Mary Oliver is the Messenger for Thanksgiving

November 26, 2020

Happy Thanksgiving to all of our American friends, and to everyone of us who are thankful for life and staying healthy.

The Uncarved Blog

Mary Oliver’s poem, Messenger, was written in her own unique voice, but it must have been influenced by her favorite American poet, Walt Whitman. It’s a perfect poem to share for Thanksgiving, since her poetry is a thanksgiving for being alive in the world, appreciating every living thing in it, and singing their praises. “My work is loving the world…mostly standing still and learning to be astonished…which is mostly rejoicing…which is gratitude…a mouth with which to give shouts of joy.”

My work is loving the world.
Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird—
equal seekers of sweetness.
Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums.
Here the clam deep in the speckled sand.
 
Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?
Am I no longer young, and still half-perfect? Let me
keep my mind on what matters,
which is my work,
 
which is mostly standing still and learning…

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Entrepreneur @SigurdVedal and #TM teacher Lakos Antal discuss how to build a better life

November 15, 2020

Doug Rexford sent me a link to an interview on The Sigurd Vedal Show. Sigurd Verdal is an American-Norwegian tech entrepreneur, successful multi-business owner, investor, and CEO of Vedal Media Group. Sigurd invited his TM teacher, Lakos Antal, on his show for a lively discussion on how to build a better life with Transcendental Meditation. The names of the host and his guest were unfamiliar to me, but as soon as I saw and heard the TM teacher speak, I recognized him as Tony.

Sigurd Vedal interviews Tony Antal: How to build a better life with Transcendental Meditation.

I had met Tony, as we knew him, and his friend Peter, around 20 years ago on an international TM course for men in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. They were friendly young TM teachers from Hungary who had worked on international projects. Coincidentally, years later, Peter had become a student here at MIU, married a fellow student, had a son, and is now completing his doctoral thesis on a TM research study.

Tony had learned TM in high school when he was 15. Within 3 weeks he noticed it gave him added energy and clarity of mind. He was a straight ‘A’ student and was expected to follow his family’s tradition of becoming a medical doctor. During his first year of medical school Tony would come to realize that the medical profession only dealt with treating diseases, not preventing them.

Becoming a TM teacher instead of a doctor

After a year of medical college Tony felt it really wasn’t what he wanted to do with his life and followed his heart’s desire instead to become a TM teacher. Turns out it was the right decision for him. One of the things he did was give Introductory talks to medical students. Many of them started as they needed something to help them deal with the stressful challenges of their chosen profession.

Interestingly, Stritch School of Medicine, affiliated with Loyola University Chicago, was the first to make TM available as an elective course. It’s been part of the medical curriculum for four years now. See The first Transcendental Meditation elective course offered at a major US medical school. Two years ago the Catholic Health Association of the United States published an excellent report on the program in Catholic Health World: Medical students learn meditation to counter stress, promote physician wellness.

Tony told Sigrud that when he was a student in Budapest, meditation was a foreign concept. Today, millions of people of all ages and backgrounds around the world have learned to meditate, including famous celebrities who praise the benefits of TM. With hundreds of scientific studies verifying its efficacy, TM is part of wellness programs and recommended by doctors to patients with high blood pressure and other stress-related diseases. TM has been shown to help veterans suffering from PTSD.

I emailed some questions to Tony and he said he taught TM to Sigurd in August. Since Sigrud has business ties to Hungary, the interview took place in his Budapest apartment. They had both tested negative for COVID before they got together. Sigurd shared how TM has helped him to maintain a more even perspective in stressful situations, and that he is now able to fall asleep without the aid of sleeping pills.

Sigrud asked Tony some practical questions prompting him to go into more detail, which he did by sketching his ideas out on paper. They also edited in graphs and animated sequences illustrating Tony’s points, as well as video footage of people meditating in different situations.

Meeting with the president of Hungary

One story Sigrud really wanted Tony to share was his interaction with TM founder Maharishi Mahesh Yogi at the end of his TM Teacher Training Course. Based on Tony’s answer to a particular question, Maharishi suggested that he contact the president of his homeland, Hungary, with a solution to his governmental problems. Maharishi even gave Tony a message to relay to the president on his behalf! How such an improbable meeting could occur, and how the president would respond to the presentation and Maharishi’s personal message were beyond Tony.

Listen to how it all unfolded, halfway through their conversation. It reveals a fascinating insight into the workings of leadership and collective consciousness—the highlight of this discussion for me. Tony told me that the story about the president made him realize that the government is really just an innocent mirror of the collective consciousness of the nation, as Maharishi had taught us. He explained the mechanics of this concept to Sigurd in the podcast video.

Jerry’s Last Mission was not just in WW2; he later helped bring peace to today’s troubled veterans

November 11, 2020

This week, Nov 9-13, 2020, is ‘Jerry Fest’, a 5-Day free, Sneak-Peak Screening and Virtual Celebration of Veteran’s Day, honoring the life of Jerry Yellin with the release of a new documentary film, ‘Jerry’s Last Mission’.

Here is a press release that was sent out announcing this week’s activities: Ed Cunningham Announces David Lynch Foundation and Regnery History to Host ‘Jerry Fest’. 5-Day Virtual Festival Celebration of Veteran’s Day and WW2 Fighter Pilot will include free screenings of the Feature Documentary ‘Jerry’s Last Mission’ and Q&A sessions with the filmmakers.

The two virtual Q&A sessions take place on Veteran’s Day, Wednesday, Nov. 11 at 8 pm ET hosted by Regnery Publishing, and on Thursday, Nov. 12 at 8 pm ET hosted by the David Lynch Foundation. Both will include Yellin’s family, producers Ed Cunningham and Melissa Hibbard, and director Louisa Merino. Check the film’s website for zoom links. 

The film’s website is www.jerryslastmission.com and the social media addresses are facebook.com/jerryslastmission, @jerrys_last_mission_film on Instagram and @jerrylastmiss1 on Twitter. The film’s distribution rights are represented by Scott Kaplan of Domino Content (www.dominocontent.com).

The NJArts wrote a great article about the film in time for Veteran’s Day: War and inner peace: Moving documentary ‘Jerry’s Last Mission’ available for free viewing. [PDF] Here’s the film’s trailer.

When the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, a young Jerry Yellin signed up to become a fighter pilot. He flew P-51 missions over Iwo Jima, including the last official bombing raid of the war over Japan. He was the only one left in his squadron to survive. He returned home a hero, but suffered for decades from what is now known as PTSD. Thanks to his wife, Helene, Jerry learned the Transcendental Meditation (TM) technique, which transformed his life.

Decades later, when Jerry heard about the high rate of suicides among today’s veterans, he inspired the David Lynch Foundation to start Operation Warrior Wellness, which provided scholarships for veterans and their families to learn Transcendental Meditation.

So Jerry’s last mission was not only at the end of WW2, but also decades later during the latter part of his life, when he made it possible for American veterans of foreign wars to heal their PTSD by learning TM.

Last year The Fairfield Ledger published this 2-page cover story: Jerry Yellin laid to rest with full military honors. See more stories on this blog.

Just found another great report on the film, this one by News 12 The Bronx: Hate turns to love: ‘Jerry’s Last Mission’ tells the story of WWII veteran coping with horrors of war. The story of a World War II fighter pilot from New Jersey who flew the last combat mission over Japan is now the subject of a new documentary film – “Jerry’s Last Mission.”

I cropped a photo of Merino and Yellin from this excellent TV news story.

Director Louisa Merino and Jerry Yellin

Additional news coverage

In addition to the NJArts and Bronx News 12 reports, these new articles came out: Baristanet: Limited Pre-Screening of ‘Jerry’s Last Mission’ Will Honor New Jersey WWII Veteran, and this comprehensive article by Claire Barrett, who interviewed Louisa Merino and Michael and Steven Yellin for The Army Times, Observation Post: ‘Jerry’s Last Mission’: How WWII’s last combat pilot became a lifelong testament of the human spirit. Steven Yellin was also interviewed by KTVO-TV3’s Beth Waldon: New film helps Fairfield man understand father’s fighter pilot experiences in WWII. Click the title to see a video of the full report with the news anchor’s introduction and conclusion to Beth’s report embedded here.

This article, with photos from Michael Yellin, came out November 24, 2020: Montclairian’s father, Jerry Yellin, a WWII hero.

What is Poetry and where does it come from?

November 11, 2020

I posted many wonderful poems under this blog’s Poetry category. Also saved comments about poetry written by poets throughout the ages. These two made an impression on me years ago that I’ll share with you.

Yang Wan–li (1127–1206) Sung dynasty poet: What is Poetry?

Now, what is poetry? If you say it is simply a matter of words, I will say a good poet gets rid of words. If you say it is simply a matter of meaning, I will say a good poet gets rid of meaning. “But,” you ask, “without words and without meaning, where is the poetry?” To this I reply, “Get rid of words and get rid of meaning, and still there is poetry.”

Hazrat Inayat Khan (1882–1927): The Music of Life, Poetry (pg. 327)

The one who reads poetry, the one who enjoys poetry, and the one who writes poetry must know that poetry is something that does not belong to this earth: it belongs to heaven, in whatever form one shows one’s appreciation and love for poetry, one really shows one’s appreciation and love for the spirit of beauty.

Poems on Poetry

Here are links to a few meta-poems I’ve written over the years about the sometimes mysterious creative process of writing poetry and its influence on an audience: Writing; Sometimes Poetry Happens; Poetry—The Art of the Voice; a seven-haiku poem, Coalescing Poetry: Creating a Universe; and Haiku on The Nature of Haiku.

Also see this post: Writers on Writing–What Writing Means To Writers.

Sue Monk Kidd on empathy and the purpose and power of literature to enter the common heart

November 10, 2020

It’s sometimes serendipitous how one thing can lead to another while surfing the internet. I came across this tweet by Alicia Keys about her recent conversation with Sue Monk Kidd. They were discussing each other’s books. Alicia had just published, More Myself, and Sue, The Book of Longings. A previous book, The Secret Life of Bees, was made into a movie (2008). Alicia posted the podcast on her YouTube channel AliciaKeys.lnk.to/AKSMK.

Sue Monk Kidd is a novelist, essayist, and best-selling author. She has received wide acclaim for her books on feminine spirituality and theology. Her inspiring lectures explore the intersection of writing, creativity, and soul. I wanted to know more about this author and found an intriguing title to a talk she gave in Saint Paul at a Westminster Town Hall Forum. The live talk, Sue Monk Kidd: Life is a Story, was sponsored by SPNN on February 11, 2014.

Sue Monk Kidd (SMK) gave a profound talk about how she became a writer later in life, what the act of writing means to her, and how it can be used to shine a light on injustices, particularly with issues of women and race, giving readers a window into the lives of her female characters. Her spirituality is connected to justice and compassion. For her, one of the important purposes of literature is to enhance empathy, allowing readers to enter what Emerson called “the common heart.”

She mentions her favorite authors and books, and had stenciled some of their quotes on her walls, which informed her life and work as a writer. I transcribed some of her many inspiring comments from the talk. The hyperlinked phrases will take you to those segments in the video.

creativity and the writing life

Introducing the idea of creativity and the role of writing in her life, SMK says, “Well, creativity, I think, is essentially a spiritual experience, at least it is for me. I think it is a conversation that one has between one’s self and one’s soul. It’s not always a good conversation, but it is some kind of conversation.”

She then references the poet Rilke from Letters to a Young Poet, where he tells a young man who’s written him for advice: “So, dear Sir, I can’t give you any advice but this: to go into yourself and see how deep the place is from which your life flows; at its source you will find the answer to, the question of whether you must create. Accept that answer, just as it is given to you, without trying to interpret it.”

moments of being…a silence beneath my words

She reiterates this notion. “I think there’s a realm inside us. We could call it the inner life, or the interior life, or the life of the soul or something else. Merton often referred to it as the true self. And I think my 30-year old self was trying to start up a conversation with this place. What I suppose I have in mind here is a kind of contemplative experience. It’s very easy to lose touch with this part of ourselves, especially in our contemporary culture. I think we often feel, at least I do, besieged by life.

I think the world seduces us with an artificial sense of urgency sometimes. But the soul doesn’t move at the same pace as the world. The creative life doesn’t, at least mine doesn’t. I think it has a completely different slower pace about it.

So contemplative moments, I think, moments of being, help us, help me cultivate this life I’m talking about. I often say to myself that there must be a silence beneath my words. If there is not a deep silence beneath my words, then my words are probably empty.

the real power of literature

When asked what does she hope readers would take away from her work, she references what the female protagonists go through in her books. “My hope I suppose, if I had to articulate that, would be that readers would have a felt experience of what it’s like to be an enslaved person in the 19th century; or a white woman without any rights, with shockingly few rights; or what it’s like to be a 14-year old girl looking for home and belonging; or a woman adrift in the middle of her marriage; or a 50-year old woman trying to find the 3rd act. What does it feel like?”

“And I’m talking of course about empathy, which is taking an other’s experience and making it one’s own. I think that is perhaps the most mysterious transaction in the human soul. And I think it’s the real power of literature.”

empathy…the common heart…an intrinsic unity with all of humanity

While in college SMK studied Ralph Waldo Emerson, which is where she learned about his concept of “the common heart.”

He described it as a place inside every human where we share an intrinsic unity with all of humanity. Now this idea has remained with me all of these years. I have never forgotten it. And as a novelist I have to believe in this place. And as a person I believe in this place.”

“So I began by saying that, for me, creativity is a conversation with one’s soul. And I think in that sense maybe writing has been my longest prayer. But I also think, that in this sense that readers go to the common heart, that they can find their way into the common heart, a portal through a book, that reading becomes their prayer too.”

distractions…contemplative rhythm…conscious loitering…listening

The most difficult part of writing for her is the solitude—the paradoxical need for it and the isolation that it brings. She describes her process. “I find that, I have to find, particularly when I’m writing, ‘a contemplative rhythm’. I like to refer to it as ‘conscious loitering’. Because loitering is really a good thing in a lot of ways. It’s just to, to be, without any purpose other than being within oneself. And this centers me; it grounds me. It allows me most of all, the time and place to have this conversation that I need to have with this deeper part of myself, or to go to that deeper part of myself and to listen.”

She tries to avoid social media. “I think listening is so important. I don’t know how to do that with all of this, you know, Twitter and Facebook, and all of this that is going on. It’s kind of a whirlwind, and I think our attention span is shrinking dramatically with it. And I’m about the long form. So it’s attention, actually, I think for many writers, and it is for me. And I kinda go back and forth in these worlds and try to navigate both of them and sometimes do both of them poorly.”

In a previous post, famous songwriters have said a similar thing about the need to be alone undisturbed where the mind can idle (loiter). Ideas come along, get fiddled with, and inspire lyrics turning them into songs.

fundamental to writing is the courage to find and believe in your self

When asked what advice she would give to a young writer just getting started, she shared what she had written her daughter in a card the night before they would drive her to college. “Be true to yourself. Have the courage to be true to yourself, and stand by yourself. It was as simple as that. And maybe that is really the key.”

“You know writing, as I said, is an act of courage. It’s about having something to say and the ability to say it. But the real thing is about the courage to say it at all. And it has to do with some sense of truth in one’s self, and finding that truth, and being willing to have an authentic conversation with it.”

“So I think I would say that, believe in yourself, but first of all find the self you want to stand by, and then believe in that self, because that’s fundamental to writing.”

related blog posts on writing

Writers on Writing–What Writing Means To Writers | Elizabeth Gilbert—Some Thoughts On Writing | Words of Wisdom on Writing from Literary Lights | Burghild Nina Holzer inspires us to write and discover who we are and what we have to say | John O’Donohue’s 4 short lines say it all for poets | The perils of praise or blame for young writers. New ways to help students find their own voice | Letters to a Young Poet Quotes by Rainer Maria Rilke

Don Henley and Lissie use the same approach to writing songs—don’t force it and wash the dishes!

October 4, 2020

I enjoy listening to songwriters talk about their creative process—how they approach the task of writing a song, the kind of strategies they use.

How Don Henley writes his songs

I recently watched a 92nd Street Y interview posted on YouTube in 2015. American Rock royalty Billy Joel and Eagles drummer and singer-songwriter Don Henley covered a lot of ground in 85 minutes. One of the things Joel asked Henley about was what does he do to get himself into the space where he can write songs.

Don tells Billy how he may hole up in a cabin, or somewhere where he won’t be disturbed, and shuts out all electronic distractions. He also says he doesn’t just sit there and write; he can’t force the words to come. He says he follows the zen-like advice to do a simple task first.

He tells the audience, “I’m dead serious. I’ve written some of my best stuff loading and unloading the dishwasher! Because you’re distracted and yet you’re not. I don’t know how to explain the thing. But I’ve read about the zen masters saying the same thing—if you can just do a menial task instead of sitting there with a pen and paper, in front of you going, (he clenches his fists and grunts).” The embedded video may play from the beginning, but that part of the discussion starts at 57:14.

How Lissie writes her songs

That reminds me of the exact same thing Lissie said in The A-Sides Interview. She discusses how she is learning to balance art with commerce, and spontaneity with structure. Describing her creative process she usually comes up with a melody, sometimes working with other musicians, then later writes the lyrics alone.

When writing lyrics, she’s “careful to not force it” and is always surprised when rhyming phrases pop into her head “when washing the dishes, not focusing hard on the lyrics.” That’s when she’s presented with newer better word choices she hadn’t thought of.

She emphasizes finding a balance: “being spontaneous, yet structured.” The embedded video may play from the beginning, but that part of the interview starts at 4:58.

How Colin Hay writes his songs

Another singer-songwriter I had discovered and recently wrote about is Colin Hay. When it comes to writing songs he says he likes to have as empty a mind as possible and puts himself in a space where he won’t be interrupted. He emphasizes that time is important, to give himself enough time to fail. He describes a scene where he’s all alone for 3 or 4 hours without any distractions, just sitting with his acoustic guitar doing nothing, just idling, coming up with musical ideas.

At other times, a friend may drop by and mention something in passing that will act as a catalyst to what he’s been thinking about. It triggers the melody, and then the words spontaneously come out in one take. In those cases he’ll quickly finish a song in under an hour. That’s how he wrote Waiting for my Real Life to Begin.

He explains all this in a 2011 CNN interview with Brooke Baldwin when she asks him where he was when he wrote that song, then quotes some of the lyrics to him. The embedded video may play from the beginning, but that part of the interview starts at 3:52.

TM, creativity, and the default mode network

Our minds are usually working on a particular problem, consciously and unconsciously. I’ve had the same thing happen to me when I’m writing a poem or a blog post and reach an impasse. I give up, let it go, and, surprisingly, the right solution later presents itself when I least expect it.

Science calls that place in our brains the default mode network (DMN), a.k.a. the imagination network or genius lounge. It’s activated when the mind is daydreaming, not engaged or concentrating on anything, just “idling” as Colin Hay put it. The key is to be easy. Focusing or “forcing it” turns it off.

Interestingly, the DMN is also activated during the effortless practice of the Transcendental Meditation technique as practitioners experience a state of “restful alertness.” Sometimes great ideas may show up during, but more likely after TM, what David Lynch calls, “Catching the Big Fish.” He often tells students, “TM is a boon for the filmmaker.” It facilitates access to one’s inner resources to create and think out of the box.

Jon Bon Jovi says washing dishes brings on hit songs

Addendum: Jon Bon Jovi, who loves doing TM, shared the same experience as Don Henley and Lissie on Monday night’s A Late Show with Stephen Colbert when they discussed the events that influenced his new album, Bon Jovi 2020. He told Colbert how the song Do What You Can came about when he was washing dishes in one of their JBJ Soul Kitchens during the COVID-19 pandemic. Bon Jovi concluded, “Washing dishes brings on hit songs, Stephen.

Related: Lissie @lissiemusic and her connections to Twin Peaks, Fairfield and #TranscendentalMeditation

Nikita Gill highlights the difference between Temporary and Permanent people in our life

October 1, 2020
Click twice to enlarge and read this poem by Nikita Gill.

“A few are as permanent as love is old.” Wise words from this young poet! They ring true; go deep. Some of us may be blessed to have such people in our lives. Maybe we are that person for someone. Either way, it’s a blessing.

I was lucky to have been in a committed relationship with a special lady in my life, and was there for her, right up to her last breath, and beyond. Even though she passed away four years ago tonight (Oct 1, 2016), the love remains.

Related: A tanka remembering Sali and her gift to me on the one-year anniversary of her passing.

For more info on Nikita Gill visit her Wiki, Facebook, and Amazon pages.

Colin Hay’s song—I Just Don’t Think I’ll Ever Get Over You—is so relevant during these tough times

September 17, 2020

For anyone who’s gone through a breakup, or the traumatic loss of a loved one during these tough times of COVID-19, forest fires, and other natural catastrophes, this nostalgic song by Colin Hay may move you to tears. That kind of cathartic experience, acknowledging and feeling the loss, may help in the healing of it, relieving some of the grief over time.

I first heard I Just Don’t Think I’ll Ever Get Over You in the Garden State soundtrack. A while back a friend posted it on her Instagram. I listened to several YouTube videos of him singing it, along with other great songs, and funny stories he shares with audiences during his shows.

You can see the lyrics and history of the song here. It was re-released on Transcendental Highway and posted on his YouTube channel. It has a softer, quieter feel to it, especially the ending, compared to these more powerful live performances on Paste, and more recently on eTown. I’ll embed it here, but I recommend hearing all 3 selections.

I discovered that Colin Hay had been part of the world-famous Australian musical phenomenon, Men At Work in the early 80’s. Their first massive hit, Down Under, was heard everywhere for months. Hay was their lead singer, guitarist, and main songwriter. After the band broke up, a few members at a time, and their label dropped him, a downward spiral into addiction followed. His wife left him. He would eventually seek help and attempt to launch his musical career as a solo artist with not much luck.

He moved to LA and became the first musician to play at Largo, a new club frequented by people in the entertainment business. He soon gained a following, was discovered and produced. What helped relaunch his career was when Scrubs star Zach Braff encouraged producer Bill Lawrence to see him perform at the club. Bill’s wife, Christa Miller, had already become a fan earlier on and was always raving about him.

After he heard Colin perform, Bill couldn’t understand why his songs were not more successful. He decided to feature some of them in his popular TV show. Colin is seen performing Overkill in one episode, while Waiting For My Real Life To Begin is sung by the cast in another. That song has been featured in eight different popular television series. The song is also heard early on in the soundtrack to the 2010 film Morning Glory and in the 2014 film soundtrack to Words and Pictures.

Zach asked Colin if he could use one of his songs for a movie he was making. The Garden State film and soundtrack would become a huge hit, which included, “I Just Don’t Think I’ll Ever Get Over You”. The CD went platinum, which also put Hay’s music out there in a very big way. The TV show, movie and CD introduced him to a much larger, younger audience. It changed everything for him. He had paid his dues and humbly moved into one of the most stable and rewarding phases of his career. He also married singer Cecilia Noël, who often provides backup vocals at his shows. Noël has also helped with production on Hay’s solo albums.

Colin Hay: Waiting For My Real Life

In 2015, an independent documentary film was made about him, appropriately titled: Colin Hay – Waiting For My Real Life. Here is a comprehensive Summary posted on IMDb, followed by the official trailer. https://www.colinhayfilm.com

‘Colin Hay – Waiting For My Real Life’ is the story of singer-songwriter Colin Hay, former front-man of Men At Work. We follow Hay from his earliest days in Scotland, through his family’s emigration to Australia, to the massive, worldwide success of his band, to the depths of addiction and failure, to a slow climb back up the ladder seeking relevance, artistic freedom and ultimately, transcendence. Featuring interviews with Hugh Jackman, Mick Fleetwood, Sia Furler, Guy Pearce and many others, ‘Colin Hay – Waiting For My Real Life’ is the inspiring story of a true artist.

In the film Hay says, “Creativity is my salvation, and going out on the road.” Performing his music in front of appreciative live audiences feeds his soul. “It’s clean, it’s pure,” he says. “It has to do with connecting with people, you know.” He says he keeps touring because, “It makes me feel useful.” It also gives him a natural high, a healthier kind of addiction.

His artistry has staying power. One musician in the film says his music is intergenerational: his millennial fans don’t remember him from Men At Work, and the boomers don’t know him from Scrubs. American actress Wendie Malick says he’s the best living troubadour today. I agree. Plus, he looks like a man at peace with himself. Colin concludes, “Everybody has to find their place in this expanding universe. This is my place.”

Playing with Ringo Starr

Colin Hay met two Beatles and played with one of them. In 2008 he toured with Ringo Starr & His All Starr Band. Hay performed his classic hit Down Under with the band during a show at the Greek Theatre in LA. Be sure to watch the final 15 seconds where after the show Ringo says to Colin, “I really laid it on you on that song ‘cuz you thought you were doing it all. There’s a solo coming!” He imitates Colin, ‘Okay.'” Colin smiles and says, “I was good though.” Ringo exclaims, “You were great!” He laughs and repeats ‘I was good though’ to one of the musicians next to him. Colin laughs with Ringo who loudly claps his hands twice.

Colin performed on several tours with Ringo and his All Starr Band. Click to see another great performance of Colin Hay singing Down Under with Ringo and a different combination of his All Starr Band, including a flutist, and Sheila E as the other drummer!

Hanging out with Paul McCartney

In addition to being a great guitarist-singer-songwriter, Colin Hay is a very funny storyteller. The most fascinating and hilarious story is meeting his childhood idol, Sir Paul McCartney. He relates occasions when Paul and his then wife Heather came to hear him perform, once just himself, another time with his band. After the concert Paul was backstage at the bar and invited the whole band to join him. He holds court for an hour. Then it’s just Paul and Colin. After an awkward silence, Colin asks him what he’s in LA for, and Paul tells him he’s finishing a record. Colin remarks, “Oh, a bit different from the old days, eh, making a record?” And Paul proceeded to tell him what it was like in the old days. Colin tells the audience: “And I could have stood there all night.”

Paul would pick up John and together they’d finish the new song he played for him as they sat in the upper deck of the bus on the way to the studio. When they arrived, George and Ringo were already there. Paul would show it to them, George would figure out the chords, and Ringo would tap out the rhythm. Then a man in a white lab coat would come in and say, “Right, you’re up lads.” They’d record two songs, break for lunch and a smoke, then record two more, with few takes.

Paul then tells Colin he and Heather would like to come over to Colin’s house for dinner. That part of the story is priceless! The audience loved it, as did I. You will too. It’s the preamble to him singing the title song of his reissued 2001 album, Going Somewhere, which Paul and Heather loved, and added to their rotation of favorite songs. It also contains the bonus track, I Just Don’t Think I’ll Ever Get Over You, which prompted this now ongoing blog post. Enjoy!

How Colin Hay writes his songs

CNN’s Brooke Baldwin interviewed Colin Hay on the occasion of his 11th solo album, Gathering Mercury, which was partly influenced by the death of his father in 2010. The discussion came around to how Colin writes his songs. I found this part of the interview fascinating.

When writing songs he says he likes to have as empty a mind as possible. Time is important to give himself enough time to fail. He describes a scene where he’s all alone for 3 or 4 hours without any distractions just sitting around with his acoustic guitar doing nothing, just idling, coming up with musical ideas.

He uses the image of a revolving door in a hotel lobby. If a bunch of bags are stacked up and it’s chaotic, there’s all this noise and bustle, any idea that comes in would turn around and go out the door. But if it’s quiet, and there’s a nice fountain, it may stick around for him to discover and turn it into a song.

Brooke asks him where he was when he wrote, Waiting for my Real Life to Begin. She quotes a section of the song: “And you say, just be here now. Forget about the past, your mask is wearing thin. Let me throw one more dice, I know that I can win. I’m waiting for my real life to begin.”

He describes how his song-writing buddy and drummer, Tom Mooney, had come over to his house. He asked him how he was doing, and he mumbled that he was waiting for his real life to begin. Tom left to do something else and Colin said it sparked what he had been thinking about. “It opened up a door.” It was the catalyst. The melody came, then the words. He wrote the song in 30-45 minutes.

Colin had moved to California to leave his old life behind in Melbourne, where he drank a lot, hung out with crazy people, thought about the past, and worried about the future. “Very rarely do we be where we are.” Brooke asks him if he does now and he answers that he’s learning. But when he does, “it can be quite profound; it can be life-changing.”

Coming full circle

I’ll leave you with this beautiful song, A Thousand Million Reasons, from Colin Hay’s 2017 solo release Fierce Mercy, his 13th. On the Track-By-Track Colin explains the song is about not letting fear rule your life and how to find meaning in the fact that although we may be alone, we are all alone together.

I found this cool website with a timeline biography, and an alphabetical listing of the lyrics and songs of Colin Hay and Men at Work posted on http://colinhay.com.br.

Related: Don Henley and Lissie use the same approach to writing songs—don’t force it and wash the dishes!

Richard Wagamese bravely entered the cracks in his life to reveal the hidden gold buried within

August 30, 2020

Having seen the Canadian movie Indian Horse based on his book, and enjoyed his journal entries compiled in Embers: One Ojibway’s Meditations, I decided to actually read one of Richard Wagamese’s novels. I started with Medicine Walk and ended with Starlight, the latter an extension of the former to become a two-part story, albeit an unfinished one. His flawed wounded characters seek healing and reconciliation, as he did throughout his life. The image below and his description of a mended broken heart reveal how his courageous talent honored and celebrated these lives, ultimately his own, and why he was beloved as one of Canada’s greatest Indigenous storytellers.

Medicine Walk

Richard Wagamese’s skills as a soulful storyteller and consummate wordsmith grew with each successive novel. I enjoyed reading Medicine Walk. It’s the story of young Frank who reluctantly agrees to help his extremely ill biological father, Eldon, a stranger to him, complete a journey into the wilderness to a special location where he wants to die in the traditional Indian way.

This emotionally charged story is an attempt at a reconciliation between a seemingly irresponsible absent father and his disappointed hurt son. This was something Wagamese had been grappling with throughout his own life, from both perspectives—as a young boy and later as a father to his own sons. It’s why he wrote the book.

Starlight

I also read Starlight, his final, and unfortunately unfinished novel. Only 61 years of age, he died in his sleep before he could complete it. Beautifully written, this profoundly moving story is about the redemptive power of love, mercy, compassion, and the land’s ability to heal.

This is ultimately a tale of recovery from trauma by the power of human connection to the natural world and each other. It’s something Richard wanted to explore through the main character. This last book continues the story of a now older Frank Starlight. The old white man who raised him and taught him everything he knows has died and left him the farm and accompanying wilderness.

The story is filled with beautiful descriptions of Frank’s transcendent experiences in nature. He had also taken up photography as a hobby. During his time alone in nature he was able to come into contact with a pack of wolves. He runs with them from a safe distance. When he fearlessly taps into nature’s silence within, the alpha wolf seems to trust him and doesn’t bolt. They howl at the moon, and Frank captures this intimate scene through the lens of his camera resulting in rare photographs.

But the main part of the novel is about a potential relationship between Frank and a young woman and her daughter who come into his life. Unbeknownst to him they had violently escaped an abusive situation. The injured men involved are tracking her down to seek revenge.

A man of few words, Frank teaches Emmy and Winnie how to connect with the land, its creatures, and ultimately their own inner nature. It strengthens and heals them, enhancing their self-esteem. These scenes are profound, well-written, worth reading and rereading. I scanned those pages and may reproduce some of the content in a future post.

A tension is created between these contrasting situations. But the book stops just before they are about to intersect. A Note on the Ending, indicates how Wagamese was intending to complete the novel. It includes an outline and examples from previously published short stories.

Finding gold in the flaws of his imperfect life

A Publisher’s Note at the end explains how they came by the manuscript. Throughout the process of readying Starlight for publication they were guided by something that Wagamese wrote. It became the reason for this post. I found this image online as an example of what he describes.

I once saw a ceramic heart, fractured but made beautiful again by an artist filling its cracks with gold. The artist offering a celebration of imperfection, of the flawed rendered magnificent by its reclamation. I loved that symbol until I came to understand that it’s not about the filling so much as it’s about being brave enough to enter the cracks in my life so that my gold becomes revealed. I am my celebration then. See, it’s not in our imagined wholeness that we become art; it’s in the celebration of our cracks . . .

This reminds me of two previous posts related to this notion. One was when I discovered this Japanese ceramic technique Richard is referring to known as kintsugi. I included a definition, an image, and a poem, a tanka I wrote about this process as a metaphor for human growth.

The other was about Leonard Cohen and his song, Anthem, where he tells us to: “Ring the bells that still can ring/ Forget your perfect offering/ There is a crack in everything/ That’s how the light gets in.”

These great Canadian writers had the courage to try to come to terms with their own struggles and the skill to creatively express them in their own unique ways. Experienced aesthetically in the lives of their fans who may have been going through similar life challenges, these hard-earned truths became a validation, bringing beauty and meaning into their lives.

See these related blog posts on Richard Wagamese and Leonard Cohen: Coincidences happened that introduced me to the great Ojibway storyteller Richard Wagamese and Insights from Richard Wagamese’s Meditations and Leonard Cohen said there’s a crack in everything–how the light gets in. It came thru him & lit up a broken humanity.

Who was Bungalow Bill from the Beatles White Album and what happened to him? He tells us!

June 29, 2020

Do you remember The Continuing Story Of Bungalow Bill that John Lennon wrote and sang on the Beatles White Album? It was based on a real person who was on the same Transcendental Meditation Course the Beatles had attended in Rishikesh, India with Maharishi.

Richard Cooke III was there with his mother, Nancy Cooke de Herrera, who was a publicist for Maharishi at the time. Maharishi had assigned Nancy to look after the Beatles during the course.

I don’t know if Richard stayed for the whole TM training course, but he took time off to go on an elephant-riding tiger-hunting trip while he was in India. He killed a tiger and was proud of his accomplishment, as was his mother, who related the story to Maharishi. John happened to be in that meeting. Richard and his mother are referenced in the song’s lyrics.

A friend sent me this new article, which brings us up to date. Here is the continuing story of Richard “Rikki” Cooke III in his own words: My Last Hunt, published in Chasing the Light.

It’s interesting how Maharishi’s response and John’s song profoundly altered the trajectory of Richard’s life. He decided to trade in his gun for a camera and did a different kind of shooting from then on. Learn more about Richard A. Cooke III at rikkicooke.com and National Geographic.

This photo shows Nancy with the Beatles and other celebrities attending the course at the ashram in Rishikesh. She’s the tall blond woman behind John Lennon and next to Paul McCartney. Others in this photo are: Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, George Harrison, Mia Farrow, John Farrow, (Mia and Prudence Farrow‘s brother) and Donovan Leitch. A larger photo shows Pattie Boyd in front of Nancy, and Jane Asher and Cynthia Lennon next to Donovan.

Meeting the Beatles in India film by Paul Saltzman

Update: Sept 9, 2020: Speaking of that time, a new film, Meeting The Beatles In India, about Paul Saltzman’s brief stay there, premieres tonight, 7pm, online at Gathr.com. Here’s an announcement about the film from the national TM Office of Communications with a message from the director. Here are a few film reviews: Cryptic Rock, NYS Music, and Variety. Paul’s website: https://thebeatlesinindia.com, and trailer.

I saw the film tonight. It was well done, personable, and revealing, as was the post‑screening discussion and Q&A with Emmy Award-winning director Paul Saltzman, and surprise guest Rikki Cooke III, aka “Bungalow Bill.” In the Q&A that followed, Rikki explained why he thought the remaining Beatles left the ashram abruptly. It made a lot more sense than the usual rumor mentioned in the article. I posted a comment on the Variety article of what he said including related material. (Adobe PDF)

There are several interviews posted on YouTube. Beatle Brunch host Joe Johnson spoke with Paul Saltzman on a zoom call about the film. This is another good interview published in the Cleveland.com. And this one from the BBC: When a ‘heartbroken’ backpacker met The Beatles in India.

International music journalist Jeff Slate wrote an article for The Daily Beast about the film: My Transformative Time With the Beatles in India. He contributed the usual rock history and interviewed Paul Saltzman, Jenny Boyd, Pattie’s sister, and Deepak Chopra, a close friend of George Harrison. In the Q&A that followed the premiere, Jeff heard Rikki Cooke’s explanation of why he thought the Beatles had left the ashram. Jeff appreciated this different perspective saying it was “one for the record.”

The documentary film, plus exclusive filmed Q&As moderated by Jeff Slate with Paul Saltzman, Jenny Boyd Levitt, Rikki Cooke, and Stephen Maycock from events in India, Germany and London are available on Gathr starting Friday, Sept 11, 2020. Total run time is 2hrs 22mins: movie, 1hr 42mins; Q&A Highlights, 40mins.

I later found this excellent movie review by Beatles fan and Michigan State Theatre Programming and Media Coordinator Nick Alderink: This Week: Turn Off Your Mind, Relax and Meet the Beatles in India.

CTV News anchor Angie Seth interviewed Paul Saltzman at his home in Oakville, Ontario about his film and what it was like Meeting the Beatles in India. You can see it here.


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