Category Archives: Family

Committed to choosing one another

Love and creativity within the wedding ceremony.

“I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where. I love you simply, without problems or pride: I love you in this way because I do not know any other way of loving but this, in which there is no I or you, so intimate that your hand upon my chest is my hand, so intimate then when I fall asleep your eyes close.”
– Pablo Neruda, 100 Love Sonnets

“You know you’re in love when you can’t fall asleep because reality is finally better than your dreams.”
– Dr. Seuss

“Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope.”
– Maya Angelou

“A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person.”
– Mignon McLaughlin

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This weekend I had the sweet honor of officiating at my nephew Ian’s wedding down in Jupiter, Florida.  My uncle Jeff performed the ceremony for Julia and I at our wedding. Both Ian and I penned our services with our partners, to better reflect our beliefs.

Julia and I based our service on a Jewish ceremony. We did our best to supplant entrenched patriarchal ritual and language with egalitarian and mystical inclusiveness that honored tradition while bridging the gap between our families and the Catholic-Judaic divide. (As a kid I used to say that Judaism and Catholicism were a synapse apart; both of them were motivated by guilt. ) We found the common thread was love.

My nephew Ian and his beautiful bride Claire are best friends happily growning and intertwining their lives together. Their ceremony did not have any religious overtones but recognized that their union allowed them to “understand, support and nurture eachother without sacrificing who they were.”  They lifted the egalitarian spirit high, focusing on their love, which spilled over into splintered factions of the family and embued us all with tangible hope.

They didn’t promise anything  in their ceremony as they don’t believe marriage is about permanence but adaptation. “People, emotions, relationships change.” So, they didn’t vow to always feel exactly the same as they did standing together before us, but they commited to choosing one other every day, moment to moment.

I got to ask Ian if he chose Claire “to be his partner through all of life’s adventures, valuing her being, her growing and her happiness alongside his own.”

Claire got to ponder if she choose Ian in the same way. Both of them responded with those two words, that when uttered in complete earnest ring out like bells: “I do.”

Claire walked down the aisle to music from Wes Anderson’s Royal Tannenbaum’s soundtrack. They led the procession away from the alter to something from A Life Aquatic. Their ceremony and the whole wedding had the colorful triumph of a Wes Anderson movie.

Ian proposed to Claire with our Shakespeare-inspired song “God’s Spies”. Julia and I were further honored by getting to sing it as they swirled just above the Loxahatchee river for their first dance.

The wedding coordinator said she had managed thousands of nuptuals but she hadn’t seen a couple who only had eyes for each other the way Ian and Claire had. As she said this it was hours later. Claire and Ian were both still  dancing. They were reaching out for one another, connecting, twirling and the stars were laughing.

“We are telling different tales. Secrets falling from our lips. When our eyes are free from scales, we can see what was eclipsed. 

… So we’ll ‘pray and sing and tell old tales and laugh at guilded butterflies and take upon us the mystery of things… as if we were God’s Spies.’ “

-Shakespeare/ The Levins

My parents celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary on Ground hog’s day but they also got to dance and have their own festive feast the next night with all their loved ones around them.  A bunch of us sat around late that night sharing stories from our various wedding experiences.

Julia and I head back up to New York today, back to the cold of winter. We face the prospect with the strength of love renewed, choosing one another moment to moment.

May your connection eclipse the cold of tragic headlines and bring you to a place where all you hold dear dances with you in earnest delight.

Riding into the new year – time traveling in the present.

In the midst of my family’s ritual laughing feast and gorge, my mom has invited us to her Kundalini yoga classes. The instructor there has reminded us that our mind is like a horse we are riding. Sometimes we have gone without a saddle or reins, letting it take us where it will but with training we recall we are not our mind and can be grateful for our ability to go where we want to.

During this visit, my horse and I have pretended to be time travelers. In moments when my dad has recalled our family history and the double feature matinees of his youth, I pretend that I have come from the future to revel in these moments with him.  I take in his Old Spice cologne and the organized eloquent spaciousness he has surrounded himself with. I think how much I would give to be able to touch and listen to him decades from now.  As I digest this (and the incredible amount of food we have eaten in the past 24 hours.) I rejoice.

As the old year merges into the new, the gratitude I have for life is not that I will get to hold onto my family or all of you forever but that I am fortunate enough to have the opportunity to be with you now.

Tonight many will sing the Robert Burns poem, although past “Should old acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind,” most of the words will be a blur.  Here’s a cherished portion for ye:

“And there’s a hand, my trusty friend
And gie’s a hand to thine
We’ll take a cup of kindness yet
For auld lang syne.”

– Robert Burns

That cup stands ready for us. Let us take a sip together now as it overflows. Although we are in seemingly separate spaces, mounted on our trusty steeds we can be together in no time.

Happy New Year!

Love you, Ira

360 degrees around Harper Lee

Last week I finished reading Harper Lee’s prequel sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird which is called Go, Set a Watchman. (It is a sequel but was written before her famous, award winning novel.) For a good ten years, Julia and I religiously watched To Kill a Mockingbird to remind ourselves what it means to be human. For me, that is nearly a perfect movie and it stirs not only my emotions but my conscience. 
Julia and I went on the first day the new book was released and bought it from the local bookstore which is happily called Pickwick’s.  We remembered being at Pendragon books in Oakland, CA at midnight to get the last of the Harry Potter books.  Pendragon was packed and there was an excitement and comradery in the air.  There will be very few times in our lives now where being in bookstore for the release of a physical book will be an event.
There has been a lot of controversy and criticism of Harper Lee’s new book and I did my best not read or listen to it before I read it myself.  I was worried that Atticus Finch, who said,  “I do my best to love everybody… I’m hard put, sometimes—baby, it’s never an insult to be called what somebody thinks is a bad name. It just shows you how poor that person is, it doesn’t hurt you,” would be dethroned as a literary God of justice and stalwart humanitarian. Harper Lee manages to find her own conviction as a young woman and upholds what Atticus has taught her.  But this book is about understanding what it means to be fully human. 
My father taught me when I was a child to walk three hundred and sixty degrees around a person’s point of view.  When I was a teenager, I would come home ranting as if I was a sixties radical and my father would sigh and do his best to help me walk around the additional hundred and eighty degrees. 
There is a way to protest injustice while remaining compassionate and being empathetic to our own shortcomings. 
Here is one of my favorite protests:
One man with a Sousaphone ruins an entire KKK march
by providing them with a silly soundtrack.
Here’s to the prankster that is able to lighten the load of our collective folly.
Here’s to merging our conviction with a loving heart.

Speeches of Acceptance – worth the gold

After a successful weekend in Kansas City at the Folk Alliance International with amazing musicians from around the world, Julia and I got to watch the Academy Awards.  What struck us were some of the acceptance speeches. JK Simmons started by telling children to call their parents.  Then, without anger or histrionics, an actor, a writer and musicians stood up, not for themselves alone but for their particular portion of humanity.  Beyond the nit-picking of behavior and evaluating performances and dresses, people from around the globe were treated to earnest concern and bravery.  With the overlapping of these speeches alone, the bridge towards our collective humanity gets a boost in production.
That was worth the price of watching.
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 “To every woman who gave birth, to every taxpayer and citizen of this nation, we have fought for everybody else’s equal rights. It’s time to have wage equality once and for all. And equal rights for women in the United States of America.” – P.A.
http://youtu.be/OteoFQvQczc
We stand in solidarity with Commons, John Legend, MLK and all of those who long to see this truly be the land of the free and the home of the brave.
“…the same bridge that Dr. King and the people of the Civil Rights movement marched on, 50 years ago. This bridge was once a landmark of a divided nation, but now it’s a symbol for change. The spirit of this bridge transcends race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, and social status. The spirit of this bridge connects a kid from the South Side of Chicago dreaming of a better life to those in France standing up for their freedom of expression to the people in Hong Kong protesting for democracy. This bridge was built on hope, welded with compassion, and elevated by love for all human beings.
Thank you. Nina Simone said it’s an artist’s duty to reflect the times in which we live. We wrote this song for a film that was based on events that were 50 years ago, but we say Selma is now, because the struggle for justice is right now. We know that the voting rights, the act that they fought for 50 years ago is being compromised right now in this country today. We know that right now the struggle for freedom and justice is real. We live in the most incarcerated country in the world. There are more black men under correctional control today than were under slavery in 1850. When people are marching with our song, we want to tell you that we are with you, we see you, we love you, and march on.
“-
from Commons and John Legend’s acceptance speech at the Oscar’s.
 
“I tried to commit suicide at 16 and now I’m standing here,” he said. “I would like for this moment to be for that kid out there who feels like she doesn’t fit in anywhere. You do. Stay weird. Stay different, and then when it’s your turn and you are standing on this stage please pass the same message along.” – Graham Moore
 “Call your mom. Call your dad. If you are lucky enough to have a parent or two alive on this planet, call them. Don’t text, don’t email, call them on the phone. Tell them you love them and thank them and listen to them as long as they want to talk to you.”- JK Simmons

Eulogy for a bold force of kindness

This week a woman Julia and I knew from a handful of gatherings, through a family that we are very close to, passed away. We were both moved by her passing as if we had known her our whole lives.  This was a woman who embodied the maternal. She did not apologize for being here.  She parted the waves of complacent ignorance.  Her laugh emptied you of fear and filled you with a support that encouraged your being to come forward.  She created an arena around her, a forum for whatever truth was present to be nourished. She was real in every sense of the word.  Her candor was so refreshing, not only did it put you at your ease but lightened you up so that you could laugh at your own pretense.
We went to her service and learned that when her children were being bullied in school she brought the bully to tears of contrition in the principal’s office by asking “What is hurting you so much inside that you have to make my children sad?” She was not only larger than life, she was larger than death.  When she had learned she had cancer, she refused to let it stop her from embracing the things and the people she loved.  She raised money for cancer treatment and continued to be a brash force of kindness.
The couple who introduced us to this wonderful woman, led her service.  They were strong in the way that everyone needed them to be, but not only did they put us at ease, they lifted us up to her level.  We would all be rich beyond compare to have someone lift us up after we have gone, with such good humor and earnest praise.  Certainly, she lifted herself up enough to be remembered in the best way but it takes a true friend to present us to those who didn’t know who we were and expand us to those who did.
It makes me feel very fortunate to have such amazing people in the fabric of my time here.
One of the last people to speak said that if she was there she would have said, “What were you thinking having these people get up at this hour of the morning?”
This was worth getting up early for.  It wasn’t a funeral, it was reminder to love fully, regardless of the rules; to live life on our own terms. To remember that we are all part of one delicious Self and then to be Self-ish and wrap our arms around life and not let go, even when we loose form.
For all of those who have shown us the secret value of being here, no hug is strong or long enough.

Getting along, along the Loxahatchee river

I hope your Thanksgiving weekend was wonderful and that you can breathe around the middle.
My family was invited up to Jupiter, Florida where a friend of my dad’s had purchased four houses along the Loxahatchee river and connected them via a boardwalk into a compound.  His friend passed away this year and his widow invited us up for Thanksgiving.  My folks extended her generosity and invited the extended family until there were 21 of us enjoying the hospitality and the incredible views off the docks.

A few of us, who are known for being a bit whoo whoo, sent up a treatment for a magical week with no drama.
I am happy to say it worked.  Sending up an intention is no guarantee, but it does help and increases our chances for success.
The hardest thing is to remember to see the people who have a history of not being our favorite differently.
My mom told us a story of another family reunion in which, among the guest list, there were these two cousins. Mostly everyone loved the one cousin and thought the other cousin was mean and bit crabby. As the ‘mean and crabby’ cousin was coming down the steps to the party, my mom’s sister waved at her thinking she was the cousin everyone loved.  Well, this “mean and crabby” cousin, seeing this mistaken reaction to her arrival, lit up and was absolutely delightful and lovely all weekend.
“The most important decision we ever make is whether we believe we live in a friendly universe or a hostile universe.”
-Albert Einstein
Our host for the week was an amazing woman who, once a month uses the houses to host wounded warriors and their families.  They get to fish and swim, are taken out on a boat, one night her and her team watch the kids so the Vet and his or her spouse can go out for a fancy meal alone.  Our host said their gratitude and appreciation makes the work worthwhile.  Yet she confessed to me that after a few days, even in this beautiful heavenly spot, this one is fighting with that one… “To see a family that seems to really like each other like yours,” she said, “is very refreshing.”

I give the credit to my folks who are so giving with such a generous spirit and amazing sense of humor that accepts you where you are while cheerleading your stronger self, most of my friends have asked if they can adopt themselves into the family.
May you be adopted into an open-armed existence that values you for what you are and nourishes what you have to give!

Taking the long-view with relationships

My uncle Si passed away this week after a long bout of dementia, so while I am sad to say goodbye, I am grateful that he is not suffering.  Being officially uncle-less, brings up feelings of the temporal reality we are engaging in.  We are all going along as we can and even though we may not see our family or the friends that we have adopted as family along the way, we are still connected to each other. We do develop the means to carry on in various ways and some moments crop up to remind us that we aren’t alone in this spiral race within the labyrinth.
I remember my uncle Si, pulling me aside when I had moved to Boulder on my way to LA to become an actor. He gave me a hundred dollars and told me to take a day off and go sit by myself and ask myself what would make me the most happy and fulfilled.  He encouraged me to pursue my dreams in a way that would be profitable and sustaining.  We don’t have to reach out to one another and although it may have been awkward for him, he cared enough about me to do that.
There is a certain aspect of relationships that allow us to take the long-view with those we love.  We may get into it, we may wince when they react or act in certain ways, we may get tired and not want to be bothered, but beyond our survival mode and cynical crust, we can see one another in our heart’s eye and find a way to continue to connect.  We can look along the line of moments we have gathered together and find the sweet ones.  We can be present to their entirety, even if they are no longer here and know that whatever short comings they have, there is more to them then we will ever know.
I may be uncle-less but I am still an uncle to my niece and nephew and to lots of kids who know me as their Uncle Eye!  So here’s to being caught in the Web of Life with you!
Web of Life
 
Help me I’m caught in this web of life, run to the kitchen 
and get me a knife, cut right there… ok I’m free…
wait, now you’re unraveling me!
 
(Chorus)      
We’re all connected, we’re all connected! 
Every single thing you see, shares the same source of energy!
Web of life.  *
 
Without the plants we could not breathe,
without them we would have to leave. 
With all that we claim to achieve, next to plants we are naïve.
 
(Chorus) 
Every rock has a secret, every blade of grass sings…
There is a purpose for every living thing… 
– Uncle Eye
 
Here’s to connecting!

Dream Unspoken


The Levins take their IndieGoGo campaign to Iowa!
New Video preview clip of Dream Unspoken from the Upcoming CD: Trust.
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Dream Unspoken © 2014 – The Levins

Driving in my car today, I’m trying to find some color in a world gone gray.

Heard an old song, made me leap inside,  I thought of you and I laughed, and then I cried.

I remember, I remember, the twinkle in your eye… the fire in my heart.

A bond of under-standing that can’t be torn a-part.

Remember a time when your lungs filled with song,

it was a new sensation- you knew that you be-longed!

Chorus: I remember, I remember, a dream unspoken by us all, a love that broke down

every wall, and  I  remember…         I remember  it all.

Seems it’s so easy to    forget, the splendor of a single sunset,

the im-portance and the beauty of friendship,

it keeps us alive, we can never let    it  slip.

I remember, I remember, photographs and phone calls,

visits and the letters, help repaint the picture which over time has weathered.

I sing to you know of who we were then, all  that we are and what we’ll be when we meet again.

I remember, I remember, a dream unspoken by us all, a love that broke down

every wall, and  I  remember…         I remember  it all.

 

 

 

Happy Birthday America

It is the birthday of America, an idea of a nation not ruled by a king, where we are not confined to a caste system, locked into a station in life but free to move up and down the ladder, to align ourselves with whatever our moral compass points to. 
 
America stands for freedom that allows for choice; choice of religion, philosophy, expression, the gambit of experience.  We are a mirror pool of manifestation reflecting back every possibility and our manifest destiny is to move into the new frontier where we can hear and see ourselves as we truly are beyond centuries of prejudice, fear and doubt.  
 
We are our own forefathers and mothers declaring our independence from the tyranny of prideful ignorance.  A new nation reaching out beyond the borders of limited thought to embrace liberty as she bestows dignity to all who reach out for her.
 
Happy Birthday, blow out your candles and may your year be sweet.

Stream of Light 7-4-14

Remember that we are not here to systematically destroy ourselves and the planet but to recognize the vibration inherent in all creation.  We sing the songs of our family, countries, planet and those sing back to us as we have understood them to be.  We sing of things not yet manifested; we sing of newer hopes that complete an eon of frustrated ignorance as we slip into one where solutions are unspoken but taken up as yielded fruit.