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Author Archives: David Thomas Peacock

Becoming, Part 2

We are all, at all times, in a state of more fully becoming who we are – of realizing our potential.

This process starts the moment we pop out of the womb, and doesn’t end until we take our last breath.

Of course, personal growth is usually going to involve some considerable discomfort and pain. This can be scary. Don’t be afraid of this pain – embrace it. You’ll come out on the other side with a greater understanding of who you really are.

You can either actively take part in this process, or passively allow it to happen – but you can’t stop it. Understanding this will (hopefully) motivate you to be more proactive.

If you’re feeling uncomfortable and anxious, this a good sign. It signals you are in an acute stage of becoming. Listen to your pain and don’t judge it, or yourself.

What is it telling you?

Teach And Learn

One of the best ways to learn is to teach. This may seem counter-intuitive, but once you’ve experienced this phenomenon, you’ll completely understand what I mean. It does, however, require significant humility on the part of the teacher.

There are a few ways this can work, but the most basic and obvious is this: in order to teach something, you must be able to clearly articulate the process to someone who doesn’t know it. Trust me, this is trickier than it might seem. For starters, although you may have mastered (or at least fully understand) some skill or process, that doesn’t mean you can break it down and explain it. Part of being an expert at something involves the concept that you have internalized the skills required to master it, and this means that you no longer consciously think about how to do it. The days of thinking about why have long passed, it has now become a subconscious process where you just know “what to do.” So in order to teach this, you have to back up and break down each step and be able to explain why. The act of doing this further refines and cements your understanding of whatever it is you are teaching.

Here’s where the humility part comes in: inevitably, the one being taught will ask questions the teacher doesn’t know the answer to. I like to start my relationship with the student by stating up front, “There will be times when I won’t know the answer to your question – when that happens we’ll look it up and learn together.” You are being honest, which builds trust, and virtually guaranteed to learn something in the process. A win-win!

Most importantly, once you get comfortable with teaching, it is extremely gratifying and fun to watch and help someone grow and develop. The free exchange of knowledge and ideas between humans is something that is hardwired into all of us.

Try freely giving something back and watch yourself  grow in the process.

Let’s Open Another Can Of Thoughts & Prayers

It’s another day in America – let’s see: the sun rose this morning, and somewhere there was another mass shooting, immediately followed by the inevitable hand wringing and the obligatory “I’m sending my thoughts and prayers.”

Really? Who are these people kidding? I mean either we like mass shootings and murder, or we don’t really care, or we’re so fucking weak and simple minded we somehow can’t figure out any way to stop this madness.

But for gods sake, please stop with the “thoughts and prayers” bullshit. You’re not fooling anyone.

Either do something or admit you really don’t give a shit and save your “thoughts and prayers” for something you actually care about.

Calm Under Pressure

If you can pull it off, this is a quality that will serve you well in life.

And here’s a little secret: Sometimes the people that seem the calmest under pressure don’t really feel that calm – they’re just good at controlling how they react under pressure.

In fact, sometimes they actually want to see how far they can push themselves before they break…

Bass Lines

”The end of the note is an accent.”

I was just talking to a friend who is a great musician about how bass players are the most important instrument in a band. This may sound counterintuitive unless you have played in many, many bands – in which case you will immediately understand what I’m talking about. All of the other players can be great, but if the bass player sucks, the whole band sucks.

What great bass players do (and how they do it) is so subtle it can almost seem like magic. The simplest parts provide the best examples, precisely because they aren’t playing that many notes. We were talking about bass lines in this context when he made the statement above.

I had never thought about it quite this way, but of course he was right.

Great bass lines are not only about what you’re not playing – they’re also about how you end the notes themselves.

The actual length of the note is part of the groove.

Nothing Is Free

Anytime you think you’re getting something for free, you’re not. You just don’t fully understand the transaction.

The thing you think you’re getting for free isn’t really the product.

The product is you.

Grieving For Atheists, Part 3

So I guess here’s where the Buddhist concept of reincarnation starts to make some sense. Mind you, I am not a Buddhist, nor do I have any desire to become one. I am just exploring my thoughts here…

I once studied with a music teacher for about 10 years before he died who was a very spiritual man. Not in a religious sense – more in a mystical one. He did believe in reincarnation, and I remember him once drawing a straight line on a piece of paper and saying “this is time, and all living things exist somewhere on this continuum.” But the line didn’t represent linear time, it represented spiritual development.

I remember when my sister committed suicide, he said something to the effect of “she’ll do better next time.” Meaning, in her next life, she would have a chance to develop spiritually to higher level. When he would tell me these things, I definitely felt he was trying to teach me some deeply spiritual truths, but I struggled to really believe some of it. I don’t think I was fully ready yet…

So, thinking about these concepts as I grieve the loss of my loved one, gives me some weak comfort. If physics tells us that energy can neither be created nor destroyed, and my experience tells me all living things are manifestations of energy on some level, then whatever dies isn’t really gone – it’s just been transformed into another form of energy.

Do I believe this enough to codify into my personal ethos? Probably not – at least not yet. I still have some thinking and living to do.

But the general idea does provide some small measure of solace.

Grieving For Atheists, Part 2

The First Law of Thermodynamics: Also known as the Law of Conservation of Energy, states that energy can neither be created nor destroyed; energy can only be transferred or changed from one form to another. In other words, energy cannot be created or destroyed.”

Before I became a nurse, I vividly remember my wife (who was a pediatric ICU nurse at the time) telling me of her experiences being present when babies and children died. She said if you put your hands over the child at the moment of death, you could actually feel the energy pass through you as it left the body. Fast forward a couple of decades later and I find myself working as a nurse in a busy inner city ER. In this environment, people die right under your hands on an unnaturally frequent basis. Experiencing death up close becomes your norm. I can remember at some point when I was new having a patient in cardiac arrest who died while I’m doing CPR (technically speaking, if you’re doing CPR, the patient is already dead – let’s say deadish – you are simply attempting to resuscitate them). Sometimes, because of good CPR circulating code meds, you’ll get them back and then lose them again. In this case, after multiple attempts to save the patient, the doc asks the team if anyone has any suggestions before calling the time of death (standard protocol), then proceeds to do so. It was really busy and I had other patients to take care of who probably had no idea what just transpired in the trauma room. I helped the techs do some basic post-mortem care, we zipped him up in a body bag, and I called the morgue. Then I just moved on to my other patients as if this was the most normal thing in the world, but I remember thinking “this is not normal.”

Here’s the thing: when you are around death a lot, you get a vivid sense that when someone dies, whatever energy inhabited their body has gone. Now, if they have been weakened over time by prolonged illness, that energy is not strong and powerful as it would in a child, but it is still there. And once it leaves the body, there is no mistaking this phenomenon. The question is: where does it go?

If it is a law of physics that energy can neither be created nor destroyed, but only changed from one form to another, and my experience tells me that who we are is some form of energy, then what exactly does this mean?

Where does this energy go? And where was it before we were born? And how do I process this as an atheist? I’ll explore these ideas further in tomorrows post “Grieving For Atheists, Part 3.”

Grieving For Atheists, Part 1

I have always been an atheist. Although I was exposed to Christianity when I was a child, even at a very young age the whole thing just made absolutely no sense to me. I remember thinking “These adults don’t really expect me to believe this, do they? I guess I better just play along.”

As I grew older, I developed a real disdain for “Christian believers,” thinking they were either so cynical that they thought if they pretended to believe then maybe no one would notice what lying pricks they really were. Or else they were just simpletons who really did believe in this ridiculous fairy tale, making me feel smugly superior. And don’t even get me started on carnies like Joel Osteen…

But I grew out of being an arrogant asshole and realized that maybe it was me who was missing out on something. I mean, this whole “Gods plan” thing sure seemed to answer a whole lot of really uncomfortable shit – like coping with the seemingly random tragedies of life, and answering existential questions. It just seems too easy though – if it’s all just part of “Gods plan” then I don’t have to bother with all that pesky thinking. And at the end of this tragic comedy called life, if we just ask god for “forgiveness,” then we get to go to some glorious place forever. As I get older & closer to death, I sometimes actually envy believers.

After all, without god there are a whole lot of very uncomfortable questions that need to be answered, or else life can start to seem kind of meaningless.

Questions like “What exactly is the point here? You mean we’re just born and then randomly die, and that’s it?” Pretty fucking bleak, that one is. And yet unfortunately it’s probably the closest to the truth.

It’s just one bitter fucking pill to swallow. I mean, if I don’t believe in “god” then does that mean I don’t believe in anything? I never said I was a nihilist.

Well, it turns out I do have a relatively positive, albeit weak theory I’ll explore in Part 2 of this post. If anyone’s listening and even remotely cares, stay tuned

Observation Part 2

Great art is NEVER made by a committee.

And if you’re thinking “But isn’t a band like a committee?,” you’d be completely wrong.

A band is like a wolf pack. Each member has a uniquely defined role to ensure the success of the pack. There is no “Robert’s Rules of Order,” and ultimately no one gives a shit whether someone’s feelings get hurt in the process. All that matters is the survival and success of the group. Weak links are simply eliminated – as a result most most bands have a limited shelf life. It’s a brutal environment where one must constantly produce.

This is why so many Hollywood movies suck – they are made by committees and decisions are guided by focus groups. The films that find passionate audiences are made by visionaries who may or may not listen to outside input. But even if they do, these outside influences are ultimately run through the filter of the auteur and used or discarded as they see fit. John Huston, Alfred Hitchcock, John Ford, Sam Peckinpah, John Cassavetes, Woody Allen, George A. Romero, Martin Scorsese, Spike Lee, Takashi Miike, Michael Haneke, Park Chan-Wook, Lynne Ramsay, and Quentin Tarantino – to name just a few off the top of my head. No one was telling these people what they were or were not going to put on the screen.

So if you are going to create something, have the balls to fully realize your vision. Even if everyone else is telling you not to.

Especially if people are upset – this means you’re touching a nerve, which means you are making people feel something. This is the whole point, and is a good indicator that you are on the right track.

Deadwood, Season 1, Episode 1

Original concept executed flawlessly.

Perfectly cast actors of the highest order, with Ian McShane giving the performance of a lifetime as Al Swearengen. Must be seen to be believed.

David Milch pulls off the ultimate expression of art: he creates a completely believable, fabricated universe that has its own unique language. It’s both familiar and foreign at the same time.

It reads as an allegory about the birth of what would become the United States Of America. Violent, profane, and brutal – interspersed with brief moments of tenderness.

Pretty much everything is perfectly laid out in the first episode.

This is about as good as it gets.

This is art.

Not Interested

I guess this is what grief does. You just don’t give a shit. Your patience got up and left. Nothing makes you happy and it’s hard to concentrate.

And your ten mile fuse? It’s now about a centimeter long, ready to blow at the slightest provocation. I’m pissed off and angry most of the time. Everything is overwhelming, when in reality, it’s nothing.

I guess this is where the old axiom started: Life sucks and then you die. I know this will pass, but it’s making things a bit rough at the moment.

I just miss him so much.

Failure Is Nothing To Be Ashamed Of

We ALL fail at some point. If you’ve never failed, you’ve never pushed yourself to achieve your highest potential. You find out where your bar is by pushing yourself to failure.

You find out what you’re made of by failing.

Ok, so you pushed yourself and failed – now what? Well, it turns out that this is the most important part.

Learn from your failure and grow…

Observation Part 1

The most powerful art always feels like it was made by someone expressing themselves in a pure and unadulterated way.

They HAVE to say whatever it is they’re expressing, and the result is electric.

They don’t give a fuck what you or anyone else thinks about what they’re doing – you just get the impression that they’re having fun doing it.

I’m Not Superman

Somehow, in my mind, I think I can accomplish way more than I can. Apparently I believe there are endless hours to each day, giving me all the time in the world to accomplish my goals. I somehow believe I can pursue multiple disciplines on a serious level, as if time were limitless. Of course I don’t really think I’m Superman, far from it. But from the way I think about the things I want to do, it might appear that way.

The reality of life is that even the most mundane bullshit is time consuming. Just sleeping, eating, and maintaining our bodies takes up a huge chunk of the day. Add regular exercise and you have another big time commitment. Maybe you need to devote some extra time each day to repairing damage incurred to your body from your cancer treatment.

If you are seriously curious and want to constantly investigate and learn new things, there’s another big time hole. And if you want to do something on a high level, you’d better be prepared to devote a lot of time and personal resources to it.

For example, let’s look at music. First of all, are we talking about playing an instrument? If you are going to do it on even a casual level, you’re going to need to practice. Play more than one instrument? More time needed.

Write music? More time. Recording? Lots to learn and work on there – DAWs and music software are extremely sophisticated tools that require study and practice to master. And if you’re writing music and recording it, you better study arranging too. Of course, everything is in the box, so you’ll have plenty of software recreating what used to be called a recording studio to learn.

Maybe you’re interested in learning another language? More time needed Mister…

Oh, let’s not forget about your other professional career, there’s lots to learn there.

Don’t forget time to just let your mind wander.

And you better be cultivating your personal relationships or they’ll wither away.

And WTF am I doing as I write this blog post? I’m at the gym of course – trying to stave off sarcopenia, a natural consequence of aging…

Respect

Rule #1: Everyone gets treated with respect until proven otherwise.

Rule #2: Don’t, however, expect the same from others. Instead, work to earn their respect.

I know this sounds contradictory and not fair – but no one ever said life was fair.

This is just what has worked for me.

Self Discipline

I would define self discipline as the process of honoring a commitment you have made with yourself.

That means doing whatever you have committed to whether you feel like it or not.

This is a big deal, because it’s much easier to exert self discipline with outside commitments – for example, work. There you are obligated to honor your contracts, and there are consequences if you don’t.

It’s a lot easier to give up on yourself, because no one else is watching but you.

Maybe the ability to exert self discipline when no one else is watching is really the only discipline that matters.

Fear Is Not Where You Want To Live

The grieving process after the death of a loved one can be destabilizing. One minute life is just moving along and the next minute everything changes. I remember when I was diagnosed with cancer, I said to my doc “I didn’t see this coming,” and he casually answered “No one ever does.” I survived, unfortunately Logan didn’t.

Normally, I process the bad shit in life pretty effortlessly – fear is not a state I’m used to, my mind just doesn’t normally work that way. But losing someone you loved so deeply, who was woven into the very fabric of your life so quickly to cancer has a way of making me think “What’s going to happen next?” This is a very bad place to be, because now you are afraid of something that hasn’t even happened – your mind is just irrationally spinning out of control, making up doomsday scenarios for yourself and other people in your life you love.

Fear is such bullshit. I have always had disdain for people who live their lives in this state – we have a whole political party dedicated to it, so clearly approximately one half of all humans identify with this kind of thinking as a way to guide their lives.

Here’s the thing: Life is lived moment to moment. Safety is an illusion – always was, always will be. Danger, pain and death are part of life. It’s OK. Take a deep breath and appreciate this moment, and make sure you tell someone you love them today. Do something nice for someone else. Make something. Give back.

Don’t waste a precious moment being afraid, because that’s a moment you’ll never get back.