Boyd Rivers sang and played with the spirit and fire of a man doing his best to save us from certain damnation — he’s the baddest preacher I have ever come across. Discovering this video blew my mind that this man was virtually unknown outside the communities of dedicated blues listeners. Watching it taught me about singing from a deep place in my body, and to do it with style and joy. There are a few rare recordings of his out there — all worth checking out.
This post is part of a series where I pay tribute to the numerous Black American artists that have inspired and influenced me over the years.
A few weeks ago I posted a photo on Instagram with the hashtag #dissolvepatriarchy, and when I searched for that hashtag I found that I was the inventor of it. No one else has used that hashtag on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.
This is a little disappointing to me, especially considering how popular the hashtag #smashpatriarchy is on those social media networks (almost 6,000 posts on Instagram). My main reason is that the act of smashing something is a relatively patriarchal gesture — it’s a masculine way of trying to deal with a problem, especially in contrast with the act of dissolving the obstacle in your way. If we are trying to get rid of the patriarchs who rule currently, we should consider an approach that is feminine in its methodology, which implies a gentle, non-violent action, and one that integrates (as dissolving does) instead of creating further separation (as does smashing).
If we want to get rid of our currently masculine-dominated hierarchical systems, we have to first start thinking about how our actions are affected by the current zeitgeist, and evaluate whether we are perpetuating the established systems unknowingly.
I decided on New Year’s Day this year that I would drink for up to five celebrations this year, but that I would only decide to drink in a celebratory manner from now on.
The perfunctory drinking of the past is unsustainable for me. If I continued doing it, it would destroy my health quickly. I realized that I would rather limit drinking to special festivities, and even so doing so in moderation. I have drank enough in my life that I have enough good associations with drinking to want to continue to do it, especially under stressful circumstances. This year I am putting into practice an attempt to create a lifestyle for myself that is sustainable, and offers for me controlled growth. I find that alcohol’s side effects are numerous and affect many parts of my life negatively. For example, I eat more impulsively after drinking, and drinking’s effect on my blood sugar makes me want to eat more. Now that I drink a lot less, I also eat a lot less. I also sleep less, and get better quality sleep, so I can do more in a day.
I used to love going to bars because it meant I might get lucky and strike up a spontaneous connection with someone, maybe getting me laid. Now I realize that a relationship that starts under those circumstances may have fundamental problems. The need to drink to feel uninhibited or intimate is something I am working towards changing. As an artist, it is up to me to open my heart and mind up perpetually, and to rely on substances to do so compromises the quality and integrity of my output. I would have a hard time sustainably relying on substances to allow me to create good work.
The party’s over. Seeing the way our world’s leadership is failing at actually leading humanity towards a more certain progress, I feel strange dulling myself almost nightly with alcohol when there is so much work to be done. It is still important to remember to celebrate life and parties are healthy social expressions that need to happen under even the most repressive of circumstances.
It is ideal to receive even badness with goodness, and of course to receive goodness with goodness (which is more difficult than it might appear). To respond to badness with goodness is initially an act of resistance for most people, and requires conditioning yourself over time to learn to identify the badness that you are reacting to first, and then to make sense of it before you react to it emotionally or physically. Even if you immediately, uncontrollably react badly to the badness, you must use that as a trigger to shift into physical consciousness by taking a deep breath and pointing your awareness on the sensation of the breath. This disables the thinking part of the reaction, even if only momentarily in your first attempts to shift consciousness in those difficult moments, and over time this practice will allow you to extend your attention to physical consciousness to longer times and deeper sensations. This will allow you to control your breath, and you will continue to breathe deeply and intentionally for longer and longer periods of time with practice.
Gastrointestinal distress is a major subconscious cause of agitation. Breathing deeply to aid in digestion is both chemical (oxygen being delivered steadily to the gut to help break food down), and mechanical (your diaphragm pushing the bulk down with every proper breath). A few minutes of deep breathing after a heavy meal will bring lasting relief.
For years, when I didn’t engage in regular challenging physical activity, I often avoided spending time in the state of a physical awareness. I felt I had little use for my body besides minimum maintenance and pleasure centers. Learning to extend your state of focus on your body allows you to remain calmer for longer periods of time. It also allows you to program your neural circuitry more efficiently. My discovery is that I learn the most quickly and easily when I am relaxed physically while I practice or read. The problem is that many people are like I was, avoiding deep focus on my physical state. For me, this was mostly related to my shame of my physical state, indicated by my poor posture, my flabby musculature, and my lack of self-esteem about my body in general. I am familiar with wanting to avoid focus on that aspect of my self, and instead existing in a mostly mental state of consciousness. This is the state I observe most of my first world compatriots to exist in — a state of overthinking. Another way of saying it is that the thinking consciousness is dominating over the physical consciousness, and that sometimes makes it hard to break into the physical consciousness when the necessary time comes, like in a time of acute anxiety.