Heroes and Heroics

“We have to let go of the heroes and replace them with heroics.”

That’s the sentence by Woody Holton that will stay with me. It comes from this podcast: The Story of America’s Founding You Weren’t Taught in School.

In fact, that podcast should be required listening in every school!

Hero worship is what children do – adults should be able to differentiate between a person’s heroic deeds and their failures. There was Picasso the amazing painter and there was the man who said “For me there are only two kinds of women: goddesses and doormats.” Having said that should in no way dim the importance of the artwork. We make mistakes, we say stupid things, but we can also create wonderful and deep words of wisdom – think of Jefferson who had 600 slaves and freed none, but wrote the preamble to the Declaration of Independence.

I imagine Buddha or Jesus made some awful statements in their youth – it’s just that social media wasn’t there to preserve it forever.

Admiring heroics instead of worshipping heroes is important. Equally important is, perhaps, pointing out someone’s mistakes rather than calling the person a failure. Discard hero but retain heroics, use it as a verb, an action, not a noun. A movement, not a pedestal. Doing so allows a person to be so much fuller, and adds texture and angles. Think diamond rather than glass shard.

“We have to let go of the heroes and replace them with heroics.”


Today’s podcast recommendation:
The Ezra Klein Show with guest Nick Offerman – find it on the NYT Website or at the Apple Podcast page

I hadn’t watched Parks and Recreations nor had I heard of Nick Offerman but I read the name Wendell Berry in the show description and decided to give this episode a listen. The conversation covers a lot of subjects that I am interested in and I enjoyed learning something about Nick Offerman.

On Leaving

I wondered when you wrote “Monday I would fly home from Albuquerque” how you felt about leaving New Mexico to fly to your new home after living in Santa Fe for so many years?

That’s a fair question and one I asked myself before I left. I didn’t leave Santa Fe because I don’t like it. I left because I wanted to discover something else. That experience might be pleasant…. or not. Consequently I didn’t feel strange or sad when I got on a plane to fly out of Albuquerque. I also know that I will be back in Santa Fe every year. There will be rehearsals before some of the tours, there will be visits to friends, and I will go to Upaya.

I know Santa Fe well. After all, most of my life was spent there. I arrived in 1986 when I was 27 years old and I stayed until I was 62. I can look at the sky in the morning and usually know more about the day’s weather than any app can tell me. I know where to obtain any supplies I might need. I know where to eat. I know how to bake sourdough bread at an altitude of 7,500 feet. I know that water boils at a temperature of 198º (92ºC) – instead of the 212º that are required at sea level. I know a lot of the trees along the paths I walked most every morning. I said hello to the same murder of crows who greeted me noisily. Familiarity creates intimacy. That’s all lovely and good and I appreciate it.

Still, I wanted to experience more places. I imagined that having to relate to a new location, finding my way around strange neighborhoods, getting to know a different landscape, perhaps having to learn a new language, would keep me fresh – literally. Perhaps I feel that exactly because I am getting older I need to challenge myself in this way. It would be too easy to walk 100 feet to my studio and sit in the same spot I sat in since 1996 – the location of the chair marked with white gaff tape on the black rug – and simply continue until, eventually, it all comes to a hard stop.

One night, a few months ago, during the process of selling my house and studio, I woke up with a start at 0130 in the morning. When the house is sold, where will I record? My studio is literally perfect and can’t be replaced! As I laid awake I had an idea. What about building a traveling recording rig and using studios in foreign countries, in places that might inspire me? I could find a studio in Saigon, for example, and bring my guitar, a microphone, perhaps a mic pre-amp, and a laptop. I would literally only need a quiet room, some wiring, and a control room where I could set up the computer. After I promised myself that in the morning I would search for studios in foreign cities I was able to fall asleep. The next day I did search for studios and not surprisingly found that there are lots of studio that can be rented in many far away places.

After my house sold I bought a camera. Actually it’s not A camera, really, for me it’s THE camera, a camera I had wanted for many years. Now that I actually bought this camera I want to, no, I need to feed the lens new sights, new everything. An adventure to be continued.

Monday Morning

After driving to Santa Fe from Denver on Saturday I stayed in a Ramada on Yale close to the airport in Albuquerque. When I made arrangements for this trip all hotels for this weekend were surprisingly expensive, especially in Santa Fe. Later, Jon figured out that this was due to the Balloon Festival, which happens on the first weekend in October. I had picked one of the cheaper hotels by the airport and planned on driving back to Santa Fe on Sunday for some business I had to attend to. Monday I would fly home from Albuquerque.

On Monday morning I woke up around 0515 and read People of the Book until a few minutes past 0600. Then I walked 0.9 miles to the Starbucks on Gibson. It was still dark, about 45′ before sunrise. Encountered three people, one of whom was talking to themselves. Arrived at Starbucks only to discover that the doors were all locked. There was a sign on the door saying that for security reasons the cafe was closed until sunrise. The Starbucks app, however, claimed that the place would open at 0500. I stood by the front entrance observing dozens of cars order coffee in the drive-through. Considered walking through the drive-through lane and ordering coffee. Then one of the five or six employees opened the door and asked whether I was there to pick up a mobile order. I said no, I wasn’t, but I could make a mobile order, if that’s what it took. I told him I had walked for twenty minutes to get there. He seemed incredulous (((what? people walk? in the dark??))) but let me into the store and locked the door behind me. Perhaps really not the safest neighborhood?!

I ordered a large coffee and a pair of kale egg bites. After I received the food I walked back to the hotel. The person talking to themselves had turned to arguing, but not quite screaming, with a post, as I hurried by. I gave another person coming towards me a wide berth by walking through a parking lot. I was relieved when I reached my hotel.

Reading on my laptop and sipping the coffee – the egg bites had already been consumed – I noticed this object on the wall, near the ceiling. It looks like a smoke detector that was wrapped in cling wrap to prevent smoke from getting into it? Room #345 of the Ramada hotel. If you worry about smoke inhalation you best avoid that room.
Smoke Detector
I think it is good to stay in questionable hotels from time to time, if only to properly appreciate the nice ones… :-)

PS: the books is really good! It describes the journey of a rare illuminated manuscript through centuries of exile and war.

Less flash and more substance than The Da Vinci Code . . . The stories of the Sarajevo Haggadah, both factual and fictional, are stirring testaments to the people of many faiths who risked all to save this priceless work.

– USA Today

Schrödinger’s Self

found here

Schrödinger was a Quantum Physicist – wikipedia link – who is known for the Schrödinger’s Cat thought experiment, devised in a discussion with Albert Einstein.

About consciousness Schrödinger said:

If the world is indeed created by our act of observation, there should be billions of such worlds, one for each of us. How come your world and my world are the same? If something happens in my world, does it happen in your world, too? What causes all these worlds to synchronize with each other?
There is obviously only one alternative, namely the unification of minds or consciousnesses. Their multiplicity is only apparent, in truth there is only one mind.

This is also the perspective of many Eastern religions and philosophies. It is reassuring that scientists and mystics can come to the same conclusion.

If we extend the idea that we don’t originate our own consciousness but rather are part of a larger consciousness we might also question the idea of self. We might consider that the sense of self is merely the result of identification with this body and mind. We identify with a body that was “remixed” from our parents genes, identify with the culture we were born into, and with the society we were raised in.

To me it seems that letting go of the idea of self is an unburdening. Ah, I don’t have to carry that any longer. Put it down now, take a load off. It’s just a construct and keeps me from seeing reality.

We say people who help others, without worrying about themselves, are “selfless”. More likely we are all selfless and most of us simply forget that.

When we really operate well, when we are in the flow – this goes for musicians, painters, but also for nurses, software programmers, in fact anyone can experience this – there is no sense of self at all. There is only the action that is required by the nurse or doctor, the musical note that has to be played, the brushstroke that must be executed. There is no longer a driver, only the driving. Ayrton Senna famously said of his legendary qualifying lap at Monaco in 1988: “I was no longer driving it consciously.” No driver – only driving.

Dog + Coffee

While I was waiting for a cortado (same amount of coffee as a cappuccino but a little less milk) a husky took off from the cafe and ran diagonally across the intersection. It was totally oblivious to the fact that it was dragging a table, to which the leash was attached, with it. After all, huskies have a history of dragging sleds for long distances. A human ran after the dog and brought both back to the cafe. Nice try, dog.

I prefer a cortado over a cappuccino because the taste leans a little more toward the coffee. Many call the cortado a gibraltar. Why you ask? This is the story I heard: while training baristas Blue Bottle would have them make coffee with smaller amounts of milk/foam than one would use for a regular cappuccino because why waste milk for training. Makes sense. Blue Bottle was asked what this drink was called and since they used the Gibraltar range of glassware by an old American company called Libbey they replied it’s a Gibraltar.

A cortado is the same drink as a gibraltar, but there seems to be a regional preference for using one or the other name on a cafe’s menu. Most baristas understand either term, however, if you want to try it.

Seattle Set List

A half hour before the show I wrote down a set list on a sheet of paper but realized that I wouldn’t be able to read it because I am short-sighted and don’t like to wear glasses on stage. The reason I don’t wear glasses is that I don’t like the focus lines around my view of the guitar’s fretboard. Better to see the guitar right in front of me and the audience blurry, I feel.

If I had remembered to bring artist tape I could have written the list on that and taped it to the guitar. Instead I wrote the list on my arm. It worked just fine.

We played a lot of new pieces and, amazingly, remembered all of these new arrangements. It was great to perform again and we enjoyed it thoroughly. The audience seems to have a good time, too. I was told that for many in the audience it was the first concert in a long time.

Morning in Seattle

Yesterday I felt a little overwhelmed by the bustle of the city. This morning I got up early and walked to a quiet spot I like. These are a few photos I took with my phone.

Psychedelics + Meditation

There is a lot of exciting research into psychedelics happening right now. Depression, end of life care, PTSD are just a few areas where psychedelics may have a big positive impact.

Podcast link – Dan Harris with Michael Pollan: Psychedelics + Meditation

YouTube link – Roshi Joan Halifax, Michael Pollan, Dacher Keltner: The Power of Awe

Both the podcast and the video are excellent. Check them out.

In the summer of 1978 I lived near the beach on Phuket in Thailand. In those days the island had not been developed yet and there was only one hotel. I never looked at the hotel because I found something I liked better. For $1.50/night I stayed in a hut by the beach for several weeks. Several people I met told me to order a mushroom omelet at the little cafe on the beach. They smiled when they suggested this. One morning I decided to order this mystery omelet. The rest of that day I spent on a rock in the surf and in my hut, meditating. It didn’t occur to me that I had taken a drug because to me, after three years of daily meditation, it didn’t feel different.

Recently, neuroscience has confirmed a connection between meditation and psychedelics in that MRI brain scans taken of people meditating and of people taking psychedelics look very, very similar.

In fact I felt that the trip was simply an extension of my meditation practice. What I mean by that is that the experience was somewhat like riding an e-bike. I am still riding the bike and I am still pedaling, but the e-motor helps me get up to speed quicker and makes the climb a little easier. And it is true that many, many people turned to meditation after such a psychedelic experience. In fact, American Buddhism might not have happened without people who, after psychedelic experiences in the 60s and 70s, traveled to Asia to learn meditation and brought back what became Western Buddhism. Or take Dr. Alpert as an example, who became Baba Ram Dass. In any case, that day I laughed so much that my whole mouth was tired the next morning. Smiling so much can wear you out… :-)

Here is a selfie I took in my little hut on Phuket.

Here is a quote by Michael Pollan – from the above-linked video.

I mean the two biggest problems we face as a civilization I would say are the environmental crisis and tribalism. Both come from the objectifying of the other and therefore the willingness to exploit the other whether the other is people of a different faith, people of a different race, or nature, and so a solvent for this kind of thinking is exactly what the culture needs right now.

Santa Fe

This morning I read Gender Pronouns Are Changing. It’s Exhilarating. and enjoyed learning a few things about English.

I have been in Santa Fe for almost a week. My guitar needed a little bit of work and I left it in the hands of the luthier before I rode out of town on August third. It was only the second time in four decades that I was without a guitar for six weeks. I think the break was good for my hands. Last week I picked up the guitar and started to reacquaint myself with it. Yesterday and today we rehearsed. We all missed making music a lot and look froward to this little tour. We will perform some of the favorites, but also new pieces from vision 2020 and from Bare Wood 2.

On this day in 1975 I saw Earth, Wind & Fire and Santana in Köln. It was a life altering experience.