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The Wild Comedian Breaks Free

How Comedy Can Transport Us Beyond the Walls of Conformity

I loved the first season of Amazon’s, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. For me, it is timely historical fiction at its best. It features the story of a woman in the 1950’s who starts to question the tightly wound structure of her reality after her husband unexpectedly leaves her. Throwing herself into the world of stand-up comedy, she finds she has a natural talent for it.  Her first two times in front of the microphone, she gets arrested for obscenity but it is really because she went beyond the bounds of where society felt safe. On the show, she becomes friends with Lenny Bruce, comedy’s pioneer crusader for seeking truth outside of society’s comfort zone. Lenny helped pave the way for the wild men and women who dared to laugh at the elephants and asses in the room.

Comedians have the prerogative to laugh at what we hide behind. They are the ones that get to speak truth to conformity and fear.  The wildest comedians have a driving ambition to break out of all constraints.

I remember watching John Belushi on Saturday Night Live and in Animal House, and feeling that he might actually be able to explode right out of his body.

Comedians like Mel Brooks were my first heroes.  They brought a zaniness to life that seemed to expand its possibilities for me.  By the time I was in High School, I actively declared, “Normalcy is a fallacy!” I had caught the same bug that prompts the comedian to go beyond boundaries, to discover a larger, less confined space in which to dance.

The wildness of many comedians, conventionally, has been associated with alcohol and drugs, which can break down walls of inhibition. There is a labyrinth of defenses that we have built around us, not only individually and culturally, but historically as a race.  So, while the conventional means of breaking down a few barriers seems to work, part of us may yearn to find another way to go out past our collective defenses.

Jim Carey started off as a wild comedian, who seemed like he could turn his body into rubber and bounce off the walls into another dimension. After making the film, “Man on the Moon,” about Andy Kaufman, another comedian who pushed reality to the edge, Jim went on an odyssey to learn how to transcend societies’ corral.

Recently, I watched Jim’s 2014 commencement speech at the Maharishi University of Management. It is well worth watching. He is still his animated best, but has come to a calm place within that is not limited by his physical form.

Jim Carrey’s Commencement Address at the 2014 Maharishi University of Management:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V80-gPkpH6M

Jim then grew the long beard, that has become associated with philosophers, gurus and seekers. He began to risk sounding insane while talking to the paparazzi, declaring that he didn’t exist, that he was just another character, like the many colorful characters in his 40 films.

“I played the guy that was free from concern so the people who watched me would be free from concern.”- Jim Carey

Jim is identifying, not as a “Me” but as the energy that animates all things.

“It’s a play, it’s a giant field of consciousness dancing for itself. “

“We all long to belong, and the truth is, we do. We already belong to the wholeness within us and every living thing. The plethora of groups, communities, circles, families, here on our planet are like flowers, they allow for variance of taste to offer us the opportunity to connect to the beauty that we are.  However we connect to this wholeness, the joy lies in our ability to celebrate it within our interactions.”

“The effect that you have on others is the most valuable currency there is.  All that will be left of you will be what was in your heart.”- Jim Carey

I am grateful for the drive that continues to play with reality and wake us up from complacency. Waking up to the richness of being, provides so much to rejoice in. I am especially thankful for the bouquet of interactions that I have with everything around me, especially you. This certainly is a wild ride that affords us the chance to literally laugh our asses off.

 

 

 

 

Where We Belong

The advantages of being a bridge between communities

One of the advantages of being on the road a lot is getting to listen to audio books like Brene Brown’s latest, Braving the Wilderness: “The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone.”

In the book, Brene describes her struggle with Maya Angelou’s quote, written above. Brene shares how her own life experiences and forged path kept her from belonging in any one place or to any one community. She finally realized, through vulnerability and honesty, that she belongs to herself, which allows her to belong everywhere.

Standing in a wilderness that is outside the borders of each established group, but within her own boundaries, allows Brene to “speak truth to bullshit” while remaining civil, to be courageously vulnerable, and to come close to hold hand with strangers, because “people are hard to hate close up.”

As The Levins, Julia and I have held the intention to be a musical bridge between communities. We feel so grateful to be able to celebrate with each group we sing with and encounter. There is depth and truth within all the communities we visit and yet, we don’t fully feel we belong to just one. We recognize and rejoice where truth overlaps in puddles that we can splash in and sing.

My roots are in Judaism, which I moved away from as a teenager. I explored various faiths and practices. Music brought me back to Judaism and I discovered that what I had found in my travels, was all within its depths, hidden away. It was not pointed out, but left for me to discover on my own.

I feel that Judaism is a part of me. It may even be in my DNA. Yet, I am grateful to sing for not one, but several Jewish communities of varying denominations, as well as the other spiritual, folk and Literary circles in which we are privileged to perform.

Each community and group throughout the globe face their own challenges. There are politics, inter-personal dynamics, and obstacles that must be sorted through to achieve harmony.

Brene talks about each group’s tendency to fall into the, “If you are not for me, then you are against me,” mentality.

It is all too easy to become subservient to our need to be accepted by our “home team”, whether that is the faith of our birth, our political party, family or whatever circle we would feel most lonesome to be outside of. To be brave enough to examine and speak from your heart-centered truth, will, at times, be at odds with your home team but will also strengthen and enrich that team; even if they cannot hear it at first.

Julia and I have often witnessed, when someone from outside the group periodically   visits, they can usher in a fresh perspective. When we are in the car and are stuck within “our own little group,” or are feeling a strain between us, it is wonderful to listen to an “outside voice,” such as  Brene, or Krista Tippet’s On Being, or even a fun game-show podcast. These, “visitors” from outside our group, open the window between us, so that we can shift our focus back to the love and good feeling we have for each other. Being a musical bridge allows us to have a similar effect when we visit and sing for a variety of communities.

Brene refrences a concept by the sociologist, Emile Burkheim called Collective Effervescence. This is when a group of people come together for something, like a concert, and experience a temporal unity by being in the moment together and sharing the excitement and joy of what is taking place. The people experiencing this may belong to different groups that would not usually get along, but through this Collective Effervescence, they bond.

If you examine your life, you may find that you have many opportunities to be a bridge between communities. Between your family, your place of work, your friends, your spiritual practice, or book club, there is bound to be varying opinions and stances. Standing in our heart-centered truth, we can begin to see the beauty of the people who seem to be outside of our inner circle. We can look for moments to create or encourage Collective Effervescence.

Being brave enough to stand on our own, we can bring real honoring presence into each group we encounter and usher in a little light and understanding to close the gap between us.

 Julia and I have one week left of our Indiegogo Campaign for our upcoming new album, Caravan of Dawn. It is Harmony-Driven music for folks, like you, who usher in the light wherever they go. Please join us! https://igg.me/at/thelevins 

 

Beyond Belief

 

“Don’t belong to anything. Don’t belong to anyone. Just Be. Feel your Being first and foremost, and don’t compare or compete. Just Be your Being.” ~ Mooji

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I have had the good fortune of having an ongoing dialogue with friends throughout the years who cut through whatever I may be espousing in terms of beliefs and are willing to throw down or splash around in the stream to get at what is really going on.

As we get older, it becomes easier to get lodged into a belief system and become stiff. I believe this is because we find a way to deal with what is coming down the pipe and we want that cushion to keep us protected.

My good friend Leyna recently sent me an Uplift article about what it really means to hold space for someone else.  It is a great article that reminds me to give those around me space without wanting them to take up my point of view.   It talks about allowing them to have their own take and feelings on life, without overloading them, judging them or asserting my ego into whatever is going on for them.

Leyna once said that she believed there were 613 commandments in the Torah, not so that we would follow each one to the letter of the law, but to get us to reach higher than we would have.  Sometimes if the bar is raised really high, it inspires us to stretch or jump up.

The article of holding space is not something we may be able or willing to do completely; it is a reminder that we can always open more, be more allowing of what is.

Leyna and I have often discussed the concept of “being positive”.

Leyna: “My process could be seen as “being negative” to say “negative” things – because fears and disappointments can be interpreted that way – but I see it as a positive process because as long as I don’t let fear have a home inside of me, it pushes me to move on and succeed. I did not prevail despite voicing my fears, disappointments, anger and doubts. I prevailed because of voicing them with as much courage and confidence I could to not run away from it, sugarcoat it or try to paint it into something it was not. This has been my way and it has worked for me.”

Surely as the old proverb says, “A sorrow shared is half a sorrow.” Leyna’s method of courageously looking at what is and refusing to run away from it, sugar coat it and most importantly, not be defeated by it, allows her to move continents.

The totality of our being, is the totality of being itself.  For me, that means that trying to adhere to any particular stance or view of ourselves is restrictive.  We choose limits to gain a measure of comfort and peace.  Everything comes and goes but what remains is the life within us.

I have certainly been guilty of overloading my point of view onto others and judging them for theirs.  That is not my defining point. As Leyna suggested, it’s what we let make a home within in us that sticks.  We can be motivated by everything coming through our ‘house’.

May your process be glorious.

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Bowie Lives!

 

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When my friend Mark Stidham texted me at 5:30am on Monday with a David Bowie quote, I thought he was pulling a nostalgic all-nighter, not a vigil.  It was when I saw Marion Siegel’s post about Bowie passing that I understood how relative our perception is.  We think we know what our friends, heroes and esteemed villains are up to, but we hardly know what we are up to.

The poet Rumi said “Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I will meet you there,” David Bowie was that field.

I first saw a picture of Bowie on my friend Andy Goldman’s wall, which was a shrine to guitar gods and rock legends.  Bowie was wearing a dress and he scared me.  I felt I was getting in over my head. Instinctively, I knew he was deep. That picture was from 1970.

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Bowie was an element, a fire that threw out sparks for almost fifty years. For a good solid fourteen years he was seriously way ahead of his time and out of this world. He was not only the king and queen of Glam rock but he was a poet, a shape shifter, the embodiment of Change.

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He gave generations permission to be themselves beyond social and institutional restrictions.  He expanded our definition of freedom:

“And I want to believe In the madness that calls ‘Now’ And I want to believe That a light’s shining through Somehow

And I want to believe                                                                                                                                                               And you want to believe And we want to believe And we want to live Oh, we want to live… I want to live… Live”

Cygnet Committee

“Oh no love! you’re not alone You’re watching yourself but you’re too unfair You got your head all tangled up but if I could only make you care Oh no love! you’re not alone No matter what or who you’ve been No matter when or where you’ve seen All the knives seem to lacerate your brain I’ve had my share, I’ll help you with the pain You’re not alone…Gimme your hands cause you’re wonderful Oh gimme your hands.”

Rock and Roll Suicide

“How many people lie instead of talking tall?…

You’re a flash in the pan, I’m the Great I Am.”

Black Star

Right up until the end, he changed his persona into a blind oracle that looked like it arose from Pan’s Labyrinth; Lazarus rising from the grave to take the dying singer’s final curtain call.

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Rock star, Movie Star, White Star? He says no, “I’m a Black Star”  He is gravitational, he is the alternative to a Black Hole.

He is our chance to rise to our most outrageous and live our expression to its fullest.

Bowie lives!

Bowie Low

Stream of Light 12/8/14