Contemplative moment at home with Burnsie

Few delights are as giddy as a really good book. The kind of book that reads you, instead of you reading it. The kind of book you can’t help underlining again and again and scribbling “Wow!!” in the margins. The kind of book you want to read aloud to your best friend, not because they need it, but because it’s truth too good to keep to yourself.

Sometimes on Thursday nights, before karaoke, my Girlfriend and I go for Fish & Chips at Two Fools Tavern in Albuquerque. Four shops east of the Tavern on Central Avenue in the old “Nob Hill District” is “Urban Outfitters”, a funky clothing and accessories shop, full of zany, sometimes outrageous, stuff.

Badass BookThat’s where I found my new book by Jen Sincero, You Are A Badass: How To Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living An Awesome Life. If you can imagine a cross between George Carlin and Eckert Tolle, you have a clue to this book’s style and content.

Jen Sincero is a life ‘coach’, author and public speaker, whose acerbic style speaks to me. Much of today’s ‘power of positive thinking’ literature is either smarmy with platitudes or foggy with New Age navel-gazing. Sincero is George Carlin at yoga camp.

But make no mistake. Sincero is more than stand up comedy in print. She has an important message about getting off our asses, getting over our excuses, and getting ON with actualizing our dreams.

Here are some teasers worth remembering from You Are A Badass . . .

“If you want to live a life you’ve never lived, you have to do things you’ve never done.”

“Most people are living in an illusion based on someone else’s beliefs.”

“Wanting to be someone else is a waste of the person you are.”

“Watching someone else totally go for it can be incredibly upsetting to the person who’s spent a lifetime building a solid case for why they themselves can’t.”

“When taking great leaps forward, life often turns to shit before it turns to Shinola.”

“It’s as easy to believe we’re awesome as it is to believe we’re giant sucking things.”

“Comparison is the fastest way to take all the fun out of life.”

“We throw a wet blanket of ho-hummery over our lives when we live in fear of what others might think, instead of in celebration of who we are.”

“What other people think about you has nothing to do with you and everything to do with them.”

“Our fantasies are our realities in an excuse-free world.”

“We only get to be in our bodies for a limited time, why not celebrate the journey instead of merely riding it out until it’s over?”

“There’s nothing as unstoppable as a freight train full of fuck-yeah!”

Here is Life’s lemons turned into lemonade with enough acid to wake up minds stuck in “Yeah, but MY life sucks!” Here is a self-help book good for more than a fire-starter. If you like it plain-spoken and not airy-fairy, if you like it funny in spite of yourself, then grab a copy of Jen Sincero’s book and stop yawning through your days and start living your dream.

Joseph Harvill, Scottiephile

Quiet moment at home with Burnsie

Karaoke is teaching me important truth about life.

Singing was at the top of my list of things I wanted to love again after I was widowed five years ago. I grew up singing a cappella harmony, sang in quartets and musicals in high school and went to college on a music scholarship. It’s fair to say, singing was a centerpiece of my world the first forty years of my life. But when I left the church I left singing behind.

Blogger at karaokeFor a quarter century I was without song. I stuffed singing into a too small box labeled “religion” and threw it away. I sublimated love of Luciano Pavarotti’s exquisite tenor voice for the singing I once knew. But in January, 2011, one year after Charlotte’s death to cancer, after I determined to get on with living, not with dying, singing topped my bucket list of habits of the heart I wanted in my new life. I found a local retired classical singer who teaches lessons and on Thursday afternoons for a year I rediscovered my voice. “This is just for me,” I told my voice teacher, “not for anyone else. I want to do this for me.”

Blogger singing at Santa Fe piano bar for his 70th birthdayKaraoke is teaching me Life’s good stuff is outside the box I once closed myself into. Singing is older than religion, as old as emotion in the human heart and the best singing, I find, is singing that taps into the well of one’s authentic feelings. I’m learning through the unlikely medium of karaoke that the door to the Temple of Song is in the heart.

Karaoke is teaching me the important difference between “life imitating art” and “art imitating life.” At their best, songs are rough notations of the music we are. Least interesting to me are those karaoke singers who attempt to be clone of a recording artist — life imitating art! By contrast, it’s when a song’s lyrics and character are assimilated into the singer’s soul, truly heard for their intensity and depth and then bodied forth in authentic feeling, that a song and a singer come alive with the non-transferable music of the individual. I sing it like I own it only when I DO own it by virtue of the personal work of translating a song into the music that I am.

Just as singers go wrong trying to imitate someone else’s voice, much contemporary song writing betrays lack of originality. I’m discovering what songs actually say in song lyrics for the first time through the vehicle of large overhead screens at karaoke. My complaint against a great deal of contemporary music is it derives from formula rather than from Life, largely consisting of a ‘hook’ line or phrase endlessly repeated. To me, such ’stuck’ music is testimony to crisis of imagination. Life is more than formula, more than a ‘hook’, more than monotony of going over and over the same thing, and, just so, the best songs — like the Good Life itself — actually have something to say, something memorable and full of artful life-substance beyond rhythm and repetition.

Blogger at karaokeKaraoke is teaching me all the world is a stage and we are, indeed, all players in the drama. Why else the popularity of shows such as ‘American Idol’, ‘America’s Got Talent’, and ‘The Voice’. It’s not enough to sing in our car and croon in the shower. We want to sing and be heard. The micro-world of karaoke is teaching me close and small that the best singing, just like enchanted living, is a synergy. Singers and audience need each other and each is larger than itself by reflexive give-and-take union. There are those at karaoke venues, of course, present only for themselves, who come only for their own songs, who are a microcosm of the self-absorption around us. But there are blessed exceptions. And it’s those ‘exceptions’– those at karaoke and in life — who care enough to listen for the song we are who nurture us and raise us up to be more than we can be.

That’s karaoke in my life. That’s the ‘new’ singing now a regular part of my life outside the box. Leonard Cohen, writer of the song ‘Hallelujah’, says he loves best hearing old singers laying it down. I think I know what he means. Not life imitating art, but artful hearing on the stage of Life the on-going chorus, recognizing the ‘parts’ and discerning the score, knowing one’s part, and then joining voice in soulful harmony.

There’s more to karaoke than beer-braced voices. At its best karaoke is doorway to truth worth knowing. Karaoke is invitation to discover in rough notation the Music YOU ARE.

Joseph Harvill, Scottiephile