Dan Lopata

Live, Love, Listen

Archive for the tag “spirituality”

The Mountain Moves for No One

You don’t climb mountains without a team, you don’t climb mountains without being fit, you don’t climb mountains without being prepared and you don’t climb mountains without balancing the risks and rewards. And you never climb a mountain on accident – it has to be intentional

~ Mark Udall

mass trail

13 years ago, filled with piss and vinegar, running away from a failed marriage, behaving in unseemly ways that contradict my morals and ethics (which are socially, not religiously bound) I arrived at a mountain certain that I would finish a 103.7 mile footrace on it…

I failed.

Fast forward to May 16th-17th this year, I arrived at the same mountain, with the intention of finishing the 103.7 mile footrace on it. Spoiler alert, I made it just under 70 miles in 24 hours before being pulled from the course…

I succeeded.

Yes, I covered fewer miles this year. Yes, I didn’t achieve the intended outcome. Yes, I still don’t have a buckle from Massanutten Mountain 100 Miler. But I still succeeded.

On May 15th at 6:00 AM Amy and I headed to Massanutten Mountain for my return engagement with Virginia Happy Trails Running Club’s (VHTRC) premiere event. This return engagement was a long time in the making and made possible by a generous scholarship from #TrailsROC, the running club I belong to in Rochester. I don’t just mention #TrailsROC because it is my obligation to as a result of the scholarship, it is because this group and its members are indicative of the larger reason why I consider this outing a success.

Mountain

Yeah, that thing out there that looks like a race profile? That’s where I’m going to run!

Sunshine Road Trip

Amy was coming along because she wanted to crew for me. This alone is a new experience for me, I was nervous because I have never had a crew before, I have always just relied on aid stations and drop bags in the past. This change in behavior was going to be different, I was worried about feeling responsible for my crew, I was worried that Amy was going to take my gruffness the wrong way, I was worried about a change in routine. Some of this was founded and some not. It took some getting used to as I was expecting bottles to be handed to me right as I passed through the first aid station, but waited for them to be brought out of the cooler. Also, I ran right by where Amy had set up shop going into the Elizabeth Furnace aid station because it was before the aid station and I was concerned about getting to the aid station and having my number recorded so I had to walk about 50 yards back to Amy’s set up. And then there was the little dispute about a buff vs. a bandanna. All of that was minor… the actuality of the situation is that I have never had better care and attention through aid stations in my entire ultra career. Amy knows me, she knows when I’m feeling good, and when the wheels are off. She made sure that anything I needed or asked for was at the ready. She got me coffee, chicken broth, socks, shirts, shoes, bandannas, buffs, headlamps, batteries, pepperoni jerky, ginger root, ginger ale, tailwind, trekking poles, mountain dew, turkey sandwiches, pierogis, quesadillas, bacon, water, bag balm, chocolate covered espresso beans, and she made sure that officials knew I was on the course still when they thought everyone had come through……. Just amazing!

Crew

Some Crew tools and supplies

May 16th.

3 AM is an early wakeup call, but it happened, I threw on my #trailsROC shirt, my sleeves, my Northface Nearly Naked Long Haul shorts (which elicited some great comments later as I was pulling little bottles out of hidden pockets all over the place at an aid station), 2-Toms chafing solution (which doesn’t work well if you’re wearing cotton underwear… there’s a lesson learned) SmartWool Socks, NB MT110v2 shoes, Ultimate Directions AK Race Vest with bottles, and a buff. I headed down to the start to check in and they were cranking “Get up, Get on Up” James Brown J Hanging out I got to see fellow #trailsROC runner Yoshi and get his picture with me. The scene is surreal, you have a PVC pipe made start/finish line with a clock counting down to 4:00 AM and tons of people just leisurely sitting in seats under a tent. It wasn’t until 3 minutes of 4:00 that anyone got up to get near the start line, and then promptly at 4:00 AM Kevin Sayers says “go” in the most unassuming start for one of the most epic races ever. I have seen the cannon shot and start at Kona, I have seen the Boston and NYC marathon start, I have felt the immense power of the understated simple “go” at the MMT 100 mile footrace, and it is no less spectacular than any of those others.

Mass Start

OLD SKOOL

Yoshi

Me with the Super-Human Yoshi

Start

and… “go”

I don’t want to get into a play by play here, but I just want to mention that the first four miles of this race is a gentle uphill (600ft) of road. A guy I was running with quipped, “This is Bullshit!” which became quite the code for, “Yup, this is what I signed up for, let’s have fun with it.” Heard it while climbing Short Mountain, heard it while climbing Kern’s Mountain, heard it while descending into Elizabeth Furnace (Where I saw fellow #trailsROC runner and now VHTRC runner Angie K.), even said it while not being able to run the ridge at the top of the climb out of Elizabeth furnace. A bunch of us were having fun with this as we went along.

Angie

Angie K.

We also had a ton more in common, I wish I could count the number of times I heard people talk about that reason we were out there was to grapple with our demons. Not that I actually believe in demons, but I do have issues in my life and my psyche that I grapple with: alcoholism (in remission for 23 years), chronic depression, crippling self-doubt, and anxiety. These come out at the worst times, dealing with work, family, bands, household economics, marriage relationship, socially, politically, etc. One of the things about an ultra of this magnitude is that it is a tangible experience that reveals how wrong I am on so many counts when these “demons” rent space in my head. Part of the reason for this is that they show up during the event, and that happens usually at about 4.5 miles in a stretch of 9 miles without an aid station. What am I going to do? Sit down in the middle of the trail and cry/die because no one is going to lift me out? No, I put one foot in front of the other until I reach the next aid station. Usually around 6 or 7 miles in that stretch I realize that I continued to move forward even when I thought I couldn’t, and realize that my worry, self-doubt demon was just a false thought.

“Tired is not an injury”

Gap Creek

Gap Creek 4:00 AM 5/17. 24 hours and done.

While I had the intention of going the distance, I also realistically knew that it might not happen. I told Ron Herkeens Jr. before the race that the only way to get my off of the course was to pull me off, even if it meant crawling. Mile 54, Habron Gap Aid Station, I was greeted by a volunteer who asked how I was doing, and if I was okay (must have looked dazed after 4 miles of exposed road running from the last aid station (that had guacamole). I just looked at him said, “Yeah, I’m okay, tired is not an injury.” He laughed and said that was the best quote he had heard all day. I had beat the cut-off by about an hour at this point and was told to sit and fuel up for a while because the next climb, Kern’s Mountain, was 2.5 miles and 1300+ feet of climb. So I took some time, changed my shoes, socks and shirt, got a buff, ate some broth, got my trekking poles and set off. Kern’s is really tough, not just because it’s huge but because that four miles of road traversed before climbing it, affords a daunting view of the mountain to stare at. It’s breath taking, not just because of the beauty and anticipation/fear of the climb, but because breath is already gone from traversing 50 miles to this point. But tired is not an injury, and with numerous rest breaks I climbed this thing through the night and traversed this section to Camp Roosevelt with 15 minutes to spare before the cut-off. I didn’t dilly-dally, but I didn’t know that I had another 1000 ft of climb ahead of me, and a steep descent. I missed the next cut off at Gap Creek by 45 minutes, happy, grateful, sad, disappointed, proud, humbled, basically every emotion I own except one, the one that is my truest demon, the one that dogs my every step every day… Anger. There was no anger. THIS IS THE SUCCESS.

It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves.

~ Sir Edmund Hillary

What did me in? My feet which were blistered pretty badly and in pain with each step. I was exhausted, there was no gas left in my tank, even though I fueled and hydrated really well. Basically out of the quote at the beginning of this piece, I was not fit. I can blame all sorts of things for this: long cold winter, rolled ankle in October that never completely properly healed, job/family constraints, new medication… but those are just excuses, the real reason is that I didn’t devote enough time to my fitness. I am 20 lbs heavier than I was last year when I ran Cayuga Trails 50. I have not been paying any attention to diet, which I never do. I have rationalized all of my missed workouts away. But as Steve Prefontaine said, “A man can fail many times, but he isn’t a failure until he begins to blame somebody else.” I have myself to blame for not finishing.

But of my success the reality is because I have so many incredible people around me, my life is completely different than it was 13 years ago, I am not finished with this event by any stretch of the imagination, I did not quit.

Rock

My demon is not the DNF, nor the rock that goes with it, my demon was/is my anger that does not allow me to see the beauty. The voice that says I’m not fast enough, I’m not good enough, nobody likes me, I’m a second-rate bass player, I’m not an asset to ROCSPOT… this is the voice that obscures the vision that sees: the community of #trailsROC, and Oven Door Runners, the community of my Soul Matters group at First Unitarian, the community of ex-drunks and druggies that infiltrate all areas of my life (work, music, First U, running), the community of my family, my kids, my incredible ultra-babe wife, the community of like-minded scientists and activists in ROCSPOT. This is the voice that obscures the vision of the beauty of the trail, the vista at the top of the climb and during the climb, the ridiculous finds of neat notes buried in old books at Sibley Music Library, the thrill of being a part of helping Rochester out of energy poverty and hopefully economic poverty, the smile in my wife’s face, the achievements of my oldest, youngest and in-between children. For a moment, for 24 hours, this demon was slayed.

And that is the magic of the mountain. It doesn’t care, it is just going to stand in my way and everyone else’s way and knock us down until we find a way up and over in order to see that incredible vista of all the things surrounding us and supporting us.

I’ll be back. Will I finish? I hope so. Does it matter? Yes, but not as much as all of the things I find along the way, and hopefully give back.

I owe so much to this one:

ultrababe

ULTRABABE (Yeah, I’m with her!)

A few more pics, all pics are courtesy of Amy Lopata:

Yoshi run

YOSHI!

First Aid

Edinburg Gap 12.1 miles in

Elizabeth

Elizabeth Furnace about 50K into the race

Stats and splits can be found here at Strava.

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5 Miles on Wednesday Morning… or Am I Really a Humanist? (The Trail to MMT100)

Vonnegut

I’m actually not a fan of human beings, they are so destructive. A friend of mine has started a new running company with a mission of people first, environment second and profit third, and while I think his aims are commendable I think the priorities are out of order, I think the environment should be first and people second. But really, it’s hard for me to even say that, because if we were really putting people first, we would inherently putting the environment first as people do not live in a vacuum. When we destroy ourselves either through global warming or nuclear annihilation, we will all be gone, but you know what will remain? Yup, the earth will still be here, and better off that we are not.

The AHA (American Humanist Association) defines humanism:

Humanism is a progressive lifestance that, without supernaturalism, affirms our ability and responsibility to lead meaningful, ethical lives capable of adding to the greater good of humanity.

I suppose I can get behind this statement, and there are other interpretations and definitions that talk about how reason, experience, science, and the environment from local environments to the universe affect our experience as humans. I also understand this, but I find it all far to human-centric, like we are the most important thing in the universe, and that is where I question if I am a true humanist, because I don’t believe we are.

Other than thinking about how out of shape I am and how overdressed I was during my 5 mile run this morning, this was the topic that I mused on.

Part of the reason I think about this question is that when it is just me and the trail, far away from humanity, I see what else the world has to offer and how insignificant humanity is. I am surrounded by trees that are far older than me, I watch the cycle of life with fat squirrels gathering nuts and getting ready for winter, and deer getting their winter coats. I see the leafless trees seal off their branches to conserve water through the winter, and I watch the streams and ponds freeze over and realize there is still life teaming under the surface.

LVTN

And even though we continue to pollute this world, contribute to global warming, cause the extinction of plant and animal species, lop off the top of mountains to grab coal, and explode oil rigs in the ocean, I am convinced that life will prevail long after we have killed our own species. This actually falls right in line with natural selection; when the genetic makeup of our beings is no longer able to support us in the environment that we have created we will cease to exist and the genetic makeup of species that have mutated in order to live in that environment will prosper. So in the words of George Carlin, “The Planet is fine, the people are f@cked.” And so I present his routine:

Okay, after watching that I think I’m a humanist after all, one of those self-centered white liberals who doesn’t like plastic, but that’s because I think it’s an eyesore;  one of those do-gooders that cares about the bees and the whales because I do want to live in my own little perfect habitat. But isn’t that just the nature of being human? I am self-centered, and when I’m not self-centered I’m still usually human centered doing service for other human beings. But I am most at peace (which is self-centeredly my greatest concern, ironic huh?) when I do service to nature, cleaning up trails, and observing what the world/universe has to offer that is not of human concern. At the same time, just like establishing National Parks and ecological habitats, I think these self-same environmental actions are what is best for humanity, and therefore humanist actions.

5 miles alone in the woods certainly helps with perspective. And, the answer to the question… I’m still not sure.

P.S. The idea of the earth defending itself with viruses is just one way it does it, another way it does it is through cloud cover and global warming when we keep extracting and burning the resources in the earth.

An Atheist’s conception of “Grace”

One Universalist Unitarian description of Grace as found in Soul Matters Material is

“Despite all its theological baggage, at its core the idea of grace simply celebrates a gift. Or maybe it’s more accurate to say, it celebrates the giftedness of life. The deepest and most sacred experience of joy comes from encountering a gift you didn’t expect, earn, create or even deserve.”

But a gift from whom, or from where? This is the struggle.

I recently won a sponsorship to run a footrace that costs a substantial amount of money. My wife asked me if this wasn’t an expression of “grace” or being “blessed” (I will save the blessed debate for another time). As I didn’t necessarily expect to win this sponsorship or create it I was meeting at least one if not two of the criteria of the definition above. That said, I noticed that there was an application process, and that I could absolutely not expect to win if I didn’t enter. I ran many races and worked for the sponsorship organizer’s events and I filled out the application which is to say I did what was necessary to earn it and also to create the environment in which it was possible to win, and in hindsight I believe I do deserve it. That it happened at a time that finances are tight could be merely a coincidence or just the fact that finances are always tight in my life.

As I think about all of the instances that I might even consider using the word grace with this definition, upon further examination I find that what really happens is that opportunities emerge from circumstances created within myself as well as outside myself  whether it is jobs, gigs, marriages, etc. The sponsorship was created by an entity that was not me, but the taking advantage and doing what was necessary was created by me. I believe that these opportunities are always present. The idea of Grace to me then becomes an exercise of recognizing the multitude of opportunities that surround us and doing what is necessary to take advantage of them. These opportunities of course change through time as we gain more knowledge and skills in life and not everyone is afforded the same opportunities depending on their circumstances.

I also believe that I can be on both sides of this equation. The organization of the sponsorship was the outside catalyst creating the opportunity for me to capitalize on it. I can be that outside catalyst by extending myself to others, by creating opportunities for them. And those opportunities don’t have to be the big ones like creating jobs, sponsorships, or gigs, they can be opportunities to teach skills, or bolster confidence in someone else so they can capitalize on the greater opportunities.

“But what about the times that something just falls I your lap?” You may ask. They say even a broken clock is right twice a day. Can this not be chalked up to coincidence? Also, those things that “fall into our laps” can only be received if we are prepared for them, like a job… if we didn’t have the skills a job falling into our lap wouldn’t mean very much because we couldn’t perform the requisite skills. A loved one who falls into our life can’t be accepted unless we are ready to accept other people in our lives. (ad I not had the experiences of a former marriage, divorce, and opening back up to the world, Amy’s and my relationship would not be what it is today.

 opportunities

Now, none of this is arguing that one should not be grateful (as both the words grace and gratitude have the same etymology gratia). In using another definition of grace, a sense of gratitude allows us to be graceful and thankful when recognizing and taking advantage of the myriad opportunities that constantly surround us. It is this grace that is the impetus for us to extend grace/opportunities to others.

So where does it come from? It comes from us, from our personal evolution of skills, interactions, and knowledge, from our environment and from the circumstances that are presented to us because of the evolving skills, interactions, knowledge that others and the world are constantly going through. So in a sense it is larger than us, but that does not mean it is a god giving it to us, it’s us giving it to us. The key is recognizing it, and knowing it’s here, right now and all of the time… even when it changes.

I built that????

I Built That????

Hops waters3

Photo: Sam Waters

Jenna and the Hops played their premiere Club gig last night at Sticky Lips Barbeque and Juke Joint  . We rehearsed the night before to get our arrangements together, but maybe we shouldn’t have as they all went right out the window.

Friends came out, friends from many different circles of life, and that always makes me nervous because I don’t what judgment is going to be passed – you are judged by the company you keep you know.

Jenna is a major proponent of Body Love, and she is quite large in stature – note that she also became a certified yoga teacher last month.  Many of my trail running friends came out and they are waifs. This, I thought might be interesting because I don’t necessarily know everybody well beyond running with them or their propensities and prejudices and I was concerned that there may be some judgment thrown about.

I also, wasn’t sure if these trail runners were going to enjoy the style of music we were playing, we don’t throw down “modern music” or rock, we sit in a swing groove most of the time bordering on Rock-a-Billy and Vintage R&B and even some Country; not stuff you’re going to hear on commercial radio. Add to this musicians I respect immensely in the Rochester area came out including members of InnerloopThe White Hots, Woody Dodge, etc. It’s always nerve-wracking when you put yourself out there in front of musical peers you respect.

Hops waters1

Photo: Sam Waters

So here it is, my worlds collide, nothing happens to plan, and I just let it happen. MAGIC ENSUED! The swing dancers found spots (Note to Sticky Lips BBQ & Juke Joint, it’s a great venue, but you will get repeat business from these dancers if you can provide a place in front for them to dance. They add to the ambience and actually bring more people in who like to watch them as well as the band. It will help your bottom line, even if they aren’t purchasing many drinks; they bring and keep others there who will spend money on food and drink. That’s a pretty good return on investment considering you don’t have to pay them). The runners had a great table to eat and drink and recover from their trail run earlier in the evening, and then they started dancing. The musicians from other bands found their corners of the room where they could listen unimpeded. There were other groups of people present that mixed and mingled that I found heartening, from young rockers to middle aged jazz heads, from CIS-gender folks to straight laced conservatives. This renewed my faith in society, and reminded me that music really is the great uniter.

Plato1

The earliest philosophers understood these powers of music even though they argued the validity of high art versus the mundane. To that end, the band was hot, and even though we screwed up arrangements, we all listened to each other, laughed, shrugged, and forged ahead making the mundane into high art in its improvisatory aesthetic.

HopsLivermore1

Photo: Cara Livermore

Front and center of this was Jenna and her pipes. She absolutely slayed. Playing with Justin is such a pleasure, laying it down in a way that I never had to worry about losing time when I decided to go off the charts. Aleks, one of the greatest, most under-rated guitarists in the Northeast USA (although every musician in this town knows what a treasure he is) has been a partner in crime with me and music for some time now, and because we have been doing this so long we were able to keep it together with a simple glance, shrug, and smile when entrances where miffed and arrangements thrown out (evidently no one read my notes). His guitar playing was absolutely extraordinary. But the greatest musical joy of the evening was working with reed specialist Matthew Seiber-Ford who was OFF THE HOOK. Being our second gig together (which is always very different than rehearsal) I’m still feeling out our musical dialogue. By the end of the night, there was that innate interplay that usually develops over months and years of working together.

HopsLivermore2

Photo: Cara Livermore

I have mentioned the audience already, in one of my comments on facebook this morning I was given props by one of the trail runners there. He mentioned how great our “vibe” was. It is important to recognize (and I told him this) that the “vibe” is the audience. Musicians are not paid to play at an audience, we are to play FOR an audience. This requires two-way communication. The crowd informs us as to what to do, we morph each other. The band can move people in different directions, moods, and affects, but the crowd also has the same power over the band. As I continue to explore the interconnectedness of everything, it is simple to see this in a star-stuff/molecular/atomic way, but live music allows us all to experience it in a way that is more “spiritual” in nature.

Hops waters2

Photo: Sam Waters

Of course I use quotes because I don’t believe in a great intelligence or a god, so I don’t want this term to be misconstrued. That said, the idea of affects, overtones, Pythagorean philosophy, etc. captures my interest as I see it in action. I saw this last night. I saw simple sound waves combine and collaborate with physical motions, emotional moods, and intellectual analysis. When put in those terms it seems like a complicated equation, but rather it brings us all into a much simpler place. A place of shared experience, which ironically is experienced differently by each individual. Yet it connects us all in one place of commonality that allows us to share a room with all of our differences and join in the most non-partisan community available.

This is the feeling, the vocation, the “calling” that I think is for me. It is hard work, personalities in bands can be difficult, even under the best circumstances with people we genuinely like, respect, and adore. But the troubles and work are worth it when you get to experience/create what happened last night.

I want to say, “I built that,” and while I have been a large part of it I didn’t build it. I got some people in a room after Jenna asked me to. It didn’t work right at the start, so I got a phone call from Aleks which prompted getting different people in a room and it started to come together. The Rochester Swing Dance Network  had a jam that allowed Jenna and I to play a couple of songs, and they booked us. Tom and Sherry at The Pultneyville Grill talked to me about booking a trio after Aleks had me sub for The White Hots. Frank Deblase  and Deb Jones were instrumental in booking the band at Sticky Lips and publicity. There are so many others, but it’s absolutely not built without an audience. So it is a lie to say, “I built that” because WE BUILT THAT.

Every show you come to, every band you comment on, every time you engage with live music, you join the building of that enterprise. You built that – collectively.

Do you want to continue building us? Talk us up, tell your friends, talk to bartenders, managers, venue owners of places you frequent, tell us what you dig, come out and dance, hoot, holler, eat, drink, socialize. Love what we do and let us love what you do. In a world where so much is out there to tear us apart from one another, don’t you want a respite, a place to enjoy the idea of being connected in a very magical way? Join us. There is nothing better than being able to say, “That? Yeah, I built that….” because you did.

Connect with us here

Music This Week – 1/18

Sorry I missed last week, probably because I just couldn’t bring myself to post the fact that I played a Carrie Underwood tune. But anyhow, Music this Saturday at First Unitarian continues with the theme of “Character”:

I have to admit that Sara is quite a guilty pleasure. I love her voice and whomever handles her arrangements is a friggin’ Hook Master:


…and another female lead I can listen to all day, Poe:



Stephen Stills’ genius was on display with Buffalo Springfield. I would also strongly suggest people check out his work with Manassas.

Now I’m a huge fan of Brian Setzer so I will place this next tune here with his arrangement, but I also feel it’s necessary to follow it up with Santo & Johnny who originally wrote it:

Oh Edie:

Let’s close out with some Killers:

Again, you can see me perform  these tunes live at the Saturday 4:30 Service at First Unitarian Church of Rochester.

Bonus Material:

If you have read this far, and you’ve been following along, you know I’m working on another project. Let me tickle you with some ideas floating around for this one:

Let’s mess with The Kinks:

And my favorite from the Aristocats:

Let’s not forget some older favorites:

So All’y’Alls better get those dance shoes ready!

Live, Love, Listen

Live More, Love More, Listen More

I make no promises about keeping up the blog, it’s nice to have the receptacle but, as you can see, last year I went like gang-busters writing about running, until I stopped. I would blame it on the stress-fracture, but the writing stopped before that happened so I can only blame it on me. This year I hope to write more, and I hope what I write is of interest to people. I will do my best to tag things and categorize things correctly so people won’t get stuck weeding through Ultramarathon training logs if what they are interested in is musings on music, nor do I want people who are interested in my politicoreligiophilosophizing to get bogged down in the Ramones (although this will be harder as when I write about the Ramones it tends to relate to politicoreligiophilosophizing.)

So here it is in a nutshell. 2014:

Live More:Image

Running Plans last year were cut short when I came up injured following (or probably prior to) the BPAC 6 hour run on asphalt. Lessons learned, I’ve cut way back on my schedule and am currently only entered in two races/events: June –  Cayuga Trails 50 which is the USATF 50 mile National Trail Championship; and August: 0 SPF ½ Trail Marathon which is the USATF Niagara Trail Championship. Thinking about some Autumn Possibilities, but leaving those plans until I accomplish at least the first goal. I will widget my workout stuff through this blog.

In addition to my regular Saturday gig with Orange Sky at First Unitarian of Rochester, I am working on a band idea with an old friend/excellent vocalist. This project is in the vein of 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s blues/swing/jazz/rockabilly music. Currently it is a hodgepodge of great musicians getting together and feeling each other out, but I envision a band with moveable parts to accompany the vocal styling of aforementioned friend. I’m not naming names as of yet because I want it solid enough to gig before letting go of that information. I will however drop hints as I have a sax player affiliated with Rochester’s best “worldbeat” group, a guitarist who basically built the 90’s post-post-punk scene in Rochester, and a vocalist who plays saw and banjo and who has performed blues, rock-a-billy, and americana. Hold on to you hats, this is one dynamite group in the works.

Love More:

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2013 was a year of fighting – fighting before I even entered the ring. I approached everyone and everything as a conflict and approached life in metaphorical plate mail. While I was protected from “harm” there was no room for any good to come in, nor room for any good to go out. This year the journey began back in September when I reconnected with the organization largely responsible for my ability to be chemical free for 22 years now; I was also invited to play with Orange Sky, the house band for Saturday Evening services at first Unitarian Church of Rochester. This particular institution, First U,  allows me to remain the skeptic/atheist/humanist that I am but also provides a community to interact with. In this blog specifics will remain vague as the groups I’m involved with require trust, so the insights presented will be only those things that apply to me and names will be omitted or changed to protect the innocent J. How does this fall into “Love More”? My belief in a power greater than myself is that everything is interconnected; I am part of a power greater than myself and that power is part of me as well. The way I garner a relationship with it is through relationships with other people. I believe the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and the more I am in communion with that whole the more I have to offer, and the more comes back. So these relationships are built on me being open, vulnerable, connecting at points of commonality, giving the benefit of the doubt, and understanding that I will get hurt but that’s better than living in isolated fear. I believe these things can be done while holding onto principals that are dear to me, and knowing that when I fight on divisive principals that I am less likely to change others’ hearts and perspective (or my own for that matter) than if I meet others at a place of commonality. This is partly what I mean by “Love More”. It has to do with relationships.

Note: I love running, and I love music, so these things will be included as well.

Listen More:

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Being an ensemble musician, listening is the most important thing I can do. I need to know where I fit; I need to understand the style, the mechanics, the pocket, the groove, the aesthetic, the interpretation etc. in order for me to be most effective for the benefit of the whole.

“Listen More” extends beyond music, it is understanding what I’m reading when I’m reading; it is listening to the aches and pains of my body and acting appropriately; it is watching my son have trouble getting up in the morning and determining what it is he’s really saying; it is hearing the needs, anxieties, joys, triumphs, and failures of my wife and understanding when I only need to listen or when I can offer assistance; it is carving out time to listen to a whole Opera or Symphony, not just the greatest hits (Actually thinking about sitting down with Wagner’s Ring Cycle this year).

“Listen More” requires being PRESENT. It is mindfulness; it is sitting – here – now.

So there it is – no real specific resolutions. No weight loss target; no goal time for races/events; no going to get a specific job (although I am still working on my business, and looking for work); no quitting coffee or going vegetarian… If those things occur, they will merely be fringe benefits of living, loving, and listening more this year.

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