Friday, June 08, 2007

Fortune Cookie

The usual post-Chinese-American-dinner (or it may have been lunch) mantic aphorism recently said "You have many opportunities." For what? I wonder. Well, for one thing, the fortune cookie gods may have been referring to the various glimmers of imagined possible activity in the Phoenix metro area. The Phoenix Creative Music Movement, Phoenix New Times, New School for the Arts and Academics, Desert Botanical Garden and even KJZZ...a strange beast, that last. The NPR station for 3.5 million people with a "jazz" format. Check out the playlists, but put on your gray suit and red tie first. Maybe, however, a slot or two a week for a show that stretches things might increase their demographics. As in attract a few listeners under the age of 60 who are interested in music made after 1960. Maybe not.

"It never hurts to ask" keeps running through my head, and yet I feel a certain amount of anxiety about the process. I vaguely remember times in my life when I've actually enjoyed the strange circus of resume writing, inquiries, interviews. The whole job search thing. This time is not, for whatever reason, one of them. Partly it's undoubtedly because I have led a somewhat sheltered life in Santa Fe, securing all of my employment through word of mouth and organically arising opportunities springing from longstanding friendships. It's been a while since I put myself on a job market through more traditional means. It's also a bit daunting to have to craft several different resumes. The same resume really doesn't apply for possible freelance writing, radio work, horticulture and high school teaching. I don't know; maybe that would be amusing. Ineffective, but delightfully eccentric. Right. ("Delightfully eccentric" in central Arizona looks to not be a highly cherished value....)

The other thing on my mind is balance. I have tended in the past to jump feet first into 50 hour a week jobs and not allow breathing room for sparse but important musical opportunities, radio shows and so on. Despite the fact that nothing is actually happening I envision myself in Dockers and a white oxford, "grading" papers, dreading Mondays, attending meetings and looking forward to vacation time (as soon as vacation time is over).

As my sponsor likes to say, I lack the imaginal capacity to get a clear picture of what might happen in a new setting. Lacking the imaginal capacity for anything clear, confronting a gaping hole and having no idea what will go into it, I'm left with old stories and old habits, old patterns and old assumptions. Despite this, unexpected things do happen. No matter what, the life we end up creating looks nothing at all like what we thought it would.

It occurred to me the other day that I have successfully (within reason) improvised the life I currently lead in Santa Fe. I returned with no employment, picked up work at a greenhouse when money ran out, gathered a few private drum students, picked up some paid gigs (a real rarity here), began working for the Reporter, picked up the Santa Fe Opera job. All of which I had not imagined before I returned here. None of which ended up being what I thought it would be. These sorts of events can only unfold if there's room left for them to unfold. If I had somehow come back to a full time job teaching English, for example, well, that would have been most of what would have been going on.

But then there's the tug toward security and stability. Paying off back taxes. The Holy Grail of health insurance, vision, dental. The distant possibility of saving money. The looming strangely fixed age of 65, a mere 20 years away. How nice it would be, I imagine, to knuckle under and get practical and trade a couple of decades for a few guarantees. This whole arena is a swirling morass of sirens and seduction. "Peter....Peter....get a real job....what are you doing?'ll be destitute, you'll be homeless in your old age, you'll never make any money as a musician anyway......why not just be realistic............" The whole culture whispers these siren songs.

When I first returned to Santa Fe from Los Angeles, people would ask me, "So, what are you doing these days?" I had a ready answer: "Nothing." Some people found this intriguing, or even laudable. Most were uneasy. Many perhaps thought (maybe rightly) that things were altogether too aimless for someone in early sobriety. But what about simply refusing to define ourselves by what we do? Extending even to the activities that our culture encourages us to feel "special" about, like making music? I am not that. I simply am. That's just....stuff. Like plot and characters in a novel that's really *about* something else.

The un got a more whimsical if somewhat odd fortune last night at the Thai Cafe: "There's beauty in your heart, let it out, let it beat, give yourself a treat."

1 comment:

marc choyt said...

I wanted to respond to what you said, as one of the people who supported your aimlessness when you first arrived as a truly an authentic path. The work at that time was inner, and look at how the seed of that has magnificently blossomed into a “hand made” life. I mean, we all have these ideas of how things should go, but if we are really learning into the mystery of our existence, it might not look so “clean” on the outside.

“Handmade” lives are good. They follow no conceived pattern. For a man, they test one’s understanding of his internal dialectics, both the puer and the senex.

I consider where I find myself now. I am 11 years into Reflective Images. For eight of those I had the thought, what the hell am I in business for? I was a volunteer in Haiti for two years doing peace work with orphans. I lived in a monastery for a year and a half. I taught for six years. Then I went into business.

I chastised myself for a while for being in business, and none of my family could even relate to it. My father had been in business and I wanted nothing to do with business.

But then over the last few years strands of my life that I did not know could work together actually started making sense. Now, I find myself as one of the ”leaders” in the 64 billion dollar jewelry industry in this country around issues of green, socially responsibility and fair trade. I get contacted by editors from major trade magazines and have started a blog, which was recently written favorably about by a trade publication of the Israeli diamond industry. Who would have ever thought? Not me.

I also am developing a model for sustainable business based on my studies with Native wisdom keepers over the past nearly twenty year on So my journey into business, all the struggles and meaningless trade shows, has really been a grounding into its basics so that I could have a valid platform to speak about what changes might be possible.

There are Sufi stories – Fatima, the Weaver of the Tent, about how even multiple shipwrecks, slavery, loss, all lead to something we could have never expected. I think this is the risk of authenticity and service. But there is also the possibility, if we are awake to it, that all of what we have can come together for some greater good.

There is need everywhere you look, in every occasion, for your voice. Paul Hawkins wrote about us in a greater context recently, as the “immune system” of Mother Earth which is responding all around us. We are fighting the corporate monster and trying to restore the positive upward spiral between community, ecology and economy. We are all part of this group for positive change.

For me, in this time when anyone who is awake can feel hopeless, dedication to positive change can be the most sustaining medicine.