Bruce Jenner and “The Hidden Side of Me”

The big news this week is that Bruce Jenner, the Olympic gold medal decathlon winner, has come out as transgender. The man considered the “greatest athlete in the world” in his time, and the picture of strength and masculinity, announced on national TV that “for all intents and purposes, I’m a woman”. That takes great courage for anyone to do, not to mention his public persona and the fact that he did it on national TV. Bravo. Bravo!

In case you missed the interview, you can see it HERE,

I don’t know exactly why, but it seems to be very difficult to be yourself. It could be a societal thing or a human trait, but fearing we won’t be accepted can be so strong, it often creates a lot of stress and pain. Being oneself should be the easiest thing in the world, but it’s not. Maybe because we are social creatures with such a strong need to be accepted. Whether on a job interview, a date, at a social gathering, among friends, being picked for the dodgeball team in gym class, or in that ultimate relationship with our parents, we all inevitably want to be accepted. Being excluded or rejected is something none of us (understandably) want to feel or experience.

One option to try to avoid rejection is to pretend we are something we’re not. I don’t think taking that path is sustainable. We often hear, “the honeymoon is over” after a couple has been together for some time and they start to see the “real” person they are with. Or how many of us have made a decision or two (or more) based on what we thought we should do instead of what we felt in our heart? It took Bruce Jenner 65 years to accept who he/she truly is. I know from my own life it would be much easier to be what I think people want me to be than to be who I am, but there is nothing satisfying in that. And I believe if you cannot be yourself, you cannot truly express yourself in the world. No one will be totally accepted by everyone, and I’ve learned that the most important person who needs to accept me is me. Once I can accept myself the way I am, other’s opinions matter less, and I am free to fully express myself. And then those who accept and support me suddenly find me and stick around. No more phony, empty relationships. No more games. Life is much simpler. I can breathe more easily, and I find myself much happier.

For some reason, it seems that life is a never ending challenge to be myself. As I grow and let go of “protective behavior”, so to speak, and relax into “myself”, I inevitably find another new level to uncover. It never seems to end. It is like an onion, peeling back layer after layer after layer. I suppose that is the journey of a human life.

A world based on acceptance would be a true Garden of Eden. People could spend their time expressing themselves and contributing to society and to others, instead of spending lives grappling to “be OK”, or to “fit in” or to “find myself”. I think Bruce Jenner’s “coming out” is helping the world take a baby step towards accepting others for who they are – exactly the way they are. Seeing this man we identified a certain way come out as being totally different than we thought he was – filled with overwhelming doubts and insecurities just like us all – is very powerful. It can open our eyes to realize that we are all the same – even with all our differences. Hopefully, it will help all of us accept the things about ourselves that we are afraid to admit, the things we have shame about, or the things that we are told are wrong about us. Once the world reaches a place of acceptance, life will be so extraordinary for everyone.

This struggle to fully be oneself is something I write about in different ways in my music. I touched on it in previous blogs, “Goodbye ‘Glee’, Set the ‘Boy’ Free”, and “A Stand for Oneself in ‘No’, Sparked by Sophia Loren”, highlighting my songs, “No” and “Boy”. A song I wrote that directly touches on the subject of becoming your “true” self, is “The Hidden Side of Me”, from my second CD, “Ready”. This song, with its drum and bass sound, speaks about the courage and pain it takes to shed the facades and walls we’ve built, to become that truthful, hidden part of ourselves. Enjoy!

 

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Earth Day and “The Circle” of Life

Happy Earth Day! Today, April 22, is the anniversary of the birth of the modern environmental movement, and it is a day on which worldwide events are held to support environmental protection. It is celebrated in more than 190 countries. How wonderful to officially acknowledge and celebrate our home!

I’ve been very lucky (and am very thankful) that I’ve seen a lot of this planet. To date I’ve visited at least 27 countries on 5 continents. I’ve seen deserts, glaciers, rain forests, pine forests, fjords, lakes, rivers, islands, oceans, mangroves, beaches, valleys, sounds, rock formations, icebergs, and jungles. One of the many things that traveling does is open my mind to how varied life is on this planet. There are so many different places and ways to live – none of them better or worse than any other – just different.

In the past 7 years or so, an interesting  thing has been happening. In every place I’ve visited during that time, people have mentioned a change in their climate. Whether it was too much rain, not enough rain, snow at the wrong time of year, snow for the first time, unusually high temperatures, or unusually cold weather. And there have been unusual sighting such as seeing birds that haven’t been seen in that part of the world before, or seeing a type of whale in their waters that they don’t normally see.

The planet is changing, big time. I remember the first unsettling moment I experienced regarding climate change. It was in 2009. I was on a three hour tour on a small boat in Alaska looking at the stunning “Sawyer Glacier”. Someone asked our guide if we’d see it calve (calving is when a piece of ice at the edge of the glacier breaks off and falls into the water). The guide (who visited the glacier weekly) told us the chances were very, very slim since he rarely sees that happen, and already saw it calve the week before. And, he pointed out, we would only be there for 20 minutes. He went on to say that if we did see it calve, it would be a bad sign that it was melting too quickly. In the next breath, we heard a huge cracking sound in the distance, and watched the far right edge of the glacier break off and fall into the water. In our 20 minutes in front of the Sawyer Glacier, we saw it calve 4 times. It was pretty spectacular and at the same time very ominous. Even our guide was concerned.
Two of the four times I witness the calving of the Sawyer Glacier

Two of the four times I witness the calving of the Sawyer Glacier

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Being Earth Day, I feel I need to address “global warming”. There are still many global warming “deniers” out there – many of whom I’ve run into throughout the years. So since it is Earth Day, I’m going to take a moment and give a brief explanation of global warming. I am not an expert or a scientist, but I am informed. I’ve read many, many articles from lots of different sources over the years, watched countless documentaries, and have spoken to many people from all over the globe during my travels. Funny enough, the only deniers I’ve met have all been in the USA. I’ve also noticed that the “deniers” have three things in common:

1. A disregard for science
2. They are uninformed
3. They lack common sense

Yes, I’ve been warned that global warming is a “conspiracy” to con us by the government and/or those “greedy green energy companies”. Yes, I’ve heard that it is just a “liberal hoax.” Yes, I’ve heard about the one “scientist” who says man has nothing to do with global warming. Yes I know the warming of the planet is a natural state of the earth. I’ve also been told many times that there are “record low temperatures” and record snow falls, “proving” that global warming is ridiculous and can’t be real. When I am told these comments, I quickly realize I am speaking with a person who is very uninformed about climate change. For those who don’t quite understand what global warming is, here is a brief, layman’s explanation:

GLOBAL WARMING 101:
Basically, the sun’s rays penetrate our atmosphere and warm the planet’s land and water. The planet warms from absorbing some of the sunlight, and then gives off heat – some of which radiates towards space leaving our atmosphere, and some of which remains in our atmosphere, trapped by a “blanket” of carbon dioxide and greenhouse gasses. This “blanket” of gasses is what keeps the Earth warm and livable for us all. However, it has been scientifically documented that since the Industrial Revolution, humans are using energy in greater quantities and creating more carbon dioxide gas than would have naturally occurred. The extra carbon dioxide and gasses drift up into the atmosphere making that “blanket” of gasses thicker, which traps even more of the Sun’s heat, thus, making the planet warm quicker than it would if that blanket wasn’t as thick. That is generally the concept.

If you do even a small about of research, you will find that just about every independent science organization from around the world agrees that man has directly contributed to speeding up the warming of the planet. Since the industrial revolution (around 1750), human activities (mostly burning fossil fuels, deforestation and agriculture) have substantially added much larger doses of CO2 and other heat-trapping gasses into the atmosphere. For instance, cars emit gasses. If you double the amount of cars being used, you double the amount of gasses emitted in the air. The more gas burning cars we use, the more gasses we emit into our air. It is common sense. Another example: Trees take in CO2 and convert it to oxygen. If man cuts down trees (which we’ve done by the billions), naturally, there are less trees removing CO2 from the air, leaving more of it in our atmosphere. Again, common sense.

All these gasses contribute to a thicker “blanket”, which makes the planet warmer. And that has many other consequences, among them the melting glaciers. One thing glaciers do is reflect the suns rays away from the Earth – like a mirror, as opposed to absorbing the sunlight like the oceans. As the glaciers shrink, we get a smaller “mirror” reflecting the sun’s rays away from the earth, and a larger surface (more ocean) absorbing the sun’s rays. I could go on and on (but I won’t). But one last point. As for the natural warming of the planet, research has proven that if you take away all of the gasses emitted by human activity since the Industrial Revolution, the planet would be fluctuating in the range it was before that time, instead of rising to the level it is now. Here is a great video which explains the science of it here if you are interested:

THE CIRCLE OF LIFE:

My first trip to Costa Rica opened my eyes to nature in a way I had never before witnessed. I stayed in an Eco-Lodge in the Osa Peninsula, which is described by National Geographic as being “the most biologically intense place on Earth”. There was life everywhere – mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles, insects and so many different trees and plants. I saw monkeys, toucans, scarlet macaw’s, crocodiles, tapirs, sloths, poison dart frogs, eagles, snakes, spiders, iguanas, and so many other forms of life.
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A monkey eating a colorful grasshopper, in the Osa Peninsula.

 

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Two Scarlet Macaws in the trees, in the Osa Peninsula.

What I learned while being there was that everything in the rainforest has a place. It is a total balance of life. There were termite mounds on many trees. They eat the dead trees and keep the forest green. There were trees that grew like a parasite around another trees, killing the original tree. The new tree would become hollow inside where the dead tree was – becoming a perfect protective home to wildlife. Everywhere you looked, things worked together, like pieces of a puzzle fitting together. This got me thinking about the “circle of life”. And I realized how out of balance we are. There are just too many people, and we don’t give back to the Earth. We are no longer part of the circle. This inspired me to write a song, “The Circle” which can be found on my CD, “Revelations”. I even recorded some forest sounds in the Osa Peninsula, which I included in the song. Here are the lyrics, and you can hear the song by clicking at the bottom. Let’s each do something to help our home become more balanced. Why not plant a tree? It is a start!

THE CIRCLE
by Jay Jacobson
 
Nature does thrive in its pure state
All things alive do integrate
And then…
 
Quails eat the seeds and the fox eats the quail
The quail turns to dirt so that seeds can prevail
Living things all have a proper place
Nothing in the forest goes to waste
One thing dies yet another is gained
Give and take is the plan of how life sustains
 
We have stepped so far from the circle (We’re buried in a box)
As God we are miscast (Don’t even feed the worms)
We have stepped right out of the circle (We sit on porcelain)
Outside it we won’t last (Don’t fertilize the grass)
The circle is bigger than us
The circle is stronger than usThe circle is begging us to return
 
Mother earth is infested with man
Freeloaders who just take what we can
Take without a thought of giving back
Scales have tipped so far they’re out of whack
Think we sit at the top of the chain
To be on top you must be a part of the game
 
(We play with chemicals)
(Make waste that can’t be used)
(We tear down creature’s homes)
(We’ve overrun the earth)
 
That oil is mine
That rock is mine
That animal’s mine
That gold is mine
That tree is mine
That dirt is mine
That water is mine
That forest is mine
That ocean is mine
That air is mine
That land is mine
That country is mine
This world is mine
 
(We hunt just for the thrill)
(We killed our predators)
(We over fish and drill)
(We think we own the world)

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A Stand for Oneself in “No”, Sparked by Sophia Loren

     Been thinking a lot lately about creativity and the uniqueness in each of us. Everyone has something unique, a perspective on the world that no one else has in exactly the same way. If we tap into that place, we hit our “vein of gold” and self expression becomes effortless and full. What started me on this train of thought, was a moment at the TCM (Turner Classic Movie) Film Festival. I mentioned a few blogs ago that I attended the festival (“TCM Film Festival, Carole Lombard, Finest Friend”). During the four day festival, I was lucky enough to attend a two and a half hour live interview with Sophia Loren (who is now 80) – interviewed by her son, Edoardo. Sophia has always been a favorite of mine. In fact, the only day in my life I ever cut school, was when I found out she was appearing at a department store in the mall to promote her perfume, “Sophia”. I still remember standing in line, finally walking up to her, saying “hello”, shaking her hand (which was the softest thing I’d ever felt – like a pillow), and getting an autograph. I was in heaven!
     During the interview, her son asked fantastic questions about her childhood, her start in films, her costars, her body of work and more. She was articulate, warm, funny and very motherly – such a treat to watch!
Sophia Loren being interviewed by her son, Edoardo, at the TCM FIlm Festival

Sophia Loren being interviewed by her son, Edoardo, at the TCM FIlm Festival

     While she is a great actress no matter what she plays, I always thought, generally speaking, her performances in her Italian films were especially rich, detailed, and “fuller” than her performances in English. Her son asked her about working with director Vittorio De Sica, (whom she worked with frequently), who is the person that gave her her breakthrough role in the movie, “The Gold of Naples”. She said she never studied acting, but Vittorio was Neapolitan (from “Naples”, Italy), and he made Neapolitan stories with Neapolitan characters. She said she instinctively knew Neapolitan women – how they spoke, walked, talked, their mannerisms and so on. It came naturally to her (to the point where she was the first person to win an acting Academy Award for a non-English speaking role with her “Best Actress” Oscar for 1960’s “Two Women”).
  That thought hit a nerve in me. It reminded me of Julia Cameron’s book, ‘The Vein of Gold”. In it, she mentions the director Martin Ritt and his “theory” about actors. He suggests there is a certain territory or range that actors were born to play which he calls their “vein of gold”. To quote him from Julia’s book, “Of course, you can always cast an actor outside his vein of gold. If you do, the actor can use craft and technique to give you a very fine, a very credible performance, but never a performance as brilliant as when he is working in his vein of gold”It clicked when Sophia talked about playing Neapolitan women. Then I started thinking about other actors – all of whom have a “vein of gold” territory, and then singers who sound best when they sing a particular style of music. Or writers who excel at writing a particular way. Or doctors who have a certain “expertise” in one area. And I think that all of us have a “vein of gold” in us – some place we inherently inhabit and can bring to life in whatever we are doing. And the good news is that it is already there – inside us.

Part of the journey in the lives of those of us who search for “more” is to discover who we “really are” – to get past the filters, and the cobwebs of the past and try to get to the core of what makes us who we are. And I can see from Sophia’s comment, and from the “vein of gold” theory, that being true to ourselves brings us the most freedom and the most joy in life. It is a quest to uncover what’s already there.

A song from my first CD, “Infinite Man” encapsulates this idea – that we are all we need. It is the song, “No”, and it is a reminder that we are perfect the way we are. You can hear it here:

In a world where the amount of fame, or “likes”, or online followers is how we are measured, it is easy to lose sight of what’s important and forget that we are so much more than what we do or accomplish. We each have gifts and qualities that can’t be measured, but only expressed and shared. And they are ten times more valuable to the quality of our lives than any amount of internet “likes”.

For those of you not familiar with Sophia Loren’s work (and those of you who are, too), I’ll leave you with a clip from one of my three favorite Sophia Loren films, “Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow” – one of her many directed by Vittorio De Sica, and costarring her most frequent costar, Marcello Mastroianni. Here, she plays a high class prostitute, and Marcello wonderfully plays her regular client. She remembers at the end that she made a vow not to have sex for a week. The clip doesn’t have English subtitles, but even without knowing Italian you can see a great actress at work! And she is as sexy as one can possibly get in this clip, too! Enjoy!

 

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The Lunar Eclipse and feelings of being “SO SMALL”

     For some unknown reason, I happened to wake up around 4:15am this past Saturday morning. I immediately remembered that there was to be a Total Lunar Eclipse around that time, so I walked outside and looked at the sky. The moon looked very strange – the full moon was visible mostly in shadow with just a sliver of it being lit white. It later became totally orange –  a “Blood Moon”. It was like nothing I’ve seen before, so beautiful, so other worldly. I didn’t expect the eclipse to look like that – I thought it would just be blackened out. I grabbed my camera and tried to take some pictures (without a tripod) and here is the best of them:
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     As I stood outside, thinking about the earth being right between the sun and the moon, I thought about how vast the universe is. It is something I think about from time to time, especially when I’m confronting nature. It is also a thought that comforts me in times of stress. We live in such a fabricated world in our minds. But when I’m in nature, I can let go of the “to-do” lists in my head, the goals I want to accomplish, and all the other thoughts that seem so important. It all disappears in an instant when I focus on a tree, or a mountain – or the planets. I’ve heard it said that two ways to be totally present are to do gardening work or to be with an animal. Both automatically keep you present and in the moment. Looking at the eclipse did exactly that and more. It erased all connection to the man made life we live in, and I felt part of nature -part of the “real world” so to speak. I felt a connection to all the people in the past, for thousands of years, that looked up and saw this same thing. I felt part of a bigger picture. I felt a sense of belonging. And I felt the wonder of life. All the stresses from the thoughts in my head get put into perspective in an instant, and I realize how insignificant they are. It brought me back to the realization that life is so much bigger than we can comprehend. Life is so big, so grand, and so mysterious. We don’t have to “know” all of it. We are part of it. I think on some very deep level – beyond our comprehension – we already know all about life since it is us. We are life, just in a human form. We’ve come to think we are separate, but we are not. We are connected, part of everything around us. We even share much of the same DNA as all other life forms – trees, plants, insects, animals, fish. Why not stop and have a look at nature (a tree, the sky…) and regain some perspective.
     It is a concept I continue to explore in different ways in my songs. The most obvious expression is in my song, “So Small” from my CD, ‘Peace At Last”. The chorus directly states what I felt looking at the eclipse:
     I look to the ocean waves to wash away my own dismay
     Stare into the dark of night with all her stars that shine so bright
     Making me so small
     So small
Set against a drum and bass sound, this song also touches on how important we think we are, while realizing we are just a fraction of life:
     The world is such a great big place
     It’s so much bigger than our own race
     I know we’re so small
     From the wettest forest to the driest sands
     It’s all more essential than our demands 
     I know we’re so small
You can listen to the song here:

 

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