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Back, But Not To Normal

Besides the passing of time, there has been a passing of moments. Moments, more than minutes, are the markers of our lives. The last couple of years have passed slowly in some ways, and yet have been full of heavily significant moments for so many of us. I’m pretty sure I don’t have to elaborate for any of you.

In that time, I worked full time for a year as a high school teacher, teaching a number of subjects for the first time – despite my decade-plus of teaching experience. Then, we moved to a small town. I’ve begun taking medication for adult ADHD. I’ve written more songs, practiced more guitar. I’ve done some background work on a number of film sets. The kids are growing up and starting to move on. I’ve been substitute teaching here in our current home town.

This transition feels like a gateway. We lived in the same place for so many years, did the same things. I don’t know if we’re going to settle for a while where we are now – but having had to move has caused us to open our minds, to rethink where we’re at and where we want to get to. So I’ve started a new degree – a Master of Distance, Digital, and Open Education.

At a deep level, I acknowledge that movement is not the same as change or personal growth. I believe that there does come a time, though, when a person has to move in some way in order to grow.

My hope is that I’ll be recording more songs, and that this blog will be rejuvenated as well. There’s a lot going on. I look forward to sharing some more of it with you.


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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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The Circle Is; About Life in Community

I’ve had the privilege of being included in a First-Nations-guided talking circle. Though a talking circle is led through the presence and example of an Elder, it doesn’t have the feel or structure of hierarchy. Since all have the ability to speak and to be heard, a talking circle feels like democracy in action. There’s a built-in sense of community.

Being Mennonite, the idea of community is familiar to me. Community isn’t a monochromatic experience, though. It’s interesting how sometimes community feels natural and nurturing, and other times feels imposed or even excluding. I believe that the strongest communities are those that have lots of room for diversity and even maverick perspectives. Very homogeneous communities that are based on conformity to a narrow set of norms may seem strong, but can they really be adaptable to new situations, or even truly recognize all the factors/individuals that affect/enrich their lives?

I wrote The Circle Is as a way of exploring the attitudes and expectations we bring to community, and also to express some views of what community could be at its best. The metaphor of the circle felt like a good way to hold it together thematically.

Here are the lyrics;

The Circle Is

Some enter the circle like a roundabout,
They come in only looking for a way out.
Others have it spinning like a top
They don’t go anywhere, & they never stop.

Some see the circle as a hurricane,
Where our lives get destroyed by the weather.
Some see the circle as a great big blender
Where everyone gets stirred together.

We see the circle as a safe place,
Where each can look into the eyes of another.

God knows, we’re always walking in lines,
Standing in boxes that go up and down.
Everything is organized
so we can be efficient, So we can get around.

We need a circle, we need a safe space,
Judgement suspended,
Where healing can take place.
We need a circle – we can serve each other –
A place where the juices of our souls can be replaced.

The circle is a bowl that holds
Nourishment for our souls…
…a turbine on a hill that makes the most
Of the power of the wind that blows.

Some enter the circle like a roundabout –
they come in only looking for a way out.

We need a circle, we need a safe space,
Judgement suspended, where healing can take place…
Judgement suspended, where healing
can take place.

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Express-sing the Inbetweens

Sure, celebrating big moments & mourning big losses really is important. But every moment is worth our awareness, and all of life should be lived fully.

Songs often are about our high points and our low points. Part of what I hope to do is express those emotions that are in between the extremes.

There’s a risk of confusing action or drama for meaning. Sometimes I think I get bored and try to find a way to make a fresh storyline for my life. I don’t think I’m alone in that… in our fast-paced world, we develop a taste for drama like wild predators develop a taste for blood. Action and the high and low emotions help us to avoid or forget our true anxieties and existential concerns.

So what I want to do is bring out the middle colours of emotion – like doubt, hope, concern, caring, anxiety, dissatisfaction, contentment. Maybe if we can more fully express the range of our emotions, we can avoid leaping from one extreme to another too. Maybe we can more fully live our lives in the day-to-day, and feel alive doing it – or at least have a greater acceptance of ourselves and our emotions because we are more able to name our experience.

My songs ‘I Don’t Know What I Want’ and ‘When I’m Dissatisfied’ are two of those in which I try to express some of those midpoints; indecision, regret, and discontent that seems to arise for no reason.

The lyrics for those 2 songs follow. First, “I Don’t Know What I Want

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