I thought I’d go numb. Like I usually do. Chalk it all up to present day “reality” and soldier on. But today I can’t do that. I’m feeling it. All of it. The worst mass shooting in modern American history happened yesterday, and one of my heroes, one of the beacons on my horizon, passed away. Tom Petty.
We’ve seen a rash of both over the past couple years. Mass shootings and the musical heroes of my generation dying too young. It’s easy to become desensitized and accustomed to such things.
And that’s how I was feeling. Until yesterday. A space opened up inside and today I feel as sensitive as I can remember.
It’s awful. As awful as awful gets. But the simple fact that I’m feeling that, the intensity of that, reminds me I’m alive. And there’s something achingly beautiful about it. I don’t think I realized how much I’ve turned off over the years. It’s not easy to stay open. To stay sensitized. To stay alive inside in the face of it all. Building up a thick skin is a great device for self preservation. Totally functional. Totally understandable. Especially if you spend any time in front of the news. But there is a cost.
I shuffled my schedule around recently and I’ve been taking an hour to myself every morning. I read, write, exercise and meditate a bit. As my life continues to move faster and faster, I’m realizing how much I’ve been leaving behind. This new schedule is making a huge difference.
Have you ever seen the movie “Razors Edge”? Early 80’s. Stars Bill Murray. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it. One of my all time favorites. He’s funny in it, but it’s not a funny movie. The basic premise is he’s looking to find that edge in life. And live there. And how hard it is. I get that.
The edge is where life lives. I’ve spent various times in my life trying to completely avoid that edge to save myself the pain, and other times I’ve fallen right on top of it, slashing myself and bleeding all over the floor. It hasn’t been graceful. And maybe I’m just bleeding to you on the floor right now. I don’t know.
But there’s something alive in me this morning in spite of this awful act of darkness, and the unavoidable mortality awaiting all of us. It’s that connection with the part of myself that actually gives a shit. It’s not an easy thing to explain. It’s not like I haven’t given a shit. I do. Maybe too much. And that’s been hard for me.
Strangely, I don’t want to move. I don’t want to lose this. And yet the clock is ticking. My quiet time this morning will end, and the day will start screaming like a starving child. I’m savoring this moment.
It’s quiet inside me right now. And in a weird way everything makes sense. A space has been created. And I’m just being there. Sitting in it.
There’s Stuff to Do
Don’t get me wrong. There are things to do. I sent a message to Paul Ryan to let him know how hollow his condolences are. Reminding him he’s actually in a position to do something about all this. The Constitution was not written for cowards to hide behind. It was intended to be flexible enough to change with the times. Our forefathers built that functionality right into it. They would be mortified at this lack of common sense. It shouldn’t be a political issue. It’s a human issue.
Then I read a couple articles about Tom Petty which my friends sent me, and remembered how I lived on a steady diet of the song “Southern Accents” while my first band Kik Tracee started to unravel. I was becoming very disillusioned and that song reminded me why I chose music. And how much that meant to me. That song still does it for me. It creates this transcendent sense of spiritual homesickness. Best way I can describe it.
Welcome to the Edge
My art practice has always been the home I limp back to. And it’s served me well. But I know even after all these years, I’m just beginning. As I grow and change, so does my art. Today is a marker for me, but something has already been in motion. I’ve been feeling it the past couple weeks. I’m excited and a little scared to see what’s going to come up. I guess welcome to the edge, right?
Tragedy brings different things out in all of us. I try to use most situations as inspiration to help scrape the gunk I’ve got caked on my walls. What happened yesterday there aren’t words to describe. And I never met Tom Petty. But I will miss him dearly.
I guess we do the best we can. But sometimes I think it’s easy to underestimate what my “best” is. It’s usually just an excuse. “Yeah, I tried. It was the best I could do,” or “I know this isn’t going well. But it’s the best I can do.”
I want to do better than my “best.”
P.S. I have a long history with Las Vegas. Even though the city is only a shadow of what it used to be, that place changed my life. Many stories to be shared another time. As a tribute to the city itself and everyone there, I did a quick performance of “Viva Las Vegas.”
P.P.S. Tom Petty tribute to come. That’s next level. I want to spend some time on that.