Well, my blogging absence has at least been productive: fly woman genius has been released and I threw a big party to celebrate! If you missed it, don't worry. Videos are making their way here, and the album is still available to buy and stream. You can even buy one for a friend! /end shameless sales pitch Anyway, after the concert last week I was eating bonbons in bed, catching up on my Words with Friends games, and I got an email from a friend and supporter who had attended the night before. It was full of kind remarks, but responded specifically to Vince Peterson's song "Everyday Thing," a musical gift to me about my ongoing discovery of true, deeply seated autonomy over the past year. [If you haven't heard it, you may want to enlighten yourself, using the Tunecore widget at the right side of the screen, before reading further.]
The email contained a piece of this friend's forthcoming book (from which I've been given permission to quote, on condition of anonymity as it is as yet unpublished) about how we have to think for ourselves, how we don't necessarily have a moral duty to obey the law, or follow precedent, or the Supreme Court's decisions. I'll confess: I added "necessarily" to that last sentence just now. Holy crap, I thought, licking chocolate from my non-smartphone-using fingers. Was I singing about anarchy last night?
Self-respect and self-governance require we follow what we think is right, rather than what someone else thinks (which is what the law is, in final analysis). We may never have to exercise this residual right of self-government; we may live in an enlightened nation, or resolve conflicts in ways consistent with law, or deem systemic reasons for obedience sufficient, or live away from society enough that the demands of law are infrequently felt. But knowing we will do what we must to preserve what we believe to be right allows self-respect and self-governance. (Would you not [do you not?] protect what is dearest to you, your child or spouse or, perhaps, work of art or piece of land, or, maybe, your mind, or physical integrity, against the felt oppression of even a purportedly [or mostly?] just regime?)
What do you think? Would you not? Do you not?
I love this for two reasons. On the topical level, I appreciate the discussion because I see both of these works (my song, and this friend's writing) as explorations of a great shift in consciousness toward individualism and away from oppressive control of others. There are more books than ever before about the power of now and the power of positive thinking, more people meditating and using the power of the mind to develop their own self-respect and self-governance (as my friend puts it), in healthy ways. I do believe at heart that if everyone were connected to their own true sense of Self-respect, we wouldn't need law. Widespread Self-government would result not in anarchy but in a great and beautiful abundance and interdependence. I can do much better by you if I have done well by myself first. I don't believe we are yet to that point, as this morning's news reminded me. But we can each do our part for our own Selves. For me this shift is a very powerful way to, as Gandhi said, be the change we wish to see in the world.
Taking a step back, however -- away from the topic of the discussion and looking at the email itself objectively -- I found it reassuring that such a personal song, written for me, at this time, by a dear friend, can and does resonate in the room not because the listener may know me but because of its universality. That getting up to sing "this time is for ME, it's not for anyone else" doesn't make the audience head for the doors but perhaps makes them think of their own
selfish boundaries. That telling my story is actually telling our story.
Of course, this shouldn't have been that surprising to me. In the theater, it is usually only when the story gets to an irrefutable specificity that it can truly resonate with the audience. "I love you" is nice, and most of us have uttered those three little words at some point in our lives, but "The way you wear your hat, the way you sing off-key" tells us volumes more about the specific relationship between the singer and the object of her affection. [For more about my love affair with the specificity of lyrics, read on here.]
So while it seems like a great paradox to get up and sing about a "real, true, personal, everyday thing" and be met with constitutional law... perhaps it's just the way it should be. The theater is full of universal ideas that ring true throughout our society in myriad manifestations. And weren't the founders of this "great experiment" doing their best to preserve the individual's life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness... which is pretty much what Vince is writing about?