Love is Love

Today marks a historic day – It was just announced hours that gay marriage is now legal in the United States of America!

This is indeed great news for our entire nation and the world. If you single out one group as being different, the message that sends is that we are all different and some are better than others. By granting all people the same rights, this country has acknowledged that even with our differences, people are all the same. We have taken a giant stand towards one of the visions this country was built upon, “justice for all”.

In celebration, here is my song “Love is Love” from my CD “Revelations”. Let’s all celebrate!

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The Value of Getting Away

I just returned from a trip to French Polynesia. I’ve been to Polynesia before (Easter Island and Hawaii) but this is my first trip to French Polynesia. I stayed on three islands: Taha’a, Bora Bora and Tahiti. The water I saw there is the most beautiful I’ve ever seen. There are so many shades of blue – some are so bright they look like they can’t be real.
The colorful waters around Taha'a

The colorful waters around Taha’a

As the airplane flew over the islands, I noticed from the window that just about all of the islands I could see had a “ring” around them protecting them from the open ocean. Some of these rings are quite far from the islands, but they surround each island almost completely. Inside the rings is where you find all those gorgeous blue colors. I later learned that these islands are the result of gradual sinking of volcanic islands that have cooled and left an open crater in the middle section of the island. As each island sank, the surrounding part of the island fell beneath the surface of the water, and coral grew around the fringes creating a barrier reef. So each of these islands (except 2, I was told) have barrier reefs protecting them from the rough ocean. Thus, the water, or lagoons, around the islands is clear, calm, and full of fish and coral. You could see the bottom clearly even 20 or 30 feet below. It was the most delicious water I’ve ever swam in – for sure!
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From the plane you can see the barrier reef. The faint white line is the breaking ocean. The island is on the right, just out of frame.

I got to do and experience things I can’t do in my day to day life. I snorkeled every day getting to see fish and coral I’ve never seen before. I swam with stingrays and a huge school of reef sharks (the guide I was with fed them before we got in the water – I don’t know if that was to make me feel safer or not, but it worked). I got a chance to see the Southern Cross, and to see stars at night like I’ve never seen them before. Being so remote and with so little electricity in the area, you could see thousands of stars all very bright. It was pretty amazing. And I would watch the moon rise at night, and it was so bright I literally felt like I needed sunglasses. The people I met there were very, very nice. One of them, who worked at my hotel on Bora Bora, paddles his canoe to and from work every day. Quite a different lifestyle than I’m used to!
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A glimpse of the amazing underwater world I dove in each day.

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I took this while snorkeling. There were so many sharks and they were so beautiful (and a bit scary).

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Me, with stingrays to my side and sharks circling behind me.

I’ve travelled a lot in my life, and I hope that continues. Whenever I visit another place (even places less remote and more like Los Angeles, where I live), I find it so valuable in many ways. We get so used to our environments that life becomes routine. For the most part we become blind to the world around us. Life becomes about appointments and to-do lists, and work, and things. The fact of being alive on a planet in the middle of a solar system gets lost, along with perspective and what is truly important. I know what may seem important to one person is different from what seems important to someone else, but I think one can boil things down to two universal things of importance: on a personal level – being able to experience life; on a grander level – protecting our planet so we can survive. Both of these points seem to have become difficult. “Modern life” is mostly geared towards results and not often, if ever, about experiencing living. There is certainly little attention paid to the larger world – nature, the earth, the planets, etc. – of which we are a part. Humans have a trait wanting to separate ourselves from everything else. Feeling that we are somehow more important or more intelligent than the rest of life. And I believe to go through life just “looking forward” and not “looking around” leads to an empty life. As for protecting the planet, the human quality of greed has distracted many people from being able to look at the bigger picture of the planet. A worry about jobs or profits blinds people to being able to see the long term damage they are doing to the planet, and thus to all living things – including themselves.

So for me a vacation is a way of forgetting my routine, my goals and my so called modern life. It is a chance to “look around” while being alive. It reinvigorates my connection to the planet and other living things (including people), and it helps me remember that I am part of a bigger thing. I’m connected to the sharks, the mountains, the oceans, the trees, the mosquitoes, the birds, the people who paddle to work, and the stars and planets that shine so brightly over the earth. It grounds me, and gives me a break from the mundane and stressful. I can’t think of anything I can recommend more than taking a break and putting yourself in a new environment – even just for a day or two. It doesn’t have to be across oceans, it can be an hours drive away. Just someplace where your eyes can find new things to gaze, your nose can find new smells, your mouth can taste new flavors. A place where your mind can clear and where you can become one with this glorious world we live in.

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Living in a Soulless World

Just returned from my workout at the gym. I’ve been going pretty regularly to the gym for a couple decades now, and have noticed that something has changed in the past few years. Suddenly, about half the people “working out” are texting. They sit on equipment “between sets” and text. It is rather bothersome to people like me, who are there just to work out. I’d much rather be focused on my workout – I get so much more out of it that way.

This is not something just happening at my gym. I don’t know if it’s worse in Los Angeles than other places, but people are texting everywhere. In their cars (which is illegal here), while walking on the street, while shopping in stores, eating in restaurants, and even when I’m at people’s homes – they are sometimes texting. I can never understand what is so important that people can’t be away from their phones for two hours. Have we turned into a culture of immediacy? Or is it just that we so desperate to connect anyway we can in this total electronic age we live in?

There is an outdoor shopping mall in Los Angeles called, “The Grove”.
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According to “Fortune”, it is the second most successful mall in the country. It is full of the same stores as many other higher end malls – The Gap, Nordstrom, Anthropology, The Apple Store, J. Crew, Barney’s New York, etc., along with a movie theater (the most successful theater in the country) and one of the last big bookstores around me – Barnes & Noble. It also has a trolley car that goes from one end of the mall to the other (not that far), and a fountain that shoots water to music occasionally. I don’t go there that often (and almost never go to the movies there) as it is way too crowded for me. But it occurs to me every time I’m there that people seem to be there to just hang out. People sit or stand by the fountain, or in the grassy area behind the fake pond with the fountain. Or they just walk the cobblestone street down the center of the mall where the trolly runs. Many of the people don’t have shopping bags with them, and don’t seem in a rush to shop. They are not even window shopping. Perhaps the popularity of this mall is because of a human need to be social – that need to be around other people? It is like a gathering place. I wouldn’t be surprised if that were the case. In this cell phone world it is no wonder people venture out to the mall to hang out and physically be with people in the flesh. After all, humans are social creatures.

There is a moneymaking trend going on of having us be more and more isolated – with the illusion of being more connected. I’m sure there are those who will disagree, but Facebook, cell phones, Twitter, Instagram, Skype, FaceTime, Vine, (and dare I say) blogging, and so on are not real human ways of connecting. They are a means of passing on information and opinions, but they lack actual human interaction. They don’t contain the experience of seeing the nuance in someone’s eyes while speaking with them, feeling the energy of a person’s reaction, or walking arm in arm with someone and feeling actual human touch. There are no substitutes for any of those experiences. And those are vital ways we connect with others. We are missing a thousand subtle ways we communicate with one another. Remove them and there is no heart, no soul to our interactions, only the passing along of information, opinions and implied feelings. Add to that, being alone while “communicating” and reacting to whatever we are reading, seeing or hearing and you don’t get an actual social environment, and it is certainly devoid of what makes us human. But as long as money can be made from software and telephones and electronics, there will be campaigns to make us think that is the best and only way to go about life.

It is very different than the pre computer world I grew up in. I know the joys and importance of what it is to “hang out” with people. I’ve grown from the value of face to face conversations countless times in my life. I have perspective on how important it is to be there for someone – really “be there” by their side – in the flesh. I was raised playing with other kids. We made up games, we used our imaginations. The phone would ring and we wouldn’t always be there to answer it. This was before answering machines, and sometimes you would call someone and let the phone ring and ring and ring and ring – twenty times maybe – in the hopes that they were just coming in the door and would finally pick up. They often didn’t – and life went on. Being with people was the important thing. Our lives were shaped that way. Having dinner at a friend’s house, or having them over for dinner. Either way, we all sat around a dinner table and talked. Talking, exchanging information person to person was the main course. Our lives were built on social events. It was a totally different world.

I’m not against technology (and I don’t think it is because I’m getting older) but I do think we are losing something very important these days because of it. As the world has become vastly more connected (through the internet and cell phones and so on), I think we are actually becoming more isolated. These modes of connection are actually impersonal, and you can present yourself anyway you choose and never know the person with whom you are communicating as a whole and actual person. It isn’t an authentic representation of someone. From my perspective, all this technology isn’t making people happier than they were when I was young. In fact, it seems to me, people are getting more stressed, more crazy, more paranoid, and more self-centric – and way more isolated. There is a reason putting someone in solitary confinement can be one of the most damaging things you can do to someone. I think it is worthy of us revisiting the way we live, and trying to put back that vital, actual human connection. Being connected will also bring back compassion, understanding, empathy and awareness of others – states that are slowly disappearing from day to day life.

As I’ve been doing with my blogs these days, I’m exploring what drives me to create the art I create. These feelings of living in an isolating world were the source for my song, “Soulless World”, from my third CD, “Revelations”. You can hear it here, and I’ve included the lyrics below the song. Enjoy!

SOULLESS WORLD
© Jay Jacobson
Get out of bed and go to work, that’s how I start my day
Drive with my bluetooth on and GPS, they lead the way
Something’s off I can feel it
One small dent
Lost my soul
Don’t know where it went
 
Texted it straight from my phone
Love conversing while alone
Left it by my new TV
Need my dose of reality
Isolating human race
Disappearing face to face
 
Where’s my soul
It’s a soulless world
Soulless world
Soulless world
Soulless world
Soulless world
 
Turned on my radio and all the songs they sound the same
Watched someone on TV trade their dignity for fame
Gone is beauty and refinement
We want bling
Lost our souls
It’s the missing thing
 
Lost it shopping at the mall
Expensive goods make me feel tall
Cashed it in to get more fame
Don’t be different be the same
The driving force right now is greed
Sell yourself and you’ll succeed
 
Lost our souls
It’s a soulless world
Soulless world
Soulless world
Soulless world
Soulless world
 
Sold it to a developer
Cash makes my world greener
Gave it to a missionary
They know just what’s best for me
The driving force right now is greed
Sell yourself and you’ll succeed
Lost our souls….

 

 

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