Closet doorsI should start by saying, I totally get it.  When comfortable white liberals say that Trump voters are not welcome in their homes, or issue self-righteous screeds about how their outrage isn’t about politics—and perhaps especially when dudes who remind me of me in a lot of important ways demand the right to insist other people unfriend them—it’s a struggle for me not to nod my head and click “Like” and jump on the head-in-the-sand, I-don’t-want-to-deal-with-you bandwagon.  It would be easier for me to make it through the day smiling and feeling good about myself if I could just remove all of the “Red Feed” folks from my friends list and see nothing but news I agree with.

Except that’s (at least partially) what got us into this mess to begin with.

I’ve written before about my recognition, during my coming-out process, that as a white, US-native, able-bodied, mainline-Christian-turned-Unitarian-Universalist, upper-middle-class cis male, the “gay card” is really the only strike against me in the Privilege lottery.  I am—like most of the people I encounter in my small-town central-Pennsylvania daily routine—not accustomed to discomfort.  If I’m hungry, I eat.  If I’m cold, I turn up the thermostat.  If I’m lonely, I connect to the WiFi and see who’s online.  And if I see an opinion I disagree with… I shoot it down.  (Not always gently, I’m not proud to say.)

But in the back of my mind, I keep thinking about the note I received from an evangelical Christian friend shortly after I came out publicly at a concert in college (which is another story for another time).  “David,” she said, “I’ve always thought of gay people as dangerous perverts, as something to be afraid of and to fight against.  But now, knowing you’re gay… I know you, and that’s not who you are.  If you’re gay, then what I was taught was wrong.  And I’d like to apologize, if you’ll let me buy you a coffee.”

So here’s where I am now: I don’t believe “unfriending” is the solution.  I don’t believe sheltering ourselves from opinions we disagree with serves the common good.  I don’t believe my comfort is more important than the positive change I can achieve from participating in healthy dialogue.  And, most importantly, I don’t even pretend to believe that the answers I have are all the “right” ones.  I find it as rewarding to realize I’ve allowed honest engagement with other views to change my thinking, as I do when it works the other way around—when I emerge from a conversation feeling like I’ve planted a new seed in someone else’s mind.

I stepped out of one kind of closet more than 20 years ago.  I remember how cozy it was in there, never having to explain myself or apologize for offending people or wonder whether folks were judging me for touching my husband’s shoulder in public.  I appreciate every day that Mark and I share a nice introverted home in a lot outside of town, that serves as a retreat from society, a place of safety and rejuvenation.  And yes, sometimes I joke about staying here and ordering delivery for the next four years, as a kind of “vacation from reality.”

But there’s work to be done.  Conversations to have.  Hearts to connect with.  Minds to change.  And for those of us who have the ability to do these things, a closet is no place to hang out.

There must be something in the air.

Several times this week I’ve paused in the middle of teaching to interrupt a student’s spiral of self-deprecation and frustration.  The spiral is easy to recognize, either by the words that accompany it— “This doesn’t sound right.” … “That note is so high!” … “Why can’t I get this?” —or, once you know what to look for, by the slow-blinking, eyes-downcast head shake and shoulder slump.  It’s unmistakeable body language: “I’m not good enough.”

There’s a running joke in my field that music lessons tend to be 10% technique and 90% therapy.  And while it is a joke—I’m a vocal supporter of the mental health industry and believe everyone can benefit from working periodically with an excellent professional talk therapist—I know that among the lessons I’ve learned from my own therapist are several that I share often with my students:

  • that every artist healthy human being struggles with self-doubt,
  • that finding (and trusting) voices that recognize and appreciate our inherent worth is one of the most important (and most difficult) things we can do as artists humans, and
  • that I, in my role as an authority figure in their artistic lives, am (I hope!) one of those supportive voices.

So pianist Herbie Hancock’s anecdote about a botched chord in a gig with trumpeter Miles Davis has been on my mind a lot this week.  If you’ve hit a wrong note or two in your own life recently, maybe you’ll find this story moving too.  Click “play” on the video below to hear Hancock tell it for himself.  It’s worth the 90 seconds.

In the meantime, namasté, my friends.  The Divine in me acknowledges the Divine in you.  Can you see it too?

unnamedNews flash!  Because I am apparently lousy at reading updates from my alma mater, I found out just today that Run With It, the comedy troupe of which I was a founding member, is having their 25th-and-a-Half Anniversary Show this Saturday as part of the Homecoming festivities at Dickinson College.

I’ll be donning ye olde red T-shirt (trying hard not to think about the fact that the shirt itself was already more than half a decade old when the current Dickinson freshpeople were born) and clambering awkwardly onto the stage with “Cotton” (Schwab) Rice, “Grunt” DiFiore, and a whole bunch of people a LOT younger than we are, with the sole intention of making fools out of ourselves for the benefit of others’ good humor.  Should be quite a hoot!

If you’d like to join us, there are details here and on the College website.

Bring Advil.

One of the “fun” (heh) things about being a solo entrepreneur is that one has only one’s own mistakes to learn from.  Happily, it also means that along the learning curve you get to develop really wonderful relationships with the folks who have supported your business.

RtD BookOn Thursday I got a very pleasant email from the interim senior minister at First Unitarian Universalist Church of Columbus, sharing the wonderful news that their two choirs would like to share my solstice cantata, Remember the Dark, in their worship services on January 29.  Her staff was concerned, though, that for a congregation of their size the cost might be prohibitive.

(This is what happens when I base my pricing structure on congregations the size of my beloved little UUCV: the kind of numbers that make sure my expenses are met for a small order suddenly seem unwieldy and unreasonable for larger groups.)

So I appreciated the gentleness of the email, and after a little bit of Dashboard finagling, I was delighted to be able to respond with a new volume discount pricing structure for Remember the Dark.  The Columbus choirs—and now, anyone—can order larger quantities of RtD scripts at up to a 60% discount.  Just place the order through my Shop page, and the discount should automatically apply: 20 or more copies are only $3.00 each, and 50 or more copies are only $2.00 each!

I’ll be reviewing my catalog over the next several weeks to evaluate the pricing of my choral inventory, but if you have a particular request please follow Rev. Jennifer’s lead and contact me.  It’s all about the relationships!

shot_1411036245972Once a year or so, Rev. Aija lets me take the reins (and the pulpit) for what we call “Music Sunday”—a worship experience that’s all about music, except when it’s not.  Coming up with a theme for Music Sunday is always pretty easy—there’s always a song I’ve wanted to find an excuse for the choir to sing, or a topic I’ve wanted to write a song about, or a story I’ve wanted to tell.  Except for this year.

This year, as America’s democracy seems to have devolved into a battle of mudslinging and “who’s evil-er than whom,” and as ever-improving and ever more ubiquitous technology makes it harder for injustice to disguise itself as rumor or hyperbole, I find myself feeling inadequate.  There is too much wrong with the world for one little sermon or one new choir anthem to fix it.

My prayer habits are quite a bit different now than they used to be, but my spirituality is still one of stubbornly second-person theology: I no longer even pretend to understand fully who or what God really is, but I know it’s not me.  So after struggling for too long to find the right focus for Music Sunday, I threw my hands up and asked the Universe for a hint—and silence was the response.  Not silence-the-absence-of-response silence.  Silence-the-potent-beginnings-of-all-that-is silence.

It started with a Facebook post from a friend of mine:

snap

One line in particular caught my eye, because I hear it a lot from people of color when they express frustration with the “shallow understanding from people of good will” that so often describes the reaction that I and other white allies fumble to manage as we work for justice.  “Have a seat and study some more.”

In other words, shut up and listen.  There are important things to be said, and you need to hear them.

So this Sunday at UUCV we’ll be seeking silence.  Talking about silence.  And singing about silence.  And most importantly, spending more time in silence than nearly any of us are comfortable with, because growth is hardly ever comfortable.

We’ll also be hearing some breathtakingly gorgeous music, of course.  You know I love to show off my little choir, and they are working magic with the Mark Hayes arrangement of “The Sound of Silence”—last night’s rehearsal left me with goosebumps.  Adding Dani and Marc, who will be backing us up on Sunday on drums and bass, will just take things to a whole new level.

We’ll also be premiering a new choral piece I wrote for the occasion, called “Sing It.”  The lyrics follow; I do hope you’ll join us on Sunday at 10:30 AM to hear the choir give it wings—and I hope it moves you to the right kind of silence.

Sermon audio

Choir video

“Sing It”

words & music ©2016 David M. Glasgow

In the silence,
without noise, without words to save the day,
I can hear me, but I’m not sure what to say.
Rage against?  Stand behind?
Play it safe?  Play the hero?
Do I ever say a word that starts inside?
Now I finally have the chance, and I hide.

Then I hear it—
though at first I’m afraid I’m not alone—
soft and clear, it speaks a truth I recognize as my own.
And it speaks, without words, of a strength here within me
that could change the world if only I would try.
So I slowly close my eyes, and breathing deep,

I sing it soft and low and gentle
like the breeze that runs its fingers through my hair.
I sing it deep and true and wordless,
like the beating of a heart that’s always there.
I sing it silently within, and let the music work its magic
in the veins that carry life to every corner of my soul.
When I finally claim the silence,
I sing it gentle.

Eyes are open,
and at last I can see I’m not alone.
You’ve been singing too,
and your spirit harmonizes with my own.
And we sing, and our hearts gather strength here among us
that can change the world if only we will try.
And when we know we’re not alone,

we sing it loud!  We sing it strong!
We sing it boldly from the mountaintop,
and bravely at the coffee shop,
and lovingly to everyone we meet!
Love is born in silence,
but for love to survive,
we must sing it loud!