Yes, You Are All You Need (And That Is Enough for a Love Song)

Have you ever felt sad, angry or just empty because of a relationship that didn’t work out? If you have then you have a sense of what’s right and (dare I say) wrong with pop-radio love songs.

Subjects like longing, loss and pain are certainly relatable, and when we hear another person echoing the same feelings in a three-minute love song, the sense of empathy has an immediate degree of value. After all, no one likes to feel alone, and we can all appreciate the sense of comfort that comes from listening to what feels like an understanding friend. To me, it’s the same as taking an analgesic to immediately remedy and manage pain.

That just makes sense.

The problem is, people can get hooked on such painkillers. And just like drugs, the long-entrenched love-song formula for pop radio only addresses the symptoms of pain, and rarely address the root causes.

Just like a pharmaceutical company endlessly spitting out bottles of drugs, the song mills of mainstream radio monotonously continue to churn out songs that fundamentally say, “Your happiness relies on something outside of yourself.”

You hear this message reflected in endless lyrical themes:

  • “Without you, I’m a dead person walking.”
  • “My life has no meaning since you’ve been gone.”
  • “Please come back. I’m incomplete and miserable, and just so that’s clear, here’s a video that shows me sitting alone in a park, or moping around some crappy apartment, or staring longingly out some dirty window.”

As cool as such lyrical themes can seem when wrapped within lights and sound, they reinforce the belief that happiness lies in the arrival and consistency of external conditions that you can never control, whether people, jobs or money. They seldom (if ever) speak to introspection, self-discovery and acceptance of a truth:

The true long-term and lasting solution to sadness, anger or emptiness caused by relationship-related pain is not waiting at the end of some street or on the other side of some window easily cleaned with Windex. Yes, those are easy beliefs, and it’s always great to share our lives with people. Yet should someone walk away, or should someone turn out to be so unhealthy for you that you have to leave them for simple self-preservation, recovery and the return to happiness do not come from staring into the false darkness of someone else’s personal abyss (popstars or not) and deciding that suffering is the status quo. Recovery from suffering comes from knowing that you are enough on your own. You’re complete. You have always been everything you’ll ever need to feel whole. Your evidence stands in those moments when you so implicitly knew this to be true that you didn’t need to question it, and here’s the ironic thing.

When you know you’re enough on your own, and keep this knowing in your heart, the assurance and self-confidence that comes from this helps better attract people to you, and helps keep existing relationships vibrant and strong. And if your sense of wholeness makes someone else nervous, or if they seek to undermine your wholeness and try to create dependency on them, that’s their stuff. Not yours.

Now I’m certainly not saying anything that hasn’t already been said before by the likes of Wayne Dyer, Robert Holden and thousands of others who have made the vernacular of wholeness and happiness part of everyday language.

It’s just the way the world talks now. Yet it doesn’t seem that this language has translated to any great degree into pop music.

The big record companies are undoubtedly fine letting the pain continue in order to keep selling their pills in song form. Yet in doing so, the result has naturally created a vacuum—a new market already embracing a new language that is not well represented in mainstream music, meaning a market pretty much wide open for songwriters (perhaps including you) willing to zig while others continue to zag.

This would seem to represent a profound new opportunity, not just to be another song-seller but to offer people real pain relief and a true way out of the darkness.

Indeed, when people talk about rock music making a comeback, this is the very area in which rock can make a comeback because it’s the very area of lyrical theme in which rock once thrived.

Am I being idealistic?

Perhaps. Even so, I sat down the other night to pen lyrics to a new kind of love song called “Stars” that speaks to wholeness as the true seat of personal happiness.

I hope the words speak to you and always remind you that you are enough, and that all of us only forget that from time to time.

Stars

Put away any thought you have today

of a word that went unspoken

You might be every word you need to say

as you are in a galaxy of stars

always smiling in the knowing

you are one of them, you know it in your heart

every time you wander free of mind

And I know sometimes you just can’t see

you are everything you need



Take a day

Just walk away from everything you think you need to do

Just walk away and take the time for you

You alone know where to find your home

So follow intuition

It follows you though you can feel alone

in the noise that builds as it destroys

So just leave that to those who cannot see

you are everything you need



And I know this ‘cause I have been there too

You are more than a list of what you do

You’re the evidence of truth



Put away any poetry of blame

Un-wholeness of an answer

will always find you standing in the rain

Step away and be with who you are

I know it can be frightening

to stand within the dark of why you came

but you know, you feel it when you glow

and I know sometimes you just can’t see

you are everything you need



And I know this ‘cause I have been there too

You are more than a list of what you do

You’re the evidence of truth



So fall in love with every voice that lies within you

and walk the truth of why you came and why you grow

and there will never be a day when you’re feeling incomplete

You are never, never alone
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Lies We Tell Ourselves (And How to Wake Up)

Please note: The scratchings on this paper are an ancient and mystical language called cursive.

Have you ever lost sight of your happiness and true self? What I mean is, have you ever had a moment when you felt you weren’t good enough… or as successful as other people… or had made bad decisions that suddenly felt like horrible regrets?

If so, you’re not alone.

I know this because yesterday was my day to feel that way, and I was shocked by how little it took to shift me from happiness and contentment to complete darkness.

The day had begun happily enough. I’d risen early to start some writing. The sun was coming up. My cat, Majyn, was coiled beside me atop his scratching post and I was enjoying a warm cup of coffee from my favorite Beatle mug. For all intents and purposes, the moment was my idea of Zen. Then something small happened.

I started thinking about the month ahead. Money looked tight and I hadn’t generated as much freelance income as I’d imagined. Suddenly, bills loomed larger than they’d ever seemed. Anxiousness and self-doubt flamed in my gut like a bad taco, and all of a sudden, an inner voice came blasting in like a verdict:

  • “You’re not good enough!”
  • “Every decision you’ve ever made has been wrong!”
  • “You will never be successful!”
  • “You made the worst possible decision to pursue a living as a writer, and if you insist on pursuing your foolish dream, you’re going to wind up poor and miserable!”

I’m not too proud to admit that I temporarily believed that black voice. My hands dropped from the keyboard. Everything stopped except a swirling void that would only consume me, and it did.

In that moment, every other person on the planet seemed miles ahead of me… happier… enjoying successes I’d never know… and I was dead wrong to believe I’d ever walk among them.

In other words, I fell into self-pity so deeply, my eyesight completely failed.

I’d be lying if I said I quickly recovered or did it alone. Recovery came slowly. Yet it came by finally reminding myself of a few important things to which you might relate.

I hadn’t come into this world to be like everyone else. I’d been given my own gifts… my own fire… my own soul. So I’d come to this small blue planet to experience what it was like to be MY spirit walking around in this thing called a body.

I’d known this implicitly as a child.

I’d known this as a teen.

And I’d even known this as a young man.

Sure. When the voice of the world got inside my head, I could lose sight of myself. I could believe that “success” had a fixed form… a shape… a dollar value… and measure myself against it all to determine whether I had a right to be happy.

But I didn’t need such a right.

No one does.

I had my own ideas about success, and I was living it. Jobs, bills and even the opinions of others were only the encumbering paperwork of life on earth, but they weren’t the essence of living… of happiness… of why I came here… and falling from that would only ever come from the lies I bought and told myself.

In other words, the more I ignored ideas about “success,” the more successful I’d actually be as a spirit who came here for one reason: to be spirit.

Okay, I probably came here to enjoy pizza as well.

You get the gist.

Anyhoo…

To help keep myself awake in the days ahead, I sat down last night and began writing a song called “Lies I Tell Myself.” I’ve yet to finish all the lyrics but wanted to share what I scribbled because we all lose sight of ourselves from time to time. Yet we’re always only one reminder away from waking back up.

Enjoy, fellow awesome spirits. 🙂

Lies I Tell Myself (Partial Lyric)

I’m no good and I’m bad at what I do

I am always wrong and far behind

And running out of time

I am slow and I’ll never be enough

And I’ll never see the life I need to make me happy

These are the lies I tell myself

These are the lies I tell myself

When I listen to what others say and I lose my way

And get tangled up in battles that were never mine to own

When I didn’t care not very long ago

When I moved, just moved with my life

I was patient, I was kind to myself

And I knew that what I knew was all I’d ever need to know

That I was me and they were them and they could stay or they could go

How to Write a Song

“How do I write a song?” If you’ve ever asked yourself this, here’s the answer I’ve personally learned as a writer in my experiences with musicians:

It’s about being a good listener.

Here’s what I mean.

A few years ago, I interviewed electronic violinist Dr. Draw for a feature story in Starlight Music Chronicles, and he was extremely grateful that I understood something. As a performer who’d played on stages around the world, Draw had been interviewed countless times by journalists. In the course of that, Draw had become a bit frustrated by journalists working under the illusion that his ethereal music purely resulted from his technical skills… that if he hadn’t learned how to read music or know the notes he was playing, he’d somehow be unable to write music.  Yet I’d developed a different sense of how music really happens.

I’d come to the idea that music is like a river of notes always happening around us. Distraction, worry and a sheer unwillingness to relax and let go commonly prevent people from hearing this river. Yet for those who can focus past all that, “writing a song” simply involves two steps:

  1. Listen to the river.
  2. Write down what you hear.

For this reason, some of the world’s biggest songs have been written by artists who never learned how to read or write music.

In other words, knowing theory is great for lots of reasons. Yet notes and chords are a record of an experience. They’re the result of something.

In my interview, I likened Draw to an alchemist rendering what he heard into form through his violin, and he was so grateful to someone finally getting it that he wrote to personally tell me. (Such an awesome guy.)

A few months ago after finishing an original song called “Love Someone” for another artist, I again sat down to scribble my thoughts about where music comes from, but made a personal journey.

By sharing it here, I hope it helps you on your own creative journey and connection to spirit, the universe, river of notes or whatever you call it.

In the following reflections about “Love Someone,” I called this place the ocean:

“I sing sometimes of an ocean. Funny. I rarely write about the ocean in regular writing, but when I allow the lid to creak back even a bit on the Pandora’s box that seems to sit within my mind, I see that ocean… just rolling there… just smiling in the way that all oceans seem to smile… rolling and roiling, those great white waves… just smiling.

So it was that I smiled back yesterday evening, as I’ve not done in some time. It’s funny how you can forget an ocean when it’s right there all the time… always whispering on those fringe edges… on those beaches… where we ourselves walk, or once did, and to where we’re always drawn. It was to that shore breeze that I closed my eyes and drank in the lungful of life that’s always there for everyone, and where was I next?

It’s difficult to say. There was an immersion… a letting go… a great engulfment with no compass points… and if a voice spoke, I recognized no words. Only emotion—those words of all hearts but no language. How can a heart creak and cry so badly for something so formless… dimensionless… so utterly unknowable?

I ask as one this morning who came up from those depths, and for a moment, it was as if the world was a collection of loose particles… shimmering… taking only the form that I believed I’d find. And so I was back in this place called reality… and for all the waters and waves and lengths of beaches stretching from here to thereafter and the never-ending edges of the map, I was lucky to bring back a song.”

Conversations With Source (or, Chatting With Rabbit)

The strange thing about going down the rabbit hole… that metaphor for the deepness and complexity of what lies beneath the world commonly called reality… is that sometimes you come back with souvenirs—like this little scribbling, which I’m pretty sure is the beginning of some operatic rock song. But I suppose the point is really this:

I sometimes wonder why I get these kinds of things at all.

Do you ever feel the same way when you get some inspiration?

I mean, if there was actually a rabbit down that rabbit hole and I could have a conversation, I’d ask, “I just don’t understand why you give me these notions and scraps of music. Sure, the rabbit hole is the same wellspring from which comes all the regular writing I do, and sure. I can translate all that stuff with ease. But I can’t even play most of the music you give me, and I certainly can’t sing it that well. Don’t you know how frustrating that is for me? I mean, don’t you think you’d do better to give all this stuff to someone else?”

But that rabbit… of that rabbit… just seems to excitedly bounce off to the next scribbling or scrap while saying, “Oh and this! You should have this! It might go with that other scrap. Oh and this! Take this as well!”

Seriously? Am I just some deliveryman?

I guess I love that rabbit, but I also think I want to strangle him sometimes, because on top of everything else, he gives me stuff like this bit of scribbling you’re reading right now.

Was I even supposed to post it?

Does it go with something else?

Does it go with ANYTHING?

Am I simply the last one at some tea party that’s been over for years?

Or am I simply helping set some table to which people will eventually come after realizing they’ve been away in some dream for far too long.

I guess I’ll never know for sure, but if the former is the case, then I guess I’d better just learn to live with that rabbit and enjoy the fact that he’s still talking to me.

Here’s to the Doodlers and Daydreamers on Family Day

doodle xristopher bland abm creativeDo you sometimes dream of things more fantastic than what you see in everyday life? I think we all do this, however cautiously or fleetingly, and I suppose daydreaming can be characterized by doodling—those little drawings penciled or penned along the margins of tests or other evaluations of a person’s ability to understand “how life is.”

If such tests reflect simple, innate human fear of the unknown and the rather pitiable idea of a status quo, doodling would seem to reflect the wonderful, equally innate human disposition to dream, to expand, to look toward the fences of “how life is” and say, “You know. I believe there’s something beyond that.”

Without such daydreaming doodlers, we’d likely not have the light bulb, the radio or cars. We’d likely still be sitting around fires, disconnected from one another while living our lives in and around the villages we were born in, and little would change because that would be “how life is.” (And we’d have tests to make sure we didn’t think differently.) There’d only ever be unrealized potential, ghosting around us like ephemeral mist, and potential may be the greatest quality of every single thing on Earth.

In each breath, movement, thought, word and doodle, the vast and endless realm of human potential shows itself, as it has with every generation—evidenced by what to me is one of the greatest treasures I ever could have hoped to find.

While sorting through some old, inherited papers from my late uncle Doug’s estate, I came across some of his school exams from 1938 (one year before the Second World War began). It seemed a miracle that the fragile papers had survived inside a mouldy wooden box for 77 years, but more miraculous was the pure contrast of what I found.

While the exams themselves (and Doug’s answers to them) reflected the fences of “how life is,” Doug’s doodles outside those fences (or, beyond the margins) were reflections of him staring at that fence and saying, “No, I believe there’s more out there.” Even if the doodles were the result of boredom, it amounted to the same—a desire for something more, shot into the universe like a thought-rocket. And perhaps he never saw the return of such rockets in concrete form in his life. Perhaps he just later head off to war (inset picture), saw the abysmal horror of “how life is” and just wound down his days living in contrast to what he definitely didn’t want in his life—or anyone’s life. Yet by the launching of thoughts toward a different world as doodler and daydreamer, Doug and thousands like him arguably set the matrix of the universe in motion toward “how life is” now, where we do have fanciful geometric pavilions and tramways running through them, where the world has never again been at war, and where fences have come down.

Sure, there’s still intolerance, bullying, ignorance, hatred, fear and more that can’t possibly be called a fundamental human desire. Yet as the word evolution denotes an ongoing state, we’d perhaps all do well—even for a day—to just set that all aside and give thanks this Family Day to past and present families and friends, who doodled and dreamed beyond the margins, who didn’t buy into “how life is” as a fixed and unchanging reality, who cast their thoughts into a responsive universe and effectively made us colonists upon birth to the better world they’d imagined.

Half-World

half world abm creative xristopher bland 1152016Have you ever wondered where inspiration comes from? I wondered about this as a teenager. Long ago in a distant land called the 1970s—long before the idea of the universe speaking to us, Abraham or the notion that our higher selves simply flow back to us—I had the idea that it worked something like this:

There was a place connected to Earth yet invisible to the people living there. In form, it looked like an island. On this island lived people of every artistic brilliance: painters, potters, weavers, thatchers, carvers, bakers, musicians and more who made up the full spectrum of creativity. These people—innocent and untainted—were forever creating for the pure love of it. Yet they could never visit Earth to share their creations. So they caused their creations to manifest in the minds of people on Earth, who came to attribute such moments as being in touch with the spirits (or, inside the spirits). So the word “inspired” was born. Yet in those moments of inspiration, people were really half-worlders—half living on Earth and half living in the other place, not invisible but simply existing as an alternate dimension.

I first wrote this idea as a one-page story called “The Silent Island” on a sheet of paper that I still have today. I thought I might expand the idea into a book one day. Yet as time went on, I also felt the idea might make an interesting musical framework for an album of rock opera. As such things were well beyond my skill at the time, I filed the story away for future consideration and forgot about it until the winter holidays of 2015.

I was drawing in my studio when one fantasy-landscape sketch after another began rushing out of me. At first, I thought I was working on a new ad to promote my graphic services. Yet as lead and ink coursed across blank pages, I sensed there was something else at work within me. Some larger world was speaking to me through a sudden desire to explore graphical landscapes, photo-realistic image creation and green-screen techniques. I chatted with my partner Mary Beth about what was happening and slowly it dawned on both of us.

That long-ago story was still speaking to me and asking to come out under the name Half-World. So I decided this morning to create this quick image, re-purposed from its original incarnation as an ad for the December issue of Starlight Music Chronicles magazine. In doing this, I’m doing something practical. I’m creating a record of having used the spelling “Half-World” first as the name of a creative work. The other spellings (“Half World” and “Halfworld”) have already been used in other creative works, whereas “half-world” (with the hyphen) only finds general usage as an adjective. Yet more importantly than mundane practicality, I’m setting an intention this morning to finally and fully let Half-World come out.

I don’t know what it will look like in final form. Perhaps it will become that rock opera. Perhaps it will become an art show or graphic novel. Or perhaps I don’t need to know at the moment. Though I’ve created much over the years, I’ve been like many in killing a lot of creativity along the way by over-thinking things and mangling myself in practicality. So I’m not going to do that now. I’m just going to let this world flow out of me, creating each piece as it presents itself and staying focused on those pieces until they’re ready to show me how they all come together. I’m going to trust this, and when that world is finally ready to appear before this world, I’ll happily open the doors to everyone.

Until then, I’ll continue posting other things here as they speak, and hope your own worlds richly speak to you every day.

Xris


Copyright © 2016, Xristopher Bland for abmCreative. All rights reserved. Contact abmcreativeservices@gmail.com.

Starlight Dreams (SMC Magazine Ad)

abm ad in SMC december issue 2015I’m kind of floating today—much like the island floating within the pages of Starlight Music Chronicles’ freshly released December issue. As my first-ever full-page magazine ad, the image wasn’t planned as a personal emulation of SMC, its content and editorial vista. Yet after enjoying the magazine’s latest collection of artist interviews, fashion features, tributes, reviews and more, I can see how the image is aligned with SMC’s larger vision of community connected by the incredible richness and power of music.

All helmed by Editor Candice Marshall, SMC’s skilled and spiritual center, I can see how it all points readers out there, just a bit more beyond the horizon, saying we are stardust, we are golden, and by whatever grace with which we imbue ourselves, we’ve somehow, fantastically found our way back to a new garden where the wandering can come peaceably to rest under starlight.


Ad image copyright © 2015, Xristopher Bland for abmCreative. All rights reserved. Contact abmcreativeservices@gmail.com.