We search for that breath, and its mindfulness. It’s that deep breath that focuses you on the moment, and fills you with calm and quiet. Too often our lives often become cluttered with the earthly grind of work and worry. We all feel some form of its ache. Some of us find the world is a bumpy road. Some of us find it an easy path to navigate, if not a little dusty now and then.
May you have the good fortune, at least once in a while, to find yourself on a summer’s drive to the countryside. A smooth ride on the open road, where you step out of the mundane, and your old coat, and into the mystic. Finding that deep breath that focuses you on the moment, you are there, in the green of summer, in a place that feels holy, and you feel whole. And you listen to the silence. Can you feel the silence?
Happy Birthday, Van Morrison. Thank you for the ride….
A star so bright, it hurt your eyes to gaze upon it, but you had to look. It was dazzling, mesmerizing…and you never saw anything like it, before or since.
How it pulsed in rhythm and frequency determined where its waves originated, how they traveled, and what the star was made of. These variations set it apart from other stars, revealing the unique sound of the light. This celestial music was as vivid and brilliant as the light. I know. I was there from the start, watching, listening, sprinkled with stardust. It was luminous, amorphous, androgynous, rebellious, mellifluous, marvelous, glorious.
A star so far ahead of its time, was it using up its light faster than it should?
In the star’s evolution, it eventually loses its internal heat source, and becomes a white dwarf. This is its last visible stage — it is still shining because it is still hot. It can feel itself cooling, losing energy. A white star. A thin white duke. A resolute transformation, writing its endpoint, sharing it with you, celebrating it with you. It cools to meet the temperature of the cosmic surroundings, until it can no longer shine, and becomes invisible. Black into the blackness. A black dwarf. A Blackstar.
The brightest star was fearless, flawless, measureless, weightless, Lazarus…
He was the king, and they said that being Fire over Fire, he could walk through flames and emerge unscathed.
The I Ching’s double fire sign, Li, means “to cling to something,” and “the brightness.” A luminous thing must contain something within itself that perseveres; otherwise it will burn itself out. It must hold fuel to nourish the flame.
Oh yes, Lord, he held on to it. The clinging fused with his being, behind flesh, beyond flesh, illuminating skin to nerve to bone, flowing through his bloodstream like a river of stars. Everything in him was alive with it, grasping it, lit by it. It informed him, defined him. Music was his flame and his fuel.
It was a Twist night gig, where jealousy and anger filled two men and spilled over into the dance hall. Their fight over a woman set the place ablaze. It almost cost the king his guitar, left behind in the mad rush to the door. He went back into the flames for it. When the smoke cleared, the name of the woman who set the night on fire was revealed. A phoenix rising from the ashes, the brightness and the clinging found its name: Lucille.
He knew he was here for this: the blues. A radiant, full hand rocking the string back and forth, bending time with sound. You are here to give witness to the luminosity, to feel its heat, and its truth. From smoky club to concert hall, the spark of his double fire kindled the lamp of every listener. The vibrato shines its light on a path for you. Go this way, brother. Keep it lit.
THE FAB FOUR
Raphael – The group’s bad boy. Rebellious, he doesn’t like anyone telling him what to do. His personality can be fierce and sarcastic, with a deadpan humor.
Weapon: Twin Sais. Color: Red
Leonardo – The level-headed tactician and responsible one. Creative. Protective. He has strong leadership qualities. As a result, he sometimes conflicts with Raphael.
Weapon: Twin Katanas. Color: Blue
Donatello – Less outspoken, a calmer, more reserved member of the group. He is the the wise one, and though quiet, he is intense. The least violent in the group, he uses peaceful methods to solve conflicts, but never hesitates to defend his brothers. He is a Ninjitsu master.
Weapon: Bo Staff. Color: Purple
Michelangelo – Easy-going, fun-loving, athletic. He is often the comic relief in the group, with his physical antics and carefree style. While he loves to relax, he also has an adventurous side. He knows how to wield those sticks!
Weapon: Nunchakus. Color: Orange
Wait a minute! These aren’t the Beatles, they’re the Ninja Turtles. Or — are they?
But…it WAS 50 years today when The Beatles appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show.
And here’s another clue for you all: Leonardo was Paul.
It was my great pleasure to film my dear and talented friend from Ireland, Eileen O’Toole, during her New York visit. Here is Eileen’s moving rendition of Kevin Quain’s haunting song, Roses. It reminds me of Rumi’s words:
“First, he suffered from the troubles of the thorn, but in the end, everything turned into a rose for him.”
MAY YOU FIND A JOYFUL SURPRISE AND PEACE IN THE MOMENT…
Our lives are filled with shifts: seismic, paradigmatic, geographical, sociological, personal, and spiritual shifts. Big and small. And our lives are filled with sound: rhythm, and repetition – music, chant, song, verse, and spoken word.
Today is filled with the feeling of a shift. We are aware of the date, and we are in the moment: 12/12/12. Some might note that it is an end…there won’t be another repetitive date for lifetimes, not until January 1, 3001. A door, closing and transformational. Others may say its a number sequence filled with magic and mystery. A portal, open and transformational.
And many of us woke up to the news of Ravi Shankar’s passing.
While Bruce Lee is credited with opening a door to the world of martial arts and to Eastern thought through Chinese philosophy, George Harrison also influenced a cultural shift that would define a generation.
George Harrison was a seeker, looking for a deeper meaning to life beyond the material world and the confusion of fame. He played an instrumental role (pun intended and unintended) in changing how we listen to music, raising our awareness of the global community, opening a door not only to Indian and to world music, but also to Eastern philosophy through Indian thought, practice and meditation. The bridge between East and West was built, note by note, through his friendship, mentorship and collaboration with legendary virtuoso Ravi Shankar.
Pandit Ravi Shankar, from Varnasi, an ancient and holy Indian city, had played with Western artists like John Coltrane prior to his meeting Harrison, though it was his musical collaboration with the Beatles that sent his career soaring, elevating him to cultural ambassador, and introducing classical Indian ragas to the world. He played Woodstock, Monterey and organized the first-ever music fundraiser, held at Madison Square Garden, The Concert for Bangladesh. (The 12/12/12 Benefit Concert for Hurricane Sandy is rightfully part of his legacy, also held at MSG). During his career he played classical Indian music, but also experimented with different genres and collaborated with many artists. His soundtrack for the Apu trilogy by Satyajit Ray is as haunting as are films (see them if you can).
He remained, throughout his life, an electrifying force and powerful presence in world music. Sounds and shifts. Endings, beginnings. A door, closing and transformational. A portal, open and transformational.
Ravi Shankar (1920 – 2012)