that anything we filter from the ether and put in tangible form is going to be wholly consigned to our individual existence.   There may be only a few plot lines with which a writer can work, but each writer will tell you that their own blood, sweat, anxiety, and soul go into any creation, thus giving the world a new perspective, a new challenge to think. Hopefully, we make ourselves better in the process.

It’s no coincidence that so and so’s song sounds eerily similar to such and such’s songs.   It’s no strange twist of fate that keeps producing the same love story over and over again no matter how many writers tell the story.  It’s no act of chance that architecture repeats itself the world over.   We all draw from the same components available to us in the ether.

There is nothing new under the sun, but there is our individual contribution.

Frankie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


The Importance of Being Inspired

I attended an open mike session last week, a local event where writers and wanderers meet to share their works.  I hadn’t been to one in a over a year and as I sat and listened to a variety of people share their writs, I realized that I had been shorting myself.   Hearing the voices of others and watching their passion burn for the phrases they carefully constructed inspired me and challenged me.  Here is a perspective on love from a young just – twenty- ish man, there is a young woman wrestling with the conflict of how society tells her to act and dress, and what she knows to be true about herself.  An older man muses over a day in the life of a golf ball, a Mrs. Dalloway kind of narration.  The phrase ‘electrostatic syncopation’ is tossed out in the course of a monologue like a bean bag, it was a gem to me. A small opal that popped among the rocks, I wanted to pick it up and bring it home (apparently I did). I left the night refreshed and full of creative energy.  I thought about one of my mantras:  Creativity begets Creativity.  I became acutely aware of the Importance of Being Inspired.

bohemianartloft...

The Bohemian Art Loft

Redding, CA

Inspiration feeds the artist’s soul and without it we will starve.   We give out a lot you know.  Mr. E. Hemingway put it best when he described his take on being a writer, “There is nothing to writing.  All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” Any artist can relate, we could well replace the verb ‘writing’ with ‘painting’ ‘sculpting’ ‘composing’ ‘playing’ ‘dancing’ ‘acting’ ad infin. We invest immense amounts of energy in our work and that energy must be replenished from somewhere and on a regular basis.  I made a promise to myself to attend more open mike nights as a means of replenishing my creative wells and keeping my writer’s mind inspired.

Because the Importance of Being Inspired has been foremost in my thoughts this past week, I noticed how often I tend to subconsciously replenish my soul with other creative forces.   Music of course.  Always there is music.  My morning shower and workout tracks are chosen for their ability to immediately quench my thirst for energy, get my neurons firing, and set off ideas to bounce around in my head the rest of the day.  A treasured painter friend will sometimes let us in on what he’s listening to as he delves out himself with each stroke of the brush or scrape of the pencil.

Nature constantly provides Inspiration for the artist’s soul.   Monet fixated on light as his inspiration and painted the same church from the same angle at different times of the day, recording its varying hues and tones, its changing mirage and shadows.  The result is a symphony of paintings that have gone on to do some hefty Inspiring themselves.   How many poems have the stars inspired?   How many similes have we managed to come up with for the movement of clouds across the sky?   Nature is infinite in its beauty, its nuances can be fleeting, a small shadow can make all the difference – we artists agonize over a way to capture them.  What right combinations of words can describe the way a river is lit by the sun?  What color mixture will I need to ensnare the way the sky looks after a summer storm?

monet's churches

Words inspire.  Great speeches have changed the course of history.   Beautiful novels remind us that resolution is always possible.   Poems etch out a new facet to an object or an idea.  Words challenge us to consider a thing.  They challenge us to make a decision.   They challenge our prejudices and our secrets – and whether we agree or not – we are stronger for the challenge.

The strength of an artist, I’ve come to learn, is in his ability to understand the Importance of Being Inspired.   We can not create something from nothing after all. Bleeding and starving, insomniatic and obsessed, agonized and tortured – we must nourish ourselves with the work of others and the work of nature – or we starve.  And the songs start to sound the same, the books end up with the same plot line, or the paintings become the same fruit bowls.

Here’s to Inspiration kids…may we seek it, may it find us, may we be more aware of it.  Who knows what creative wells we might discover?  Who knows what great works might be produced?  Who knows who we might Inspire ourselves?

Peace, Frankie


You Love Me Like XO: the story of the power of a song ….

They fought when he visited her on his lunch break….he was in a completely different place than she, feeling physically fatigued and being mentally frustrated with banks and credit card companies chipping away at their meager earnings….she made the mental note that it was her responsibility to make sure they had weekly conversations about finances to avoid these kinds moments “get with the program gurl” she said as she scolded herself…she let him rant, giving him copious amounts of grace because she knew he had been sick, they both had, it’d been a week since sex because of it, and well, he needed to get it out…he finished up, they chit chatted about their mornings, the mood lightened and when he got ready to leave she asked him for the debit card…”why?” he said…”because I want to buy my sister in law a card for making it through her first christmas without her husband that died a few weeks ago…” …”It’ll only be about three or four bucks” she mentioned, she was still on the clock so her professional, down to business demeanor severely contrasted with his recent rant over money and he couldn’t believe she wanted to go off and spend some….suddenly there was a fight, they departed on angry terms and there followed a flurry of furious texts back and forth “I felt like you didn’t hear me” “we only had a minute and I had to ask for the card, I didn’t mean to be insensitive”…..they spent the afternoon in misery, wondering how they’d be in the evening, hoping they could just both brush it off as an off moment and not turn it into a full on fight….they felt each other out in later texts over the afternoon…”got a ride home with so and so, won’t be waiting for you to pick me up”, “ok :p”, “need anything from the store?”, “yeah, thanks! “……”whew, they might’ve escaped a bad time of it,” she thought….at home she took advantage of her time by taking down christmas and cleaning house, she listened to the newest release of so and so, thanking the technology gods for digital music….the song was played repetitively on her iphone whilst learning the lyrics on her laptop, the beat was catchy, the lyrics simple, the depth endless ….she knew music, having sung in her a cappella choir in high school and spending years on the worship team at a small church, she knew how to pick out instruments, listen for the key changes, all that stuff….the song wasn’t particularly complex, she detected a slight bent from one of her favorite bands, so and so, which pleased her…she noticed that it was one of those songs that could go on forever in a set listing, a tune that lent itself the ability to go off in random impromptu musical anthems, taking crowds on a surf ride of music…she went on many such surf rides as a singer on the worship team, she knew their power and their ability to bring a person to a moment of mental and emotional openness…such was the case now as the new song sunk in and she connected words to music to beat….she thought of her husband, how she’d do nothing to hurt him, he was her equal and fighting killed them both….she thought about her determinedness to make this relationship work no-matter-what-goddammit…she loved that man with every cell of her body, they fit together perfectly in every way, and though things weren’t right now, she’d work it out with him precisely because she loved him….she knew  the difference, she knew a life lived with a man who didn’t fit even though he was the father of her children, she knew the pain of trying to love someone, the disappointment of realizing such a thing can never be forced…she chose the torture of a divorce over the dreary future of an unhappy marriage, a boatload of guilt and a few years later she met him and instantly there was chemistry ….the happiness she found in him made every day of hell worthwhile and even when they were fighting, his face was all that she could see, there was, simply, no one else….she thought of the treasure she had, that such a love really comes but once in a while and not everyone gets it….she thought about the temporariness of life, a lesson she learned all too well recently with the passing of her brother…we never know when our time will run out, and those words struck home to her as she mopped away to the beat of the drums, living in the moment….in a bit of a mental lull, a wave of music came in and sent her memory reeling  further back and her mind into deeper thoughts….like the comparison to relationships earlier, she compared her life now as an atheist to her life then as a christian….here, she had no regrets, only thankfulness to be out of the confines of the four walls rank with conspiracy theories and fear….she thought of her time on the worship team, hours and hours, she recalled the moments of surf rides, the small amount of dancing she could do….now she was free and danced without restraint, allowing herself full expression of her body as it interpreted the music …an earlier thought came to mind and she marveled again at how similar the sounds of music were inside and outside the church, that we all catch the same creative waves, they just get funneled differently …. as she compared inside versus outside, she saw once more that outside was real, raw, and now….a new thought came to mind as she considered all those moments spent chasing a ‘perfect’ supernatural love, coming away unfulfilled, and being told “that was the nature of the thing, we are supposed to be kept hungering”….now, she realized, after discovering deep, true, perfect love in the flesh and she concluded “of course an invisible lover will remain elusive”,  she thought of her lover, that he was her heart’s desire, that they seemed to be made exclusively for each other, that he met her needs in every way, and yet……her heart ached for him to get home so they could embrace one another and forgive each other a thousand times over with a wordless, passionate cuddle…..”yeah,” she thought, “an elusive lover that keeps a girl chasing is ridiculous, in reality a girl can be completely satisfied and wake up the next morning wanting even more, in heat and craving it as if it’d been years,”….”you love me like XO…..” he does, and she does, and it is real and ever so temporary…. she was reminded that her decision to leave religion behind for this moment, for the acknowledgement of reality and true freedom, was the right one…..the house was nearly back to normal and clean, the song fairly memorized, another confirmation of her decision to be free of religion’s chains were all achieved by the time he got home….they spent a quick moment of checking each other’s eyes to determine if everything was okay and the long anticipated hug made everything right again….words and music bounced around in her head as they went about their evening until they finally rendezvoused in the bedroom….tender, apologetic kisses turned to lustful craving quickly and in the end, a new day came round and their love was even deeper, their passion even hotter…..she would hear the song again in years to come and just like any good tune it’ll take her back to that brief moment and remind her of the thoughts she had, the emotion she felt, and the freedom in which she basked…this is the story of the power of a song and the healing virtue of music…..

Peace Kids!  and happy new year…may 2014 be good to you….

Frankie Wallace

ericandi