Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Some great commentary on relative happiness versus absolute happiness in the fairytale to end all fairytales...

I enjoyed fairytales when I was a young child. As an adult, I get so distracted by the obsolete cultural ideas coded into them that I can’t bring myself to enjoy such tales as Snow White or Cinderella anymore. If someone puts a spin on them that voids their sexist and two-dimensional cultural tropes, however, that piques my interest.

When I watched season one of the TV show Once Upon a Time, I realized that not only did it break the clichéd boxes of many of the most well-known fairytale characters, it also provided some fascinating illustrations of the Buddhist concept of enlightenment versus seeking salvation from outside yourself.

Last week I hinted at Rumplestiltskin’s role as a main factor in the tug of war between enlightenment and fundamental darkness in the fairytale character’s lives, and how they are the source of his power because they keep being tempted to do things the lazy or desperate way by relying on his dark magic for anything from getting out of poverty to having a baby.

I particularly threw Cinderella under the bus for originally being one of the laziest and most dishonest of the “good guys” while she was a princess in fairytale land. Once the curse that propelled the characters into our modern-day world started to weaken enough for the characters to be able to think, she was actually the first to try and change her life through her own intelligence and efforts, despite everyone else’s assertions that she wouldn’t amount to anything. As a poor single mother instead of a married princess, she decided to take the difficult path of keeping her baby, and going to night school so she could gain skills to create a better life for her and her child.

Jiminy Cricket, once again in human form and working as the town’s psychologist, had been at the mercy of Queen (now Mayor) Regina to brainwash her adopted son (and presumably anyone else) who believed in magic in Storybrooke; a few episodes in, he stood up to her and revealed he did have power he could use against her, if he was ever called to testify in a court battle between her and her child’s birth-mother (who happened to be the prophesied “savior” whose arrival in town is what started to weaken the curse).

These two examples show that, while this probably wasn’t his original intent, Rumplestiltskin actually did these characters a favor by removing magic from their lives so they could no longer use it as a short-cut that hindered their ability to do anything for themselves (and to be free of debt to evil people).

This is a fascinating illustration of the Buddhist concept of turning “poison into medicine,” or using what we gain and learn from overcoming our sufferings to attain enlightenment and absolute happiness—victory in life and happiness that are not dependent on exterior circumstances.

This contrasts sharply with the conditional happiness that some of the fairytale characters had in their original world—Happiness that had no foundation because it was dependent solely on maintaining the bliss of their “happy ending”—the longed-for spouse or kingdom or baby or whatever they wanted (and which Rumplestiltskin usually had a hand in procuring for them). Their world’s happiness, then, really wasn’t so much different from what often passes for happiness in our world—and thus, after they got their memories back following the breaking of the curse, it seemed they really were no worse off for being sent here.

When the curse broke in the last episode, the characters weren’t transported back to their world. The implication is then that they will retain both sets of memories—from fairytale land and modern-day Storybrooke—and thus actually have power without having magic. In contrast, Regina and Rumplestiltskin have no power without magic, so they are now at a potential disadvantage to their former victims who now no longer need magic to figure out how so solve their problems.

Now that the characters have actually experienced living instead of just existing and reacting, and can take some ownership of their life-situations, I look forward to seeing if this means they can bring with them the skill-sets they learned in this world back to their own land (if they ever go back) and make a much better world for themselves in which they have ownership of their happiness, and provide more intelligent opposition against any remaining foes.

Or, if they stay in Storybrooke, at least they can learn how to be truly happy and successful without having to rely on an evil, giggling, leather-clad gnome and his purple smoke to conjure it for them while asking for their souls in return.


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Image: "Eye of an Enlightened One" by Karla Joy Huber, 1995; chalk pastel

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Some great commentary on enlightenment and fundamental darkness in the fairytale to end all fairytales...

For entertainment, I checked out season one of the TV show Once Upon a Time, which mashes together characters from several different fairytales, puts unexpected twists in and overlaps between their stories, and then curses them into a small town in the modern-day, leaving them stuck in tension between two worlds.

Watching this show from a Buddhist perspective, I realized it gives some fascinating symbolism for enlightenment versus the delusion (which Nichiren Buddhists call fundamental darkness) that all power to change our lives must come from outside ourselves. In this story’s world, instead of a deity, that power is in the form of evil sorcerers and sorceresses who can fake being saviors for long enough to dupe the desperate (or the simply lazy) into selling their souls in exchange for fulfillment of desires that they could have fulfilled themselves through their own problem-solving efforts, hard work, and use of their moral compasses.

On one hand, Rumplestiltskin and Queen Regina (Snow White’s stepmother) are the obvious villains—They have no moral compasses, derive satisfaction from other people’s misery, and seek to increase their own power by taking power from other people. On the other hand, all the fairytale princes, princesses, wannabe princesses, and commoners they dupe are just as blameworthy: Not only do these so-called good guys seek shortcuts out of their problems through making desperate deals with Rumplestiltskin (even while telling him to his face how dishonorable he is), they then try to cheat their ways out of their contractual obligations to him, and even imprison him so he can’t come after them in revenge for their trickery.

These “heroes” then rationalize their own virtue with the justification that they made their bargains with him for good causes—to save their kingdoms, or get out of poverty, or connect with their true loves; and it’s a bonus in the backs of their minds if they can out-trick the trickster by turning his own greed against him in some way. It’s the old “the end justifies the means,” which has always been morally problematic, and in the end, didn’t work, because almost all of their so-called “happy endings” were illusions that Rumplestiltskin created, and thus owned—just as he owned their social status or their earthly treasures or their first-born babies—and could take back at any time.

In their quest to out-smart and then try to neutralize Rumplestiltskin, the heroes missed an important point: The source of his power was them. Evil can only be as strong as we allow it to be, and they created and maintained the need for him. They even continued to make deals with him for information about magical fixes after they imprisoned him, demonstrating that they learned nothing in their supposed victory over him. 

Regardless of his reputation and other people’s warnings, one character after another had continued to fall prey to his temptations to take a supposedly easy way out, despite Rumplestiltskin’s own warnings that magic comes at a steep price, and in some cases even his reminders that they had the option of doing the work themselves instead of making a dubious deal with him. He told Cinderella, “You don’t like your life? Change it!,” and she still chose to give in to her desperation and the idea that hard work and patience were beneath her, and made a careless deal that cost her a price she wasn’t willing to pay.

Rumplestiltskin got the last laugh from his prison cell by giving to Queen Regina a curse he created, which dissolved all those “happy ending” delusions at once and plunged everyone into our world. Once they were “cursed,” with all their magical crutches and shortcuts taken away, the characters were then forced to do what they should have done all along: Use their own brains and actually work to solve their own problems. When they started to do this is when the characters actually became likable to me, and when the show started to get interesting.

I’ll continue my explorations of this fairy tale to end all fairy tales in my next post.


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Image: “Clashing Magic” by Karla Joy Huber, 1992; centrifugal-force splatter-painting

Saturday, July 29, 2017

"Energy medicine" isn't a "woo-woo" thing -- It's part of every religion

Contrary to what some people seem to believe, practicing our religion should feel good. Two of the most important spiritual take-aways when we feel good about our faith are connecting with our spiritual Source energy, and enhancing our healing and overall well-being.

I really felt the spiritual priority on connecting with Source and on our healing at the “Sounds of the Spirit” interfaith musical presentation last month, which was hosted by the Interfaith Leadership Council (IFLC) at the Sikh community’s Mata Tripta Ji Gurdwara Sahib in Plymouth.

At the presentation, representatives from Hindu, Sikh, Native American tradition, and SGI Nichiren Buddhism each gave a brief description of the role that sacred sound—in most cases music—plays in their religious practice, and performed a few minutes of some of their sacred sounds. (You can read about the individual presenters on the IFLC's Web site by clicking here.) 

The Hindu and Sikh musical traditions stem from India, and the performers presented some specifically devotional music as well as some classical Indian music on such instruments as the veena, dilruba, and a variety of drums.

Mary Vorves and Steve Nelson demonstrated a few of their hand-made drums, as well as Native American cedar flutes, both types of instruments being among the most sacred sounds to me personally, as someone who's had close ties with Southeastern Michigan’s Native American community. In Native tradition, the drum is the heartbeat of Mother Earth. Drumbeats—as well as gongs, which I’ll get to later—have healing vibrations, particularly for our heart-rhythms, our bodies’ energy flow, and our brain waves, and drumming is one of the ways that Native American and other indigenous people around the world incorporate healing into their spiritual practice both publicly and privately.

One of the recent developments I am really appreciative of in the interfaith community is the gradual increase in representation and participation of spiritual traditions beyond the Abrahamic religions and Hinduism and Sikhism. Other groups have of course participated, but not nearly as often. This was the first time in a while I’ve seen Native Americans in the program, and the second time I’ve seen SGI Nichiren Buddhist participation.

The SGI Nichiren Buddhist presentation was expressed through chanting Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo, led by Carolyn Ferrari. Carolyn, whom you’ve read about here before as the founder of the Vanguard Discussion series, presented a few basic points about Nichiren Buddhism (including helping differentiate it from other forms of Buddhism), and how we incorporate sound into our practice. She also invited audience participation, so I and one other person got up on the stage with Naima Barker and another SGI member who had come to support Carolyn to chant into the microphone and lead the audience in a few minutes of daimoku (chanting Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo). I was of course pleased to see how many people of various faiths in the audience were chanting along with us.

My biggest take-away from this event was how I felt during and after it. While the term “energy medicine” has become heavily contaminated by stereotypes about “woo-woo,” energy medicine is an essential component of religion—people just don’t realize this because they use other terms to describe the spiritual, emotional, and even physical benefits they receive from their religious practice.

The event’s finale was incredible—led by Christopher Davis, creator of Sacred Wave Gong Immersions, the last several minutes of the event were a vibrational meditation facilitated by an impressive array of four gongs. The performance isn’t intended as entertainment or as an explicitly religious practice; Davis created his performances based on the healing properties of the vibrations of the different gongs he’s used.

Incidentally, the gongs he brought today were tuned specifically to the heart chakra and the breath, so they couldn’t have been more apropos for an event focused on sacred sound and healing in religious tradition. He played the “Mercury” gong the most, which is tuned to the air / breath and to the heart chakra; a few times he even unhooked it from the rack and walked around making sure each audience member got to feel the vibration directly.

At a previous “Sounds of the Spirit” event, one participant said Davis explained he chooses to go last because his gongs absorb energy from the previous presentations, and then echo it back to the audience in a sort of energetic musical montage. This participant “heard” echoes of all the other instruments that had been performed in the preceding hour at that event as she was absorbing the gong vibrations.

For me, I felt the gongs push the healing spiritual energy that was all around us in the room into my own energy field, like a massage for my soul.

And I could tell when I looked around the room that it definitely had a similar effect on everyone around me.


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Image: Detail from "Nothing Without Love" by Karla Joy Huber, 2016; Prismacolor marker, Sharpie marker, gel pen

Friday, June 16, 2017

Cultural and religious spotlight: Chùa Linh Sơn Detroit Buddhist Temple in Warren, Michigan

A couple weekends ago I had a wonderful time with my dear cousin Rachel and my best friend Daniel Moen at the Chùa Linh Sơn Detroit Vietnamese Buddhist temple on 9 Mile Road in Warren. Linh Sơn is special to Dan and me because it’s where we went on our first one-on-one outing when we became friends in 2010, when “temple-hopping” was a big thing of ours. I still treasure our periodic visits there over the years because of this association, and because it’s an amazingly beautiful and peaceful place to meditate and chant daimoku.

When we first found this place, I was a spiritual free-agent seeking a form of Buddhism that suited my life. In 2015 I finally found what I was looking for in SGI Nichiren Buddhism; now when I go back to Linh Sơn, I enjoy it from the perspective of a person visiting the home of friends who practice a different version of my religion, instead of from the perspective of investigating to see if I want to practice it myself.

Dan and I knew that Linh Sơn practices a variation of Mahayana Buddhism (the large umbrella category that Nichiren Buddhism also fits under). We have only gotten minimal specifics from the people there due to the language barrier, however, so I decided to see if I could get any comprehensible English through auto-translating Linh Sơn’s all-Vietnamese Web site.

After putting the Web site through Google’s auto-translation, the only thing I could verify for sure is that the “Chùa” in “Chùa Linh Sơn” means “pagoda.” To put it bluntly, the auto-translation reads like a Buddhist Mad-Lib, so I recommend not even trying it.

Instead of continuing to try and figure out what its exact teaching is, I decided to simply appreciate this place for our experience there. The experience we have when we go there is something that few people experience when they go into a house of worship other than their own—even Christians walking off the street into a church of a different denomination. No one asked us if we are Buddhist, or why we were there. They just correctly assumed that we were there to pray, they spoke to us, invited us to lunch with them downstairs, communicated some of the essential cultural and temple etiquette to us, and even gave us a few lovely gifts—all using makeshift sign language (with a little English thrown in by the two people available who speak it).

Even though I had no idea what the monk said during his dharma talk, I got the impression from him that he is a kind man, and he really took a shining to Dan particularly, and he spoke just enough English to convey a sincere invitation to us to come back any time, especially Sundays for meditation, and told us that sometimes there is someone there who presents the dharma in English.

These folks are following the Buddha’s path in whatever way they’re following it, I thought, and they seem really happy doing so, so it's clear that they get the basic purpose of Buddhism. When I offered prayers at their altar I chanted my daimoku for them, for the success and happiness of their community, and for whatever goals they came to the United States to achieve.

Every time we’ve been to Linh Sơn, almost or everyone we’ve encountered there is from Vietnam or one of its neighbor-countries. While I don’t have any plans to learn to speak Vietnamese, or to have an immersion experience in the community, what I value about going to this temple and to the immigrant-run businesses on and near Dequindre Road in Warren (including the delicious Phò Hàng Restaurant and Q Q Bakery) is that it expands my definition of what “America” is really made of, especially at at time when so many people are trying really hard to make that definition narrower and narrower.

For the record, I have had the privilege of this cultural enrichment because of Dan, whose ethnic identity to date has been more pan-Asian than specific to his own ethnicity. Recently, however, he has finally directly connected with his Filipino rootsincluding having just gotten back from a family reunion in the Philippines with his birth family, whom he's been wanting to find his entire life and finally did a few months ago! Yay!

I’ll write more about my reflections from this experience with two of my favorite people next week, and in the meantime I encourage you to watch Dan’s amazing documentary-style video about our outing by clicking here.


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Image: "Ahimsa" by Karla Joy Huber, 2017; Prismacolor marker and Sharpie marker

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

An honest and respectful "no" is better than a begrudging or exhausted "yes," for a few reasons...

When Soka Gakkai founder Tsunesaburo Makiguchi said that “to not advance is to retreat,” and our mentor SGI President Ikeda said “Buddhism is win or lose,” they were not expressing hard-hearted absolutism. They understood that when we truly tap into our inner wisdom while trying to encourage someone, we can tell the difference between someone who is trying to avoid the difficulty of personal growth and someone who is struggling to fill a role that is not in alignment with their vision for kosen-rufu in their lives.

For many people who say “yes” to voluntary community responsibilities, these roles are great opportunities to push themselves in healthy ways. For others of us, while it may be good to give community leadership a try for a while, we must then be honest with ourselves and our colleagues if we realize that these responsibilities do not suit us after all.

If we say to ourselves after each time we do tasks we can’t bring ourselves to enjoy, “That wasn’t so bad, now was it?” we negate both our own feelings and the benefits of our actions, because over time those actions will become contaminated by reluctance or resentment.

There are a few benefits of telling our colleagues a respectful “no”. One is that we may get out of the way of a successor who will both enjoy the work more and do it better than we did. Another is that we may strengthen our bonds of understanding with our colleagues, through transparent and honest dialogue about what our strengths and interests really are.

When we approach this dialogue from a high life-condition and with gratitude for the opportunity to serve, (rather than start it when we’re feeling depressed or overwhelmed), then our sincerity and our concern for doing what is right by the people our services affect will shine through, and make our decisions easier for reasonable people to accept without misunderstanding our true reasons.

Yet another benefit of relinquishing responsibilities we aren’t in alignment with is that we stop wasting time. During our self-assessment, we may realize we have spent as much or more time resisting—and complaining about—our responsibilities than we have actually spent fulfilling those responsibilities.

This does not mean that we should never try to expand our healthy limits beyond what is comfortable right now. We just have to change how we do it, and trust ourselves to know what is best for us despite what other people may think is best for us. I said last week that many of us need to take our human revolution more slowly, so part of this healthy-pushing is to identify and then honor our own natural pace for sustainable self-improvement.

One way I’ve been practicing this lately is when I’ve committed to a gathering or outing and then found myself feeling more tired or socially-reluctant than I thought I would be. In such situations, I ask myself, “Am I willing to go for an hour?” I then remind myself that I can leave whenever I want (politely, and without having to justify my early departure), and I have the choice of saying no if I am asked to volunteer for something. Then, I find that if I am willing, I enjoy and participate more fully in the activity, maybe even say “yes” to something small, and may not even have to leave early after all.

Developing an accumulated karma of honoring small commitments is what helps us slow-bloomers build up toward expanding our healthy limits if necessary, rather than pushing ourselves to be as useful as we can even when we’re overdue for a major life-recalibration.

This is like gradually increasing our fitness: If we go from being sedentary to trying to sprint, we’ll injure ourselves. If we start with walking, then walk a little longer each day, then do some short jogs, we can gradually increase our fitness level without injury.

Equally as important is identifying how long it feels good to jog for, and not continuing to increase the time until our enjoyable exercise turns into an exhausting chore. We may even realize we would rather swim than jog—If so, instead of committing to another month or year of jogging, we need to go find a suitable body of water to cultivate our inner fish in.

In addition to getting a better idea of what our healthy limits are, taking these small steps and checking in with ourselves as we go will help us identify what we are truly the happiest doing, and what is best left to other people who are obviously energized by what we felt exhausted by doing.


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Image: “Mystic Main” by Karla Joy Huber, 2017; Prismacolor marker, Sharpie marker, silver Sharpie, metallic gel pen, white gel pen, colored pencil

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Some thoughts on finding the Middle Way between doing what we really want to accomplish and not pushing ourselves past our healthy limits














So much of our cultural conditioning is about “pushing” ourselves, and this combined with our society’s insistence on extremes too often leads people to push themselves past their healthy limits and into the crash-zone. We all know those people who seem to say yes to and be able to do everything; what we don’t see is that many of them are tormented by frequent or chronic physical health problems or other sufferings they don’t share with us, because they feel that they are doing the right thing by continuing to strive to make everyone else’s life better without taking enough time for themselves to really discover what will make their own lives better.

A big part of my human revolution lately is finding the balance between striving to be productive enough to accomplish everything I’ve committed to do, and not pushing myself past my healthy limits to the point where I feel so burnt-out that I don’t want to do anything.

Part of this process has been chanting to increase my capacity. For me, this doesn’t mean increasing my capacity to take on more responsibility, more projects, or more activities, but to increase my capacity to better handle and make progress in what I’m already trying to do.

Thus, I’ve done a lot of self-exploration to identify what my capacity really is, rather than assume what it is based on people’s or society’s expectations of me because of the demographic categories I fit into.

One of the ways I’ve been assessing my capacity versus what I’m demanding of it lately is imagining my energy system as a main circuit-breaker panel. I’ve found this analogy to be helpful for identifying which of my circuits I’m trying to draw too much electrical current from (think about what happens if you plug a vacuum-cleaner and a space-heater into outlets on the same circuit), and for recognizing when my input-power is lower than the amount of energy I’m trying to draw from it. This is helping me visualize where I need to draw my boundary lines, as a way of not only honoring myself but of being true in my relationships with other people—especially when in large groups.

A few months ago, I reflected with a good friend about our similar experiences of striving to become more community-oriented when our original inclinations were to be loners. It’s not about being “introverted” or “shy,” he pointed out; whereas naturally-outgoing people find large, lively gatherings to be energizing, more naturally-inward people like us have the opposite experience: It takes us an enormous amount of energy to manage ourselves in such gatherings. This doesn’t mean we don’t enjoy ourselves or that we resent people for wanting or expecting us to participate; it does mean that we need a lot more recovery-time before our next interaction that involves more than one person.

Some people’s lives are so outgoing and so fast that the lives of people who are more reserved and who take a more gradual approach to personal growth look like they are not moving at all in comparison—which would be synonymous with stagnation and defeat in Buddhism. This misconception indicates a need to develop a deeper understanding of each other and not be so quick to tell others, for example, that they “should” strive to become more outgoing or do more in their community. Even if it may not appear that they’re doing much, we have no idea how hard some people are really trying, and how much energy it’s really taking them to do whatever they are doing.

This is especially important to bear in mind if a group’s emphasis is on rapid change or rapid growth: Some of us, especially those of us striving to overcome addictive behaviors, and who have exhibited emotional patterns that have been labeled as “depression” or “anxiety disorder,” need to take our human revolution more slowly.

I’ll continue these thoughts in my next post.

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Image: “Mystic Main” and “Balanced Current” by Karla Joy Huber, 2017; Prismacolor marker, Sharpie marker, silver Sharpie, metallic gel pen, white gel pen, colored pencil

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Speaking the “the universal language of music” with inspiration and instruments from around the world -- The musical stylings of Daniel Moen

Saturday May 20th I had the amazing experience of witnessing—and being a part of—the first solo concert of Daniel Moen, accomplished Detroit-area musician, photographer, graphic designer, animator, and all-around entertainer. I’ve been close friends with Dan for about seven years, and have had the privilege of witnessing his personal evolution—and human revolution—that led up to this production.

Dan was encouraged last year by the folks at Starkweather Arts Center in Romeo, Michigan, where he is a regular at their open mic night, to do a solo show. Starkweather hosted the show at the Romeo Masonic Lodge 41, as part of the two organizations' concert-series partnership. Dan has been composing and recording his music at home for a while now, and regularly uploads his songs with videos on his YouTube channel. He records tracks in layers, combining himself playing live instruments, electronic tracks, sound effects from nature, samplings of chants and vocalizations from various languages, and even occasionally himself doing different forms of indigenous throat-singing.

One of the distinct features of Dan’s live performances is that whenever he plays an instrument from another culture, he will give a brief introduction to it and to the cultural group it’s from. Far from simply picking instruments at random because they sound cool, Dan has done in-depth research into every musical item he owns, as one of the ways he applies his passion for learning about and experiencing cultures.

His music also has a deeper purpose than simply entertainment. He composes and plays multicultural music in the spirit of honoring the cultures and people who inspire him, not to appropriate or capitalize on their style. He hopes to one day be able to give back to the cultures of origin from any monetary proceeds he makes from selling music that features instruments or musical styles from those cultures. He also maintains sensitivity to concerns about cultural appropriation, to make sure that what he is doing is respectful to the cultures of origin rather than coming across as an uninformed American interpretation of their music.

Some of his songs he will never sell, due to the personal nature of the songs (such as musical tributes to specific people), or if the cultures he’s drawing inspiration from have been disproportionately victimized by—and are particularly sensitive about—cultural appropriation for profit (such as Native Americans).

While the dozen or so instruments Dan brought with him to the show in Romeo—including the Chinese guqin, Chinese bawu, Irish tin whistle, Native American cedar flute, African mbira, African mukuri, Australian didgeridoo, Indonesian suling, Hebrew kinnor, Brazilian berimbau, African djembe, and my personal favorite, the Chinese hulusi—don’t even represent his entire collection, they do represent a pretty good cross-section of Dan’s style and the cultures he draws most of his inspiration from. (Click on the names of the instruments to learn more; you can also go to YouTube and type in the names of the instruments to find demo videos of what they sound like.)

Dan performed several of his original songs, most of which are featured on his YouTube channel, including “Bawu Dreams,” “The Yi Wedding,” “The Water Emperor,” “The Spring Clan,” “Temples and Jungles,” “Northern Grasslands,” “The Sky,” “Song for Joe,” “Mediterranean Groove,” “Daughter of God,”, “The Peaceful Sanctuary,” “Soar Across the World,” and “Triumph of John.”

The latter song is one of the most personal songs Dan has ever composed, and it never fails to draw tears from almost every person in the room who knew John Suggs, the father-figure for our friend group, as well as we did. The first time Dan aired this song for other people to hear was at John's funeral last year. Musically, what is distinctive about this song is that Dan did use every single instrument he owned at the time in the song, laying down layer after layer in the recording until he captured every sound that he wanted—including audio clips of John’s laugh that was pure joy to hear, and John leading our drum night group in singing ‘Abdu’l-Baha’s prayer of welcome.

All of Dan’s art is not just about connecting people to cultures but people to each other, so it was only natural that Dan wanted to share the stage with some fellow artists from his inner circle. I was delighted and honored that he invited me to recite my poem “My Heart Tells Me Something Different,” while he played the African Mbira in the background. Guitarist and composer Ryan Muns served as the opening act, delivering heart-stirring monologues and a few songs from his new album “Selah.” A few of Dan’s songs were also accompanied by the dancing of multimedia artist Kona and professional dancer “Angelique Ziara.” Our dear friend Joe Black also performed a song with Dan, to which I added some light percussion on a Hawaiian gourd instrument.

We concluded the show with a freestyle drumming circle during Dan's “Soar Across the World,” all of us feeling that we had indeed done just that.

Miigwetch, Dan, for one of the most heart-warming, original, and memorable musical experiences of my life.

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Image: “Soleiluna” by Karla Joy Huber, 2013; Prismacolor marker, Sharpie marker, metallic gel pen, white gel pen, highlighter