People Who Need People

Barbra Streisand burst into my consciousness in the 1960s when she became a media darling for her role as Fanny Brice in Funny Girl. I always assumed she WAS Fanny Brice reincarnated. Look at old footage of Fanny Brice and you will see a strong resemblance. And Fanny did a mighty fine job of reincarnating and doing all the things she COULD NOT do when she was alive due to her gender and limited technology. Fanny/Barbra used her resources for all the power they are worth.

As a singer, Barbra Streisand engages with songs in such an intimate way. She plays with them, enhancing each one with nuanced emotion. She makes them sparkle; and the songs make her shine. Her first signature song was “People” from Funny Girl. And she could sell that song – I believed her completely.

People… people who need people… are the luckiest people in the world!

In recent years I laughingly revise the song to be “People….people who need people….are in dee-ee-p doo-doooooo.” Many folks would be quick to correct me with beautiful examples of compassion in action, as people respond to natural and person made disasters in loving and giving ways. Yes, I see and love that about people. When we are called upon to assist others in need, we usually respond. What I want to look at is the idea embedded in the song that “people needing people” is a fortunate characteristic of being. A “lucky” aspect to have in your relations with others, as the song says.

A quick look at the song lyrics, reveals the Romantic ideal that I need another person to complete me.

…a feeling deep in your soul, says you were half now your whole, no more hunger and thirst, but first, be a person who needs people.

On the surface this seems to be an ideal to aspire to and I think many of us spend some portion of our life searching for this ideal. The problem is that it is based on a false premise – that we are incomplete as individuals. We are born complete and whole. We are not broken or full of sin. We are in direct relation with the energetic force of love that creates the Universe. All this longing we feel, this emptiness we mistake for lack, all this need is the overpowering desire to be reunited with the source of our being. We feel like dried up little creek beds parched for water. We feel lack. A lot of lack. And we look to each other to help, save, complete us. Take a moment to think about all the songs, books, movies, performances you have witnessed that reinforce this very idea. And I love these stories! They make me laugh, cry, feel alive, AND they create some debilitating beliefs that can wreck relationships. Needing to be completed by your partner is one of those injurious beliefs.

What if, we were people who WANT people, who enjoy and respect people, who cherish people. This engenders an entirely different way of relating to others. I can be complete with or without other people. No need arises, just desire. Desire is easier, more relaxed than need. Desire springs from an attraction energy that entangles us with each other. Desire allows the dance, while need taps her foot and looks at his watch. Feel the difference between these two states of being. It is immense. Then choose the one that brings you relief and ease. While I know there are times when I will need people and there will be times that other people will need me, being a person who needs people may be a questionable practice on which to build lasting, loving relationships.

Case in point: Fanny Brice pitches this idea to Nicki Arnstein through the song “People” in the show Funny Girl. I love this scene in the movie because Omar Shariff has this bemused smile the entire time he follows Barbra around while she sings. It is like he is thinking, “You really believe this, don’t you? Hmmmmm, maybe I can believe it too!” The film then proceeds to illustrate the disappointment inherent in trying to live a relationship based in neediness, roles and duty. But it is so sweet the way they try. It is poignant. Because, in fact, they are both whole people and neither of them needs the other to be complete. They might have had a very different relationship if they had started from that premise.

Yan Jun Sounds Off @ Carrack 4/12

Yan Jun is a pretty cool dude. He has a simple sound set up where he plays feedback frequencies, or, as he said in the Q&A following the performance, he “dances” the frequencies. Because the Carrack is a small, enclosed venue, Yan Jun chose to use silence/ambient noise as a part of his performance. As he began, he looked over his sound rig, which was several small, naked speaker parts, a shotgun mic with parabolic shield, contact mics, a mixing board and speakers with their own mixer. He looked at his rig for a long time, as if he had never seen it before. (He had been sitting and looking at it for the hour or so before he started performing. He said he had done an hour long sound check as well.) He was focused, relaxed and unhurried.

I listened to some You Tube videos of Yan Jun performing and knew what to expect. This is the realm of noise, static, and all inclusive harmonics with very few tones standing out to the ear. This is a different kind of music with a deeply interactive function. Yan Jun interacts with the feedback loop frequencies, the space, the vibe of the people in attendance, even the vibration that is posturing the space we were inhabiting. I asked him about his process and he said he goes by the “feeling” of the frequencies. He makes decisions about whether or not to “follow” the sound that happens in the moment. He seems to be having quite an intimate experience with the vibration. So then how do I, as an audience (in the truest sense of the word) find a way into what he is creating? Without the familiar tonal forms and cadences, clearcut harmonic relations, how do I engage with this music?

There seem to be a vast number of ways to engage and disengage with Yan Jun’s creations. His very deep focus on his personal interaction with vibrations in the room really demands the same from us as listeners. We have to bring something to the table. One woman said she was directed by his movements as to what to hear. Mirroring the creator’s experience is one way our brains and minds can interact with this creation. As it is a kind of “abstract” music, the invitation is to “read story” into it. We are highly trained experts at reading story into all aspects of existence. Since Yan Jun was so deeply engaged, many people could access by reading story into his movements and the resulting sounds.

People with hearing sensitivites might be invited to disengage. The frequencies and the distortion, while not painfully loud to me, may have been to others. This type of performance pushes the boundaries of our perceptions and our expectations, which often limit our perceptions. This can be a painful experience, but not an intolerable one.

I decided to use a spectrum analyzer to engage with the performance. Yan Jun said he pays no attention to what frequencies he is generating; this is not scientific, he goes by feel. My interest in the spectrum analyzer was to see/ hear if there were any patterns to his performance. First a disclaimer: I am just learning how to use spectrum analyzers, so I don’t understand everything about them. They give a measurement of amplitude to frequency, which I read as a means of locating dominant (louder) frequencies. I weighted the analyzer with a lower sensitivity to low sounds, sat as close to the sweet spot between the four speakers as I could get, and used an Ipad app called Analyzer. I went back and forth between watching Yan Jun and the analyzer. While I could not see patterns, a sonic progression did emerge.

He began with silence, then brought in low rumbling frequencies below -40 dBl FS (I used this amplitude parameter, which is used in computer sound measure where 0.0 dBl is the loudest sound before clipping. I don’t know if this was an accurate way to measure acoustic sound, but I went with the familiar.) My window into the app tops at about 14 kHz. Early on, I was not seeing any frequencies except the low ones (which at one point were picked up by a passing motorcycle). So I watched Yan Jun, who, at times made gestures and no change occurred in my ear, so he appeared to be having some difficulty engaging the frequencies. He got up and moved his chair back and to the left. From that point on he stood, and seemed to get entrained to what he was looking for. Frequencies around 13 kHz gave way to more around 8kHz. At one point bunches of frequencies popped up in the 13-14 kHz range. As the performance progressed, he engaged more frequencies in the 8kHz range, then he spent some time in 1-2 kHz (this range sounding a bit more familiar to my ear.) At one point there were patches of frequencies slightly above and below the lower ranges of the human voice (100 Hz- 1kHz) and I thought he was avoiding those frequencies. By the end, he was bringing up more frequencies in that range, with harmonics at 8kHz popping up many times.

So I was engaged in watching and listening to (I don’t feel that I can say I was hearing them) frequencies and how they unfolded during the evening. Seeing a progression of movement was very engaging for me. I was also thinking of this experience as a sonic cleansing or a brain massage. Brain research has revealed that when a specific frequency is generated and picked up by the amazing human hearing mechanism, part of the brain physically vibrates at that same frequency. This has been measured and there is a direct vibrational correlation between frequencies and your brain. So just WoW, and congratulations to all who came and experienced some edgy performance art. Your brains are probably better for it!

Resurrection (R)evolution

This is the time of the year when most everyone is aware of the story of Jesus Christ’s end without end. No matter what your faith, Holy Week activities resonate throughout our worlds. So I want to pay attention to this event and consciously invite it’s vibration into my life. This means becoming still inside and asking to be guided to the vibrations meaning. What does Jesus’ life and death mean to ascending beings?

All the ancient stories that make up the sacred traditions of the world contain a vibrational essence that has survived and driven them into this present moment. Because we are evolving at an increasingly accelerated tempo, these stories are shedding the baggage of mammon embodied in theological dogma (which has helped them to survive up to this point.) Now these stories are being distilled to their vibrational essence. This essence becomes more and more available as we look deeply into our own fears and how they shape our lived experience. What is the vibrational essence of the story of Jesus?

No one doubts that Jesus loved humanity and reassured us of that love over and over again. And directed us to be loving toward each other. When I look out upon the world, I see alot of people saying Jesus name, but taking actions that are way out of line with this teaching of love. Christians like to point to Jesus teaching’s on obedience and righteousness first and foremost. Then they set up their checklist of “acceptable” sins (any sins that I, my family and friends have committed) and “unacceptable” sins (any sins I wouldn’t dream of committing and no one else had better either). And they seem to be completely unable to see the disconnect here. They say let God be the judge, and then they step in and lay down their judgements. They say embrace Jesus, and then rarely celebrate the light this action would bring to their lives. Instead, they shut out the light with righteous anger and dogmatic judgements. And here I am doing the same thing. We become what we resist!

One of the reasons we revisit this story each year is because it is a lens through which we can refocus our lives. Jesus, like all the inspired beings who have pointed us toward this moment, was more of a guide than a teacher, more of an antennae than a glorifed human. The teachings of Christ have been processed through thick filters of language, politics and humanity’s struggle for power and control. While it is next to impossible to sift out exactly what Jesus said given the many translations, interpretations and omissions that have been visited upon the Bible over the millenia, the theme of love and the theme that we are the children of God are essential to Jesus’ teachings. And when I hear his teaching voice shift to the terms and conditions of this love with allegiance and obedience and giving over your Will – it doesn’t sound like Jesus anymore; it sounds more like the spin team. I think we might be hearing some reinterpretations coming from the people and institutions that need obedience and aquiesence in order to survive. Don’t look now, but the Bible may have been hijacked, packaged in fear and marketed to the angry, anxious and righteous.

I have many people in my my life who identify as Christians. Some are more “devout” than others, meaning they talk about their beliefs more and it is important to their personal identity. When people are excited and lit up by this, I love talking and sharing with them. When people routinely and unexaminedly judge others, exclude others, and believe themselves in some way superior or victimized for their chosen belief, I have a struggle connecting. The reason is complex as I recognize the mirror for what it is and begin my inquiry. In what ways am I judging, feeling disdain or righteous indignation at the Christians who dissassociate their actions from their beliefs? Can I forgive them their hubris? Can I forgive myself my own hubris. I would like to wake up to it before I die, and it is nice to know I will wake up completely when I die. Everybody does.

So here is my take on the Resurrection of Jesus Christ – human beings had been living on the earth for centuries with the opportunity to witness flowers, trees, grasses, most of our outdoor environment posture the cycle of everlasting life from seed to bud to flower to fruit to wilt to dried to dead and back again, year after year. But still human beings lived in fear of death which really made evolving in joy and love much harder. It seems we needed this wack up the side of the head wake up and smell the coffee example of Jesus Christ to make perfectly clear – “LIFE IS ETERNAL!”. He was a bullhorn announcement: “YOU ARE ETERNAL!” We were not quite ready to receive this message. Now, 2000 years later, as we begin to evolve into this knowledge (that can literally ease our fears and judgements), Jesus’ resurrection brings this eternal message into sharp focus…AGAIN.

Don’t miss this!