Week 330 // The Stillness of the Earth

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At the foot of the highest climb
is there part of you that’s clinging to the ground?

Who needs to peer into far off lands?
Who needs to know the way the sky is wrapped around?

On the gust of a springtime breeze is a snowflake
And there’s plenty more to come

But I’ll be climbing for a long long way
Until the Earth and air have opened into one

Waiting for the storm to call
The stillness of the Earth

Waiting for the storm to call
The stillness of the Earth

I’ve seen the moon, It’s a shining thing
And so is love, and the clouds don’t cover that

I’ve seen the sky, it’s a wide wide world
I’m saying so is my love when I see her smiling back

And in a season we’ll break this curse
With an artifact uncovered from the Earth

So for a season we’ll look far and wide
Uncover everything before us as we search

Waiting for the storm to call
The stillness of the Earth

Waiting for the storm to call
The stillness of the Earth

Notes
This song rolled off the tip of my tongue just the way it is. I opened my mouth, and out it came. I regarded it for a few moments, and I put it into the computer for all of you to listen to. Songs like that are a little tricky for me to write about. It’s kind of like writing about a song you’ve only heard once. Can you be sure of what you heard? We’ve got themes of struggle and forces greater than ourselves. We’ve got nature and love. We’ve got storms and stillness. We’ve got searching, and we’ve got the future. What does that all add up to? Listen, and let me know what you hear.

~M.E.

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Week 329 // Grownups

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Oh neighbors hold the earth together with the strength of prayer
Mighty one unsheathe your sword to brandish in the open air
Oh you’re missing something big
Oh you’re missing something big

Oh kindness quiet your mouth
Adults are busy talking now
Oh compassion stow your urge
The grownups come to handle this
Oh you’re missing something big
Oh you’re missing something big

Notes
Liberalism is the folly of the young. Conservatism comes with the acquisition of age and wisdom. Something like that. It’s garbage. The notion that conservatism is a product of maturity is pernicious. I didn’t need to write a song to make this point. There is a man child in office tweeting the proof every day. Still, is is mature to base policy off of superstitions instead of science? Not really. Is it a sign of wisdom to insist on brandishing weapons in public because you feel inadequate, are scared of foreigners, or just watched too many westerns? Not so much. Don’t we teach children to share? So how is it more adult to undermine the social safety net, and condemn those with less? Similarly, isolationism is a product of childlike fear. No, conservatism is not the fruit ripening on the vine. It is the rot setting in.

~M.E.

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Week 328 // After

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How do you go where you want to go?
And be who you want to be?
How do you do what you need to do?
And be who you need to be?

Notes
An astute listener with an ear for patterns will note that my evident unrest throughout the recent overarching narrative of these songs reaches beyond the angst-at-large of our collective geopolitical tumult. New York is a subject of derision from time to time in these songs, but it’s also a subject of inspiration. That’s why I have mixed feelings about beginning the likely long process of crafting an exit strategy with my wife. But we have to. We’re getting spent on this burg.

Leaving here is a daunting notion. The whole place is designed to keep you in, and for a while you don’t mind. You can’t sense the edges of it. Who knows if the edges are even out there?

This song is about pondering how to get to the time after this. This song is about wondering who we’ll need to become to get there.

~M.E.

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Week 327 // False Spring

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Don’t be fooled when the false spring comes
You’ll be breaking your fall on the walk again
You can calm your nerves on a kinder wind
But never drop your guard in the state we’re in

Oh you could be like the bird in the winter
Who sings just to fall quiet again

I’ll get lost in the meaning of life
Out in the grass with my naked toes
Even if it’s a beautiful lie
Take what you can get, that’s the way it goes

Oh you could be like the bird in the winter
Who sings just to fall quiet again

Oh you could be like the bird in the winter
Who sings just to fall quiet again

Notes
When the world seems to big and wild, write a song about the weather. We had an unseasonably warm weekend here in New York, and it had everyone feeling great. Leave it to me to tell everyone to pump their breaks. It isn’t March yet. It isn’t time for this. This isn’t real. It’s a dirty trick.

But hold on a second. It matters that it’s beautiful. It matters that we exhale even if we must hold our breath again after. It matters that the world builds reprieve into its cycles so we don’t forget what we’re waiting for. It matters.

This song is about the weather, but maybe it’s got something meatier in the subtext. Draw that out for yourself if you can. If not, no matter. If you’re with us here in New York, or anywhere else they got a bit of spring in the winter, I hope you found it a pleasant interlude.

~M.E.

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Week 326 // Impostor Syndrome

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Everyone is like me
Everyone is a bit like everyone else
Nobody gets away with anything
Nobody pulls it off

Oh the fear of tipping it over
Oh the fear of tipping it over
Oh the dread of a balancing act

Everyone is frightened
What makes you think that you have got it so bad?
Everyone tries to laugh like they’re in on the joke
Everyone loves to laugh

Oh the fear of tipping it over
Oh the fear of tipping it over
Oh the dread of a balancing act

Notes
Impostor Syndrome has been one of my favorite buzz psychological maladies of the past few years because I diagnosed myself the instant I heard about it. I’m pretty sure a lot of people did. I’ve written about it before in one of these songs, although I’m not sure which one, on account of how many songs I’ve posted here that deal with a similar kind of existential angst under any number of different names.

Impostor Syndrome is the feeling that you’re faking it, and that you’re in danger of being exposed as a fraud at any moment. I experienced it acutely in graduate school, and I’ve come back around to it since then in my professional life. What’s to be done about this? I really don’t know. Honestly, I’m open to suggestions. It’s an exhausting sensation.

This song uses the familiar songwriting conceit of saying what “everyone” is feeling or doing. Leonard Cohen used to do this a lot. I’m not sure what he was going for, but for me it is a mechanism of self-delusion. I normalize my own experience by superimposing it on everyone in the world. It’s sort of the opposite of the usual songwriting technique of mirroring a relatable emotion by using personal anecdote to draw a listener in. I’m telling you how you feel in order to mirror my own pathos, serving as a balm for what ails me, and drawing myself out. I apologize for being so presumptuous about your emotional state. Nevertheless, I promise to do it again and again on a regular basis.

~M.E.

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Week 325 // Animal

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Up in space on a sunny afternoon
I catch the wind and ride it home with you
I reject the flame as it’s lapping at the door
I reject the flame that consumes and begs for more

I am an animal
I am meant for more

The whispered curse, I’m rising in the morn
I cannot hope to be the finest of the form
I cannot hope to play a perfect set of rules
I cannot aim to know the folly of the fools

I am an animal
I am meant for more

Notes
It’s hard to be a person in a city in an office at a desk looking at a computer. I’ve forgotten that I’m an animal, and often feel like something far less dignified. An animal ranges and breathes and never marks time or attempts to justify his folly. An animal has instincts instead of directives. An animal doesn’t abhor perfection or convention; he is merely unmoved by their existence or appeal. I have spent a lot of time on the project of becoming something less like an animal. I’m not certain the effort has made me more like a man. These vagaries are all to say that my wife is correct when she says we have the power to alter our destiny. An animal can catch a new wind. An animal can pivot when his instincts tell him his path is not his own.

~M.E.

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Week 324 // I Alone

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Lord Jesus was a cautious man
The day he signed the travel ban
And the emperor, he ain’t got a stitch
Just a gang of sycophants

And everyone out there
Will save their own skin
Like the Bible told them to

I alone can fix this
I alone will speak the truth
I alone can keep you safe
Who else used to talk this way?

And everyone out there
Will save their own skin
Like the Bible told them to

Notes
It has been an absolutely nauseating week in America. Demonstrating helps to keep me from utter despair, and there’s good evidence it is making a difference. Still, I think about the righteousness with which many Americans defend unconscionable acts of bigotry and cruelty, and I wonder when they will see this for what it is. I am sick of the suggestion in the zeitgeist that those of us who resist should go home and give the regime its chance to govern. If we had given them a chance beginning on the first day of the new administration, they would have already squandered it again and again through the actions they have taken. We don’t give chances to fascists governing in the open as fascists. I am a member of a movement that represents the mainstream of American thought and decency. We are not radicals. The resistance are not the outliers. This song is a lament. I sing it to reckon with the state of things, but I do not resign myself to its bleak strains. With love, and for justice, I resist.

~M.E.

P.S. If you want to make a difference beyond getting out in the street and shouting, make a donation to Episcopal Migration Ministries. What do they do? They resettle refugees of all faiths from countries in peril, including those on Trump’s list. My wife works there, and she and her colleagues are heroes.

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Week 323 // A Reflection on Resistance

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Well as a matter of fact
Those ladies throw one hell of a march
I was happy to learn a thing or two from them
About getting somewhere

They said that’s what a mountain is like
That’s what a mountain is like
We gotta climb we gotta climb
If we’re ever gonna get to the top

And I wouldn’t have blamed them
If they said “fellas you’re sitting this one out”
Even after all we’ve done
They opened their hearts to anyone with a heart

That’s what you’ve been talking about
Through these years we’ve never listened
Through the ages we’ve refused to listen
Look where that’s gotten us now

Notes
I doubt if any songwriter hasn’t idly daydreamed about penning a movement song that would really mean something to people. It must be a daunting task, and I’m a bit relieved that it isn’t my place to try right now. A nasty woman out there is probably putting the finishing touches on it now, and I’m eager to sing along once she’s done.

My song is really just a modest thank you. I’m so grateful to have been included in the Women’s March on Washington. I’m thankful to have learned so much from so many generous and wise women of all ages and walks of life. I’m a 21st century man, and I’ve self-applied the term feminist my entire adult life. That said, I don’t think I’ve ever truly understood what it meant. It’s a movement with a lot to teach the world, and if I learned anything this weekend, it was how much I have left to learn. So here’s a little song, and when it’s done I’m all ears.

~M.E.

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Week 322 // What Everyone Worries About

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Everyone worries about
Something different
When they’re lying awake at night

Holding the weight of the world
Back is breaking
Rooting against the light

And the sun is a burning thing

And everyone carries around
Something broken
Like we’ll need it but we don’t know when

And we never say a thing about
The obvious solution
When we’re packing our things again

Time is a burning thing
The Earth is a burning thing
Light is a burning thing

Notes
This Christmas I got a splendid new instrument from my awesome sisters in law. Thanks, Susannah and Lily! It’s a beautiful little karimba, and it is the only instrument you will hear on this week’s new song, aside from my voice. I have been pondering how to get started with it; whether to feature it as an accent to another instrument, or to dive in headlong. I dove in. It’s a really fun sound to layer, and the single octave scale places valuable and productive parameters on songwriting. I had a really good time with this thing, and I’m really looking forward to finding out what else I can make it do!

This song is a little pondering on human anxieties, and our stubborn insistence on carrying their weight around. In this context, I might be using the word “everyone” to say something more like “me”, because I can’t possibly project what the entire human race is feeling. Still, I operate under the assumption that being a person is a more or less similar experience when it comes to moving around in the world and pondering infinity. I hope you enjoy listening.

~M.E.

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Week 321 // Contact

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Like the fear of an open flame
It’s like the Bible was a book about nothing

A far off moon and the pearly gates
Lining up with our spacesuits pumping

All good earthlings look the same
They look like Jesus in a renaissance painting

I stab my palms and revere the pain
To paint my brothers and my sisters faces

So we’re on the way up
The Earth dies a little bit sooner

In the crater at the center of this
A weed is growing like an angry witness

In the blast of the emperor’s kiss
A seed is planted and we won’t dismiss it

In the hole at the center of me
A green thing circles toward the light of something

Around my center all the vines can squeeze
A careful meter bound to get me pumping

So we’re on the way up
The Earth cries a little bit louder

Notes
This song is trying to juggle the requisite disenchantment and resolve that I’m experiencing as time marches ever toward inauguration day, and inevitably past it. There’s something here about resentment of the shallow faith of others, and its petty power over all of us. There’s something here about the heat death of the world. There’s something here about the resilience of life, and its power to reawaken dead places. There’s something here about revering nature more than God. There’s something here to build upon, but it’s still pretty elusive. I’m going to have to keep at this for a while. Vagueness suits me best right now because nobody knows a damn thing about what’s going on, me least of all. I’m working on a plan that has no shape and no name. Perhaps you have some suggestions.

~M.E.

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