miracles when it feels mundane

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miracles when it feels mundane

Its 5am, I lay awake in bed, for the muse has arrived. I hope I’ll be able to communicate this delicate idea. Let me know if you can relate:

I’ve always had this notion that to do awesome work, I had to also feel awesome. What that’s led me to is a pursuit of “feelings”, which can quickly turn into addiction, like a caterpillar into a moth. Ask any junkie. TV, crack, or cookies, it’s all the same. They are feeling chasers, regardless of the drug of choice.

During my radio years, for instance:

Live radio is unforgiving. The clock, nor the audience, care how your day has gone. At 14:06, the second the pre roll commercials are done, it’s on, ready or not. There were days I’d prepare well, show up early and have a good solid show. Sometimes I’d think I had an awesome show prepared and it would fall flat. While that was confusing and frustrating, even legendary teams lose on their home field sometimes. Though these losses were mystifying, an even deeper mystery lurks:

There were days when I felt completely uninspired. Tired. Empty. Nothing “to say”. I wasn’t physically ill and couldn’t justify calling in sick. I would go through the motions of packing up my laptop, walking out the door, and going to the studio. A mild, low level terror would begin to set in as the clock ticked into the upper reaches of the 13:00 hour.

Sure, I had a show plan, I did the work, but I just wasn’t “feeling it”. Looking over my show notes and the impending 120 minutes, I wonder if sherpas ever feel this way when looking at the nearly impossible peak as they begin their 578th ascent. I wonder if anyone is ever exempt from that deflating feeling of “Oh shit. This is going to be really, really hard, why do I do this to myself?”

(This, by the way, is but one of the reasons I adore the band RUSH). Want to see what eternal youth looks like? Go see these men in their 60’s pushing themselves as hard as they can, doing 3 hour long shows, of ever increasing intensity at an age when most dudes are happy to just cash checks and play golf).

I digress.

So many times on these “oh shit” days, A caller, a current event, an idea in my head would combine in the cauldron of the present moment to yield a moment of pure brilliance. I would walk out of the studio in complete awe at the unsuspected unfolding of inspiration.

These moments of unsuspected brilliance are not limited to the radio days. It’s happened in the Photo studio, in writing, and I once met a great love in similar circumstances. I didn’t feel like being there but showed up anyway, magic ensued.

This has me thinking a lot about feelings: of preparedness, of interest, of ability. Have you ever had the experience of doing your finest work on a day when you initially were sorely tempted to shirk?

I think it’s sensible to expect that under stress we rise to the level of our worst preparation. Good practice and preparation cannot be undervalued.

When I peel back the layers of my own experience, I realize that a certain level of my own feelings are just the weather of my own human condition. Rain or shine, they do not change the facts of that which is being built on the ground. The work – the practice, the preparation, always adds up. It creates something inside you that can be pretty easy to overlook.

What’s the point of this all? I want you to know that the little things you do every day to build yourself – the journaling. The meditation. The exercise. The rehearsals – they all matter, even if they feel mundane. ESPECIALLY when they feel mundane –

Because one day, you will find yourself in a place you don’t necessarily want to be in. You won’t feel your “best” but you’ll be there anyway. You will unceremoniously do the thing. You will go home, and soon realize that you just participated in a life changing moment. You will realize the value of showing up regardless of the weather of your silly little soul, and life will never be the same after that.

Ultimately, you will come to understand that the basic act of showing up is a self fulfilling prophecy of your (sometimes hidden) knowledge that you are worthy of that which you desire.

Much love-
Paul Duane

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Hefner, Creativity, and the Purpose of Life

One hot summer day in the desert, my friend Adam and I happened upon a camp offering refreshments of the palate and the eyes: delicious, ice cold cocktails, tea, and an assortment of vintage Playboys ranging from the late 70’s through early 2000’s, piled high on a coffee table between two dusty sofas. Oh, Burning Man… how I love you – a place where everything is possible and no idea is too silly to bring forth.
 
I’d like to muse over the act of creation for a moment:
 
Consider a jazz musician who will take the stage later tonight and thrill the audience with flashes of blazing improvisation – music that is spontaneously created on the fly – one of the most spectacilar feats of human creativity. That same musician is practicing scales, with a metronome, right now, in a highly controlled way. Working in an environment of temporary restraint has a way of preparing for blast off later.
 
I believe that we are higher dimensional beings having a temporarily downgraded three dimensional experience, for the purpose of learning. I believe that the purpose of life is to refine our ability to take a non-material idea, and bring it into the world of “material” three dimensions.
 
That’s it.
 
Creativity.
 
I don’t care what it is you create… whether it’s an accounting firm, or a sculpture, or a baby human, or some weird poems – everthing we do as humans is an act of creation.
 
When you endeavor to move something from the realm of idea into the physical plane, all manner of challenges must be overcome – several varieties of fear, being chief among them. Overcoming fear is the most fundamental goal of the human experience. Being creative is the vehicle for that.
 
Occasionally we encounter humans who have GRAND visions of something that never existed before, and they proceed to bring it from the realm of idea, into the world of “reality”. These creators know things about the human condition and their relationship to the abundant Universe that, statistically speaking, few other humans know.
 
Hugh Hefner passed away yesterday. Regardless of what you think of the merrits of his work – one must concede – this man was a master creator, conjuring an entirely new reality in his mind and bringing to fruition. How many people do that?
 
If I were at your funeral, Mr. Hefner, I would simply stand with ovation and clap slow claps of awe and admiration.
 
Well done, sir!
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I DO

He said it like a man who had worked hard all day in the heat and was being offered a tall glass of perfectly chilled ice water.

She said it like a woman who knew exactly what she wanted and knew she deserved to have it.

“I do”

Over the course of my career, I’ve heard countless couples say the words, but I’ve never heard the two syllables said with more joyful certainty, solidarity and knowing, than Rachel and Jonny.

Beethoven once said,

“Don’t only practice your art, but force your way into its secrets, for it and knowledge can raise men to the divine.”

As an artist, there comes a point where unconditional dedication to the instrument opens up a world of secrets that only the wholly committed are permitted to enter. There are days when your fingers are sore, but you practice anyway. There are days when you feel like you are a worse player than you were last week and you wonder how you could suck so much… you practice anyway. There are days when practicing is easy and playful – you practice anyway, because you know it’s part of something vastly bigger than your disposition today and are honored to be part of it. In forcing your way into the secrets of your art, you learn things about yourself that you could never know otherwise. It becomes a mirror that creates a singularly unique vantage point to see yourself, your relationship to the world, and ultimately, The Divine.

As it goes in the practice hall, so it goes in marriage. We are all souls at various stages of development in the cosmic scheme of things. Nothing is for everyone, not even marriage. For some, however – I believe that the lifelong commitment of marriage can raise men – and women – to the Divine.

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What does God think of your Facebook Thoughts and Prayers?

Virtue Signaling: ever heard of it?

How many times do you see people post something that – if you pay close attention – is crafted to advertise to the world how concerned they are, how righteously angry they are… that they are “worried” about the “right things”?

Being “virtuous” has never been more in style – problem is, it’s really just a game of “Hey everyone, look at me! I’m better than ________”.

Ninja level question: How often have YOU done that?

I certainly have done an embarrassing amount of it over the course of my social media career, and yes, calling out the virtue signalers can be read as a meta-version of that. Yep. I get it.

A desert dwelling guru called Yeshua once said,

“When thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.”

I think if Yeshua had known about Facebook back then, he would have said,

“When thou prayest, remember that Thy Father is in heaven, and not on Facebook. He hateth that shit. Whilst thou may use Facebook to gently invite others to pray for the downtrodden, thou shalt not advertise thine own prayers, for thou runnest the risk of thy reward being the approval of men, rather than communion with thy Father and / or Mother who art in heaven, but are divorced and not on speaking terms with one another, so you’ll need to call them separately, but that is another story for another parable, beloved ones”.

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Burning Man 2017

Memories from Burning Man 2017.

Trying to explain what Burning Man is, visually, or with words, is like peeping through a pinhole at the night sky and trying to describe the heavens.

 

 

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Radical Self Reliance: thoughts from Burning Man 2015

It’s Burning Man season! Be warned: This is all I’ll be talking about until mid Feb 2018. With that, let’s get on to tonight’s thought:

There are a lot of people who are super sad these days. Angry. Offended. Scared. I feel bad for them, because I’ve seen this other way of living:

Burning Man is a brilliant primordial soup of human potential, creativity, and possibility unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. I’ve never seen so many people acting in so many beautiful ways. Our dusty home in the desert is governed by 10 Principles. Principle #4 is “Radical Self Reliance” and it goes like this:

“Burning Man encourages the individual to discover, exercise and rely on his or her inner resources.”

On the surface, this means that you are solely in charge of bringing your own:

  • water
  • food
  • shelter
  • fuel
  • electricity
  • drugs (JUST KIDDING NOBODY DOES DRUGS OUT THERE)
  • sunscreen

Burning Man is a place of abundance! There is always extra to go around, and usually extra stuff to bring home. When you get 75,000 people together who have all taken seriously the idea of self reliance, synergies occur and tremendous excess is the result. If someone happens to fall on hard times once out there – like, if your tent burns down – chances are that people around you will have you taken care of in no time at all and back to the party.

“Radical self reliance” goes beyond physical provisions: it’s about taking responsibility for my own experience. Not just on the Playa, but in the rest of life as well. I am in charge of my own feelings. Nobody can “make me” feel anything unless I allow them to. Being offended is a choice. Being happy and blissfully content is a choice.

A wise old desert dweller once said,

“He who takes offense when no offense is intended is a fool, and he who takes offense when offense is intended is a greater fool.”

(B. Young)

Anyway – that’s it for now. I’ll be posting more from my last burn as I get packed up during the next few days.

THE MAN burns in 16 days!!
)'(

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Cafe Busted

I give to you a tale of coffee, heartbreak, and healing:

We had a love that started fast and brought the promise of forever – She was a twin flame, a magnificent mirror. To this day, I’ll tell you – that’s still true. We understand each other profoundly – we just can’t tolerate each other.

Spontaneous combustion happens when the right molecules run into each other under the right happenstance. The problem with spontaneous combustion is not just the unplanned consequences of the blaze, but that it’s impossible to sustain; because it wasn’t started intentionally, there’s no fuel prepared nearby to sustain the warmth of the fire. It simply erupts, consumes everything in it’s path, and dies out as fast as it began.  Nevertheless, the flames of such a fire can be pretty convincing.  Such was our brief blaze.

Before long, I was staying most nights in her bed, down the hall from her three teenage kids. The kids quickly gave their blessing of our sponaneous union; one of those first mornings we woke to find that her daughter had made us coffee and brought it to us in bed;  one of her sons would repeat that heart melting gesture some time later.

Coffee became a morning sacrament – we would wake early every day; she would get in the shower and I would start the coffee. She would emerge from the shower to find a breakfast of coffee and toast waiting on the bathroom counter. It was one of the rituals I invoked to show her my adoration. We left our old coffee ways behind and found a brand that we loved together – a rich cuban coffee called Cafe Bustelo.  If you look at the can from a certain angle, the font can be mis-read to say “Cafe Busted”. This coffee became a calling card of our relationship.

Lucky in love, conscious of the poor odds of success, and anxious to defy the world by telling everyone about it,  we set out to create an online memoir – a “how to” for other couples to follow:  CafeBusted.com :  “An impossibly single bachelorette meets an incurable bachelor. Tales of dating, blended families, and a new take on love”.  This is a graphic I made up to serve as the header image on our new blog:

From the notion of sharing our personal life, to our choice of names, the whole idea was adorable, if not staggeringly naive.  It invoked a principle of the Universe that I have come to understand more as I’ve become older: Every time I set myself up to be a teacher of a thing, the Universe has a way of giving me a test on that very subject that takes me to the edge of my sanity and shoves me toward the abyss.  I’ve learned that if I am going to challenge my tribe to do 10 pushups, I must be prepared to do 100. I will be forced to do 100, regardless of how well I prepared.

In the beginning of every act of creation, the idea is birthed from one’s mind into the world of three dimensions as The Word, be it written in an email or spoken to a friend.  Because The Word is the first and primal act of creation – The Word is God.

Busted.

Our love was explosive, and as all good explosions do, it laid waste to both of our hearts. After many months of exhillirating togetherness, moments of truth brought our love affair to a screeching halt.  Sometimes doing the right thing is still heart breaking, rightness be damned.

After our split, my weekly walk down the grocery store coffee isle became an open casket funeral viewing for a loved one that just wouldn’t end. Has the coffee isle ever made you cry? Yeah, me either…. and that’s because I learned to get the hell out of there ASAP. This hot beverage PTSD continued for about as many months as we were together: the better part of a year.

I spent those first many months drinking cheap, generic coffee; I didn’t mean to be symbolic about it, but in hindsight I can see that it wasn’t really the $3 per bag difference in price that was motivating my coffeee choice.  That dry, shitty coffee was a mediation of sorts. After a while I allowed myself to graduate up to something truly delicious, a new brand devoid of the emotional fingerprints of any lover.  It’s *really good* coffee, and it invokes mornings of happy solitude, journaling, meditation and creation.  It’s all mine.

So here we are, one year and two days after she and I parted ways. While restocking on staples at the grocery store last night, my regular brand was out of stock. Cafe Bustelo sat on the shelf, stoically staring forward, trying not to make eye contact with me.  The yellow and red of the can no longer elicited pain in my heart. In the name of curiosity and science, I picked up a can of Bustelo.

I was okay

…bought it.

I was okay

…brought it home

I was okay

…brewed Bustello for breakfast today

I was okay

…like the way you sit in the theater and read every last scrolling credit for a movie that affected you deeply but will never watch again, I drank the coffee.

And not only was I okay,

much to my surprise and relief,

I found it

to be

just

coffee.

 

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Chris Cornell (1964 – 2017)

The Seattle grunge scene of the 90’s was a huge, formative part of my teens and musical upbringing. Few voices are more symbolic of it than Chris Cornell’s. Nevertheless, I was never a big fan of Soundgarden… I was an Alice In Chains and Pearl Jam guy.

…and then, a couple of years ago, I had the opportunity to photograph Chris Cornel during one of his solo tours.

That was a game changer for me. That man’s voice is the real deal. I now saw what millions of others had seen in him – a soulful voice with incredible range – both in octaves and emotions, packaged inside a frontman that was supremely cool – never too charismatic, always paying attention.

Last night Soundgarden played a show in Vegas. They changed up their encore song on the fly, opting to perform Led Zeppelin’s “In My Time Of Dying”.  For now I’ll call it Chris’s suicide note.

You will be missed, Mr. Cornell.

IN MY TIME OF DYING 

by Led Zeppelin

In my time of dying, want nobody to mourn
All I want for you to do is take my body home

Well, well, well, so I can die easy [X2]

Jesus, gonna make up my dyin’ bed.
Meet me, Jesus, meet me. Meet me in the middle of the air
If my wings should fail me, Lord. Please meet me with another pair

Well, well, well, so I can die easy [X2]

Jesus, gonna make up.. somebody, somebody…
Jesus gonna make up… Jesus gonna make you my dyin’ bed

Oh, Saint Peter, at the gates of heaven… Won’t you let me in
I never did no harm. I never did no wrong

Oh, Gabriel, let me blow your horn. Let me blow your horn
Oh, I never did, did no harm.

I’ve only been this young once. I never thought I’d do anybody no wrong
No, not once.

Oh, I did somebody some good. Somebody some good…
Oh, did somebody some good. I must have did somebody some good…
Oh, I believe I did

I see the smiling faces
I know I must have left some traces

And I see them in the streets
And I see them in the field
And I hear them shouting under my feet
And I know it’s got to be real
Oh, Lord, deliver me
All the wrong I’ve done
You can deliver me, Lord
I only wanted to have some fun.

Hear the angels marchin’, hear the’ marchin’, hear them marchin’,
hear them marchin’, the’ marchin’

Oh my Jesus… [repeat]

Oh, don’t you make it my dyin’, dyin’, dyin’…

My photos of Chris Cornell’s performance at The Depot in Salt Lake City, Utah. 25 April 2009:

 

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Building Man 2017

A few photos and thoughts from Building Man 2017 at Jenkstar Ranch in Green River, Utah:

Tonight our tribe will dance to pulsing anthems of modernity, fueled by electrons harvested from the sun this day. We will give and receive sacraments that pull us into the present, healing our addiction to the past and future. The cliffs and buttes are the elder statesmen of the desert – their billion year old wrinkles a constant reminder to be humble.

Much love to the Jenkstars for making this happen.

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Two kinds of giving up, two different paths

 

Swiping left and right as a 40 yr old dude is interesting business. I’m open to dating a rather wide range of ages. It’s an interesting vantage point to observe the feminine trajectory.  (these observations probably apply to men as well, but since I’ve only gone swiping for ladies, that’s all I’m going to talk about. Transpose as you may.)

40-ish is a fascinating fork in the road. Women tend to head off in one of two directions:  Those who have given up, and those who have let go – and they are TOTALLY different.

The first group are those who hit a point where they have decided that their world view is the final word. In their frustration and exhaustion, they made up their mind that “this is just how life is” and began making their quasi-peace with it. These women, seemingly overnight, go from being young women to old ladies. The essence of femininity is growth, ebb and flow, change… They’ve given up on exploration and their femininity withers on the vine.

There are women who have let go, and they are totally different. It’s hard to tell how old they are – they have a youthful something-about-them that would inspire the appetite of any young man in his sexual prime, yet they exude a wisdom and confidence that young women can only imitate, at best. To say she loves herself is one degree from the truth – she IS love. It manifests as nurturing and fierceness. She’s young enough not to care too much about the way things used to be – the past has no claim on her. She’s old enough not to care too much about what anyone thinks of her. She knows who she is and her definition of her identity is completely independent of other people or things. She may have done many laps around the sun; those laps have just made her more hot.  She has let go of all of the notions of what she “ought to be” and finds pure joy in being what she IS.

One is a slave to what “ought to be” and has given up trying. The other has let go of what “ought to be” and just IS. She is magnificent – the mother of all living – whether they be children or ideas or causes.

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