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Nothing New Comes From Normal

I’m not crazy about being uncomfortable. But my doctor told me that, if I don’t exercise to the point of being rather uncomfortable, I get weaker and risk a shorter lifespan. Some level of discomfort is needed to build up muscle, especially as we get older (and the natural discomfort of physiological development is not really a thing).

If I’m not intellectually or socially uncomfortable, I’m barricading out different ideas. Maybe I’m not dealing with the reality that there are folks who don’t see things as I do, and that their perception does affect my life and I will need to decide how to respond. Maybe I become dismissive of all their opinions, and avoid ideas that I should actually think about in order to have a more complete understanding of given situations myself.

In the early days of social media, there was a great hope that it would be a place where people with different perspectives would actually have discussions with each other, and that it would be the starting point of a new and invigorating democratic discourse.

Since then, we’ve discovered that we have a tendency to gravitate toward people who already agree with us, and that the tightest and most rigid clusters of people are those who tend to feel most insecure and most judgmental, usually at the same time.

So sometimes I may have to disrupt my routine or consider what it might be like to live in and with different circumstances. Because if I don’t, I learn less, my relationships become increasingly vulnerable as my understanding of reality becomes increasingly inflexible and deluded, and I fade away into a weak sort of fantasy life rather than a robust engagement with life in all its dimensions.

The word ‘spiritual’ has become something of a euphemism for impractical, deluded, and disconnected. It should be about a wholeness of perspective and an internal capacity to deal with reality with an empathetic outlook and a clear sense of personal identity at the same time, established in a confidence in authentic love and a belief in freedom. If we build walls to keep others out, the ultimate result is a kind of rot that diminishes our own capacities to be fully human.

Here are the lyrics to my song “Nothing New Comes From Normal” (not yet released).

Every day
starts the same way.
Become something of a ritual.
Take a hot drink to a screen,
check news and messages for me,
and on and on as usual.

Our routines provide us with a feeling of security.
They define our normal.
But does the comfort that we feel
make our experience unreal?

Nothing new comes from normal.
Things get strange before they change.
Nothing new comes from normal.
There’s a discomfort that’s essential.

I don’t hear the voice that calls
when I have my headphones on.
Is my soul soothed or controlled
by the siren of the song?

Almost everything is good in its own time.
But am I mesmerized by chime
of pentameter and rhyme?

Nothing new comes from normal.
Things get strange before they change.
Nothing new comes from normal.
There’s a discomfort that’s essential.
Nothing new comes from normal.
Nothing new comes from normal.

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(I Want to be) Like Democracy

Sir Winston Churchill is supposed to have said “Democracy is the worst form of government – except for all the others”.

What he meant by that, of course, is that while no political system is perfect – each has its advantages and disadvantages – he on balance actually preferred democracy. Chances are that he was responding to criticism of the British Parliamentary system of democracy, and his reply was somewhat sarcastic or sardonic.

I wanted to write a song that would discuss the relative benefits of democracy, but would not be limited to a kind of memorization tool for school. I did write the song so that it could possibly be used in class, maybe introducing some political systems ideas to the class in a different way than through note-taking or the more traditional forms of educational introductions to ideas. The song would ideally also be able to stand on its own. So I thought maybe I could use democracy itself as a kind of metaphor.

Like political systems, people also are not perfect. Sir Winston Churchill wasn’t, and I’m not either. But as it happens, the ideals behind modern liberal democracy are also ideals that I hold dear – openness, accountability, human rights, sharing power, freedom…. And, of course, ideals require some sacrifices. Sharing power means giving up one’s own notions of power; it means not always being able to have your own way. These sacrifices are worthwhile, though, because of the greater importance and priority of the ideals.

I have released my song ‘Like Democracy’ in several versions, and in various ways. There is the latest, commercially available version, which can be heard on Spotify or Napster or Tidal or Deezer or YouTube or various other streaming services, and which is also available for purchase via Amazon or iTunes and other digital music distribution services. There is another version of Like Democracy available for upload right on this site (under the ‘Educational’ tab, choose ‘Curriculum Songs’ from the drop-down menu), and another one on my YouTube channel. The lyrics are available on this website too, just below the website recording of the song.

On this website, also on the ‘Educational Tab’, there’s a Question Sheets Related segment in the dropdown menu that also uses the song Like Democracy for exploring ideas related to human rights, specifically the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

For me, the main significant lines in Like Democracy are

“I wanna be like democracy,
Give my friends a chance to reach the top.
Sometimes things might go wrong,
Sometimes people let you down,
So then I also wanna have a way to stop.”
This brings out the political idea of power being in the hands of the people, rather than in the hands of a leader. Also, on a personal level, it is about both trust and a willingness to change.

2. “I wanna bring out the best in people,
I wanna know about the worst.
I wanna blend love, mercy, and justice,
And the right kinds of hunger and thirst.”
This is about how the idea of sharing power politically, along with providing freedom, gives people the opportunity to come up with new ideas and contribute to society and each other.
On the other hand, it is about how an open society with a free press and political opposition parties provides accountability. True democracy is only viable when people know what their choices are.
On a personal level, it’s about honest relationship and caring. “The right kinds of hunger and thirst” is a spiritual reference to a “hunger and thirst after righteousness” – in other words, for right and equitable living in authentic community.

And finally,
3. “And I would take love over fear,
Even at the risk I might get hurt.
No true affection in the voice
Of one who hasn’t got a choice,
So I’ll give up control or even lose my shirt.”

One of the ways in which dictators maintain control of their societies is through the use of fear and force. The idea of choice is frightening to dictators, because they perceive any action which represents ideas different from their own as a threat to their power. Real democracy encourages choice. It allows for different ideas to emerge, in the hope that a full discussion of possibilities can result in ultimately better decisions being made, even if there are some difficult moments in the meantime.
On a personal level, I too want to be willing to take risks in relationship. Coercion and love are different things, and it’s the real thing that I’m interested in. So since there’s “no true affection in the voice of one who hasn’t got a choice,” I have to be willing to take loss if what I really want is love. It can’t be coerced.

I first wrote ‘Like Democracy’ around 10 years ago. It’s still one of my favourite songs of all those that I have written.

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