The power of music and art, SLO style
December 15, 2015
OPINION by COLIN JONES
Human beings certainly have the power to change and transform themselves but most of us don’t, even as another new year nears. Like a certain sailor once said, “I am what I am.”
But getting older, I realize that my alliances and allegiances are inevitably evolving. I’ve always been a sports guy since I was little, hell I’m pretty sure my friends and I invented fantasy baseball as nerdy teenagers 40 years ago. Looking back, the one thing I regret most is not sticking with piano when I was 11. Like most boys, I just wanted to play outside with my friends. I really wish my folks had forced me to stick with music. Sometimes, parenting should be a dictatorship.
I also loved politics (I think they called it civics back then), voraciously reading up on gun control, the energy crisis, whatever. Sure the girls were cute at cotillion, but I was also a shy, clueless, bookish SoCal kid.
Lately however, it seems that sports and politics in America have regressed into particularly selfish, nasty businesses. It’s even permeated in SLO town.
When did our friendly, happy community become such a vitriolic, intolerant town politically? When did compromise and compassion become dirty words? Diversity of ideas is the backbone of freedom and democracy so everyone’s voice matters. Plus, the world would be a pretty boring place if we all thought the same way.
This political and sporting de-evolution is probably why I enjoy and appreciate music so much now. I was recently checking out the Unity Church on a rainy Sunday night, hearing the wonderful, four-piece singer/songwriter band Shadowlands perform the most dreamy, heartfelt songs.
Normally, I would be firmly planted on the couch in front of my big screen watching the latest version of football night in America. But a funny thing happened on my way to sports ‘comadom.’ I’m meditating at Sangha and discussing a talk about meaningful speech on another Sunday and listening to a traditional holiday church choir the next. I’m a regular at Art After Dark and not just because of the free wine and snacks. My girlfriend is dragging me to bi-weekly energy balancing sessions, which I’ve wholeheartedly embraced.
So am I progressing or softening? Watching me on the tennis court you would definitely not think the latter but my values and interests are undergoing a subtle yet certain transformation. Don’t think I will ever be a new-age kinda guy but I like to believe I’m humanizing myself.
For me, the obvious way to do this is rewiring your psyche with music, art and nature, not from sports, politics or capitalism. American males especially are conditioned early on that it’s a zero-sum world where there are only winners and losers, kill or be killed. No wonder our society is so violent and messed up.
The cruel irony of modern life in America is those people most in need of meditation and culture are the ones least likely to ever seek them out. It’s that big dude in cargo shorts and an ‘Old Guys Rule’ T-shirt at McDonald’s who desperately needs a spinach salad, some orange wedges and a drum circle. Maybe the hippies had it right after all.
So turn off the TV, silence the smartphone and go listen to a homegrown band, look at some local art, maybe even talk to that cute stranger in line with you at the bank.
As for me, I’m usually schlepping off to the fair or Chumash to check out some famous classic rock band. Don’t get me wrong, I love my dinosaur rockers but ‘Aqualung’ and ‘Freebird’ have clearly had their 45 years of fame. So lately, I find myself drawn to smaller venues like Bang the Drum to hear cool, local musicians like Tim Jackson, Kristen Black and Damon Castillo. I’m convinced our county has the most talented artists per capita of any place in the world.
But SLO Brew or not, you gotta get off the recliner on a school night and see for yourself.
Music not weapons, art not dogma, love not hate. Those seem like pretty good ideas to me.