Every so often, I'll have a conversation (or a confrontation) that reminds me of what my values really are, and how important and intransigent they are to me. I've written various articles: Beliefs, Codes of Conduct, As close as I get to a mission statement, Truth and Lies, Taking Responsibility for your Music, People ask me, The light and the dark, Intimacy, Following the Lines, Dreams, Healing, and Magic, Life as 'contest', and many more listed here, about my need to follow a "code" of sorts.
It's not a religion, and it's not a book of rules. It runs through everything I write, play, think, or do. It's my SELF, the virtual distillation of that which I call ME. It's what makes me Jessica Jennifer Williams, and it's not up for compromise or debate or sale or evaluation by committee. The refusal to "bend" may not be seen by all as a good thing. It's may be too "individualistic" for some folks' tastes. But we're here to do our jobs, not to please everyone. It's not a popularity contest.
We live in an age of black vs white, up vs down, straight vs gay, good vs evil, us vs them. It's not presently popular to take positions that might be controversial or "subversive." A universally understood method for the suppression of free thought is to make stark distinctions between "polarities". This makes it easier to manipulate whole populations into hatred and fear of any group or individual one chooses. The very real threat of being "disappeared" makes the choice of free thought even less attractive.
I wrote, in an article about Dr Wilhelm Reich, how the "emotional plague of mankind" (the EP, as he called it) had badgered and degraded and vilified him, and eventually had his very life terminated. In his case, the EP was incarnated in the form of the FDA and FBI during the McCarthy years.
The EP is very real, no matter what you call it. Some call it the mass psychology of fascism. Some call it a police state. Some call it collectivism. At the time of this writing, 2006, it may be called American Patriotic Neo-conservative Theocratic Corporatized Nationalism.
Whatever it calls itself, or whatever anyone chooses to call it, it is always anti-individual, anti-art, anti-creativity, and anti-free will. In other words, anti-life.
Human life, to me, is in itself the very essence of individuality, creativity, and free will.
I've said this elsewhere: Without Freedom there can be no Happiness.
To be human is to be a unique, one-of-a-kind, free-thinking individual. All collectivist thinking leads to an emotional and spiritual deadness. All extremist religions stifle free and independent thought. They work against the life-force itself and kill the need or the will to create (Rollo May)
What we make with our hands is what we believe in our hearts. We create because it feels GOOD to be alive, and have ideas, and be able to acquire skills to embody our ideas into a reality that we essentially CREATE with our will. Our hands, heart, soul, and will are what we use to make our world real.
If we make our dreams from the un-blocked purity of the passions in our hearts, we will live in our constructed realities and they will be "heaven".
If we build our world from the stuff of our consensual nightmares, using as our motivations the stifled, blocked, wounded, desperate, and hateful "belief systems" of others, we will make "hell", and we will live in it.
What I know is that I play piano to live and that I live to play the piano. I use the piano to make Music, which in turn heals and renews and causes good things to happen in healthy people's lives.
I know that it also causes pain and conflict in those whose lives are driven by agenda: greed, envy, jealousy, bigotry, fear. Their negative opinions of me and my art are amply documented all over the Internet in pathetic chat-rooms and newsgroups - nests of parasitic humans whose disdain of life is shared by like-minded people who love to feel superior to others and do so by trying to tear them down by the use of gossip, rumor, innuendo, and character-assasination.
Cruelty is the rule of the day for these small people, and I have no time to think of them, much less write about them. They are superfluous.
The Music in me is swift and strong, and "falls from me like water over stones" as easily as breathing. It is not something I practice, and it is not something I prepare for. My concerts are exercises in experimentation and discovery. Sometimes (rarely) they fail, but most times they are like golden stories to me in retrospect: treacherous moments of nearly falling, moments of terrible beauty and stark danger, periods of suspension and drama followed by release and joy ... hazardous crossings across deeply perilous ravines (slices cut in the fabric of time) and that split-second decision to JUMP and make the other side and land (not always perfectly) in some precarious but vitally safe position, ready to move forward again, upward, always upward.
When I play, those who truly listen must follow. In the words of Riddick, "if you can't keep up, don't step up."
There is only my self, and the people with me, and the Music.
I am so happy to see more women playing jazz. We've been (and, alas, are still) minority. Being minority doesn't always mean you're out-numbered. It means (to the alpha-thinkers) that you're something less than 100 percent human. (Before the Emancipation Proclamation, and for a good while after it, African Americans were considered three-fifths human! Incredible!) Women were not allowed to vote, as men had deemed women to be insufficiently equipped intellectually to make informed choices on matters of national and world import. And I would point to our lack of women in politically powerful positions as one of the primary reasons we are in such global trouble now.
The making of art and music, the building of things, the writing of words, the changing of the world, the peaceful way forward in science and technology: these are things that women DO. It is WHO WE ARE as much as WHY WE LIVE.
To have this disregarded as frivolous and "cute" is an offense to my senses and to my person. It is one MORE reason that I keep going.
When no one can buy you, you are your own. You're also ON your own. Get this straight. You are alone. This is good. It is the only way that you can fully love another human being.
I AM A SUCCESS. I HAVE NOT SOLD OUT. THE WORLD HAS BOUGHT IN.
If my Music is accesible, it is because it speaks in no "slang", it follows no formula, it has no aspirations to be "hip", it supports no agendas, it speaks only viscerally, directly to the heart and soul and gut of the human being. If my Music is loved by people that "don't like jazz" it's because I don't see or hear jazz as being a music of self-destruction and booze and drugs and dark smoke-filled nightclubs, played only by dark-skinned men with addictions and androcentric attitudes and early 20th century ideals and ideas. I see and hear jazz as being THE MUSIC OF FREEDOM, distinctly American, free of all "isms", free of all bigotry, and free of all self-destruction. I see it as a Music of worship, the worship of the human spirit.
Under all of the baggage of our belief systems and socially sanctioned constructs of "reality", the TRUTH of our lives persists, even if it's just in our dream states. The TRUTH is not what your neighbor believes or what your Priest or Rabbi tells you to believe. It is not the words of another, whether it is a guru or a monk or a financial advisor.
Only WE know our singular, special TRUTH.
I like to say "Dogs Know".
They know a healthy person from a sick one, a loving one from a dangerous one, a genuine one from a phony one. Dogs know, and so do we. Our powers of ratiocination might be dulled by our culture, but they're still there. I always felt it was my duty, my job, to tear down the wall whenever it started to build up around me.
"Close that window and nothing gets in. True. But nothing gets OUT, either." I said that too, long ago, to a bass player friend. I said it about creativity, and about how you can't shut down powerful parts of yourself without sacrificing your ability to MAKE powerful things.
So you can't just be walking around being something that other people make up for you to be.
No one speaks for me, ever. No one has the right. Music promoters, producers, and record executives may pay me money for my services, but my services are provided only on my own terms.
It's a common practice for festival directors and record executives to pick various musicians and put them together (they always call the band the same thing... "the ALL-STARS!") - it happened to me a few times because I doubted the power of my will and the sanctity of my own judgment. Those times were disasters.
This won't ever happen again.
There were a few cases that I let things slip by... cases where I compromised for the good of the group.
This won't ever happen again.
If I have a group, it is MY group, playing MY Music, in My way. I'm a leader, not a follower. It is one reason I play solo. I want to hear the silence, too. So do my audiences.
And my audiences, in the end, are the most important people in the world to me.
I want them to be on that voyage with me. I'm with them, too. If I cause pain, I am in pain. If I create joy, I am in JOY.
I am capable of this because I believe in the TRUTH in my heart. I know who I am, and I know why I'm here. The things that I don't know (and these things would fill a LaCie 500 Gigabyte super-drive) I'll leave to the know-it-alls.
It feels GOOD and RIGHT to make beautiful things. I am aware that those who read this journal are often like-minded people that make beautiful things too.
Let's keep it up, you and I.