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blog: the road from beauty to becoming

Aug 29, 2018

HOPE?

In these mid-fifties years, I’ve sometimes wondered if lowering your expectations is the key to life? Seriously. It certainly doesn’t feel to me that life is getting easier. My energy levels aren’t on an upward arc. I wish I could say so, but I don’t think I’ve upped my game lately. Neither are my chances favorable for getting through a week without finding myself lying awake at 3 a.m., worried about the complicated adult issues facing our three children in and just out of college. I can’t fix things for them anymore. Then there’s the tuition payments. Who, these days, is optimistic about the direction of the world, especially if you pay much attention to newspaper headlines? With the passing of each year I have more questions and less answers. Considering all this, it’s not a hard case to make, that of lowering expectations.

And yet, as I keep learning how to adjust to reality, I still find a hard, resilient little kernel of something deep inside of me that gets me out of bed every morning. It doesn’t want to quit. I have sometimes referred to it in the past with the letters h-o-p-e. I recognize that this word has a fairy-tale feel to us realists. Wherever it’s actually located (I still think of my chest rather than my head), I don’t think I possess any special virtue. Is it simply a side effect of the naive optimism I soaked up as the son of 1960’s white, middle-class, midwestern America? I think there’s more to it than that.

My hypothesis is that this never give up piece of us is a human inheritance. In saying so, I’m not meaning to marginalize the experience of dear friends who, in the midst of the dark tunnel of depression, lost touch with this resilience. As I contemplate my daily experience, what I actually taste is anxiety and hope, side by side. They flicker on and off from one moment to the next, depending on whatever thought I happen to be grasping at.

That thought brings to mind a talk I gave a few months ago as I was explaining to some of my music students the meaning of the Blues. I’m a Jazz musician and educator. We were focusing on the question of harmony, and specifically, the dominant 7th chord. For those who’ve yet to study music theory, a chord is a collection of notes sounded together simultaneously. The dominant 7th chord is made from a major triad—a happy-sounding group of three notes, C-E-G—plus a B-flat on top. The B-flat changes the character of the entire chord, from a consonant one (a resolved feeling) to a dissonant one (a not resolved feeling). It’s the relationship between E and B-flat that creates the tension. That interval is called a “tritone.” It wants to move inwardly by a half-step from both notes, creating a more pleasant, peaceful-sounding major third, as the E slides up to F, and the B-flat slides down to A. After the resolution everyone lets out a sigh of relief.

The Blues was the first music in the history of Western culture (think Rome, not Dallas) that left dominant 7th chords unresolved. In fact, the classic Blues musical form is made up entirely of dominant 7th chords. African American musicians and listeners found realism in it. It was a way of saying to everybody their truth: we live in an unresolved world. Rather than sugarcoat reality in their music, all the great Blues and Jazz musicians, from Robert Johnson, to Bessie Smith, to Louis Armstrong, to Duke Ellington, to Charlie Parker, told life like it was. My days, too, feel more like a dominant 7th chord than they do a major triad. How about yours?

And yet, through their songs, these human beings told another truth. To live amidst dissonance, to bear its unresolved tension, and to keep singing – maybe that is what it means to live in hope. It’s not really a question of lowering of expectations. It’s a deepening of them.

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Aug 17, 2018

A Shared Preciousness: The Duke Ellington Sacred Concert in Beijing

August 17, 2018

By Dr. J Kyle Gregory

For a while I’ve been feeling that there’s a story I need to share about a concert I participated in several months ago in Beijing, before the details fade from my memory. It was a very special experience. Together with a 24 member choir and a 20 member Jazz big band from the Beijing Contemporary Music Academy, we performed, for the first time ever in China, The “Sacred Concert” of Duke Ellington. Ellington wrote this work late in life. It combines his trademark Ellington sound with spiritual texts that embody his own personal take on God. 

The kids of the band and choir pose for a poster photo following one of our many Wednesday evening rehearsals

The large studio space where we performed was already filled to capacity a couple hours before we started. Our school spared no expense in setting things up for a live video feed where thousands of people were to watch online. In this same studio space, I performed last year with a famous Asian hip-hop artist named MJ Hot Dog and one million people watched online! I’m pretty sure we didn’t have that number of followers for our Jazz concert, but the place was covered with multiple cameras, on tracks, and on booms, for the live streaming.

I had spent the whole semester teaching this work to my eager students, 18-25 years olds from cities throughout China. It was a big job, as we had a number of people in the group who were essentially beginners to Jazz style. I put in many hours with the band musicians pounding away on a cowbell, drilling the rhythms into everybody—good ol’ repetition, which folks here are used to. For the singers to memorize the English text by rote also took a lot of repetition. In rehearsal I explained the meanings of the texts so everyone had a sense of the meaning of the work. We broke down the words into phonetic pieces and pronounced them back and forth. The hardest word of all was one of the shortest ones: “the.” We weren’t sure until near the end of our rehearsals if we could get everything memorized in time, but they pulled it off. English speakers in the audience told me after the concert that they could understand every word. 

Repetitive training is the behind-the-scenes side of playing Jazz that people don’t see. We create the illusion of making the music look and sound easy.  The spontaneous part of Jazz, the key to its essence—improvisation—is no illusion, but it also has to be prepared with practice so that the improviser can weave their melody within the given harmonic structure. As is traditional for Jazz big band music, all the composed sections were interspersed with improvised solos that left ample space for musical surprises.

For the concert, the boys and girls of the choir were dressed in satin robes that looked like they could have been worn at First Baptist Church in Dallas. The guys in the band had on tuxedos that the school bought them for this performance. They all looked sharp. I had on my own suit and my special music-reading glasses, designed just for the right music-reading distance. I had a few butterflies, but was not really anxious. I was cautiously optimistic that things were going to go well. We’d prepared thoroughly, but you never know for sure what might happen in performance, where only one mental error from one person at the wrong time can significantly detract from the general effect of the show. A lot of our students have very little performance experience, so I wasn’t inclined to take things for granted. The focused energy was building. I reminded them that the key is to learn to let that nervousness prompt you to intensify your focus.

Before we went on stage we gathered in a back room for a little pep talk. More than usual I felt like a sports coach readying his team for a big game. Given how much time we had put into preparing this work, it was a big game for me. I grew up watching Bobby Knight coach the Indiana Hoosiers basketball team and the stone-faced strategizing (and profanity) that he brought to throwing an orange ball into a hoop. Minus the profanity, I preached the challenge and the blessing of the moment, reminding everyone, “The hard part is behind is. Now it’s time to execute. Just think one note a time, and have some fun!” I’m quite sure Bobby never used that last phrase. We united our hands in the center, and on three yelled out, “Duke!” I remember chuckling to myself over the spectacle of our pre-game ritual.  

We’re all in this together!

Once we were all in position, I took a few steps towards the audience, accompanied by my colleague and friend, JJ, who had carefully translated into Mandarin the following introduction I had prepared, alternately reading it aloud in English and Chinese:

Duke Ellington was jazz music's greatest composer. He led his own orchestra in performances of his beautiful music from 1923 for over 50 years. When he, late in life, decided to create a concert of sacred music, he had just suffered the tremendous loss of his dear friend and lifetime collaborator, Billy Strayhorn. So perhaps for this reason, eternity was more on his mind. He composed some new melodies and reshaped some old ones that remained full of life in putting together a musical suite that was performed throughout churches in the United States in the late 1960's. To play Jazz in church was controversial in the minds of some people, but for those who heard the music then, it felt like the perfect place to play a music that is simply about real life. 

Duke wrote new words that expressed his vision of the spiritual life: a life that is not only about some future heaven, but also right here and right now. He sensed an invisible reality that we can experience today, longing for some inner peace in the middle of all the things in life that cause us to worry: struggling to find a good job, worrying about the health of someone we love, wrestling to give our kids better opportunities than we ever had. Life is difficult.

Duke Ellington believed that there is a spiritual presence, that he called "God," that is indeed on the scene, watching and caring for us. Obviously that presence permits lots of very difficult things to happen to people, but this music testifies that we are not alone, and so we must not give up hope. There is an energy secretly at work in the universe helping us to, in the word's of Ellington, ‘become who we already are.’ 

As I read I could see a lot of of curious faces of young people leaning forward on their seats. And a number of older folks, including the bosses of the school, sitting with arms folded and stern expressions (as the music unfolded throughout the evening, their countenances softened). Now it was time to play. I counted off the band, “1..2..1, 2, 3, 4!” 

Our brass section, including one ringer, Terrilynn from California on bass trombone

My pep talk appeared to have achieved its desired effect. The band jumped out of the gate like a thoroughbred at Churchhill Downs! The band roared to life with wailing saxes, thumping bass and drums, and the bright flash of trombones and trumpets, before braking in a sudden halt to make room for the first exclamation of the chorus, in unison:

“Praise God, with the sound of the truuuum-pet!”

Immediately, we were transported to a very unique space. We weren’t in a smoky, little jazz joint, or a solemn church sanctuary. This was a different kind of place, singing “God” words, but with the explosive feeling of Jazz spontaneity. This was not “God” as a formally remembered, distant idea, but a living “God” who’s happening right here and now, as if the music shouted, Make way for my reality!

Voices soared. Horns blared. Drums pounded. Words were lifted towards the invisible. Even though I had heard these texts countless times in the preceding months, the effect of seeing and hearing these faces sing these words took me aback, like it did when I heard it for the first time. I could feel that we had the complete attention of our audience, who I hoped were participating with us in this shared experience. 

Our uber-talented lead alto, Xie Tian Xing, crooned out a luscious solo in the signature style of Ellington lead-alto player Johnny Hodges, whose warm vibrato was foundational to the rich timbre that made the Ellington sound instantly recognizable. We had spent a lot of time in rehearsal listening repeatedly to the original Ellington recordings to try to get the sound right. The written parts give the band a very incomplete picture of what to do. You have to hear the Ellington band play Ellington to put the right image of sound into everyone’s minds. XTX nailed it (I use a lot of abbreviations of the Chinese names of my students so I don’t mess up the pronunciation of their names and say something embarrassing for both of us)!  

Then the moment arrived for the choir and band to expound the central anthem of the work, Ellington’s Freedom-suite movement. That word, freedom, was the key to Ellington’s conception of the Almighty. It appears in the work far more than any other single word. Like the word LOVE, the word FREEDOM points towards a reality that is felt and yet hard to describe.  Following a short little bluesy introduction from the piano, the bass drums laid down a heavy-swinging groove, that was not too fast and not too slow, but just right for rocking back and forth, and then the choir cried out:

“Freeee—dom! Freeee-dom! Freeee-dom! Freeeeeeeeeee-dom!

Freeee—dom! Freeee-dom! Freeee-dom! Freeeeeeeeeee-dom!

To be contented prisons of love….Or to reach beyond our reach to reach for a star….Or go about the business of….becoming who we already aaaaare!

Freeee—dom! Freeee-dom! Freeee-dom! Freeeeeeeeeee-dom!” 

Singing like we know what we are singing about

As I witnessed these beautiful souls singing that word, in this place, at this moment, tears welled up in my eyes. Not because of any political situation, although I have always felt the special significance of playing Jazz, which is essentially freedom music, in this country. I was feeling something that transcends politics. It was my own personal cry for freedom, along with everybody else’s, because the most precious freedom of all is an inner freedom that nobody can give you, and nobody can take from you. It’s the hunger of every human being for spiritual freedom. We may fail to name it properly, we may seek to satisfy it with all kinds of counterfeit attachments, but the deepest part of us quietly aches for it.

As the work continued to unfold, Ellington, as is his glorious habit, took us on a exhilarating sonorous adventure, through lofty peaks and steaming valleys, strolling, galloping, stepping softly, but always with his characteristic synthesis of swinging groove and complex palette of multi-colored harmonies.  Our excellent soprano soloist, Xiao Li, wove magic as she told her story about, “Heaven….my dream.” The purity of her lyric soprano, combined with the large interval leaps crafted into Ellington’s otherworldly melody, provided some moments of rhythmic repose.

A few moments later I broke out my toilet plunger, employing my best gravelly growl for the long trumpet soliloquy on a slow, soulful blues piece. Ellington entitled it “The Shepherd” for the good-hearted and steady skillful caretaker that watches over his sheep at night. The whole band laid down a declaration harmonized with 14 horns and then I answered. Back and forth like that for an entire 7 minutes, which is a long time for this kind of intense playing—my face was hurting! How would Jesus have played it? He would have tried to do it like Louis Armstrong! It was a stretch, but I had the grace I needed to see it through to the final cadenza. 

Yes, it’s exactly what it looks like, and no, it’s never touched water!

Then the choir offered up an Ellington classic a cappella, Come Sunday. Throughout our prep and the concert, the singers did a great job. But to be honest, they were the part of the group that I was most worried about, because I haven’t spent a lot of time being in charge of singers. I’ve spent a lot of time, waiting for them (to show up for the rehearsal, to come in for their phrase), but not directing them. Well, my experience working with them was, to put it in a single word, delightful. Yes, with singers risk and reward is inextricably bound. Thanks to great student leaders, their passion was channeled into beautiful melody. Together they lovingly implored:

“Lord, dear Lord above, God almighty, God of love…..please look down and see my people through…”

It bears mentioning that Ellington presented this work at the height of the mid-sixties civil rights movement. For him, these words were far from being a distant history for a distant people. For generations, African Americans understood themselves through the story of Israel’s liberation from slavery. Martin Luther King leaned heavily on the images and the language of the Exodus story to articulate the cry for divine help for his own people. And not only for the sake of the oppressed, but also to liberate the oppressors from their bondage.

Ellington turned, once again, to the  Old Testament narrative in the following movement, a romping drum solo feature on “David Danced Before the Lord (he danced with all his might!)”. This piece has to be executed at break neck speed, if it doesn’t border on reckless then it isn’t fast enough.  I wasn’t sure if our young double bass player could pull the walking (running) bass line off without hurting himself. He made it. Our drummer nearly broke the drum heads, which I had been urging him to do for the last three months. My few concerns about his occasional cautiousness evaporated as soon as he pounded out his first solo fill.  The brother simply played his ass off, from start to finish.

Bam, crash, boom!!!

Amidst all the spectacular drum fills there’s a blazing trumpet improvised solo that I was happy to pass off to my number one student, He Hao Chen, who is going to be a leading trumpet voice in his generation. He’s such a sweet kid, it probably didn’t even occur to him the English saying that came to my mind when I passed it on to him: With friends like that, who needs enemies!

A future trumpet star in China

After the dance party, Ellington ushered us back into an intimate private audience with the Transcendent on the gently, other-worldly wispiness of the T.G.T.T. (Too Good to Title), lovingly caressed by the transparent sheen of Xiao Li’s voice and virtuosic Italian piano professor Moreno’s lines and shapes, swirling and twirling in the air. There are no words. The singer sings “ah” from start to finish, entirely appropriate for this depiction of reality. 

A melody too beautiful for words 

Finally in the last movement, “Praise God and Dance,” we returned back to where we began with a bold exaltation of God for the grand finale, with all the stops pulled out. Every human voice, every trumpet and trombone blast, crooning sax, piano-guitar-bass-cymbal-and bass drum punch was employed at a triple fff fortissimo dynamic in lifting our hearts upwards!  As the choir and winds all took their final breath for the thunderous last chord, my head was spinning and my heart fluttering. 

Somehow we had already arrived at the end and it felt to me that just a few minutes had passed in the time-warped parallel universe our music had generated. I waved my arms as hard as I could in the biggest conducting gesture of the evening, and with the final cut-off we were swept into that critical segment of sudden silence that precedes and concludes every musical happening. When the applause erupted, I was enveloped in a warm fog… 

Gift.

Grace.

Gratitude. 

Not for the applause, which, I mean without false modesty, has never meant very much to me in forty years of performing. I hardly even hear it. It’s main value to me is that it is some concrete affirmation that the listeners got a real taste of the same thing I tasted. The thankfulness is for the whole experience, in which the music passes through us to the community. We musicians are privileged to get to play this role of service. That’s the generous African sensibility out of which this music was born, and where it must remain if it is to be conveyed with the right spirit.

I signaled for the band to join the choir in standing, and spun around to face the thick applause of the audience. It was not the sound of polite, obligatory clapping, but a spontaneous reaction to what we had shared together. This was another of those rare moments I’ve experienced as a musician where the division between the makers and the receivers of sound was completely dissolved. We bowed back our own thank you. 

Everybody on stage was spent and smiling. I was so proud of how each and every individual rose to the occasion. Together we surprised even ourselves with the impact of what we had accomplished together.  

We even got the bow together!

Very rarely does a group of young, inexperienced performers, no matter how great their good intentions, provide a performance that is better than anything they have ever done in rehearsal. But somehow we were all swept up in the flow that came through us, from the mind and heart of Duke Ellington, to our listening guests. Once I got back home a few hours later, still swimming in elation, I penned a short message to all the singers and band members on WeChat, the all-in-one Chinese version of Facebook/WhatsApp/Messenger/Skype which they could translate with another WeChat feature on their smart phones:

And now, months down the road from that evening, I continue to share a deep connection the students who participated in this extraordinary happening.  We shared an experience that none of us will forget and that has formed a lasting bond between us. Whenever I cross paths with any of the choir or band members at school, we feel the gravity that draws us together. It results in many hugs from my warm-hearted students, none of them who grew up in a hugging culture.

I can foresee the bonds we have formed lasting for many years. A number of students are attending ongoing once-a-month gatherings with a new life-group that we have put together, to make a space for continuing our collective journey. It is a part of Nexus (meaning “point-of-connection”), a growing global learning community that gets people toget her to listen to their lives.  Just last month we talked about “becoming yourself,” memorizing and discussing a May Sarton poem that echoes Ellington’s own words about the serious business of “becoming who we already are”:

Now I become myself.

It’s taken many year and places.

I’ve been dissolved and shaken, 

Worn other people’s faces.

Now I become myself.

Teachers, administrators, and students of the Beijing Contemporary Music Academy, China’s largest music school, with over 7000 students 

I am so thankful for the gift of this incredible experience. It was a powerful affirmation of the resilient inner beauty of every human being, a shared preciousness that transcends all of our more superficial differences. It left an indelible mark on my soul. I want to continue to live in the light of the truth it revealed.

I hope my verbal retelling of this musical event gave you a little feel for what we shared together. My words are, of course, inadequate substitutes for the melodies. To get a first-hand taste of a portion of the work, here is a link to a video recording of Ellington’s 1969 performance of the Freedom movement: https://youtu.be/Y8vE9ypGaXU

I wish you could have been at the concert with us.

JKG

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Oct 4, 2017

Fall 2017

Dear friends, 

I'm happy to say that I will be enjoying a few more years in Beijing, as my wife Kimberly has signed a two-contract. I stay very busy playing in small groups and as the primary lead trumpet player for two excellent big bands, the Beijing Blue Note Big Band, and the JZ Big Band based in Shanghai.  I have met so many wonderful people here--internationals like me who are up for the big adventure of living in China, and some very generous and gifted young Chinese musicians.

I'm also excited about our work in getting our international social enterprise off the ground. TURN TO BEAUTY launches and coaches aesthetic communities (art makers and lovers learning together about connecting beauty to their daily lives) in cities across the globe.

I can still be reached at my primary address:

jkylejazz@gmail.com

All the best to all of you!

JKG

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Sep 6, 2016

Back in Beijing

September 6, 2016

Dear friends, 

After an action-packed summer teaching jazz seminars in Cyprus and Lebanon, and moving out of houses in Verona and Colorado Springs, I returned to Beijing a few weeks ago, excited about the good beginnings that we built together with Chinese colleagues and students last Spring. Tomorrow night we will have auditions for the big band, which gradually keeps taking steps forward. I genuinely feel that it is such a privilege to get to know this incredible culture, and am I am only beginning to scratch the surface.

I am most excited about the impending arrival of my best friend in the world, as my wife Kim is arriving here in just a few days after an even more exhausting summer for her as she carried the heaviest load with going through all of our stuff. We will be diving into Chinese learning this fall and see how far we can get. I am kind of tired of just pointing at things and nodding my head in my interactions with people. It would be nice to once again be able to express some more specific thoughts with the use of those wonderfuls tools of communication that we call words.

The kids are doing well at school. A big part of our job will be to stay in touch with them via skype and texts so they don't feel abandoned by their folks on the other side of the world. We are proud and encouraged by who they are becoming, and excited about the unfolding of their paths in the coming months and years. Who knows what a new day will bring? I certainly didn't foresee this turn in our path, but now that I'm on it, I realize that having missed it would have been a tremendous loss. It's the people I've met here who have so enriched me.

I will keep the blog articles coming on turntobeauty.com so that you can continue to travel with us in this journey.

Wishing you all the best from above,

Kyle, for Kim 

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Mar 1, 2016

Hello from Beijing

March 2, 2016

Dear friends, 

Well, the day has finally now come and a new chapter in our adventure begins in China. I arrived just a few days ago with a massive cold, which has complicated things, because at this point I am depending on student translators for teaching my classes, and I can't pronounce things correctly!

I am very impressed with the warmth and openness of the colleagues and students I have met. I am figuring out new words every day to add to my severely restricted vocabulary. I am much missing my family in the States (with Emi in Spain) and my friends in Italia, and hope to have the energy to tell the story of my journey here so that all will feel included. Please travel with me.

My future blog postings will be on the new site I created a few months ago to help network aesthetic communities (groups of art makers and art lovers who meet together to learn to enjoy and creaty beauty in ways that are transformative for their lives and communities) at:

turntobeauty.com

I hope to see you there, but I will keep making occasional postings on this page as well.

I have my first big band rehearsal here tonight! Wish me well, and I wish you all the same!

Peace, 

JKG

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Jun 5, 2015

June 2015 update

Dear friends, 

Well, it has been much too long since I've been around to update you on what is happening with us! Emily (Speech Pathology at the University of Northern Colorado) and Rebekah (Political Science at St. Olaf) successfully completed their first year of college, and Nick will be entering a university in the Fall, most likely at UC Denver, studying in the singer/songwriter program. Kim just finished her first year as a public elementary school teacher and I think, likely set a record for the number of fifth graders she had crying--all because they were sad about leaving her! She was crying, too, of course.

I have had an unprecedented level of travel over the last three months, with trips to Thailand, Italy, and Spain, along with trips within the States to Seattle, Albuquerque, San Francisco (twice), New York City, and Bloomington.  There were many beautiful visits with beautiful people. The week I spent in Seattle and NYC with my dear Italian friend, pianist Paolo Birro was very special, and our visit to Louis Armstrong's humble house in Queens was perhaps the crowning jewel of our time together.  It was deeply inspiring to get a real life picture of the humble spirit of perhaps the world's most important musician of the last few centuries--at least I would be happy to argue that case!

Our partnership with artists in Colorado Springs continues to widen and deepen. It is very gratifying to be a part of an arts movement that truly enriches people, mostly through creating space where artists can connect authentically with one another.

I am at a crossroads regarding the geographical center we'll work from in the future. As we move into a new period as open-nesting parents, Kim and I are contemplating some opportunities in different parts of the world, with our kids' consent. I look forward to seeing how things unfold in the coming months and will share our news as it happens.

The very best from above to you all!

Peace, 

Kyle, for Kim, Rebekah, Emily, and Nicholas

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Sep 12, 2014

the days are long...

September 12, 2014

Over the last few weeks Kim and I have had to say a temporary "arrivederci" to both of our twin daughters who just moved out of the house for their first year of college. Dear sweet Emily is up the road in Greeley, 100 miles away. The thought of having her in-state has been a little bit of solace. I left Rebekah in the Twin Cities and made the 16 hour drive back home alone, glancing often at the empty front seat next to me that the day before she filled with her characteristic gushing of passionate thoughts, feelings, and words.

I saw lots of other somber dads like myself, hauling van-loads of boxes up to tiny dorm rooms that didn't look like they would hold the contents but somehow did. I think they too were trying to hold themselves together, doing our usual masculine dance of focusing on tasks rather than feelings, putting a brave face on this difficult situation. Maybe I am projecting. I imagine you might even celebrate a bit when your teenage son moves out, since you're driving each other crazy, but not with a daughter! My heart is still wrapped around their no-longer-tiny fingers. Of course I'd jump in front of a truck for my son, too, even though he might feel sometimes like pushing me in front of one! (Love ya, buddy! ; )

While attending a parents' meeting at one of the schools I heard it said that as a parent, "the days are long, but the years are short." Man, is that ever true. Like a river, life rushes forward. You can't stop the current. You can't call time-out. You can use memory to visit images, sounds, and smells from the past, stirring up feelings of nostalgia that I have heard others talk about, but haven't been so much a part of my reality. Until now. Is this the turning point in life where you increasingly look backwards? A beautiful chapter has come to a close. A beautiful new chapter awaits us. At least that's what they tell me. I'm trying to believe it.

jkg

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Aug 19, 2014

a new chapter

August 17, 2014

Last evening we had a beautiful evening with our twin daughters, and two of their closest friends, sharing stories and drinking in the goodness of simply being together.  These are days in which Kim and I are savoring every opportunity we have enjoy this time as over the course of the next two weeks both Emily and Rebekah will be leaving home for their first year of college, leaving of course a tremendous hole in our house and in our hearts. Thankfully, we will get to enjoy Nick, and our new Italian adopted-son, exchange student Pietro, for the next year.

Last night I said to the girls that as we enter into this new chapter many things will change, but two things will remain the same:  we will never let go of them in our hearts, and they never really "belonged" to us in the first place.  We have had the privilege of taking care of them and guiding them for the last 19 years, knowing from the beginning that this day would come when we would need to share them even more with the world.  The world will be a better place to have them in it.

Peace and grace to Emily and Rebekah!  We're gonna put What'sApp to a lot of work!

JKG

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Mar 3, 2014

a postscript regarding "how to be a happy artist" (see previous blog entry)

March 3, 2014

A postscript regarding the list below:

It can't be practiced through an assertion of the self, but rather, only through a soul-level surrender.  By "soul" I mean the essence of our being.  It is much greater than the sum of what we accomplish, and it remains intact in spite of whatever awful combination of bad things has happened to us.  We can't make it happen, we can only let it happen, as the ego is dethroned by a revelation of something/someone bigger.

Peace, y'all

jkg

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Feb 28, 2014

on art making: how to be a happy artist

1. Love and accept yourself apart from your work, you are worthy of love and acceptance not because you are better, but because you are a human being

2. Don't compare your work to others, be faithful to your own vision

3. Focus on growth rather than success, over the long-term, improving the quality of your work will give you your best chance at making enough money to keep doing your work (or marry someone rich)

4. Remember why you loved your field in the beginning and stay connected to those sources of inspiration

5. Stay grateful that you get to follow your passion in your vocation, most people don't have that privilege

6. Surround yourself with fellow artists who are learners, one of the great things about art is that there is always more to learn

7. Offer your attention and support to colleagues and stop depersonalizing them as competitors

8. Surrender frustration over being overlooked, we're all overlooked (except Beyonce)

9. Work hard and long to become prolific, that alone is within your control, excellence is always the product of long hours of learning from experience

10. Be a giver, not a taker, we are public servants, not celebrities, unless our work is born, perfected, and offered out of generosity it is all wrong

jkg

 

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