RockOm, Part Deux

RockOm a social network for music and spiritualityThis is another shameless plug for RockOm.net, a site that my partners and I are continuing to develop. I’m writing this, because if you like what you read at frimmin.com, I’m certain that you’ll love what you can read (and listen to!) at RockOm.net. RockOm is not a mere blog, but a developing social network, focused on exploring the whole realm where spirituality and music intersect, with all musics and all spiritualities, questings and questionings included.

If that sounds like big territory, it is. Our premier issue included interviews with musical personalities as diverse as Grammy-winning Christian bluegrass artist Ricky Skaggs, to Hindu kirtan performer Krishna Das.
Trevor Harden and Tommy Crenshaw recently finished a coast-to-coast trip to gather more interviews with amazing performers with penetrating insights into the human condition. But, course, we don’t let national borders stop us either. We’ve Skyped across the ocean to interview Joseph Rowe, translator of dozens of books (including The Gospel of Thomas) and an exceptional musician with an emphasis on Sufi music, and we’ll do more to bring together musicians from around the world.

Some of RO’s features current features:

  • RockOm blog: Near-daily new content ranging from music and artists, to questions and musings
  • RockOm podcast: a weekly in-depth interview with some of the most interesting and insightful musicians alive
  • Featured Track of the Week: An exciting new track every week available to listen to from one of our guest artists
  • Featured Articles: Transcriptions and photographs from our interviews,
  • RockOm Forum: The heart of the RockOm community, where we discuss anything and everything.

Following RockOm is easy. Subscribe to our RSS feed to have our blog posts come right into your feed reader. And it’s easy to add the RO podcast feed to your iTunes or any other MP3 player, by following the links on RockOm’s home page. You can also follow RockOm on MySpace, Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter. Very soon we’ll be adding the RockOm store, offering compilation disks of music from our guest artists, and later on, group pages and other features that will further develop the social network aspects of RockOm.

Now another reason I’m writing: We need your help to continue to grow RockOm and realize our vision. Not money, but support. If you like RO, please help us get the word out.

Do you have friends who are interested in music with a message? Tell them about RockOm. Do you have a blog or site of your own? Please consider adding a link to http://rockom.net. Also, we’d love for you to submit a post for the RockOm blog.

Do any of the songs, podcasts or posts strike a chord? Or not? Agree? Disagree? Tell us about it in the RockOm forums.

Finally, we appreciate your prayers, intentions and wishes for our continued growth and success. Thanks, and RockOm!

Announcing RockOm.net

RockOm.net(Time for absolutely shameless plug!) Well, after months of work, it’s here… RockOm.net is now live! I’m proud to be a part of the RockOm team. RockOm is an online music community with a spiritual focus… but inclusive of all musics, and all spiritualities, from rock, Gospel and bluegrass, to Hindu kirtans, and Sufi chants, and all the yearning, questing, and questioning in-between.

The bottom line is that if you have any love of music, or any interest in the spiritual aspects of life, you are who we built RockOm for. So check it out, listen to our podcast, download our featured track, read and comment on the articles, and join in the discussions that are beginning or start a new one… And oh yeah, it’s OK to tell your friends and help us get the word out, too!

BTW… RockOm is in “Beta,” which in English roughly means “you ain’t seen nothin’ yet!” We have big plans for it and really would love for you to be a part of it!

Meditation on “Imagine,” conclusion

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world…You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will live as one

No possessions. This is easier for me. For several years, I considered joining a Catholic religious order. I looked forward to the prospect of making lifelong vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience. (Well, poverty and chastity, at least! Obedience? Say what?) The modern life of monks and nuns in religious orders isn’t completely free of possessions, but it comes close. It’s definitely a refutation of consumerism and greed. The Paulist Fathers more accurately call it a promise of Gospel simplicity rather than “poverty.”
After much “discernment” (the work that both the inquirer and the order do to find God’s will in the matter), it became clear to me that my mission is to live in the world, with all of its challenges, not in a monastery or friary designed to help me cultivate my interior spiritual life.

Well, the fact is I’m not a monk, and I no longer seek to have no possessions. In fact, I’m looking forward to upgrading the RAM in my PC and probably replacing my ailing DVD player. But I try to live relatively simply. I am very conscious of greed in our society, and its effect upon the soul and upon the world. “Freedom from want” is nigh impossible when nearly every marketing dollar goes is spent to increase wanting. And meanwhile, often because the very definition of the consumer society is that it can never have enough, the other kind of wanting—lack, deprivation, hunger ensues.

Idealistic top-down efforts have tried and failed to change this. Communism was a spectacular failure of idealism, which created horrific suffering for the world. What I can do, is work on the bottom-up approach. I can control my wanting. If I destroy the wanting engine within myself, someone else can have more. Imagine if more of us did the same, we would be doing the one of most revolutionary things possible.

Imagine!

Posts in this series: pt. 1, pt. 2, pt. 3, interlude, conclusion.

Imagine (interlude)

I went to a peformance of The Mystical Arts of Tibet by monks from the Drepung Lobsang monastery in India. (A wonderful experience, by the way. If you ever get the chance, go see it.) After the performance, I went to the table in the foyer where monks were selling crafts, malas, and books to support the monastery. Among the titles: Imagine All the People: A Conversation with the Dalai Lama on Money, Politics, and Life As It Could Be.

More of us are Imagining!

Posts in this series: pt. 1, pt. 2, pt. 3, interlude, conclusion.

Meditation on “Imagine” pt. 3

Imagine thereís no countries
It isnít hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace…

“And no religion too” has a been a difficult part of the song for me until recently. One of the key points is understanding what is meant by “religion.”

It’s often pointed out that “religion” comes from the Latin for “to bind again.” In a positive sense, this is _repair_, binding us together again, making us whole, building community, creating moral underpinnings, providing purpose and hope, establishing a base upon which to reach out to others, and at its very best, providing an entrance through which one can experience the numinous.

In a negative sense, though, binding is bondage, creating vast arrays of mental garbage that prevents many _from_ discovering God, themselves, and full human life. It also implies separation.

Imagine (no pun intended) a stick bound in a bundle with other sticks. They become a group, a unit. Yet, in being bound together, they are also bound away from everything else. A single stick loses its fractured “identity” as a simple stick, and becomes a part of something larger than its small broken self, yet smaller that the whole it is inherently part of (all the wood on Earth).

This, in miniature, reflects the deficiency of “identity” given by the rebinding of religion. It’s excellent as far as lifting the individual to the next higher step, yet the very bonds that lifted him up to that point might inhibit him from being able to reach the next step beyond that. If so, he may identify with the religion, and create an identity from it. Our religious identities are as flimsy as our national identities, though they seem not to be at first. After all, I can have an experience of God, but does anyone have an experience of “country?” I don’t think so.

At times in my life, I have imagined (pun intended) that I was a Baptist, a Methodist, a Charismatic, a Lutheran, a Messianic gentile, a member of the Christian Church Disciples of Christ, or a Catholic. Since my first experience of Christ, I’ve imagined I was “a Christian.” Yet Jesus only asked people to follow him, not to “become Christians!”

The truth is I am a human being, and as far as I can tell, even that apparent condition is only in effect until I die. I am spirit, or consciousness, or life. In Judeo-Christian terms, I’m made in “the image of God,” imago Dei. Other religions have other terms. Whatever it’s called (and it’s important to not attach to any particular language), that is the only thing that is unchangeable.

Yet the identification with a religion has nothing to do with the knowledge of God. The former gives the language and interpretation, the mental filling, that comes before and after those sacred moments of knowing. And the labels are purely products of the mind. No doctor has ever identified a Muslim headache or a Catholic T-cell. The Baptist gene remains stubbornly beyond discovery, and the Daoist dermis seems to be a myth! Yet there’s no shortage of people to tell you that you “are” Shi’a or Anglican or Jodo Shin Buddhist, or whatever.

Imagine there’s no religion…

Since the experience I had in January, I can. It’s much simpler than religion. Simpler than any concept of God or nirvana. Simpler than a single word It’s just:

.

Posts in this series: pt. 1, pt. 2, pt. 3, interlude, conclusion.

Meditation on “Imagine” pt. 2

Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace…

This part screams to me. “Imagine there’s no countries / It is isn’t hard to do…” To which my first response is “Duh! How can anyone believe countries exist?” I’ve posted on the subject a couple of times before here and here; not only do I find it “not hard” to “imagine there’s no countries,” but it seems a simple, obvious fact that there are none.

However, looking back, it wasn’t always obvious to me… it was a revelation that came to me over a period of reflection. I think I was in high school, and I was thinking about phrases I would hear in the news… “Russia said,” “China announced,” “Washington replied,” “Israel demanded,” etc.

I realized that statements like these were simply shorthand for quickly describing something far more complex: “Russia” hadn’t said anything… A statement was issued with the authority of the Soviet government declaring something. And that statement probably had probably gone through some quick drafts and discussion among General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev and his advisors, clarifying shades and nuances of what precisely was meant, what should be said, and why. In short, a small group of people, strongly influenced by a single individual, in essence different from no other persons on the globe, had made a statement.

Now this statement had some weight in the world, because the individuals who issued it were presumed to have “power” over a “country.” I realized that “power” itself was another slippery fiction. Again, it was a shorthand for the notion that a person had the means to effect what he or she desired to do, in spite of opposition. In the Soviet Union, the “power” of the individuals making a statement, was considered close to total… that if anyone resisted their effort, say they tried to turn off the microphone or take the statement out of the speaker’s hand, they would be immediately arrested and certainly face dire consequences.

Yet the only way they could be arrested was for other individuals chose to act in accord with his orders, thus granting him “power.” If no oneóno soldiers, no police, no judges, no comrades—would cooperate, he would have no “power.”

Ditto, then, for all the supposed countries making statements. All that was really happening was persons at the head of organizations with usually-respected chains of command were making statements… Countries were not talking. The country was something with no existence other than the fact that a large group of persons agreed to pretend it existed and respect the established chains of command.

Could a mass of people destroy a country by simply no longer agreeing to pretend it existed? That was a question on many minds in 1991. For over a year, persons in Vilnius, Lithuania had declared that “the Soviet Union” did not exist in the area called Lithuania, that Lithuania was “independent.” Yet most people inside and outside the Soviet Union kept agreeing to pretend that it did.

Their willingness to do so collapsed following the kidnapping of President Gorbachev in August that year. Suddenly “the Soviet Union” seemed a flimsy and undesirable fiction to hold on to. Others were proposed and found more appealing: Russian Federation, Ukraine, Commonwealth of Independent States, etc. On Christmas Day, 1991, the flag of the Soviet Union was lowered from the Kremlin forever, no longer a symbol of “rule” but a piece of cloth evoking the past. Influential persons living in the landmass that had been called the Soviet Union had agreed to stop pretending it existed, and it was gone.

That is the extent of reality a country has. That is why you were taught to believe your country (no matter what it is), is real, and that your country (no matter what it is), is “good.”

At this time, Southwest Asia, from Afghanistan in the East, to Iraq in the center, and Lebanon and Israel in the West, is engaged in varying levels of warfare, with Syria and Iran participating behind-the-scenes.

But imagine there’s no countries… only people. No past to avenge. No future to fight for. No cause to enlist into a militia or terrorist group for. Nothing to kill or die for. Only men and women, boys and girls, all alike in having the same human needs, fears, aspirations.

That’s the way I see it now. What will it take for others there to imagine it too?

Posts in this series: pt. 1, pt. 2, pt. 3, interlude, conclusion.

Meditation on “Imagine” pt. 1

Something i’ve wanted to do for a long time is post on John Lennon’s song, Imagine. What kept me from it was not wanting to make a really, really, long post. You’ve might have noticed I do like to keep things short! The solution ó take it in parts.

Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today…

I used to have a love/hate relationship with this song. On one hand, I lauded Lennon’s idealism and desire for peace, but on the other, his antipathy to religion was quite off-putting to me until fairly recently.

Some years ago, I did come to imagine “no hell below us,” though. And that willingness to *imagine* and consider, eventually became a willingness to “re-examine the hell idea” in depth. I’m happy to report it didn’t survive the scrutiny!

Reexamining “good” and “evil” seems to be going around in my local blogosphere, particularly in Trev’s and Julie’s blogs.

A large number of people, however, are not yet able to earnestly question what they’ve been taught about “good” and “evil.” That in itself isn’t a problem. But those unquestioned presuppositions can become the source of great suffering. Large parts of the Christian, Muslim and Jewish world are engaged in open warfare at the time of this post. It’s fair to say that every entity involved in the fighting views itself as “good,” and their enemy as “evil.”

Lennon urges us to look at ordinary life, rather than philosophy or religion, for the direction on how to live. Ironically, this echoes the idea present throughout all the mystics that ethics is as simple as the Golden Rule: Do to others as you would have them do to you. Love your neighbor.

Is this raw atheism? Is there really “only sky” above us? Does “living for today” mean there is no afterlife? Not at all. I believe (yeah, I do have beliefs!) that there is far more to This than what is the visible world. (Really it’s far less, but I won’t get into that here!) But the thing is that we are only responsible for our interactions in this tangible world with each other, under the sky.

“Only sky” means that there is no heaven except at this moment, and no hell except at this moment, no life at all except the single moment we have to live now. The past and the future exist only in the mind. The only experience is the experience of the present moment.

And at every moment, we are constantly involved in creating heavens and hells for ourselves and each other. The eyes of the Father are not looking down upon us, so much as looking out through us… every one of us.

Posts in this series: pt. 1, pt. 2, pt. 3, interlude, conclusion.

More Music Videos

I’ve added links to several more funny videos on my Bad Music Videos page. Now you can see Napoleon Dynamite dancing to “Maya Hee,” the classic “Manamanah” from The Muppet Show, or find out what really happens at an Internet Help Desk, thanks to Three Dead Trolls in a Baggie.