“Even if the whole universe is nothing but a bunch of jerks doing all kinds of jerk-type things, there is still liberation in simply not being a jerk.” – Eihei Dogen (1200-1253 C.E.) as rendered by Brad Warner in his book Don’t be a Jerk
Yesterday, I watched part of Matt Khan’s latest talk, The End of the Old Paradigm. This was recorded after last week’s election. Matt postulates that the universe is actively helping us to evolve by moving us from the dormant state of divinity, which is the darkness of judgement to the active state of divinity, which is the light of gratitude. Even if we are getting down on ourselves because in this moment we cannot feel any gratitude, we can let go of our self judgement about that. Matt suggested that we all have to go through the seven stages of grief to let go of the old paradigm. Namely, an ego-dominated state where we are rooted in judgement, fear and greed. The new paradigm where we recognize one another as equal despite our differences, leads us into a heightened state of benevolence. We cannot rush our natural process. So, wherever we are with our reactions, we can love and honor ourselves right where we are.
This talk was helpful to me as I was walking on a treadmill at the gym. It minimized my viewing of the seven TV screens reporting news that usually provokes my judgement, anger and sadness.
Matt caught my attention when he asked how reality could get our technologically advanced culture, living in denial, to look up from our cell phones. Putting the “TV host of The Apprentice” in charge of the free world has certainly made us look up and around. Hopefully, it will cause us to reconnect with one another directly. It is time to stay aware, even if we are in stages of confusion, anger and sadness. It is vital to stand up for one another’s human rights while working through until we can enter into the advanced grieving stages of acceptance and hope.
While wrestling with our ability to deal with current events in a loving way, Julia and I visited an out of town friend. He is a fellow musician who told us about singing for another friend’s father in hospice. He started singing and was amazed that his friend’s father, who had advanced Alzheimer’s, knew and sang every word. I recalled singing for my uncle Si, who had such advanced dementia he could no longer even remember his wife. The night I sang for him was their anniversary. As we gathered around in celebration, my uncle Si became lucid and sang every word with conviction and a passionate connection. Singing opened a window in his memory and for that one night, he remembered my aunt and who he was.
This past weekend Julia and I were at a Folk Alliance conference. When we arrived, everyone was somewhat distraught. By the end of the weekend, everyone remembered who they were and the significance of what we do individually and together. Singing has a power to reconnect and realign us to who we are. We may not be able to force, or negotiate our way through our process of collective grieving in order to let go of or die to the old paradigm but perhaps we can sing our way through. Even if you don’t think you have a good voice, you can still hum a few bars.
During the weekend, my friend Kirk Siee, a grand stand-up bass player, gave me his copy of Brad Warner’s Don’t Be a Jerk. This is Brad’s radical but reverent paraphrasing of Dogen’s Treasury of the True Dharma Eye, which says, “We touch the deepest experience of all human beings throughout history when we allow ourselves to be truly quiet.”
So, perhaps be silent and sing, sing quietly, sing in the silence, but don’t silence the singing of your being!