Saturday, April 30, 2011


A lot of what I've been experiencing lately is due to grief. I never really understood the power grief can have on people, but it can be an agent for personal change, growth and motivation, or it can activate a lot of negative tendencies, habits and thoughts. Most of  the time, it's both.

Since my grandmother's passing, I've taken stock on life and no longer find joy in constantly running around, because I hold doubts of what I am not accomplishing in my own life. Watching someone in their final moments in life, to have that strength, awakens much in life that, to put it frankly, no one can experience until they are at someone's bedside wishing them on to new journeys beyond this life. In my Buddhist practice, I understand that death is nothing but the starting point of future lives, future existences to help people and overcome suffering. At the same time, those who watch someone as they pass also begin new journeys. But if that journey begins with grief, it is as if beginning travels in the middle of the night. That darkness can motivate you to push farther than before, but the discomfort of the night can also overwhelm.

This trail is a trial. Trials really do define us. In those moments when I am overcome with grief, darkness comes about. Many times, I've been hanging out with my dear friends self-loathing, self-pity and doubt. And when I feel overwhelmed with things to do, especially Gakkai activities it seems, their voices become louder and present. Thanks. True friends indeed (sarcasm intended). I am thankful that I am no longer trying to pursue being at up to 10 meetings a week (with this new direction), because I would surely quit practicing if I continued while struggling with grief. This week, I had 7 straight days of activities, and I found myself back at the dark path of self-loathing and pity last night when I took the night off.

I once wrote that life is meant to be this difficult. And though that is true, grief has also become a motivator. Out of this, I've been able to cry, to share, to open my life up without limits to someone once more and of course also a benefit, to be healthy again. There is one person in particular, an ally whom I want in my corner every day of my life, who in the past 5 months has been ever-supportive, and I cannot thank her enough. She truly has been there, even when I feel like I am beating her with my own self-pity and self-loathing. I truly appreciate anyone who can take time to take the punches of self-pity, doubt and loathing I possess. Megmeg bacalao, you are a treasure. Even as I attempt to support others in faith and practice, you are the one to keep me in check. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

And so, I head into a  weekend chock full of activities, but I know that this grief is meant to unravel life. But sometimes, life unraveling is life revealing what is good. These moments then are nothing more than "casting off the transient and revealing the true."

Friday, April 22, 2011

American Music

With the ever-expansive "indie" scene, and with the birth, and rise of independent labels, for the first time in a long time, I've felt that there have been a string of good years for music. Recently, I am coming across more satisfying music due to the diverse availability of music. If this is a rhythm in pop music history, I hope that this upswing doesn't recede anytime soon.

It was in the 1950s and 1960s that a boom occurred. What I consider the original modern independent labels in America (Atlantic, Motown, etc) brought much change to the music-scape of Post-War America. Motown brought new sounds in soul and R&B, while Atlantic also invested in to Rock n' Roll, Jazz, and Country/Western. Without these efforts, bands and artists would have produced a different era in music. Without Motown, R&B would not be what it is today. Without Atlantic, Jazz, Country and Rock would not be what it is today. Can you imagine a world without the impact of the Temptations, the Supremes, the Jackson 5, Marvin, Stevie, Smokey, Ray, Coltrane, Mingus, Otis, Ben E., among others? And all occurring before the era of record company acquisitions beginning in the late 1960's, until the mid-2000's.

That's why I cannot but think of their influence when I listen to Fitz & the TantrumsAWOLNATIONMumford & Sons and others at all times of the day. In Fitz, there's a modern attempt at an old sound once-discovered in a house in Detroit. In AWOLNATION, there is the exploration of sound and rock found in the halls of New York, and Mumford & Sons takes us back to the spirit of Nashville. All of these efforts are allusions to what I consider the golden era of pop music. The mid-century gave a broad spectrum in the form of popular music, and when the industry turned to acquisition over creativity, that energy, though dormant for 40 years, gave rise to a generation where indie records out-pace any major record company's efforts to contain this indie phenomenon. So, to the musicians coming out today, not found in the Gaga's or Perry's, but in the corners of houses, padded with egg-carton soundproofing, your work always has the potential for a new golden age of pop music.