Sunday, November 30, 2008

easy being green...?

In a few hours I leave for Marco Island, Florida (oh, what a hard life I lead...!), where I'll be leading worship at the Leadership Seminar of the Ecumenical Stewardship Center.

This is a group of leaders of numerous Christian denominations across North America who get together annually with a focus on "stewardship" agenda. And this year the emphasis is on stewardship and environmental sustainability. Sound like something I'd be interested in?

The title chosen for the event is "It's Easy Being Green," and quite frankly, I don't buy it. Which puts me in an interesting position for the next few days, wouldn't you say?

I'm sure, at one level, the selection of this title simply represents a need to have something snappy and memorable and positive-and-action-oriented... I don't expect to be fundamentally at odds with the organizers or presenters... I'm looking forward to a very stimulating and challenging and meaningful time, and I expect to be learning a lot.

But I must say, whenever I hear a statement like "it's easy being green" I'm immediately on the look-out for someone trying to sell me something. If you just buy this product, or invest in this initiative, or do this or that, then you'll be "green"... and if everyone did it - just follow these three simple steps - then we wouldn't have to worry about that pesky little ecological crisis anymore.

Sorry, but I'm not convinced. I think there's lots of stuff we can be doing - and a lot of it is simple - that is vitally, vitally important. But "easy being green?" I don't think this kind of statement takes seriously enough the kind of economic and cultural transformation that will need to happen - and that will happen one way or another, whether we like it or not - in a transition out of the era of cheap oil and exorbitant consumption. A global economic model that is by definition in desperate crisis when "consumer spending" goes down by a fraction... I'm sorry, but I don't believe the kind of change that is needed here is going to be "easy." Not by a long shot.

Case-in-point. How many of us going to the Leadership Seminar will be flying? I will. I tried to arrange to go by train - the better ecological choice - but it wasn't "easy." In fact, I couldn't figure out how to do it at all (one of the requirements of my P2 musician work visa is that I MUST leave the country the DAY AFTER my last engagement... NO EXCEPTIONS... kinda tough to get by train from South Florida to Toronto by train in that kind of time...). So I'm flying.

No problem. Wouldn't it be "easy" to arrange for some other gigs on the way back home and work my way north by train? I was going to try that too, but ran out of time and didn't want to jeopardize the visa process (the application had to be in 120 days in advance)... so I didn't get it done. Or wouldn't it be "easy" to just say "well, I have this music ministry vocation, but I won't travel to come to your event"...?

Well, no. That wouldn't be easy at all, and I also don't think it would be right.


Don't get me wrong. I'm by no means "down" on this event, or the theme, or the fact that I suspect virtually everyone will be flying to get there (ok, I suppose I am a bit "down" on that last one...). I think this is good and vital agenda, and a good and vital event, and I can't wait to meet and hear from and learn from all these good and vital people (and all the others too, who I'm sure will be just as "good and vital").

Just don't tell me that following through on this agenda is going to be "easy." I don't believe it.

Makes me think of the guy with the catchy slogan "Take up your cross and follow me." Not exactly easy. Life-giving, fulfilling, community-and-joy-and-pain-filled... yes. Spirit-led, yup. Worthwhile, you bet. GOOD NEWS - absolutely.

Easy? I don't think so.

Labels: , ,

Monday, November 24, 2008

neo-luddite blogging dinosaur (or confessions of a facebook virgin)

It's true. I do not have a Facebook page, nor have I ever visited anyone else's (because you have to have to "sign up" first).

Oh, the shame.

I suppose as a regular member of society (?!) I could be forgiven for such an infraction. There are still a few of us around. But as everyone knows, "indie musicians" like myself are held to a higher standard. Our expertise and commitment to all-things-online-social-networking is apparently the key to our survival and cutting-edge-ness in this new digital age.

It gets worse. I also don't have a myspace page... I don't have any photos on flickr... or videos on YouTube... and on top of the various automatic e-mails asking if I want to become someone's facebook "friend" I am now reliably informed that I should be on Twitter, and Ning, and Ping (or is it "Pong"?)...

And to think, 5 years ago I thought it was pretty neat to have a website of my own. And then beginning a blog, I thought, put me right on the forefront of the foot-dragging late-adopter wave of the digital revolution.

But now it's getting kind of lonely out here, as more and more of the folks who started blogging around the same time as me have long since migrated over to facebook and who-knows-how-many-subsequent-generations-of-social-networking-technology where it seems I can't even read any of their stuff without "signing up" or something...

Hey, I miss you guys! Why don't you come back for a visit sometime? Oh, I understand. You need to keep up with all your new facebook friends now. That's ok. Really.

In the meantime, I'll just keep puttering along over here... you know where to find me if you ever have time to come back for a visit. I know it isn't much. But it's home.


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

singing, smoked meat and bagels in montreal

Well, it's official. My month-long "Canada Rail Pass" is now finished, used up, kaput. The final installment was this past weekend in Montreal, where I did a concert at the Maison de l'Amite (House of Friendship) on Saturday night and a Sunday morning worship service with the Mennonite Fellowship of Montreal. Met many wonderful people and had a great time.

And... this time Julie came with me and we made a "couple weekend" out of it too. Lots of walking in Old Montreal and down Saint Laurent... including stops at the famous Fairmount Bagel place (est. 1919) and an eye-popping (not to mention gut-busting... in a good way...) smoked meat sandwich at Schwartz's (est. 1928).

Our attempts on Sunday night to hear some live music didn't go so well, as the places we tried in the "Roots/Folk" category listed in the paper turned out, upon closer inspection, to consist of someone doing solo acoustic 70s rock covers at one place, and a DJ doing whatever DJs do at another... Oh well. We had a "dessert crepe" instead, and it was so far "over the top" that it went most of the way down the other side as well...

Good fun.

Tonight is the first ever "SmallTall Music Members Song Circle"... 7:30-9:30 or so at Rouge Valley Mennonite Church. It's an experiment, something I've been wanting to try for some time now... we'll see how many people turn up, and how it goes, and whether it's something we might want to try in other places too.


Thursday, November 13, 2008

new song for Advent

Yesterday we had our last meeting as the writing team for the Advent 2009 worship materials for Leader magazine. What a wonderful crew to work with!

The song I wrote as part of our work is again - for me, at least - rather unusual... considerably "darker" than most worship songs that I associate with Advent and Christmas... it's keying in on the first few verses of the first Gospel text for Advent 2009 (Luke 21:25-26)... an "apocalyptic" text, which is an interesting way to frame the coming of Christ as a baby in Bethlehem... and, it seems to me, very descriptive of our context today (and, I expect, next December as well). The song picks up on this apocalyptic tone and imagery and expands on it in the context of climate change and ecological crisis, and moves to an understated but (I hope) evocative sense of the cosmic calling of the church as depicted in Ephesians 3:10... with a refrain of hope taken from Isaiah 12:2... all of which are part of the cloud of lectionary texts for Advent 2009.

I'm thinking I'll include this song in the November "delivery of songs" to the members of my CSM ("Community Supported Music") initiative... should be interesting to hear people's feedback on this one.


Saturday, November 01, 2008

a collection of kindnesses

Eugene, who got up way early and spent the better part of the day driving me to and from W-K where I was leading worship... and carrying all my stuff, since I was still on crutches.

Julie and Matthew, who took me to the train and bundled me on board with a squeeze and a smile and a coffee.

Darrell, who waited until 3:00 am to pick me up at the station in Saskatoon.

Eric and Velma in Prince Albert, who pampered me like crazy, accelerating the healing process by at least a week, I’m sure.

Stu in Drake who ran the sound since he happened to be there, and the one who was going to do it was helping a neighbour with the combining.

Eric at the Equipping conference, who gave me a big hug and said with tears in his eyes: “the Spirit is upon you, brother... keep on going...”

Shelley and Darrell in Saskatoon, whose house and family quickly became my “home away from home.”

Val and Darrell and “the band,” whose energy and love of the music was great to “feed” off of (and our joint blues-funk rendition of “Over My Head” was a great way to end the MCC “Food For All” benefit concert).

Joan in Rosthern, whose passion for market gardening and running the Station Arts Tea Room reenergized me at a low point.

Ryan’s grade 11 Christian Ethics class at RJC, who really engaged the debate about downloading and “stealing.”

Leo and Donna, who delighted in sitting and chatting all evening as if there was nothing they’d rather do.

Mel, who saw me on the church steps and pulled over to unlock the door and let me in.

Congregations who burst into song at the first notes of one that they’ve obviously been using: “Take Good Care” in Prince Albert, “To Be Content” in Drake, “Prayer of Agur” at Mount Royal, “Enough For All” in Eigenheim.

Jerry, who gave me a ride to Superb in his diesel VW bug (someday to be running on used vegetable oil).

Jayden, age 7(?), who shyly but proudly told me he plays the guitar and writes a few songs.

Lois, who beamed throughout the whole concert and offered some sandwiches for the train and offered to put the extra CDs in the mail so I could fit everything else back in my bag.

Dan, who drove me to Unity, and spoke of his experience “going organic” with his farm in western Saskatchewan, and who bought me a travel mug to replace the one I forgot in Jerry’s car.

The bartender (I didn’t learn her name) who offered me any non-alcoholic drinks I wanted “on the house” while I waited in her establishment - the only place open in Unity - for the train which was, at that point, 3 hours late.

The Via rail attendant who kindly didn’t argue with a certain frigid passenger at 2:30 am who’d been waiting outside on the platform for two-and-a-half hours (after the bar closed) for the train, and who dropped into the facing-seats that would normally be reserved for a family group.

Richard from Bo-a-ston who advised over lunch that when I’m there in March I should be sure to take “the red line” to the Hah-vard station, since I’d meet “lots of other strange people there, ah-tists and musicians, and you’d have a mah-velous time...”

I’m writing this in the dome car as we roll through the trees north of Superior - by the time I get the chance to post it I’ll be home - and I realize what an astonishing collection of kindnesses this journey has been. Thank you, all.