We’ve been on the Northwest Coast for about two weeks. Our first destination was Eugene, OR for the Far-West Folk Alliance Conference. A trade show of sorts for those involved in the Folk music scene. The city is beautiful and quite user-friendly. It’s a smaller city about the size of our recent home, Green Bay.
I am always looking for the greater meaning in life and although we were in Eugene for the “conference” the underlying purpose was an awaking to a compulsive need we all have to be in control, “make it” and to be desired.
As I made my way through our daily workshops and showcases I found that there were moments that I would have to go outside of the 3 block radius to find a grocery or office store. Those trips provided a window into the reality of a town that is broken by the economy and struggling. I saw several young (30-40’s) folks holding signs on corners, stating their desire to work or a felt need. They were my age, wearing decent clothing and standing on a corner doing whatever it takes to care for their families. It invoked a deep discomfort in me as I found myself staring but not exactly knowing how to help. Paralyzed, that’s how I felt for I could see myself in these folks eyes.
After returning to the conference, I started to noticed the desperation was similar, only we weren’t holding signs, rather name tags and business cards; hoping someone would take notice and see the value in having us perform at their venue.
The irony was glaring. I sat through a delightful and encouraging speech by a fellow folky about our purpose as musicians and the impact we can have to change the world and then in the next breath found myself in a business meeting trying to understand the ugly and confusing world of Performance Rights Organizations and “why” we as artist need to join these cronies and ban together to protect our interests. One conversation was driven by an open desire to serve and care for others and the other, fear based and self protective.
Having purposely stripped away to nearly nothing. (well, I can’t say nothing, we do own a bus and a car and are renting our home out) but in essence we are down to nearly nothing, I find this paradox even greater. If I look up and to far ahead I panic and find I’m lost in a place that is unfamiliar, a place of fear and self-protection. The vision to love others with a servant’s heart and ideals to live simply and sustainably are the only things that make any sense and so I focus on them.
We take what we do musically quite seriously and want to understand the “world” we are swimming through and with. However, there is a certain resistance we have as DIY artists and rightly so. This fear driven, self-protection will be the demise of us. We are reminded once again to stay open and be available. To be in the world but not of it.