Tag Archives: compassion


This post is a response to a post by CultureMonk.wordpress.com.

Topics include:

Dark nights of the soul, spiritual exhaustion, social obligation, evolution of the spiritual journey, the fine balance between self and other

Culture Monk


By Kenneth Justice

Everything is fine, I really think you’re overreacting” he told me

~ A while back I had coffee with a Christian minister who will remain nameless. I was talking to him about some of my frustrations regarding life here in the United States and he wasn’t very sympathetic to me whatsoever,

I think things are pretty good Kenneth. The United States is the greatest country on earth, it’s a land of opportunity, and anyone who wants to better themselves here is more than able to do so, everything is fine, I really think you’re overreacting in your assessment of the culture” he said

Over this past holiday weekend I disappeared for a few days to read, study, and take a break from my normal day-to-day life. I spent a lot of time thinking about the minister’s words and have been wondering if the…

View original post 960 more words

Perfection in Catastrophe: My Review of Rush’s Clockwork Angels Performance

This is embarrassingly overdue – but worth the wait. 🙂

Almost a month ago, Rush visited Boston to perform “Clockwork Angels.” I’ve posted other people’s reviews of that particular show already on this site, so I am not going to comment on the decadent playlist, the fantastic string section, the funny videos, et al.

I’m going to talk about everything that went wrong during this show — and how it is that these mistakes made the show truly stellar.

How can this be, right? Things (in the post-modern sense) cannot be perfect at all, certainly not when they are full of errors, because Things cannot – Be.

Yet: human beings, and art itself, are not Things.

(I know – I’m opening up the can of pastiche and Lacan and Foucault and simulacra anti-Modernist hyper-academia, uh, shit. I’ll take that fight if you want to bring it. ;p)

Things, as Signs, have no meaning other than that which we assign if you fall in with today’s popular theories. I don’t.

This idea of being able to separate the essence of some-thing from the word we use to describe it, even from it Itself, is cute in class, but ask anyone participating in a performance, especially a musical performance of any kind or scale,  and each person will acknowledge the presence of something “more,” something perhaps even “universal” and “larger than us” that happens in the tempo of the act Itself.

Rush concerts are known for being spectacular displays of virtuosity and good humor. The Trio are famous in part for technical prowess and consistently solid, smooth, disaster-free performances.

I lost count of how many things went profoundly Wrong during this show. Gear broke. Screens broke. Geddy’s mic cut in and out. The drum kit needed attention repeatedly. Something happened to Alex during one of the songs that actually stopped Geddy from running in one direction towards stage left and caused him instead to sprint towards Alex, visibly concerned about whether or not Alex had been hurt. My husband and I wondered if the stage was safe, if they perhaps they should stop the show for a moment. It certainly appeared that Geddy was considering it.

Now, if one was not watching the show, but only *listening,* one would have never known that anything was awry. This is staggering when one considers how difficult Rush’s music is to play. The idea of being able to play it perfectly with broken gear and rattled nerves baffles. Yet, musicianship isn’t much to write about with these three anymore.  It is de rigueur to experience perfection.

However, because I was watching and not (just) listening, I saw some-Thing truly glorious: three intimate friends reassuring one another, backing each other up, figuring out how to compensate for broken _______, and still pull off one of the best musical performances of any kind.

It is rare that we get to watch someone do something great or good.

I do not refer to the fact that, unless you’re a caravanning roadie, we don’t get to watch Rush play more than once every couple of years. On October 24th, we at the Garden (how appropriate) were permitted to watch three men – just men like any other, potentially any member of this universal human Thing we each are – take care of one another.  We were permitted to watch them live up to the standards they have set, not merely of musicianship, but of character and kindness. In a profession in which rock stars are allowed – indeed, expected – to behave like tyrannical brats, they demonstrated consideration for each other, and obvious concern that their fans might be unhappy by a less than flawless show. We watched technical problem after technical disaster happen – in tempo – and we watched them respond with grace, ingenuity, and even jokes. (Thanks, Alex.)

The Show became a performance of character and compassion rather than a live production of a fantastic album. The Show became a breathing example of what any man can be, how friendship and kindness can be demonstrated, and how it is that one can react with aplomb in adversity. In the explosion of real time problems with a performance of art, these three hours transcended a mere musical show and became a symbol of the ever present tension between our idea of what can be and the grit of was is. It was breath-taking.

It was an honor.

Herein, this concert became more than the traditional signifer. This evening’s signified was a pulsing, searing, sweaty example of grace under pressure. During these three hours, a bit of the individuals who comprise the band was on display – not the carefully crafted professional personas of RUSH, but three regular guys making it through a rough night in what happened to be a shockingly public venue. It was private, and privileged, and truly special.


PS Thanks so much, guys, for playing “The Pass.” I never thought I’d hear it live, and – well, it’s special to me. Just ask the guy sitting next to me who was knocked over by my reaction. *sigh* It’s a good thing Rush fans tend to be friendly…

New World Woman

I’ve described my uncertainty about the purpose of this blog in earlier posts. Some readers and friends encourage me to write more about writing, or at least reading, maybe even post some of my own work. Some find my commentary on music, artists, gear, practicing, and other audiophile related subjects entertaining. Others tell me that the handful of more personal posts, bits  about my history, philosophy, faith and experience to be the most compelling, most interesting, most purposeful.

It is this compulsion I now address.

I do not want fame or notoriety resulting from being a Person Who Does Good Works. I do my bit anonymously most of the time because I do what I can, because it is right to do right. If I am truly helpful, then I will not be seen. Rather, the results, the support or the improvement will be enjoyed. Not me.

Backstage is my position. At my best, those onstage *shine* luminous and beautiful and I am unrecognizable. I do not wish my name or face to be mistaken as being more important or even as important as the ethics I represent.

Invisibility can be a design flaw, however.

I have seen things — lived through things — that destroy most people, especially when combined. Yet the people I have helped were helped because I allowed my history to become visible. I shed anonymity and shared myself.

Friends and family in my real flesh and blood life, not my online persona, have asked me to tell these stories more publicly, to step into the spotlight and demonstrate by personal example that one can change one’s stars. Predestination is a myth.

I step into this spot, then, to illustrate that isolation is fiction.

I survived child abuse, and do not abuse my child.

I survived rape and prosecuting someone I had thought was my friend, and am not a disassociated object.

I survived domestic abuse, and yet learned to love and be loved all the more deeply for it.

Statistically, I have been told that I should not have lasted this long. My mind, if not my body, should have shattered. It almost did – almost, but didn’t. The victim I was born to be did die – but the woman I am was born directly from that anguish. I would not give up those experiences. They made me, in part, who I am.

I did lose everything I was, everyone I knew, every place I had thought of as home. Yet, at this destination of loss, I did not see the abyss. I found possibility.

At that point, I chose to be kind. I chose to be free. To be passionate, honest, fearless and loyal. To live.

I’ve kept this blog light because it’s easier that way, easier to rant or joke or tease. The best parts of life are never easy, though.

A very public figure shared stories of his own journey through Hell. His generosity with his experiences became my example: if he could do it, it could be done. If surviving can be done, then I can do it, too.  If I can provide a similar kindness for someone else, I would be honored to be visible.

There will still be silliness and absurdity and digression on this blog. But, it is time for me to begin to describe why and how it is that I am here.




Feral Power

Inside this house, I lounge in pajamas, nursing sore muscles and a tired mind. I work with distractions, changing CDs, rifling  through novels, considering movies I could stream from Netflix or pull out of my library – the kinds that I want to watch, but don’t want my 7 year old to see yet, movies like “American History X” or “Apocalypse Now.”  I consider also resuming my rereading of the Bible. Solitude is good for theological contemplation, then again, one also needs to be in a state of mind for such endeavors to be anything other than checking off so many chapters read per day. You need to pay attention if you want to save your soul.

Inside this mind, I pace, I lope, I sneer and snarl at the lists of things I Ought to Do, a list I wrote and tasks I assigned to myself because seeing them recline undone annoys me. (I am always balancing my annoyance with my clutter and my dust against my general irritation with doing anything that will simply need to be done again in a few days and maintained. I don’t particularly care for Sisyphean tasks; they remind me of all the things we have to do each day just to keep things running, like paying recurring bills or brushing one’s teeth. You’re just going to have to do it all over again in a few hours or days, Sweetheart.) I fidget and sigh and daydream and check the clock. I watch the countdowns in my mind: so many hours until Opening Day baseball, so many hours until Passover, until Easter, until a Zumba class a neighbor has invited me to attend, until my family comes home, until I might feel inspired to do all of those Annoying Tasks – I do know that I will enjoy the results immensely. I run this circle in repetition, in rhythm, until I am stilled by the lists of possible choices to make. To turn left, or right, to climb up or squat down, this room or the next, check email, check blog, check weather, check email.

I am like a wolf in a cage, a cage built of too many choices, none of them urgent, all of them important, and my indecisiveness is the metal holding me in. I pace and I snap. I wish I could sleep.

Dakota, a grey wolf at the UK Wolf Conservatio...

Dakota, a grey wolf at the UK Wolf Conservation Trust, howling on top of a snowy hill. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


I do realize that if I take action of any kind, make a decision to do any of these things that I (have at least convinced myself that I) want to do, my cage will open, and my paths to run or lope or rest will again be fresh and free. I have created my own cage, but have I done this because I am staggered by my freedom and don’t know how to enjoy it, or because there is a perverse safety in enforced limitations. (If I’m locked in a cage, then I can’t possibly do any of these things. It isn’t my fault. If I am free to roam, then am I a sloth, lazy, decadent, or are all of the things on, for example, my Spring Cleaning list not as important to me as I thought?)

When others constrict our movement, we feel resistance and a desire to escape and employ free agency again. When we constrict ourselves, we are meeting personally, face-to-face our own private jailers, and our own fear of – the immense responsibility of freedom, the raw power of free will, and the potential to lose our humanity to this power. Creatures tend to want to acquire as much power as possible in which ever form is the most available or the most expedient to them. None of us are above this urge, it brusts from a concept we have that more power means more safey.

I believe, however, that more “Power” means greater risk to one’s soul: you might barter it away without knowing, you might think that your power is secure in money or prestige or influence or a Best Selling Novel or IPO. These things are not power in themselves. They can assist power, but if the soil they provide is left untended, it will nourish choking weeds and creepers, nothing lovely or sustaining will grow. Power is sourced in kindness, in acts of compassion and mercy, and in the discreet protection of other people’s secrets, in being trustworthy and honest. Power is love in action, with no plans for personal benefit, but with attention to the welfare of others. In using our talents in context with others, each of us is powerful.

Our culture certainly celebrates celebrity power and influence – but I think that all that activity and noise is a form of star-fucking and self-aggrandizement, meant to fill in holes and gather “respect.” Reality TV offers an abundance of examples. So does politics. Sadly, even our religious communities often fall prey to the power of bullying and condemnation, of hate-mongering and ignorance. Atrocities are committed every day in the name of someone’s God.

Note: don’t bring God into your own agenda. All this evil is on each one of us and our very own decisions, not God. Not the Devil either. We made these choices, we are responsible for the consequences. I’m pretty sure that God – and here it doesn’t even matter what God a person might be praying to – will not appreciate such libel and heresy. Be very careful if you start pinning your tasks onto someone else.

True power exists in spaces that are anonymous and gentle. The power is in the generosity, and it is a power that passes from one of us into the next. It grows as we share it, and it is through small acts towards neighbors, family, coworkers, community members, and so on, that we create a momentum of respect and love. These things are taught by example, and because we learn them in relationships with other people whose names we learn and situations we hear of, gently our fears of those with different cultures, religions, health statuses, economic standing, employment status – the list goes on – our fears wane.

It is hard to hate those we meet. Once we drop our impulse to define ourselves as different from everyone else, we comfort each other in our similarities, and our differences become treasure we can share, and the beginnings of peace we can sustain.

This, this kindness, this true power, this real love, cannot be organized by law, but can be introduced by name and face. This power is what is outside the cage.

If you leave your own self-made cage, you have the opportunity to make these choices. You have the power to offer yourself to help by sharing the things you already do and already have with others. You have it, I have it, even the recovering addict in the shelter has this potential.

Outside of the cage. So, truly, there is no excuse for my staying in my cage. I need to live with my heart, and with my eyes, and with sensitivity – for, as the saying goes, “we are all fighting a hard battle.”

This is power: the power of love, from which comes mercy, compassion, empathy, charity, forgiveness, kindness, and respect. (And, in your journeys, should you meet a “Christian” who teaches superiority of any kind, judgmentalness in any disguise, hate in any language towards anyone, or who claims to know God better than you do, or that s/he is more holy than you are, that s/he has the right to condemn you — well, run, don’t walk, run in the other direction. They aren’t teaching the Bible, they are teaching their fear and hiding behind a religious machinery to do so. It’s extreme cowardice, and it’s heresy. An aversion to these people is very prudent. 🙂 )

  • John 15:12 (KJV)This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.
  • John 13:34 (KJV)A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.
  • Ephesians 4:2 (KJV)With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love;
  • John 13:35 (KJV)By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.
  • John 15:17 (KJV)These things I command you, that ye love one another.
  • 1 John 3:11 (KJV)For this is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.
  • 1 John 4:11 (KJV)Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.
  • 1 Peter 3:8 (KJV)Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous:
  • Matthew 22:39 (KJV)And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
  • Colossians 3:19 (KJV)Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them.
  • Hebrews 10:24 (KJV)And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works:
  • 1 John 4:7 (KJV)Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.
  • Romans 13:8 (KJV)Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law.
  • 1 Thessalonians 3:12 (KJV)And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men, even as we do toward you:
  • 1 John 4:12 (KJV)
  • No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.
  • Galatians 6:2 (KJV)Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.
  • Luke 6:27 (KJV)But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you,
  • Colossians 3:13 (KJV)Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.
  • Ephesians 4:32 (KJV)And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you. 

%d bloggers like this: