Friday, May 13, 2011

On Music & Italy

Sometimes it becomes clear to me that there are forces in the world that are out to break me and make all that I find joyful turn to misery.

Not the most positive way to start a blog entry about my recent, absolutely amazing trip to Italy with my wife and her parents. I am aware of this. Still, when you can get outside your normal life and routine and look at things from the outside a bit, certain things become crystal clear.

Many times we take vacations to renew ourselves…or allow ourselves to be renewed. Even if we don’t know that’s why we do it, it’s still probably why we do it. I have been in desperate, desperate need of renewal. The many journeys K.C. and I take on the road playing music do not renew me. I suppose they could, if I allowed them to sometimes. I have been in quite a dark place recently, I think. Darker than I really had realized or imagined. It is only in the light of this amazing vacation and what I’ve allowed it to show me and do to me have I become aware of this. Some of you might be saying, “Well, of course you feel better. You’re in ITALY.” It’s not always that easy, though. There have been moments on this amazing journey where I’ve been a bit too jammed up with worrying about things at home, etc. to really enjoy the moment. As I type this, I have arrived at a place where that’s not the case, at least for now.

We give ourselves over in slavery to so many things. There are many days where I am not too far from believing the adage from “Fight Club”: “Do you own your possessions, or do your possessions own you?” I don’t know that it is only my possessions that have owned me lately. I have been owned by my own fear, my own ambition (which can be a dangerous thing…how much of our own ambition is grown out of fear that we will NOT amount to a point that is satisfactory to us? Can we not trust that God/The Universe/whatever has a plan that will be perfect in the long run?).

I have also been impaired in my enjoyment of music lately. My ability to really enjoy listening has been quite affected. I need to utilize it as the symptom it is more often…I should know by now that if the music is largely not pleasurable/interesting and more frustrating/befuddling, it’s a sign that all is not well in my mind and heart.

I am so proud of this record that we’ve made, the new Dr. Pants EP (the 1st of 4), but the truth is I can’t control what anybody thinks of it or what the world does with it. It’s not my job to, either. I desperately want to believe that great music will make room for itself…but it doesn’t always work this way. The truth is that Dr. Pants is probably destined to be a cult band, and the cult is still finding us. I’m so grateful for the people who have discovered the music over the last few years and have really connected with it. I pray that I am more grateful for that every day than I was the previous day.
I also have felt so desperate financially…it’s interesting that, even though this entire trip was paid for by my in-laws (an amazing, amazing thing), it’s been good to give up control of the money. I’m not in control of the money. I can’t even try to pay for anything, because I don’t have a single Euro of my own in my pocket. That’s a little different. It’s like, “Just stand back and be blessed, because there’s nothing you can do about it.” Pretty humbling on some level.

I’m so glad for the moments I’ve had on the plane ride over, and the trains throughout Italy, to listen to entire records on my iPod, and to just sit and enjoy. It’s pretty much all been entire records that I’m not very familiar with…I’ve even listened to a few things for the first time ever, start-to-finish. Of course, as I’ve been in Italy, my mind has been its own jukebox as well. Certain tracks come irresistibly to mind (how can one walk around the city of Firenze, as the Italians call it, and not think of “You Enjoy Myself” by Phish?), and others from the plane ride over stick in my head and, for whatever reason, become cornerstone songs to my own personal soundtrack for the trip (both “Broken” and “Rhinestone Eyes” by Gorillaz). Something about being in a foreign country, outside one’s own home, opens the ears. I don’t know what it is. I think I have just been approaching a sort of potential burnout with work in general…including the radio show. Now, though, I don’t feel that way at all…I am so pleased to listen to some of the new(er) things in my iTunes that I hadn’t even been able to approach before…to listen and think, “Yeah, I’d really like to play that.” Italy is interesting, too…there isn’t as much attitude surrounding music here as there is in the US right now, or Oklahoma, even. I love Oklahoma, and I love the music scene there, but there are tastemakers at work in Oklahoma, just like there are everywhere else, and sometimes I wonder if there’s really room for all of us in the new world of the growing Oklahoma music scene.

I desperately don’t want to be bitter or resentful about that, though, and that is truly helped by the experience of this trip. I don’t want the root of bitterness to take hold in my heart in regards to anything, whether it be in regards to my work or anything else. I want gratitude, peace, joy, grace. I want all these things in abundance. And I very much want them even more after this experience.

I have to be guarded…because I believe that these things can be stolen away, if I allow them to be. Stolen by bitterness, fear…these things that I can fall prey to so easily. Here in the holy city of Rome I sit, and these things are clearer than ever. I can only hope they remain clear once I come home.

The glow of amazing experiences of people, places and things wears off so quickly, too quickly. I hope that these lessons I have learned in Italy, about gratitude, grace, fear, bitterness and music…I hope that these lessons do not fade once the glow of Italia grows faint. There is so much in those lessons that is about my life every day, everywhere, and not just about these amazing few days spent in Italy. Let me always remember.

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