Happiness Is An Inside Job
The pursuit of happiness is often seen as the driving force behind most of our actions throughout history. It is commonly thought that human capacities have increased over time, which has allowed us to alleviate misery and fulfill our aspirations. It therefore follows that we must be happier today than our medieval ancestors, and they must have been happier that Stone Age hunter-gatherers.
The American Declaration of Independence asserts that we all are created equal and that we are endowed by our Creator with the unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Our country is aligned and organized around the principle that if we act according to the sacred principals of the constitution, we will be able to live safely and prosper, thus leading to greater happiness for all.
Bu what is happiness? Philosophers, priests, and poets have brooded over the nature of happiness for millennia. Many have concluded that social. ethical and spiritual factors play as large (if not larger) a role in determining our happiness as material conditions and wealth.
In recent times, psychologist and biologist have taking up the challenge of trying to scientifically determine what makes people happy. They have looked at everything from money, family, genetics, meaningful employment and virtue, and tried to correlate these factors with a subjective sense of well-being.
Happiness from a scientific viewpoint is defined as something one feels inside, a sense of either immediate pleasure or long-term contentment with the way they “feel” life is going. While external factors can affect how we feel, it is really our internal sense of pleasure and pain that defines how happy we are. By giving people questionnaires and tallying the results psychologist and biologist hope to characterize the relative amount of happiness that can me attributed to various objective factors.
Buddhism takes a different approach to happiness. For 2,600 Buddhist practitioners have studied the causes of happiness, which is why there is growing interest among the scientific community in both their philosophy and meditation practices. While Buddhism shares the basic insight of the biological approach to happiness, namely that happiness results from processes occurring in our bodies and not from events in the outside world, it reaches very different conclusions about what engenders true happiness.
The general message is, ff you want to be happy, do not dwell in the past, do not worry about the future, focus on living fully in the present. Doing so obviously takes a lot of practice, but as Jack Kornfield writes, “When we understand that freedom of the heart is a possibility for us, we can awaken to our own happiness wherever we are.”
Or as Thich Nhat Hanh says, “There is no way to happiness - happiness is the way.”
Life Is A Circle – Music Is Life
Life is not a journey, it’s more like music, it moves in circles. When you journey, you are trying to get somewhere. In music, one doesn’t make the end of a song, the point of the song. The whole point of playing music is to play music. Like dancing, the whole point to dancing is to dance, not to get to some point in the room.
We move in circles and come back again to the beginning. We do it again and again and we are somehow transformed by the process. It is the process that matters, not the destination.
In our culture we are very focused on getting to the end of things – getting to the end of high school, then college, then working to meet the quota we need to get a raise, then buying a house (if we’re lucky), then retiring and on and on to the next end and the next, until it’s all over.
It is a part of our conditioning to think of life as journey - a pilgrimage which had a serious purpose at the end and the thing is to get to that end.
But really, is that true? Or is life a musical thing? One in which we are supposed to sing and dance the whole way along while the music is being played. And in the process, truly discovering what it means to be human.
CIRCLE OF LIFE from the album ShadowLight
Dance with the Angels
Dance with the Angels was written about an earlier time in my life when I was going through a separation, and was mired down in depression. I’ve always had faith that no matter how bad life gets, beauty and grace always surrounds us, if we just stay open to the present moment. That’s what it means to dance with the angels. We dance with life, because we never know where the journey will take us. Over three years ago, I met my soulmate and we are now blissfully married. I have never been happier and more in love.
If we can remember that everything is impermanent, even our losses, we can stay in touch with what’s beautiful in life and remain open to the unexpected.
As Mary Oliver writes, “Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon? Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
Judy's Tiny Head - One Step Forward
In the 80’ and 90’s, I lived in Boston and play in a band called Judy’s Tiny Head. We released two EPs, which received quite a lot of air play in the Boston area. We even had a top 20 hit on college radio across the country. We were in the midst of recording our third album when the band broke up.
One of my favorite cuts from those final sessions was a song called One Step Forward, which was never released. I especially love the background vocals sung by Rosemary St George. An amazing talent who has gone on to have a great music career on her own. This song is about having the courage to heal ourselves in order to heal the world – one step at a time….
Filming of the Video Rust in Amsterdam
I can’t tell you how much I loved the Netherlands, especially Amsterdam, where I have been blessed to meet some truly wonderful people. The culture and social life there is so varied and extensive, with great museums, restaurants and a ton of music festivals, that it’s impossible not to find something that inspires you. I find the atmosphere there is really conducive to writing and creating music. As much as I like the U.S., there is something about the less competitive vibe in the Netherlands that is freeing to the soul.
Last year, while I was in Amsterdam I had the good fortune to work with the outstanding video director Anton van der Linden on a few music videos. Anton has produced over 100 short films and videos on a variety of media platforms. His work has been featured in MTV and has worked with such artists as MelC, Limp Bizkit, Xenia Deli, Redman, Onyx, and Sean Price among others. In 2016, he received an award for best music video at the International Film Festival in Rotterdam. The guy is awesome.
It was Anotn’s idea to shoot the video for Rust in an empty factory, outside the city of Groningen, where he grew up. It was an inspired location, made even more magical by constantly wetting the floor with water to give the space a surreal dreamlike appearance. Below are a few photos of Anton and crew on location, doing what they do best.
The video below contains short clips from some of the outstanding videos Anton filmed and directed in 2016. Included is a short clip from Rust, starting at the 0:49 second mark. I am honored to be included in Anotn’s showreel and look forward to working with him again in the near future.