I haven't really slept much for the past few days. There's been so much on my mind—I can't seem to make the acrobatic marching band in my head stop. I'm about to leave for Sweden to make my next album, the next big big thing. And it's on my mind. There's a lot for me to think about because it's a conceptual piece, really—I'm approaching it like art rather than music. The theme is music to die to. Well, actually the idea was to get people around the world to send me songs that they wanted played at their funerals, and the reason why they wanted that song to be played. I got a lot of the inspiration for the lyrics from the generous ones that shared their songs and their thoughts with me.
But, it's been haunting me. I can't sleep. I fall asleep in the twilight morning and wake up again before the garbage man comes. The brain, the ideas, they don't stop. With my mind shouting so loud, it's no wonder my body can't get a wink of rest. My body has been aching for sleep for many days. I know that I can't make a great record when I'm a zombie, so I decided that nobody would get to talk to me today no matter what.
So, I put all my phones in the office and closed all the curtains and grabbed my yellow foam ear plugs and the eye mask I got from some British Airways flight I took to make some other album I never caught up on sleep after making, either. I was ready for the nap to end all naps. I would not take any calls.
Then my friend Lisa called.
I had to break the vow of sleep. I had to wake up.
Chris Lisa is a 21 year old girl from Philadelphia. I met her through my online diary. She's been reading it for quite a few years. She's in the Army, just back from the war. For many months she'd been telling me that she wanted to help me—support me. Then, one day, as if from nowhere, $500 just showed up in my account. It was from her. I cried at her generosity. I'd been praying for a patron for years.I wrote and rewrote a thank you letter to her numerous times before sending it. And, the last time she emailed me I wrote and rewrote my reply to her for months before I sent it out. I'd felt so foolish for letting things take so long before. Of course I was going to talk with her!
So we talked about so many things, even though I was so tired, my mind the ever crying newborn. The thing that I noticed the most was that Lisa and I were so different, yet we were still able to meet one another where we are. She's a soldier and is proud of it. She supports our war efforts. She looks forward to having children. She is proper and respectful when she speaks. I looked over to the Adbusters flag in my room, an icon to give me a giggle while I have drug addled, adulterous throw–down fuckfests with younger women. I'm pro peace. I'm a hippie in hiding. I'm filthy and perverted and improper and maybe more of an iconoclast than Jesus.
So there we were, two vastly different people seeking to connect our ideas and lives as best we could. I sat in my bed with my phone, all covered up with a landslide of down blankets.
So, I asked her what she thought about it the battles she'd just returned from. What is the point? What's next? What's your take on life, on death, on war, and on the Iraqi people?
She told me that the people there were nice to her and that she feels happy and proud to know that she is helping to bring freedom to an oppressed people. She's met them face to face, she feels good about what she is doing. She was proud of herself and feels like she is doing the best thing.
You see, I have another soldier friend that writes to me from front lines in Iraq. My other solider friend told me about how the war is all made up and how there's no reason to be there and that she can't believe that Americans have bought into the big, crazy lie. She told me how pissed she was about having missiles fired at her and how her building had been under attack again. She felt angry and betrayed by the United States for putting her where she was.
Different stories. How can two people have such different ideas about the same thing?
So, there I was, sitting in bed with my phone and my Philadelphian friend connected to me through wires. We asked and answered and gifted information like it was monopoly money. I was furiously happy that she was sharing with me her story, her feelings, her reality.
I started to talk with her about abstraction, and about understanding.
I brought up a conversation I once had with my and old friend, Chris.
Chris said something like, "How could those right wing Christian people possibly feel that way about abortion (or whatever it was we were talking about that day)? I mean, I just don't understand!"
I told Chris that was the problem. The problem was that he did not understand. He looked at me, confused.
So I broke it down like this. There are three ways to approach the situation. Let's start with the most basic: fighting. This is where one party judges the other party to be wrong and then uses all means necessary to fuck their shit right up. So they settle it like animals—battle, war, fighting, biting, pillaging, raping, punching, punishing, or whatever you want to call it. Not pretty, but it's what most living organisms do. (Cat, dogs, or pretty much all humans a few thousand years ago for example.)
The other option is forgiveness. Forgiveness is pretty OK compared with beheadings and all. Forgiveness is when you say, "Well, I wouldn't have done that totally fucked up move, you complete and utter retard, but I guess I will refrain from annihilating you and eviscerating your progeny. Fag." Forgiveness means taking a deep breath, walking away, letting things blow over, and truly accepting that other people are really shitty inside, no matter how hard they try, and that you would never have done what they did. I mean, come on. It was a really lame maneuver they pulled, anyways.
Ok. Don't get me wrong, forgiveness beats the living daylights out of the old school methods of conflict resolution—beheadings, stoning, torture, flaying, genocide. Given the first two choices, I'll take forgiveness any day over that stuff. But, as we see, forgiveness is still somewhat judgmental. And, the thing is that there's something even better.
Compassion is the best way to deal with it all, and it's a bit trickier. It requires some research for most situations. Here's the deal. Every single event that happens in the universe is preceded by every other event that has ever happened, right? In other words, something that happens now is a result of the complex convolution of countless previous occurances. That's looking at it from the top down, though. We can also take it from the beginning. Something happens. It affects it's surroundings, which affect their surroundings, and so on down the line. Forever.
So, let's say that one time Bob's mom gets mad and throws a frying pan at her little boy Bob. Bob feels like he is not a good enough person, since he made her angry enough to throw a pan. He'll show everyone what a good boy he can be. A little girl teases him at school and calls him shorty. He spends the rest of his life trying to make up for it by being big and strong. He tries as hard as he can to get the girl he likes to go on a date with him for his junior prom. She says yes, but never calls him again. He's racked with insecurity about why it worked out that way. He decides he's not going to make that mistake again.
The thing is that every person is a matrix of matrices, pointers strung together, encapsulated data structures exploding violently into the past, yet culminating at this very point in the present. It takes some work, of course. You have to want to know why they are the way they are. And, you have to read up on what made them that way. But, if you are willing to put down the rifles of ego and get into the other person's history, well, you're in for a big surprise.
When I think about myself I realize that most times I wouldn't have done half as well as that other guy, if I had been walking through life in their shoes all those years and had to go through that stuff with their resources. And I was supposed to be mad at them for what?
Lisa listened almost too attentively to my story about me and my friend, and she said yes in the pauses to let me know she was listening. I told Lisa that my friend said that she didn't think she was ready to be compassionate towards those people. I laughed out loud, not in mockery, but at how funny we can all be. I remember where we were-in Santa Cruz on a clear and cold winter night walking to her little white Honda. I hugged Chris and said, "You can't truly help your cause until you deeply understand why the people you call your adversaries think differently. I thought liberals were supposed to be open–minded." He laughed and I laughed, too.
Lisa seemed to like the story. I liked telling it to her, because it seemed to be an accurate metaphor for the very interaction we were having. We were two people from different worlds trying to understand one another—reaching through space and time, reaching into our hearts, asking questions to the past about what really happened to make it all turn out this way.
I was so sad when Lisa had to get off the phone with me. I felt like we were both learning something valuable by sharing our ideas with one another. Before I said goodbye I made a joke about shaking a baby to death. She laughed and told me that I was going to hell and that she was going to be there too for laughing. I don't know, but if a proud young Soldier woman from the East Coast wants to share her precious moments with me trading stories and information and laughter over ideas that aren't easy and jokes that are funny because they're true, well, then hell is where I want to be.
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