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Belief in self

Every day I try to do my best.

A few days ago I received an e-mail with the questions below.

I thought it was worth posting here, with only minor alterations.

The questioning party was a friend, a good man, a man of honor. Otherwise I would not have answered. I hope I can live up to my answer.

There are many obstacles for women and other minorities in the field of Jazz Music. Do you doubt yourself in the face of adversity and discrimination?

Either the small child decides: I will live for others. Others will define me. Their codes and their opinions will shape me. I will be a mirror for their own vision of themselves. I will believe in what they believe in. I will die never knowing who or what I might have been. I will die alone and afraid.

Or, the small child decides: I will live in my true self. I may be disliked, reviled, and very lonely at times. I will get very tired, but work to never doubt my inner truth. The words and rules of my culture will be as a veil that I see through. I will be unwelcome in my world. I will die happy, knowing exactly who I am. I will die at peace. I will die unafraid.

How can you attain what you seek without suffering?

You cannot attain what you seek without suffering. It is your culture that makes you feel guilty about feeling bad. Can't sleep? Take a drug. Feel fear? Take a drug. Have a tight neck? Take a drug.

Suffering is the way to knowledge. It can't be avoided. It teaches. It's your ally.

What if people don't like you?

In a hundred years, we will all be dead.

Will it matter then?

Am I only others' words and thoughts of me?

Or am I my true self?

And who can tell that but me?

Don't you want to be popular?

No, not at all. I want to be a good woman. I want to be at peace. I want to see the world live at peace. I want to see an end to others' suffering. I want to see an end to racism and sexism and violence and human insanity.

But it will not end, and I will never be fully at peace.

So I laugh and I cry.

I play Music. I listen to Music.

I chant, I study, I play with my familiars, I have wonderful times with my partner.

I have coffee with our neighbors, I burn temple incense and light many candles, I learn about Buddhism and Judaism and Hinduism and many other ways of thought, I have my Internet business which I love, I read a lot — and I eat and sleep.

Once in a great while I'm lucky enough to play my Music for others, and I share love and get so much of it in return.

Many would say my life is perfect.

Meanwhile, I just live. Like my little dog.

Is it possible to be happy?

Yes! But not always, at all times, and it is a diabolical thought to want to be happy at all times.

That would be like being hungry at all times or sleepy at all times or angry at all times.

It's possible to walk in the woods with your dog or listen to John Coltrane and be totally happy if you don't think, if you just allow yourself to be with your dog in the woods, if you just allow yourself to be with John Coltrane in the Music.

Is it possible to be unafraid?

"Fear is the mind-killer. I will face my fear. I will let it pass through me. Only I will remain." - The Litany Against Fear, Bene Gesserit chant, from Frank Herbert's six-book chronicle, "Dune"

Usually it is possible, if you study it and apply your senses too it. Fear is about what happens NEXT. If you always exist right in the NOW, you'll find your fear dissipating. Live only in this moment. You cannot predict or rehearse for the next moment. It is very hard to be afraid if you live eternally in the NOW.