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Support for on being with Krista Tippett comes from the Fetzer Institute, helping build the spiritual foundation for a loving world, Fetzer envisions a world that embraces love as a guiding principle and animating force for our lives, a powerful love that helps us live in sacred relationship with ourselves, others and the natural world. Learn more by visiting Fetzer, dawg. I'm Krista Tippett. Up next, my unedited conversation with fiddler and singer songwriter Galen Lee. And there is, as always, a shorter produced version of this with music wherever you found this podcast.
Glenn, can you hear me? This is Krista. Oh, hi, Krista. OK, I can hear this and I hear you. I hear you. Your side of of talking to somebody whose voice I can't hear. Oh, we are.
OK, well, I'm letting in high. Hi, Galen.
I am a little OK now I hear you too. OK, so. Hi Julie. Nice to meet you. I can't hear her though.
Actually that's ok. Well ok.
Sorry. OK, so let me. OK, so I'm trying to get. I'm sorry. I'm running a tiny bit behind today. I'm trying to get the. I just uploaded a sample to you. Do you want to let me know if that sounds great. Yes. A quick check. And then my headphones because the rabbit ate the good ones. I'm OK.
That's I've never heard that excuse before.
That is a real thing. I'm using wireless ones and I think it's working. But I just hoping that the battery doesn't die. But we will see it's there at sixty percent. It should be OK for the interview. But if I get a beep I might have to switch to crap your headphones. We have even worse ones now.
OK, it's totally fine. Wait, like I said, you know we're not live and yeah. You don't want to be as comfortable as possible. So let me just check this, OK?
And then let me if it's OK, I'd like to take my inhaler first. I'll be I'll go over there and just be right back. And then I'm trying to think, is there anything else besides pressing record that I need to remember?
I would just be pressing record and then we can all turn our videos off and that'll improve the zone. Yeah.
And and also, this is not you know, you can also have your inhaler with you or you know, you can. Oh yeah. I get a drink of water. Like this isn't a you know, this is this is a this is a true conversational.
Yeah. I plan on. And so yeah.
So even if you have to like plug in the headphones at some point, it's not a problem. OK. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. I was like oh no, no, no, no, don't worry. OK, I'll be right back.
Yeah. We got a rabbit and we luckily of the week before we got him I read a book on rabbits and it said you have to protect basically every kid in your house. So we did, which is great because he the one day we were both listening to music and not paying attention to him, he ate both of our headphones from the same night.
So it was not cool. And we're like, oh, this is real. You really do want to eat? I'll be right back then. OK, I meet myself and I'll come back in just a sec.
Sounds good, Chris.
I'm already thinking about how we can get that in at the top of the show. It's too visual. It's fantastic. Yeah. I'm going to take a listen to this.
I'm going to actually go get a get some water. I'll be good. OK, OK, I'm back. OK, Chris, are we are we ready on your end? I think we're there.
The audio sounded OK. Yeah. Oh, wait, what am I doing? OK, so OK, Chris, just really loud. I'm just trying to. Can you say something? Again, I think that might be my end.
Yeah. I mean, I'm also like really leaning into the mic. So if I'm maybe back about like this, how does that sound?
Oh, I know what I'm doing wrong. It's OK, actually. Don't even worry about it. I didn't know I had to adjust the volume on Zoome, not on my computer.
OK, something again. Yeah. How does this sound. I'm, I'm pretty much at the. Oh yeah. That's my place. I'll be ok. Yep. I yeah that was my fault. Let me just. I'm excited for this. Thanks for having me. Oh, yeah, we're excited, too. I'm I'm just, you know, I'm I'm sad that we're not because we want we want to fill this with a lot of music.
Like, we really think that your music will be so nourishing for people to hear. I mean, it is anyway. But right now, right now, we want to put put you out into the world.
And I'm just sad because I do wish that we could have been in person and oh, you know, guys, you could have played music and we could, but but there will be a beauty in doing it this way, too.
Well, and and if you do, I mean, I have a lot of obviously recorded music, but I also have a lot of record like audio of live stuff I've done since quarantine's started. If that would be our intimate feeling.
I've been yeah. I mean, we've we've got all of that. And so I'm sure I'm sure Chris or Julie will reach out if we if there's anything we need. I mean, I think it's all there.
You know, a lot of is on my phone. I mean, it's kind of amazing thing about the world now, but. Yeah, so I mean, so one thing I want to say to you is because we get to the end, I mean, because you're a songwriter as well, so. Right. And as a songwriter, you are a poet.
And so I think later on, kind of near the end, I want to I'm going to I want us to kind of dive into some songs. I have some thoughts. But but what I want to invite you to do also as we speak here, is if there are certain songs you've written that are evoked for, you know, by this particular conversation, the things we're talking about, you know, feel free to talk about a particular song.
Oh, OK. When we produce it, we might you know, we then, you know, we might we might put it in. But I don't want I don't want I'm not going to get too self-conscious about that. And I don't want you to either. Chris will be able to turn this into a thing of art. Yeah, but just kind of offering that OK, as we go. Yeah. Well, know, just making sure you're recording.
Not yet. Let me see that. I'm closing a couple other windows so that my computer runs maximum. Man, what a hectic afternoon it accidentally ended up being one of those things where you're at home and you're like, how is it stressful at my own house? Yeah, one second. Let me just I was hoping to have this. All set up before we started. But I'm just going to download one thing, a lyric sheet, and then we'll get started just in case we do end up talking about.
Yeah, I have some lyrics in front of me as well, but yeah, I just thought you might there might be something you want to call out. Yeah. No, that's really cool.
OK, I'm going to pull it up. Going to close this. And then let me hit record, there's no limit on the recorder app, right, or do I have to keep an eye on that?
I don't believe so, but it wouldn't be a good idea to keep it on the top since we are doing video just in case it stops on you.
OK, I will do that. Let me see. Backing up. OK, pressing record. OK, we're recording. OK, so does that mean that you weren't recording a minute ago when you told us about the rabbit eating your headphones? Oh, yeah. Well, no, no, don't be sorry.
Oh, so you've got it.
OK, that's pretty good denying it. OK.
Yeah. And I should ask because here we are, here we are speaking and our our pandemic year and our pandemic winter, I I'm in my my makeshift recording what my colleagues call my recording cave in my basement den and my house. Where are you.
I'm in. Ah we have his studio apartment so it's really just one room. So I kind of set up a makeshift recording area in front of our big window behind like it's such a tiny apartment but behind a big red leather chair that we sit in at night and right next to the bed.
So it's it's all one thing to see if you were looking at it. You can see the kitchen table behind me.
Right. OK, um, so I, I mean, you grew up with a lot of music in the world around you.
It sounds like it sounds very cool to have a family dinner theater. Yeah, I forgot.
I mean, like, it's one of those things where you don't really think about how it's cool at the time.
And then and when you become an adult, you're like, oh, that was really neat. Yeah, my parents were musical even before that they actually met in a musical. Um, and so that's always been a part of our lives. And then around when I was ten, my mom's decided like kind of spontaneously that she wanted to open a dinner theater and my dad went along with it and they did that for twenty years. So it's a really big part of my growing up.
Yeah. Was there a spiritual or was there a religious background to your childhood?
Yes, actually. So when I was very young, my parents went to a Presbyterian church that there was some strife in that church that wasn't super healthy. So we ended up going to an evangelical church, which later on my parents are like, yeah, that was probably not the best fit for us. But but I.
I grew up in a covenant church and, um, and I mean, it's like it's kind of funny because I would I don't go there anymore and I don't really identify in that way. If I identified with anything it would be Quaker at this point. Probably, um, I went there in college. If it wasn't in the morning, I would still go there. But I don't go anywhere in the morning if I don't have to. Yeah, but it was an interesting experience because definitely spirituality was huge, hugely important to me.
And then it did give me this kind of an understanding of like evangelical religion that I think has helped me try to bridge the gap as much as I can between people who don't understand it and people that that lived in that world, you know what I mean?
So, yeah, yeah, yeah. So spirituality is definitely a huge, huge part of my experience. But it's like now it's morphed into it's really eclectic and I read all sorts of different spiritual traditions. And so it's definitely changed a lot since I was a kid.
Yeah. I mean, I think that's true. I mean, I think that's true for people, even for most people, even if they stay in exactly the same, you know, the same congregation they were in as a child because we change.
Yeah, I mean, I so, you know, one thing I was thinking about as I was singing about this and and you is, you know, I'm just I'm curious about.
So you you were born with this brittle bone disease osteogenesis imperfecta, so. Right. Yeah. Which which means and just I want to make sure I've got this right that that your bones in your bones to break in utero.
Right. So that while while you're in the in the womb.
Yeah. Basically it's a genetic disorder of the collagen. And so even now my bones are more fragile. But in the way that it manifested for me, it's very they can look really different depending on the individual. For me, I did break probably 30 or 40 or 50. They don't even actually know because X-rays and ultrasounds were pretty bad back then. But I broke a lot in utero. And then growing up, I would I broke I think I broken like 16 bones since I was born.
But yeah, the vast majority happened before I was born. Yeah.
Um, and I just like I think, um, I can't. Imagine that must have been something that you got curious about as you were becoming older and more aware, and I just as I'm thinking about this question, because I'm always curious about the the spiritual background of a childhood, I think it shapes people, whether they stay in that place or not. It often is a place that raises a lot of the questions that they that they follow. And I just feel like you had such a very particular and intense experience of being in your body.
And it made me wonder if if how you might think about how that informed or shaped this, the spiritual sensibility, or how how you experience this part of life that we call or this part of yourself that the spiritual part of yourself, even even in your earlier life.
Yeah, I guess that's a good question and one that I've honestly never been asked before. I I guess for me early on, like maybe by the time I was, you know, 16 or so, I did feel specifically like I was supposed to be born this way like that. I mean, it's just really obvious to me and I don't think everybody always feels this way. So I don't want to speak for everybody with a disability, of course.
But but for me, I would not be the same person without it. I mean, there's just no there's no reality that I live right now that would look the same if I didn't have a disability so pretty early.
I felt that. That that was something that, like God or whatever, you know, has set up for me on purpose.
I mean, this is kind of random, but it's part of the story, I guess, is that I started learning about the concept of reincarnation, and I really think it's awesome. I can't prove that it's right or anything, but it makes a lot of sense to me in that context, too. And, you know, the idea that I happened to be born not just with this body, but with parents who were so. They were just like the perfect set of parents for developing me into who I am and I feel I just feel like it's definitely was meant to be the way that unfolded.
And so spiritually, I think it teaches, you know, disability in general, but also my disability, where you break bones pretty suddenly and you don't you know, you know, one day you're going along, getting ready for work, and then all of a sudden you broke your arm. That has happened a couple of different times where the impermanence of life has always been very front and center. And that I think that also touches into the spiritual aspect of existing is like that.
There's no guarantees of any like you can't predict what the future holds. And so that that informs the way you lose.
I think you have, which is I mean, what you just described about.
Not being able to predict the future is and also not knowing, not being so surprised about what happens one day to the next is kind of is the fundamental spiritual reality that our whole civilization has been confronted with in twenty twenty.
Well, that's the thing is like I also have read a lot of Buddhism and you like the whole idea of not grasping and not attachment is a huge part of my reality.
I'm not good at it, by the way. But like it's something that I that I understand is important and not worrying too much about the future. But I think the thing that people sometimes don't understand is that all the lessons that you learn because of your disability actually do apply to everyone. It just doesn't seem as obvious. Right. So I think we you're right. With the pandemic all of a sudden, everybody had to address that issue that I've been addressing my whole life.
But they probably should have been anyways, you know, like just part of our society. You can kind of lull yourself into the idea that you control your destiny. And that's, you know, in some ways you do like the way you respond to things, but you don't control that every day to day thing that happens to you, obviously.
Yeah. Yeah. Um, I do love the story of I mean, as we said, you grew up with a lot of music around you. Clearly, you had you had music in your DNA.
But the story of how you it sounds like in fourth grade you heard an orchestra and you fell in love with the cello.
And then the story of, well, partly the teacher. Right. Who helped who helped you figure out how you could play the violin, which was not obvious and which didn't work immediately when you all tried it. Yeah, I mean, I that teacher who I mean, that's another part of life where I feel like it was meant to unfold that way, that particular teacher she hadn't like adapted the instrument for other students. It just hadn't happened before, like where it had come up.
And so why she decided to just be so open minded and like experimental is sort of beyond me. And I'm so lucky that she was willing to do that, because a lot of people I've met on the road with disabilities were not met with encouragement when they tried to figure something like that out and never ended up playing the instrument that they wanted to play. So, yeah, so we tried all sorts of different things and the violin and even the tiniest ones were too long to be up on my shoulder.
And then the cello, no matter what size we tried, I couldn't get the ball down to where it needed to hit the strings. And so I don't remember which one of us thought of the idea because it was pretty collaborative. But we struck upon the idea of holding it like a cello and then the bow. I couldn't do the cello bow hold, but she obviously knew a lot about every instrument. So I do a a bass hold for my bow.
I hold it like an upright bass player. And so she was just so cool to help me figure that out. And we tweaked it a little bit here and there as we went like the string that I keep it, you know, I keep under my foot so that it doesn't slide out, that that was an addition later on and stuff. But the the general way I play was something that we came up with together, things like after school or something.
I don't know. It's almost like a faint memory now, but it was a hugely important thing.
Yeah. I mean, it's shaped the whole rest of your life. Hmm. Yeah.
Um, I was also thinking as I was like hearing the story you talked about, that is that there's adaptive sports and you did adaptive ballet and adaptive gymnastics. But there's not this I mean, really what that is, is an example you called it of adaptive music. That may not be as common I was thinking of. Well, I was thinking of a conversation with an anthropologist, Mary Catherine Beetson, who talks about composing a life which is kind of akin to the musical, you know, the improvisational nature of life and improvisation, being being a virtue in a musical life as well.
And then in some ways, you've like that virtue of music has also that that virtue of music has has worked with the virtues you acquired in, again, like being in your body and leading the life that it's yours.
Yeah, I that's a good way to put it. Composing a life. Yeah. I mean I think disability as a big gift of that is innovation and rethinking how things are done. And I mean a lot of people with disabilities I think have done that in their own lives. And and one thing I'm grateful for and I don't really know, I mean, maybe it's my parents or things I've read over the years, but I do really feel that you have the responsibility to kind of shape your life as much as you can to to, like, sit not just you, but like I mean, the broader sense of where you contribute and stuff.
And so my life has been transformed and transformed a lot of different times. Um, and I'm sure that won't stop. But I think it's a really fun part of being alive is that you can kind of create um. I mean, I know I'm coming from a privileged place in terms of support and stuff, but I do think that humans are inherently creative and you can work with all sorts of situations. Like I'm actually I know that sounds terrible, but I've had a really fun time figuring out how to adapt to the pandemic.
And I eldo the pandemic itself is terrible. And I know that a lot of people are suffering like from a creative standpoint of like, well, how do I make art? Now, that part has actually been pretty invigorating to me. And, um, but that's because I think if you see your whole life is like. Yeah, how do you create in the moment something that works? Yeah, then a lot of different situations can be can lead to something kind of like a positive outcome or at least not be a wasted time, you know what I mean?
Yeah, yeah. I mean, I do think it's also been a good time to be a creative person, to have that that ability in who you are to make something out of nothing. Right. Like to make beauty out of what could what would look what might look to somebody else just like open empty time.
And I've been able to make music and send it out into the world. Right. Yeah. And I've talked to other creators and I mean all of us agree that, like, just the idea that you can make art. I mean and I mean, there's been a few months during this pandemic that I've been pretty depressed. So I'm not saying that I get up every day at, like, the clock and make a ton of music or whatever. But in general, I don't feel like there's ever a lack of stuff you can learn or create.
And so that's a pretty cool feeling to know that. Yeah, I think being a creative is an asset. I wish that all people were encouraged to be creative. That's a big thing with like my teacher encouraging me. I wish all teachers encouraged people to create because it does give you this, like, skill set that helps you cope in weird times like this, you know?
Yeah. Um, so, I mean, you're a Minnesota girl, you're a northern Minnesota girl. Yeah.
And I have to say, like, the very first thing I heard of your music was you playing the fiddle. And I assume and I've spent a lot of time in that part of the world, and I assume that you were Irish and you were that an Irish transplanted Minnesota. So but you you didn't you how it's not something you grew up with, I don't think, from what I can tell. How did you get. How did you discover it?
How did you get drawn into it to fiddle the fiddle as opposed to merely the violin?
Yeah, well, it kind of happened gradually. My senior year of high school, I had a crush on a boy who played at this little jam once a week at a little pub called Sir Benedicts in Duluth. And I would go with him and I had never improvised before. So that was really scary. But he he said, you just play like open strings. And then if you hear something that you think you can harmonize with, you do it.
And so I got gradually more comfortable with that. And then I went to college the next year in St. Paul and they tried orchestra for a semester. But it just I had a really good orchestra in high school, like an all my best friends were in it and it just didn't have the same magic at all. And it was one credit for a lot of hours a week. And I wasn't a music major.
So I was like, I don't think I want to do orchestra anymore, but I don't want to quit playing. So I joined Macalester College, where I was at at the time. Has a, you know, Scottish.
Yeah, they have a Scottish lineage. Yeah. Yep. And so they had a group called Flying Fingers where you would just break up into groups of four or five students and you'd meet once a week and then at the end of the semester you play a concert goers, usually Irish or Scottish or some other. We did klezmer one one semester, but like some kind of traditional music and you do this low key concert. And it was very, very much just like an extracurricular.
But I did start learning even more tunes than I had learned the year before and just kind of really love that music.
But I you know, I don't know, I I think there's something really special about melodies that can last for hundreds of years, just generally like they're obviously good melodies because we wouldn't still be playing them if they weren't. And then when I got the looping pedal in 2012, um, from where would you explain what that is.
Oh yeah. Good point.
So I learned in getting ready to talk to you, but I hadn't I wasn't aware of it. Yeah.
No good point. OK, so I was doing a little instrumental project with a person named Alan Sparhawk in Duluth and he's in the band and he wanted to do this instrumental project where I would play violin and then he would use what was called the looping pedal, which is a recording device. So as I would play, he would capture these snippets of what I played by pressing record, and then it would play back again and again and again. So he would have me just play harmony to what I was hearing be like built up in this recording.
It's alive. So little metal box and it's all done live. So it's not prerecorded. So what starts with one violin ends up being like six or eight layers of violin by the end. And one day after band practice, he said, I got you one of these. I think you should learn how to to use the looping pedal and eventually you'll play shows by yourself. And I didn't believe him at all, but I tried it a couple of weeks later and I felt I mean, I was like, well, because if you can suddenly create these compositions in real time as a solo violinist all these years before that, like it was like having an orchestra in your living room, it was so cool.
And then I discovered this big passion of finding ways to loop these traditional fiddle tunes to like combine the old and the new. And that is when my love of fiddle music kind of rekindled. I mean, because it's just so creative to me, like it allows you to kind of do to change these melodies. And yet people still recognize them, you know, but to build up all these layers of sound underneath and then play the melody on top is just so fun.
I don't know. I don't know why. It's pretty nerdy, I suppose, but I think it's really, really, really fun. So so that's where the love of music has been sustained, because as much as I love playing like dances, I would play like concert dances and stuff in the band for me. Once you've played a fiddle tune seven hundred times. You know, something I needed to find a different way to to do that, to keep it interesting in the looping pedal, because it's all alive and it's very related on what exact moment you press the button and exactly when you let it go.
It's all very specific. You have to be alert the whole time. So it keeps those tunes. Even though I've played them hundreds and hundreds of times, it keeps them feeling fresh because every creation can go horribly wrong, basically because, you know, so it's another it's another layer of that improvisational spirit we're talking about.
You know, I was I I love, love, love. I actually first discovered the fiddle in Scotland and as you know, which but, you know, it doesn't even make sense from the outside. But even though Scottish and Irish fiddle sounded very much alike, they're also very different in their way.
But I've always felt like as much as any other music, the fiddle while Celtic music in particular. But the fiddle, the fiddle in particular, I really like it holds pain and joy all at the same time. Like it. It carries this sadness, this old sadness that is ongoing, but it also carries right with it this possibility of something big enough to meet that sadness or like that's the way I would say it.
Yeah. And it's like, yeah.
Yeah. You know what. You know what I mean though about that. Yeah. I think the violin, what I've heard and what makes sense to me is that the long sustained notes and in the range of a violin like kind of resonates the same way as a human voice.
And and those melodies that you're talking about, they are all kind of bittersweet.
And yeah, I don't I know there is something that is very moving about fiddle music. And it's I mean and I think that's again, it's like maybe there where fiddle tunes that where it's moving when they were first made. But those aren't the ones that we have today because there are hundreds of years old and we have kept the ones that touch us as people. Right. And like one of my favorite things to do when I'm playing a fiddle tune is to think back on all the different people who have played it before me.
And I'll never even know who they are, right. That they might be like a civil war soldier. I do it in Ireland from like seventeen hundreds and like it's just so cool to think about how that music has just been passed down.
But yeah, it is bittersweet. I just loathe especially Celtic music, all those Scandinavian cities. I've been introduced a little bit to that and that it has a darker tone a lot of the time. But um, but it's also very beautiful at the traditional music is just pretty cool. Yeah, I love that, I mean, I love it what you just said about how the all the generations that it's pass or in some have takes on the heft of that.
It's also it also kind of makes sense for you when you talk about the looping, because it is profoundly communal music in terms of how it lives and breathes and operates right in its world.
And so even if it's you and you're looping, it's like you're you're creating a crowd, right? You're kind of creating in the absence of the pub where people are drinking their Guinness, you're creating that collective experience. Yeah.
And you know, the best memory I have, I guess, of playing those kinds of songs as I did. And the first time we went over to London, I did have a gig at a little pub called the Windmill Brixton. And the owners were Irish. And when I did the parting glass, because I do a medley with another faster fiddle tune in the end, and it was just so cool because he was getting really pumped. He was like, so it's just fun to like touch the psyche.
Like, I don't know how to explain, but man, the Irish music is in in their culture like like whenever I play over and especially Ireland, but in this case in England, because he's from Ireland, like they know all the songs, they're like, oh, that way, you know, it's just a huge part of their cultural. Like knowledge, and I wish that we had something like that here in America.
I mean, I suppose we do in certain parts of the country, but in northern Minnesota, the music isn't like every single part. I mean, I don't know. Something about it is like it's just so neat that everyone in Ireland that I've met, like, knows all those songs. And yet this is so cool.
Yeah. Yeah. Oh, we could keep talking about this for an hour.
Yes, I know. No, I'm the one who I keep going on. But it just coming back to this spiritual.
It also, you know, another I feel that. I kind of think this was a bit and you touched on this a bit when we first started speaking. Well, you know, in general, this kind of separation, we imagine, and especially in Western culture, like the category of the body and the spirit that falls away, it kind of at at extreme seams of life.
It falls away, enjoy it falls away and suffering. It falls away in death and in bursts and an illness and it falls away in music. It's like music. There's a Celtic music to me in particular, it's music that makes the body feel like a soul. That's what I thought about it. And I certainly feel that when I hear you playing it and it's tribal in a way, but you you you extend it, you own it also.
Cool. Well, thanks. Yeah. I mean, I do believe that and I don't understand why exactly, but I do believe that music is one of those junction points, you know, between the body and the spirit. I mean, I don't know if you've ever heard this story, but there was a, um, about six or eight years ago, my grandfather it was six years ago, my grandfather was 94 and he was in hospice and he was passing away, but he was there for six days.
So we had the whole family like would take turns to be with him. So he wasn't alone. And every day after work at the time, I was working at a Boys and Girls Club, and I would come over after work and play hymns for him on the violin because he he was very spiritual, like Christian man, and he always had hymns. That was his thing. And so one day I was there, it was about three days into hospice and I was playing Amazing Grace.
And he started making some noises, some like moaning. And we were worried that he was in pain. So somebody went and got a nurse and she leaned over and listened. And she's like, Oh, my God, she's singing along with you. And as I kept playing, his singing got louder and louder and clearer and clearer. And at the end, he really, truly was like he was singing with me. And the weird part is that's like the last time he ever made any noise.
But I think music is something a lot deeper than we think about in our daily lives, like it definitely lives in like the deepest part of your human body. But I think that's because it's not just in your body. You know, it's like, yeah, it's this connection point. And it was really powerful to see you here all the time, that all music is, you know, a really big part of us. It's one of those things that sticks with you.
But to actually witness something like that was really amazing. I mean, it is bittersweet, of course, but it was just like, holy cow. Like, yeah, he's in there and he's singing along.
And it was and it's the singing and the music that drew him to the circus. Again, it was really intense. And I that that changed my perception of what when people say music is powerful, it sometimes just sounds like a cliche, but you're like, oh no, it really is really intense.
Yeah. Um, you know, we're we're going to be we're we're we're in we're in December as we speak. Yeah. And we're going to be airing this around Christmas. And it's a strange Christmas, like every every milestone in this year's, you know, like graduations didn't happen and it didn't happen. And Broadway shut down and, you know, Thanksgiving and Christmas are up in the air. And, um, I'm curious, you know, like, one day we will we will rebroadcast this conversation and we will cut this part out because we we will be in a different chapter of our life as a species.
But, um, but I am I am curious about what's Christmas for you.
Um, I'm curious what what's Christmas for you this year in twenty twenty. How are you going to spend that. Yeah.
Well you know the we, I have tiny lungs so I really don't want to get coronavirus so I have been really locked down since March. Like don't go to stores. I mean I've had to, we had to put our dog down in June and I had to go to the doctor twice. But beyond that, I haven't been inside really anywhere since March. And I also don't want to spread it to people with disabilities because people in group homes are like more likely to die of coronavirus than almost anyone in the country, basically.
So it's something that I don't I mean, I want to spread it to anyone, but I think that that's I don't want to impact other people negatively. So we've been locked down. But I will say that about two weeks ago, because my parents are just as locked down as us and they're the only people in our lives that are as locked down as us. We decided to form a little four person pack, my husband and I and my parents.
And so it was really. Weird, but special Thanksgiving, and I'm assuming it'll be the same at Christmas because we went there and just the four of us cuts, but we assumed with each of my siblings throughout the day. And at the end of the day, I think squibbing, we all of us were on the line together for a few minutes and out of the little nothing lasted that long.
But and it was like a special little holiday is going to be weird again for Christmas. But we'll be there Christmas Eve. And, you know, we're going to cook a dinner together and Zougam on Christmas Day with the rest of my family. And I don't know, I think having I think it is if anybody can find another person that's as locked down as they are, I think it's important, if you can, to find at least one person to see if you can do it responsibly.
And so it took us a while to get to that point where we were we communicated a lot about what was OK to do and what we what we weren't comfortable doing, like in terms of, you know, I really want it to be safe. But it is because we had all these conversations that it was an exercise in, like, really communicating what we meant. But now that we have this little pad, I mean, I think the holidays are going to be pretty fun, actually.
Like, we're I'm doing it. Three days before Christmas, I convinced my parents to do a zoo from their house like a holiday Carol, sing along so my mom would play piano and I'm going to play violin and sing and we're going to, like, open it up to anyone like who wants to come and do a Christmas Carol sing along so everybody else will be muted. They'll hear me, but we'll all be able to see each other. And I think it's going to be really fun.
I don't know, like it's part of that whole creative thing is it's definitely a different Christmas. But I personally think for us anyways, it'll it'll be nice and and I'll know that at least I just don't want to like, have people leave the holiday and they get sick five days later. So we're doing it in a way where we feel like that won't happen. And and I feel good about that too. So I don't know. I love Christmas.
I had a Christmas album of Guadalupe's Christmas carols. Yes, I do. Yes. I love Christmas music and I really love the holidays. For some reason. I like Thanksgiving Day. Christmas is like my favorite month of the year. So I've really been trying to just focus on the like the stillness of this year, like Advent is right now. And yeah. And I've got like a super Guinness. I draw from a lot of different things, but I've been reading some advent devotionals and like this idea of stillness and waiting is very poignant this year.
I would say.
Yeah, maybe maybe we need to kind of extend the spirit of the season, the season of Advent into these next few months, because we yeah, it's like the world is going to shift again, but it's not going to happen yet.
You know, you're so it's it's so it's actually really energizing to speak to you and for you to talk about, you know, how how you how you've actually had a flourishing of creativity. And, um, you know, you are in good spirits, obviously, and you're even excited about Christmas. But as you said, I mean, you did mention this before. You you've had rough days also.
You've written about that on your blog and in in in twenty twenty.
You wrote at one point about this feeling of dread and how you had to kind of you had to kind of welcome dread. Yeah, and you wrote something that I just want to read back because it's very beautiful and helpful.
And so, again, this was you know, this was out of you. In being in lockdown and then also reflecting on other hard passages in your life that that also, you know, formed you, and I think that's also true of a time like this, that a time of loss that our other the other losses of our life and the other traumas of our life come back to us a bit. So anyway, you wrote this. The saying goes, love your neighbor as yourself.
But I would challenge you to reverse that, saying for a moment, love yourself as your neighbor. If you saw another person hurting, you'd want them to get the care they need, right? Well, you are that person today. You are absolutely worthy of care. Please reach out when life feels too difficult to bear. Hang on another day so you can eventually find yourself in a better place and come to know your reason to keep living. Yeah, yeah, that yeah, that, yeah, I mean I mean, I think it's something that.
That I so I deal with anxiety and depression at different times, you know, sometimes they are less prevalent and sometimes they're more. And when I wrote that particular blog, it was, you know, a pretty challenging part of this pandemic for me, you know, and I think. Especially in a time where there's so many people hurting in the world, it's easy to just. I don't know, kind of just get overwhelmed and maybe paralyzed or like frozen instead of thinking like, well, what what can I do I need right now, you know, like what is something I could do to help myself.
But I think a lot of people and myself included, sometimes don't. You always see, like other people suffering and not really acknowledge like. That you also can do something about your own without being, like, selfish or bad person, you know what I mean? Yeah, yeah. Or and that you are worthy of getting the care that you need. So, you know, the beginning of the pandemic and then again a couple months ago, we're both really hard because.
At the beginning of it. I was just kind of. Overwhelmed and depressed, but it hadn't really come to northern Minnesota yet, you know. Yeah, nobody we knew was sick. Yeah.
All the way to Minnesota. Yeah. And all this stuff changed, like our lives change. I mean, I had to leave. We drove home from a tour we were on our way to do, obviously.
And I don't know something about just the not knowing the future and reading the predictions of what could happen. We're just it means a lot to take on. And so at that point, I get counseling online, which really helped. I mean, it really helps. I wish I wish that we had national health care so that everybody could just go. But there are some places like better help and stuff where you can get it for less.
But it's important and it's so important to do that if you need it and just try to give myself some slack. Somebody said something that really helped me around that time that I wrote the blog. They said one hundred and fifty years ago, basically the goal of life was just not to die. Like like the goal of life is just to exist, tell another day. And we've added a lot of other kinds of commitments and like a lot of expectation on that.
And she's like, I don't I think right now I'm just going to focus on staying alive. And I was like, wow, that actually really helps to me to like kind of let go of some of the feeling is not only is there a pandemic, but I'm feeling it everything, too, you know what I mean? Like, that that wasn't helpful. And then a couple of months ago, it is it has been really difficult. And I'm not going to downplay, like as a person with a disability, not just for myself, but for the community.
How frustrating it's been that people haven't been following the rules in the way that they should and wearing the masks and really not having parties and you know what I mean, like that kind of thing. So it's been a lesson spiritually for sure in like just having to accept what is and focusing on what I am doing and I mean, speaking out when I can, of course. But but the idea of like if I am I think there's a Bible verse about that somewhere.
But like basically if you're like, oh, I think it's like the the wrath of. Man does not achieve the glory of God or something like that, but basically like being totally angry person isn't going to help the world, you know what I mean? And so having to try to let go of some of that frustration and pain and disappointment, I guess, is a big word for that.
That's been like the other challenge of this pandemic for me is just like, you know, I think I mean, I think people think of disability as negatives or something that they wouldn't want. But I actually really think and I think we'll get there that it's like a it's a really valid way to exist. And like and not only can it create, like, different art, like my music is informed by my disability, but it can create different ways of seeing the world.
And I just personally, it's been like. Other people have gone through far more terrible periods of history than this. I mean, we have no Internet. I mean, I know society.
Imagine all that's possible. I mean, the concerts that you've that you've brought it broadcast out.
Yeah. And it's it's hard to be. I think what what I mean is like I think because disability is always reimagining or living outside the box this particular time it's been like, well, of course I'll stay home. And I know that, like financially, some people can't stay home, but going to birthday parties and stuff like the things that are extra and unnecessary, those are the things that really make me frustrated. But I mean, again, I can't I can't control what other people do.
So I've been really trying, especially at the holidays, to just realize that, you know, when Jesus was dying, he's like, forgive them. They know not what they do. It's kind of that idea of, like, people are trying, I don't think, to. Really wreak havoc on the world, and so I just have to trust that they we're all in this situation where we'll know more when we're all right, not alive anymore.
And well, you know, like it's not really my job to fix everything at this point, but but it is I worked really hard in July to get a massive mandate in Duluth, and I'm glad that that ended up happening to that happen. Yeah. Yep, it did. And and I mean, it wasn't like I was the only person working on it, but I definitely had a voice in that discussion. So I feel like the things that you can do, you should do.
I was like, you know, I'm home, I have time. I'm going to work on this issue because I think it's important and it felt good to, like, see a change happen. And and so I'm glad that I could focus on something that I had the power to change. But a lot of the stuff that I'm talking about that still lingers is stuff that I just I don't have control over. You have control over yourself and how you respond to what's happening around you.
And that's about it. So I'm trying to focus on the positive stuff that I can do in the community rather than getting too bogged down with, like watching people make decisions that I don't agree with, you know.
Mm hmm. Or that feel personally dangerous to you. Well, again, there is a fine point on that. Right.
But I it's like really it's really inner work that you're doing to get to know the validity of that feeling you have and the reality of the danger and also make that decision not to assume that they mean it that way.
Right. That I mean, there's that's it's.
That's real internal labor, but it's also part of your internal freedom that you're that you're owning, right? Yeah, I mean, yeah, that's the thing is it's like I think this time is more than just metaphorical, like a period of point, like where we can choose to really learn from this time. And I I really want to do that. Like, I'd want to emerge from this situation, not like a bigger or disillusioned person, you know.
And I think that at least right now that I will come out of it that way. And but that's because, yeah, it takes a lot of inner reflection and like, just really trying to give, like, you know, like the whole idea of not judging other people with people judging. Right. So that's sort of where I mean, like, you know, like, I don't know.
Jesus said, love your enemies. He wasn't kidding about that part, you know.
So that's that's not very easy, but it's definitely actually what we're supposed to be doing in the Christian context. And there's probably similar verses in every other faith to the idea, you know, love people that that hurt you even though they hurt you. That's that's what this is talking about. Not like. Not like in times of plenty, it's like right now is the time where that's important. Yeah, you know, I feel like another thing, some of the ways you you reflect on disability and also work for Despard for disability rights and I don't know, I'd say like disability, kinship, also with like everybody else, with the kinship, the human kinship and something that I that I feel is, like you've pointed out, that this is not something so unusual.
If you look at it in the large sweep of things that nearly one in five people in America has a disability, 90 percent, but but also at a deeper level.
I mean, what you're talking about are we all are imperfect, suffering, wounded, you know, different in some ways, it just doesn't always show on the outside of our bodies. Right. Like that 19 percent is things that maybe show on the outside of your bodies or show up in certain ways. And this just kind of falling on what you just said. Like, this is a moment where we all are really getting in touch with, you know, how frightened and frightened we are, how inadequate we feel.
Right. Are the the softness of our humanity.
Yeah. Yeah. I yes, I, I think that all again, I see disability as just a form of diversity, like a spectrum where. And it comes and it changes throughout your life, right, like I'm probably the less able bodied or whatever. Yeah. When I'm eighty four than I am now. Right. And so and so and so will everyone. Right.
And so if you make it that long, you're not going to be the same person that you were when you were 30 in terms of your physical form. And I just think that if you see disability as entirely natural and not, I think what it is to me is that we call certain things disabilities or diseases or whatever. But we all I mean, I just don't see it as like a compartmentalized thing. I think we're all just humans and we've labeled certain things, um, and.
And that disability is entirely a natural part of like every single person's life, they just don't identify with it. And when you do touch the idea that you're immortal and that you need supports or that like it's OK to ask for help or that it's OK to rethink things, or you don't have to follow the crowd and do it the same way. There's a lot of things that being disabled has made visible to me that literally apply to everyone. Like I did a TED talk on sexuality once.
And I said, like, you know, some of these revelations I have seen like there because of disability, but they apply to everyone. And I've always felt that way. But disability is not actually separate from any person and anyone can become disabled at any time. And I think we just yeah, we just don't want to acknowledge maybe our. Ah, yeah, that softness or the vulnerability or whatever that comes with disability, but there's also like strength and creativity there too.
So I wish that we could take away the stigma or the separateness and just kind of start embracing it as a diversity that is like a welcoming and welcoming people.
There's some you know, some place you spoke about, you know, how. Yeah, I mean, what you say is like we're all disabled in the same way that we're all dying, like it's just more obvious in some life. Yeah. And in certain moments. Yeah.
Yeah. No, I mean, that's the reality is we're all headed there. Oh yeah, we are.
And you said I thought this was this was very striking to me. Just, you know, getting this into context.
You're talking about your husband, Paul, and how it's true that he has to care for you in in in complex ways, but really in ways that many spouses care for their spouse at different stages of life. Yeah. Who you know, he cares for you in a way that you might expect and in many marriages for him not to have to to to care for you when you're older or you've been married longer. But that reality belongs to all of us, just as you're as you're saying.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. We just sped up for like four decades or something, but, um. Yeah.
And then the thing is, is that that's the thing is I think we care for each other and his is more physical. Well his is both, but like he does a lot of physical stuff. But to assume that just because you need physical care that you're not also providing other care is important to remember.
So I feel like one thing I would love to see in my lifetime is a linking of older people to understand disability in a way that's so it's easier to age. You know, all of my grandparents have struggled with getting older and being really frustrated with their bodies changing and feeling like a burden. And all of these things that you have to deal with as a disabled person and like make peace with to just like have a happy life. You know, um, and I wish that we talked about this stuff sooner so that when you are older and you suddenly need someone to drive you to the grocery store that you don't like, hate your life, there's no reason to, you know, like if you see it as a context of just a different part of the human cycle, that's just as valuable.
I think the biggest thing to remember is that all people are equally valuable. And that is true no matter what your stage of life you're in or what your disability is, so that you don't have to feel bad about needing extra help as you age and stuff or feel or, you know, and that that creative thing about like, well, how can I do it now rather than I can't do this anymore, you know what I mean? Like, yeah, there's just so many lessons that disability and old age could work, like synchronistically if we could be talking about it more.
Yeah. In terms of the shared human condition. Yeah. The the spectrum of the human condition.
I did watch that TED talk that you gave and I actually wanted to talk to you about it. I mean, you actually studied political science in college, right?
That was your major.
And I think this was TED talk where you talked about reading Mark Kooser, the philosopher on Eros. And I did want to you know, you had this epiphany that has really been important to how you think about kind of what we're talking about a minute ago, your internal freedom. And often when you talk about yourself as a decent, like I think this is on your website, when you talk about yourself a disability rights advocate, you'll join language like disability rights, inner freedom and accessibility in the arts.
So would you tell that story you said I mean, you said this lightning bolt struck your brain when you read this philosopher.
Yes. Well, also the philosopher Marquesa. I was writing about how capitalism had usurped sexuality in the way that they had discovered. If and by the way, I guess I mean, like the people who sell things had discovered that if you make people feel inadequate about themselves, like 10 pounds overweight or not wearing enough clothes, that they will invest money to reach this ideal that has been set by capitalism. Right. And so you can sell diet pills and different hair products and all sorts of things, magazines and and you just make the bar unattainable enough so that people will keep striving after it.
Right. And never really be satisfied with who they are. So they'll spend tons of money. And that's a very oversimplified oversimplification of what he wrote about. But that's what I was reading. And I was like, wow, I do not relate to this at all, which was weird. I was like, I when I see other people do that, like I obviously see people spending money on stuff that they because they feel like not paying enough money.
More complete or more. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. But I was like I just don't feel that way. And I wondered why that was. And it dawned on me that because I looked so different, you know, my little. So time in an electric wheelchair. I'm just really small. I don't see myself at all in those magazines and it would be like laughable to think about trying to look like a model in Cosmopolitan or something like that, because I just looked so different that it obviously didn't apply to me.
So I had grown up, you know, starting and I would say towards the end of high school, I just kind of did when I wanted to do with fashion. I wore a lot of really weird clothes, but I don't wear anymore. So, like, I, I kind of just did whatever I wanted and and. Just felt like kind of outside of the box and for a while growing up, you know, that obviously does make you feel left out, you know, friends.
Luckily, all my friends were injured, so none of us really dated.
But people around us, we're as a teenager. Yes. The people, you know, started dating or you kind of start thinking like, oh, maybe I'll never be able to get married because nobody will ever find me attractive. You have those worries. But when I realized that I had I had this, like, freedom to just kind of develop into the person I wanted to become without feeling weighed down by these standards that were unattainable. Anyways, that's the reality of disability actually overlapping into everywhere it's designed to make you lose.
Right. Like the capitalism of sexuality, where nobody can stay in the realm of desirable for longer than like maybe three years in their 20s. And then all of a sudden you don't that doesn't you know, you have to keep working to fit this ideal. And so I realized, like, I had this freedom right out of the gate. And when I realized I had that freedom, I think you just become more confident or like just less, I don't know, less weighed down.
And so actually, shortly after that is when I did start dating people and something that was sort of a coincidence. But I had to have that realization first that where I was might look like left out and sad, but where I actually was just in this place of intense, like freedom to just be who I wanted to be. And that was really liberating. And it applies to everyone. So, like, if we if we acknowledge that, you know, that's why I struggle a little bit when disabled people want to get involved in, like the fashion industry.
And I know that that's a passion for some. So they should go for go for your passion. But I don't really necessarily want to be marketed to. I just I don't know. It's just not I don't want to feel like, oh, now I have to look at certain way or be a certain way because capitalism tells me to I really value the freedom of not being marketed to, I guess.
But I understand it. Everybody is totally different. And so I know there are people that are very excited about that change and that's good. But I think it's important to acknowledge that capitalism is not set up for us to feel content. That's all right. You know, we're we're never going to feel like we have the stuff we need or the looks that we need mean it's something something can still make us better.
Yeah, exactly. Yeah. Mhm.
So interesting. It's so good to think about. Right.
So um I think I'm just curious as we've done speaking, I mean are there songs. Um I kind of, I don't want to get a little bit into you as a, as a writer. As a wordsmith.
Um we don't you know, we don't have to talk about your songs. Like we will be able to play them. Right. So people will be able to hear them.
So but yeah. Are there any are there lyrics? Are there are there ideas and words that. Our particular songs that come to mind in terms of themes of what we've been talking about, yeah, I mean, a lot of my songs are definitely about. The internal struggles that I have pondered over the years, I'm trying to think if there is any of that, like really since the the time we're in. Let me look really kind of scanning the scene.
So, like, bound by a thread, is this the first one on my list? Yeah, OK, well, yeah, I'd love to talk about any of that. You have questions about.
No, no, I'm, it's. Yeah. So yeah. Yeah. No, don't talk about that one. That does. It's also so so beautiful.
Just so thank you. Yeah. Well bound by a thread started about the concept of reincarnation and I've read a lot about a lot of books about it and I just think it's so fascinating. But the idea that you're connected to certain people throughout time and you're helping each other grow in different relationships throughout different ages. And I feel there are a few people in my life that like definitely I just feel like we were supposed to meet and we change each other.
And it was really like a huge pivotal part in not only my life, but I think, you know, the way that you help each other. You know, transcendence becomes something different. I think that that's really important and and for me, those words, I do believe we'll see the fruits of our labor, maybe not now, maybe lifetimes ahead, if only love would be our guide. I think for me right now, especially that idea of you don't necessarily have to see the outcome of everything that you do, because I think if love is your motivation, it has unintended consequences and it ripples out.
And and I mean, I was so lucky during this pandemic. I got to hear Barack Obama speak at a Crip camp. You so like Krip Camp is a film that came out and they did a series of lectures over the summer. And somebody asked him, like, how do you stay hopeful right now? You know, especially. And it was like it's just so I was like, I can't believe I'm seeing Obama like this is the coolest thing in the world.
He said that he when he was younger, he took everything so seriously. And then as she got older, he realized he's just one person in this long chain of social justice.
And your passing, you take the torch from someone else and eventually you pass it on to the next generation and that you absolutely won't solve all the problems, but you absolutely should be part of the chain. And I think that that's sort of what this song is about, is just doing the things that you do now and then whether or not you see them because of reincarnation or if it's just that in the future of the world, the actions of today bring about the change of tomorrow.
I think that that is a really important concept to me, I guess.
Mhm. Yeah. And you know, it's one of these, it's one of these basic realities that even if taking it outside the state, even outside the frame of reincarnation, I mean we know that acts of love and also acts of wounding.
We know that they ripple through time. Right. Like they ripple through our families, they ripple through our communities. They ripple through lives. And, you know, just to what would it mean if we actually would really let that sink in, what that means and then and then and what are the implications for this is how you're teaching me. This is where our mind is going. Then what are the implications for them, how we live, knowing that?
Well, that and that's why I like if only love would be our guide is a really big part of that to me, because I think we're not going to get everything right and we're definitely going to make a lot of mistakes. And still we wouldn't other people and stuff in our human existence. But I think if love is the measure that you try to hold yourself to for for the ways that you live, that then you're more likely to hit upon those ripples that are positively affecting the future rather than the opposite.
What about this song, Moment of Bliss? It's also so beautiful.
Oh, yeah, that was that's a little older when I wrote that when I was playing a lot with Alan Sparhawk. And that one is a marriage, actually. And it's you know, it's it's I think marriage is a really powerful place to like. Oh, I just read in a devotional recently by some monk. I don't remember who it was actually that marriage is a community of two. So like, if you're married, it's not like you're a monk in a in a song or whatever, like faraway in an ashram.
But you are a community of two and you can learn to like enact the principles of like. Of what you what your spiritual principles in this like one relationship, and I think that marriage, especially for me, has been a really intense growing field. I mean, again, not always good at it like it may. It makes you feel like the worst of yourself and the best of yourself in some cases. And it's just like there are never a lack of opportunities to, like, put your spirituality into practice in a marriage.
I mean, it's oh, my gosh. You know, we're in a studio apartment. We've been here since March. If you think we have our year since my Krung. So, like, it's just such a it's a hugely like there it is. There's your chance to figure out some of this spiritual stuff that you think about, like here's how you do it. And so that's what I mean by it seems easy, but it's still hard to do it.
You read you read the spiritual practices and they resonate with you and these verses and you feel something. But then to do it when your partner is like bugging the crap out of you, you're so different.
You know, it's like to put it into practice is huge. And so but then, you know, we won't choose to go. So we just face the next task. Humble at last.
I think it's important to just humble America. Yes. It's like, well, here we are. Sorry I missed that one up. Let's try again, basically. And that's I mean, I think marriage is a for me, it's been really cool to think about, like even though it can be a struggle sometimes how cool it will be, hopefully if we make it that long in 40 years, you know that person better than you knew anyone else ever.
And I just think that's so cool. Like but it's very much a practice ground for this more lefty stuff you read about. It's like the battlefield internet in an Internet bad way, but yeah. Definitely intense. Yeah.
Mm. Um. I is there is there maybe one other song that comes to you that feels and there doesn't have to be, but if there's anything that. Feels what we're talking about. Maybe I'll talk real quick about just the two most recent ones. Then you can choose what you want to keep. Is that OK? Yeah, sure.
OK, so in twenty nineteen I wrote a song called The Long Way Around, and that song is about the relationships that start out really fun and light and joyful. And then you come to this sort of an impasse where, yeah, you're like struggling with each other and the idea that if you make it through that place how you can. Really? It can really be a blessing to have that relationship in your life. There's a couple of different times where friendships have kind of come to this like, OK, are we going to work on this or are we not going to work on this?
You know, and if we don't work on it, then the understanding is that, like, you're probably not going to have each other in your lives. But the times that I have chosen to work through it has been just like very rewarding, that idea that I try not to burn the careful ties that bind us together. I just think relationships in general and it's been amplified during covid are kind of. It's not like, oh, we're going to we can get through anything automatically, right, like you have to check, you have to be willing to do the either the work or the carefulness of not wounding each other.
You know, like that's like a real a real part of being a human. And so we're taking the long way around to me means that it you don't have to necessarily resolve everything overnight. But but that you can. If you if you work on those relationships, it can end up being a really fulfilling place to be, I guess. Does that make sense?
Yeah, I, I really appreciate you calling that out to that that kind of love. And, you know, I even think that can be, you know, people we work with, you know, neighbors. Oh, yeah.
And it's it's as you say, you know, at a time like this where we're all everybody's stressed in their own particular way, um, and um and then added to that, we're only able to communicate this, you know, like the technology is amazing and miraculous.
And I've done some things by Zoome that were so beautiful and meaningful and deep. But it also I mean, it has these real limitations I'm finding, especially when something's a little difficult, where you just want to be able to sit in the room with somebody. Yeah. And have more time than, you know, whatever was allotted for the Xoom call or the or the telephone call. But also just how it's just true in any of us is not at our best or is feeling stressed out or vulnerable or just tired, then we're more likely to be hard on the people at right or being hard on ourselves.
We're likely to be harder on people around us.
Yeah. And that's why I guess I just think a lot of this stuff in life is the long game. Yeah. Like, you have to play the long game. And that's why getting help, for example, when you're depressed and just my dad always said when I broke my arms, he would always say this too shall pass. And it's true like everything does eventually pass. But you so giving yourself permission to be like, well, I screwed that up, but I'm playing the long game, you know.
And so I there's a chance to figure this out still. And that's sort of what this next song is about. I wrote this one ironically. I wrote two months before coronavirus hit, and it felt so poignant later that I was like, what? I love that songwriting, I think comes from a place in your brain that you can't really access or maybe the spiritual realm. It's hard to say, but yeah, I don't think you I mean, you write the songs, but I feel like sometimes you don't really realize what they're saying until later.
I remember Rosanne Cash saying to me, you catch the songs, right? Yeah. Yeah.
I mean, it's I feel like they kind of just float down from a place that is very mysterious to me. And so for this one, this hunger won't leave is one that I wrote a few months before quarantine. But then, as I said, you know, I was really discouraged and depressed at the beginning of it. And and it has kind of ebbed and flowed since then. But this idea that your bad habits and the things you don't like about yourself feel like they just you just can't get over them, you know what I mean?
Why can't you travel on up your mountain? Can't you get it out of your system? And and it can be you kind of to this point of despair. And it's like you you run away or turn to face your demons. It's kind of like this choice that you have to make. And I guess for me in the verse, but beneath the surface doesn't seem to make much sense. A clouded mess that beneath it all, I know there is some order sifting through my fears, my hate, my love, my emptiness.
I will someday hit upon that boundless border and the idea that something in you drives you to keep going forward and working, won't you grab a hold of this hammer and build a new day with me? I just think that there is something about the human spirit which I have seen during coronavirus that is that has uplifted me, despite all the frustration is how people really have maybe not in all the ways that I would, but they have really adapted. And I got to give the human race credit for like what we are going through.
People have really done some cool things and not not even just like doing cool things, but people have endured a lot.
And yet I just I'm proud to just see what how people have coped, even the ones that are struggling, admitting that they're struggling and then trying to figure out a way like, well, should I get a dog? Should I go to counseling? Like, what do I need to do? Like, I think there is a deep resilience in the human race that that song kind of touches on, I think. And I've seen it. During coronavirus, and it's it's it's a neat thing to witness despite all the tragedy around us.
Yeah, there is resilience, too, and I think that that's really cool.
Yeah, I'm just looking at the lyrics. Even if you read that last the last lines, why don't you grab a hold of this hammer and build a new day with me. But before that, also, this really touches me. What what? You put your lips to this water and your thirst to be free.
I if I ask you, I feel like this what you just have been talking about flows into this, if I ask you like. You know, through this life, you've lived through who you are and and, you know, in this moment, but but but also through through the fullness of yourself, like how how has your sense you know, and this is an impossibly large question. So just like, how would you start to answer this? How would you start to think it through?
Like what what have you what what have you learned? How does your sense of about what it means to be human? How does your sense of that keep unfolding?
Well, I think that. At least for me, I can't speak for other people, of course, but for me it feels like your as a spiritual being, whatever that means to you, right.
As a human, you have this spirit and that. I know. I mean, I really do feel that there is this perfect love somewhere. And you have glimpses of it like it's real deep down there. But the practice of being human for me is just learning how to do that in a place where it's not perfect. Right. It's easy to think about. I mean, man, I do look devotionals every morning and it's so easy like you read them and and you just think like, oh, yes, because this is truth.
Right. And then you get out in the world and somebody like bugs you and they're like, oh, looks like now I'm annoyed. And it's just this human being a human is learning how to carry that, that love and that like that and nurturing and whatever it means to treat other people with love to to do that in real life, in actual practice.
And that's what I think the point of being a human for me is. And in a broader sense, I think that that means sharing your self with the world.
However that looks it can look so different for different people. For me, I've gotten a lot of messages about music. Right. Like like sharing music with other people is what I feel like I should be doing with my time. But it doesn't have to be something like performative. It's just how do you bring yourself into the world in a way that that expands love rather than contracting it and and just doing it in real life? I think that's what you get out of being a human, real unromantic life.
Yes. Yeah. We do say a little bit before we finish about your philosophy of enrichment over progress.
Yes. So this you know, I told you that story about my grandfather, right? Um, yeah. This was a concept that really started to percolate after I experienced his passing. This idea that I knew I read a lot of self-help books and and I love the idea of, you know, progressing as a person. Right. Like like learning and continuing to improve in the long run. And the long game, as I said, that inspires me a lot.
But I felt like in a lot of the books I was reading that most people are only writing to those able bodied, like super driven, like in charge of your own destiny. Probably pretty privileged people. Right. Who who can go out and set a goal and attain it. And and I was like, man, there's a lot. And and then they judge themselves as successful if they meet those goals. Right. If they start that business, if they lose the weight, you know, that's how where everything is performative.
And I remember getting kind of annoyed, even though I read these books all the time, kind of annoyed that like, well, where do people with disabilities fit in this equation? Right. Like, I can often set goals and do what I want to do. But when I break my bones, I suddenly I'm basically just laying on the couch for two weeks. Right. And then I you know, I less valuable during those two weeks when I'm not crossing things off.
Had to do is like I don't buy that right. So I started thinking, like, what if there was a way we could measure success of a person or like like measure what a good life was that didn't involve always accomplishing stuff. Right. And that's where the idea of enrichment came from. Watching my grandfather passed away, I realized that his wife, up until the very end, was more enriching because people were they're not just playing for him, but a lot of my family would go play with him or sit with him or talk to him or, you know, he was not alone through that experience.
And and people brought their gifts of presents to him so that he had a more enriching death, basically. Right. And so I realized that to me, the idea of enrichment can apply to every single person. So either you talk about living and enriching life in your own worlds, like as an active doer. So you find the things that enrich you and it may or may not be your job. Right? It's the things that they bring to life.
You may not be your title yet. It might not be. And maybe you eventually want it to be right. But but even if it's not in that moment, it's still important. Derogated. Hunch things that do enrich you, because that's the value in this theory of like a life well lived, is something where you touch the things that you regularly and it doesn't have to look the same. Like for me, music is one of those things that I need to touch regularly to have an enriching life.
But it doesn't mean that I have to perform till I'm ninety nine. It just means that I have to have music in my life in some capacity, which could be like just listening to music. You know, it doesn't have to be grand. And then I think and then there's this other group of people like my grandfather in hospice or people who become severely injured or disabled or babies or people with dementia, like so many different kinds of people that maybe actively can't choose, like I'm going to do this thing and then they can set out to do it.
And that's where the idea of passive enrichment comes. And I think for me, what that means is that you receive enrichment the way that you you are able to can connect with those things that you love because other people make that possible. So it might look like somebody with Alzheimer's having a visitor that plays records that they used to love, you know, things that they can connect with or somebody who loves nature, making sure that people who love nature can connect with it in some way, even in the hospital, you know what I mean?
Like some some kind of thing. And so we can do that for other people and other people can do that for us. And that's where this compassion part comes into enrichment, is compassion for yourself. So you're living and enriching life for yourself, but it's also compassion for other people where you are bringing enrichment to those who maybe can't actively pursue it on their own. And if you bring those two things together, I just think that you, every single person, can experience the more enriching life, no matter where they are on the spectrum of disability or age or income.
You know, like we can bring we can make it possible for every single person to have enriching experiences, I guess.
Oh, well, Galen, I'm I'm I'm just so glad you're in the world and it's really been, um, well, it's been enriching for me to kind of sink into your music. And and I love this conversation. And I can't wait to put it out in the world. And I do hope that because we don't live very far apart, you know, maybe we know when the world opens up again. Maybe we can have you in our studio and Minneapolis.
But I just I'm just glad you're out there. And thank you so much for this.
Oh, thank you so much for thinking of having me on the show even during the pandemic. That's very cool. So thank you.