Life is an Opera

“I will participate in the game. It is a wonderful, wonderful opera — except that it hurts.” – Joseph Campbell

Life is an opera.  This is post number 1,000 since I began this blog in August of 2013.  Whether performing music or writing here, I am constantly aware of the absurdity in doing.  When I get on a stage, whether it is real or in the mind through writing, I am constantly aware of the ridiculousness of the situation.  Although I can’t say that it is a constant feeling, there is always a moment when things become surreal.  Why is it that people like to drink and stare at other people bopping around making strange noises on instruments?  Why does anyone want to hear some thought that I have at 1am on a Tuesday when there are so many other people out there with thoughts, many who are way smarter than I?

It is so easy to get lost down the rabbit hole of doubt.  If you look at most situations, there is some absurd element in them.  I think it is good to always keep those thoughts in one’s mind.  If you don’t you run the risk of getting untethered from reality with an ever expanding ego.

But again, life is an opera.  One can either choose to be a part of the game of life or to retreat from it.  Both options have an element of the comic in them.  There are an infinite number of ways one can participate in life.  Whether you are teaching college students or cleaning streets you are doing something of value to other people.  And if you do participate there is only one real reason to do so:  “To help each other get through this thing, whatever it is”, as Kurt Vonnegut said.

For myself, music and writing have brought me great sanity and comfort.  They are my passions, so I hope they bring something to someone somewhere down the line.  I have spent an incredible amount of time with books and records.  I hope to share a little bit of the things that have kept me going so that maybe others too might find some value in them and keep going as well.  I have no idea if it is any more of an important thing to do than someone who keeps the streets clean, someone whose work is measurable in real quantitative means, but it is what I’m into.  I’m just wired this way, an accident of birth and circumstance.

It is only through others that we have any idea of value.  I know that other’s words and songs have kept me alive, those souls I will forever be indebted to.  Those of you that keep coming back here, or show up at the shows I play, are the reason I keep doing this, that make me think that maybe all is not for naught.  The great comedy of life keeps spinning.  I’m forever grateful for getting to share little bits of it with you, for awhile anyway…

- Jeff

One of the Best Books of the Year?

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One of the best books I’ve read in recent years is S.C. Gwynne’s Empire of the Summer Moon.  This book is an account of the Comanche Indian Wars that took place in Texas and the surrounding areas.  It was a book that was incredibly informative while also being an absolute page turner.  I just saw that Gwynne has a a new book out.  This book is an account of Stonewall Jackson called Rebel Yell:  The Violence, Passion, and Redemption of Stonewall Jackson.  If it is anything like his last book then it is simply a must read as far as I’m concerned.

Here is a link to Gwynne’s website to learn more about the book:

http://www.scgwynne.com/rebel-yell-stonewall-jackson/

15 Great Sayings By Kurt Vonnegut

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Kurt Vonnegut Quotes

To close out the week the above link is an article of 15 great quote by Kurt Vonnegut over at the A.V. Club.  Vonnegut has long been one of my heroes.  A sample:

4. “There’s only one rule that I know of, babies—God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.”
This line from God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater comes as part of a baptismal speech the protagonist says he’s planning for his neighbors’ twins: “Hello, babies. Welcome to Earth. It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It’s round and wet and crowded. At the outside, babies, you’ve got about a hundred years here. There’s only one rule that I know of, babies—God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.” It’s an odd speech to make over a couple of infants, but it’s playful, sweet, yet keenly precise in its summation of everything a new addition to the planet should need to know. By narrowing down all his advice for the future down to a few simple words, Vonnegut emphasizes what’s most important in life. At the same time, he lets his frustration with all the people who obviously don’t get it leak through just a little

Rules For Blogging

There are no rules for blogging.  However, it helped me to establish rules to write by, so that I could be productive.  I have read that the single most important thing to establishing an audience was creating a lot of content.  I have produced almost a thousand blogs in just a little over a year.  Establish your own rules, but these are the ones I set up for myself so that I could pump out a lot of content:

1.  Post almost as soon as I am done writing:  This means that I allow some grammatical errors to slip through the gates, but it also allows me to escape the jaws of self-doubt, which can crush so many ideas.  I try to clean up my writing a little as I go along.  It is so easy to feel passionate about something, write it, and then later on feel like what the hell was I thinking?  Self-analysis is always important, but usually most of the self-doubt that comes into play is what are people going to think about my writing.  What are my friends back home going to think?  What is my family going to think?  These are the kinds of things that can paralyze you, this fear of being accepted.  If you just write and post, and clean it up afterwards, it is out there.

2.  Do not delete things that are posted:  I have broken this rule once or twice, but largely I stick to it.  I allow myself to change my mind and write something that contradicts what I wrote at an earlier date, but by and large never allow myself to delete something I have written.  This again allows you to not let the self-doubt of what will others think enter the picture.  If you are going to be true to yourself and your ideas, you will occasionally put your foot in your own mouth, but that is OK.  Making mistakes and being wrong is part of being human.  If you realize you were wrong, admit it in another post or make an addition to a post, but then move on.

3.  Try as much as possible to be intellectually and emotionally honest:  Again this will occasionally lead to getting something wrong, but this will also again alleviate the the pressure of outside forces which will only water down your writing.  Anytime you write something you are going to be judged.  That is the nature of the beast.  Either you will be judged for your ideas or your style.  Anytime someone reads something you wrote it will be judged in one way or another.  Any fear of this judgment can crush good writing as most writing that is worth anything goes out on a limb either intellectually or emotionally.  If you are saying something that everybody knows already, that just conveys middle of the road vanilla emotions, there is no point in writing it.  This is not the same as trying to communicate universal truths.  Often universal truths can be hidden in plain site.  I’m also not talking about being shocking for shocking’s sake.  If you write something shocking that has no basis in reality, it is a purposeful distortion of the truth and that is no value to anyone. Everyone only has a partial knowledge of the truth.  We again all make mistakes and get things wrong.  I try to get the facts right as much as possible and I try to be as honest as I can about how I feel, given the limitations of language.  If I’m wrong I will simply write another post explaining how I was wrong and why.

Anyway, those are rules I set for myself to allow myself freedom of thought and a high production rate.  If that helps you great, if not, make up your own rules that allow you to do the same.

More than anything I wanted to convey to some of you that have just started coming here how and why I write the way I do.  I view my blog, and a lot of the blogs I like, as outward looking journals.  It is capturing emotions and thoughts about the world in real time.  

Blog as Collage

I view blogging as an art form.  I don’t mean to sound pretentious, but I’m sure to some it will come across that way.  Let me explain:

If you are doing something other than niche blogging, where you focus on one topic, you are kind of creating a collage of ideas.  You can’t quite categorize blogging as a writing endeavor, because often you are adding pictures, video clips, and other people’s ideas.  So you add all of these different mediums together, both things that you and others have created, and you end up with something unique to each person.

If you don’t like collage think of it as curating.  I’m not trying to make someone wanking off on their computer at home sound more important than it is.  What I am trying to do is make people that are interested in these sorts of things see it in  different light.  You are wanking off on your computer at home, but you might just do something individualistic and interesting while doing so.

Twin Peaks Novel Next Year

“Twin Peaks” novel will reveal what happened during the show’s 25-year hiatus http://www.salon.com/2014/10/17/twin_peaks_novel_will_reveal_what_happened_during_the_shows_25_year_hiatus/ via @Salon

I am about to hit the highway towards Lubbock.   Posting will be slow today.  In the mean time there is more great news for Twin Peaks fans:  Co-creator Mark Frost will be publishing a novel next year that explains what has happened in the 25 years between the last season and this new one.   I will definitely be reading this when it comes out.  If you are a fan I recommend The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer

Writing Exercises and Trees

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Writing is a constant work in process.  Last night my girlfriend insisted that I try some writing exercises.  I don’t intend to share all or even most of them, but I wanted to share one, as I think doing exercises like this are helpful in pushing oneself to be a better writer, even if the actual thing you write is not that great.  The following was written stream of conscious.  That is kind of the point, to push the mind in different places and to write about things you normally might not write about.  The question for the writing exercise asked me to describe the trees of my childhood.  I’m not claiming that the following is anything to be proud of, but I hope that some of you that like to write, and the world needs good writers, will push yourself to try new ways to approach writing.

I used to climb trees on a regular basis.  I had a giant maple tree in my front yard.  I would swing from the branches like a monkey while my friends and I discussed the things that young boys discussed.  The tree was a friend and a place of comfort.  Sometimes I would go out to the tree alone and feel as if I was in the company of another.  

In the summer the trees leaves were a deep beautiful green. In the Fall they became almost psychedelic as they turned vibrant shades of red and orange.  In the winter the tree empty of foliage, but the it still looked alive, like a patient in an induced coma that was going to be woken up once their malady had been cured.  
Later on the tree actually did get a malady and had to have some of its branches reduced.  My family thought the tree might have to be completely cut down, but it was stronger than we knew.  It was great to see this friend overcome it’s hardship.  
It did lose the branch that allowed one to access the higher ones.  By this time I was no longer light enough for the branches to support my weight anyway.  Life changes all.  The tree and I were different, but we still had a secret code where I knew we understood each other.  In our struggles we had grown strong together.  I loved the tree with not just the innocent love of a child, but also with the cold hard respect of an adult.  
When people cut down old growth forests I wonder how they can do this.  They have no respect for nature.  They are cutting down something wiser and stronger than them.  They are proving themselves to be nothing but fools.  What they do not know is that sooner or later nature will cut them down, and seeds will sprout up in place of the old trees, long after civilization has been dusted off the planet.  
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