Jin, fishes, willing to club a fish dead. He has no problem getting his food direct from the source, no shock to the system as the island must be for many other survivors. But Jin has his own traits standing in the way of harmony. What pieces make up the whole puzzle? Even Locke, who’s been harmonious up until now, who also can kill an animal, will prove not to have every piece yet.
In flashback, Sun wants to elope to America, but Jin feels they can’t. The pressure to not break from the family, from culture, from tradition is very strong in Jin. Ironic, since Jin has fled his own past as a poor fisherman’s son while Sun is the one who seems more obviously entrenched in her family’s status and traditions. Jin sees the grass greener on the other side, but Sun has seen the other side up close and knows that all is not rosy.
Jin tries to kiill Michael. Why? Because Michael saw Jin topless? That’s our only guess as the fight happens. But it will turn out to be because of the watch from Sun’s father, a person he doesn’t really care about, that he hates. A job he abhors. Wealth and hording and violence that we aren’t supposed to value. Not to mention that he’s not even likely to ever get the watch back to the father’s intended destination. Jin is still very caught up in the rat race, carrying it with him to the island, failing to truly adapt to current circumstances.
The group tries to figure out why Jin attacked. Communication — or lack thereof — is crucial here. The language barrier prevents a resolution. Sun tries to pantomime, pointing to her wrist. Sayid says, “The cuffs stay on.” He assumes she is asking them to remove the handcuffs from Jin, but only in hindsight do we realize she was trying to tell them it was the watch. Even without differences in language, assumptions can still prevent true communication from taking place.
Jin agrees to work for Sun’s father, and he finally buys her the diamond engagement ring he’d hoped to. “You can’t afford this.” “I can now.” But at what price? She seems so happy to have the diamond. But would she be as happy if she knew where things would lead, if she knew what non-monetary price she and Jin would have to pay for the income earned by Jin working for her father?
In the cave, Kate finds a dead body. Jack sees that someone laid this body to rest, and that 40-50 years must have passed for the clothing to degrade as it has. Kate wonders how the body got here, and the only answer is to rhetorically wonder how the polar bears came to this island. Charlie imagines that these are the people who were here before the survivors, but he has to cover up for his slip, because he’s supposed to deceive, to keep people from knowing about the distress signal that already alerted some of the survivors that the island was deserted. As time goes on, the island appears less and less deserted. Obviously full of non-human life, over time it becomes clearer that this apparently out of the way and hostile place has supported human lives more often than the survivors imagine.
In a sense, it parallels the Great Forgetting that Daniel Quinn discusses, in which civilized cultures forget their tribal past. It seems surprising to discover indigenous cultures here and there, and early on there was no sense whatsoever that civilized people themselves evolved from cultures like these. The survivors may not have evolved from the island’s previous inhabitants, but they will need to gradually come to grips with the truth of their presence and their survival just the same. And coming to grips with it will greatly inform how they think of themselves and their own survival on this same island.
Sun tries to care for Jin, whose skin is now raw because of handcuffs. But he recoils: “Be careful!” He seems unable to accept her care. What more can Sun do to make Jin feel loved in this moment? Or is it simply Jin who must alter his own thinking? Jin’s past thinking led him to accept a job, supposed for the benefit of he and Sun as a couple. But what has it led to? Work hours so long that he gets her a puppy to keep her company in his absence. An income that can purchase a beautiful apartment and many nice things with which to fill it, but none so personal as the flower that was all he had to give her before he could afford a diamond — she even asks him if he recalls when all they had was a flower, clearly wistful about the memory. Later, the job literally puts blood on his hands. He does it “for them,” and yet in doing so, he hurts the relationship. Even on the island, he continues to cling to his responsibilities to her father, fighting for the watch. The handcuffs are on him because of that clinging. To Jin, accepting her care for his wrists may seem like an admission that he was wrong all along, that what he has done has only hurt them and has now even come back to hurt himself. Sun’s attempt at healing him can only be accepted if he acknowledges the pain of the entire path. For now, it is too much for him.
Jack suggests that the crowd at the beach is still waiting for a rescue, not thinking about their own safety. Interesting, this parallels the way many people dwell on long-run salvation at the expense of what may be best for them and others in the present. Sayid feels their best chance of survival is being spotted on the beach, that digging in in the valley is suicide. Jack says staying on the beach without drinkable water is suicide. Curious why Sayid, who has already displayed some of the keenest survival skills out of the whole group, would reject out of hand the idea that the group could survive inland. Is this truly his belief? Or will we discover that he is one of the people who has something truly meaningful to want to return to off the island, and perhaps it is his emotions talking?
Michael: “I got one priority right now, and that’s getting my kid off this island.” This will remain his priority. And where will it get him? He will eventually murder, and then burden his son with his guilt over it. He will alienate his son and become suicidal — and he will have to return to the island to redeem himself. So many will be forced to question their priorities, but Michael is not doing so now. He assumes the island is an undesirable place. In light of what we’ve already seen of his parenting, Michael’s assumptions about what is good for Walt seem to need questioning.
Sawyer asks Kate if she wants to go with the pessimists into the valley or stay on the beach and await rescue. Who is more pessimistic, though, the ones who want to fight for their own survival and rise to the challenge, or those who have no faith in their own abilities and feel that someone else must come to rescue them? This has a compelling parallel with discussion of pessimism in light of ecological issues. Boosters for economic growth and globalization believe it is pessimistic to talk about ecological limits. Yet the principles of ecology are precisely the principles about how organisms can live, about how species can live for huge periods of time. Aren’t those boosters the pessimists for thinking that people can’t live without unnecessarily high levels of material wealth? They claim they are optimists for believing that one day people will create technological solutions to our ecological problems, but aren’t they actually pessimists for believing that they themselves cannot find a way to live in ecological balance, for believing that such knowledge can only come in the future from people smarter than themselves? In both debates, those who’d favor civilization pose themselves as optimists and say the pessimists are those who would deny civilization, yet in both cases the opposite seems true.
Sun is asked, “Are you sure you and your husband can’t reconcile?” She is not. She is willing to totally leave behind her old life, even to let others think her dead so that she would be “free to move around.” We have a great amount of sympathy for Sun. We’ve seen he be dominated by Jin on the island, and we’ve seen her hurt by his absences and what he’s willing to do for living. Yet, how sad is it that she is willing to learn a new language — English — and leave Jin, even though the things she wants to leave him for are things that he himself feels bad about, things he himself doesn’t like to do and only does for her, for their benefit as a couple. Can she not learn a new way of talking to Jin, to get underneath their feelings and discover that they have common ground after all in abhorring what he does and wanting more for each other, in wanting to get back to that place where they were happy with flowers in the absence of diamonds? Sun doesn’t have it in her to fight, but rather than choose resolution, reconciliation, she chooses to flee. That choice makes her, in a way, more responsible even than Jin for the weakening of the relationship.
On the island, Sun’s first line in English, to Michael: “I need to talk to you.” She uses her alternate language as a way to reach out, to truly communicate, to attempt to meet a powerful need and resolve a situation. In the next flashback, about to leave Jin at the airport, crying out of regret for the situation, she looks back to Jin who holds up a flower, reminding her of the earlier one. This is enough to give her some hope. She can see that underneath it all he really does care about her and also wants to retrieve what they had earlier in their relationship. Communication and resolution end up being truly about “speaking the same language,” whether literally or metaphorically. When there is belief in the possibility of common ground, there is the best chance it can be found.
In the jungle, Locke asks Charlie if he wants his guitar back, even more than his drugs. Charlie says, “More than you know.” There is a profound juxtaposition here. The guitar vs. the drugs. His talent vs. his addiction. His strengths vs. his fear. Charlie knows who he is and what he’s good at. The guitar is far more important to him than the drugs, even though he may desperately need a fix.
The group splits, Jack bringing people away from the beach to water inland. It is the first but not the last time there will be a division, a rift. Here, Locke and Jack are united. Later, Jack and Locke will themselves lead the divided parts of the group, with Jack remaining on the beach and Locke going farther inland to the barracks. Only as the ramifications of their decisions become apparent can we have any idea whose judgment was better. More importantly, only as people react to those ramifications can we discover who is willing to acknowledge that they may have had poor judgment and take a new course. The jury remains out on all counts.
EXT â€“ Day, Deep Woods
[A couple sits under the canopy of some trees gnawing on big hunks of raw meat, chewing and chewing slowly and disgustedly. They are both dressed in tattered business suits.]
Ten years of vegetarianism gone down the drain.
This is truly disgusting.
(beat) I wonder how Jesus is doing without me running Hostile Takeovers.
I wonder how Tarik is doing without me to get his reapplication in order. Heâ€™ll never get his Thesta-Distatica patented without me to look out for him. Heâ€™ll probably be another victim of DigestCom in fact.
Would you shut up?
Ooooh, do I detect a little lingering loyalty to the assimilation machine?
No. I left for a reason you know. As much as I could go for some bruschetta and a cafÃ© latte right now, Iâ€™d rather be here gnawing on this half burnt half bloody deer meat than carving up the corpses of small businesses to keep Jesus and the shareholders secure in the knowledge that anything innovative will soon be theirs. Iâ€™m just sick of talking about the city. Weâ€™re better off out here.
Weâ€™re miserable out here, Adam. This isnâ€™t food, this is a dead animal. Itâ€™s not meat itâ€™s flesh! And this isnâ€™t living. God I have the shakes.
I havenâ€™t slept more than four hours a single night since we got here.
You havenâ€™t slept more than four hours a single night since university.
Yes but weâ€™re supposed to be getting past that. Whatâ€™s the point of caffeine withdrawal if you still canâ€™t sleep at night? And whatâ€™s the point of sleep deprivation if you donâ€™t have to work tomorrow-
Oh we have to work tomorrow, girl-
Have to but canâ€™t. How are we supposed to work when weâ€™re shaking like this.
[Jane holds up her left hand to demonstrate. Itâ€™s shaking heavily and she has trouble even holding it up. Itâ€™s caked in dark deer blood.]
Yeah, I know, I know. (beat) Not to mention our eyes.
[Camera shows close-up of a bloodshot red watery eye.]
Donâ€™t remind me, please.
[Adam holds his lids open and leans in close to show Jane.]
What I just say?
[She grabs Adam by the face and shoves his head away.]
Seriously Jane what do you think is causing this eye thing?
INT. Adam at a computer, typing a financial report, with his eyes mere inches from the screen.
EXT. Back under the canopy
I dunno. My eyes are fine.
Yeah but your ear looks like a head of cauliflower â€“ mmm, cauliflower.
INT. Jane on the phone arguing about a rejected patent claim.
EXT. Back under the canopy. Jane gives Adam another face shove as he leans toward her ear with his mouth open and watering.
EXT â€“ In an open field now, Adam and Jane are hovering over a fire upon which rests a boiling Teflon pot of dark green liquid
ADAM (shaking all over as if feverishly sick)
This better work, Jane.
JANE (very defensively)
Or what, Adam?
[Adam looks at her blankly but if looks could killâ€¦]
Whose dumbass idea was it to come out here again? Was it, hmm, maybe, I think, yes, was it â€“ YOUR idea, Adam!
[Jane switches to a deep, goofy voice.]
Oh, Jane, weâ€™re stuck in a trap here. Weâ€™re working so hard we never have time for each other, and when we do Iâ€™m so stressed I canâ€™t even get it up anymore. Oh Jane this life is too much work for too little reward â€“ whatâ€™s the point of all our possessions if we canâ€™t even enjoy them together, Jane? Oh Jane, letâ€™s move out somewhere wild, build a lean-to and live like hunter-gatherers â€“ we can be naked all the time. Itâ€™ll be our own Garden of Eden â€“ except we can even eat the apples, oh Jane letâ€™s do it.
[Jane switches back to her own voice, except angrier than weâ€™ve yet seen her, sheâ€™s yelling at the top of her lungs now.]
Well you know what? You may be Adam, but I ainâ€™t no Eve, and there ainâ€™t no apples on this godforsaken island!
[Jane storms out of sight. Adam stares deep into the brewing cauldron, pulls some small berries out of his breast pocket and squeezes a milky substance from them into the pot, and stirs with a stick.]
ADAM (calling over his shoulder)
Jane, I think itâ€™s ready.
EXT. Back under the canopy. Jane and Adam sit sipping from two Second Cup stainless steel traveler mugs, making contorted disgusted faces with each sip. Jane occasionally looks like sheâ€™s going to wretch. They sit sipping for about 15 seconds, eyeing each other suspiciously, saying nothing.
EXT. Back to the wide open field. Adam is chasing Jane. She lets him catch her, hugs him, squirms loose, runs, lets him catch her again.
Oh Adam! What did you put in that tea?
That was no tea Jane, it was espresso, espresso au natural.
Adam, some espresso, it was disgusting.
I think it has potential. It must be healthy, look how much better we feel. I havenâ€™t eaten for hours and Iâ€™m not even hungry. And Iâ€™ve stopped shaking. And so have you! And I donâ€™t feel thirsty either, itâ€™s a wonder drink. We just have to figure out how to make it taste good and we could make millions.
I thought you werenâ€™t interested in making millions anymore.
Well, Iâ€™m not, but, you know. (beat) I thought you were.
I just want to get out of the jungle.
And go back to our miserable lives working non-stop, never seeing each other or our friends, consuming unstoppably, glued to our desks, stressed, sleepless?
Letâ€™s work on this natural espresso. Show me what you put in it.
EXT. Over the fire and boiling pot again. Through the magic of time lapse photography we see Jane and Adam trying batch after batch, making a vast diversity of contorted faces until, eureka! They make a delicious batch.
EXT. Adam and Jane selling â€˜Natural Espressoâ€™ on the side of the road to Galiano tourists, thus curing the touristsâ€™ caffeine withdrawal. Theyâ€™re talking up the customers about city life, the beauty of nature but also how one misses the finer, higher culture things in life: the theatre, the ballet, the symphony, espresso.
Oh you canâ€™t beat Karen Kain, Minigawaâ€™s beautiful but she doesnâ€™t have as much grace â€“ thatâ€™s just how it is. I wish Karen Kain would perform again, even if sheâ€™s past her prime, sheâ€™ll always have that graceful beauty.
Heather Ogden is something to watch. Sheâ€™s very self-assured.
Yes, she certainly is (beat) something to watch.
[Jane elbows Adam playfully. The customer thanks them, returns to her Prius with a travel mug full of a dark green brew, and drives away.]
Weâ€™ll be rich!
Yes, rich because weâ€™ll be in the city we love, with a job we actually believe in â€“ bringing this great energy drink to our fellow connoisseurs, actually having conversations with people. And we can grow a rooftop garden that will supply us with all our raw materials. Rich indeed, a kind of wealth too few people know.
African Social Evolution
Ghana International Airways provided a complimentary October 2006 copy of the New African Magazine, the front page of which proclaimed boldly â€˜Africaâ€™s Glorious Heritage.â€™ My pre-African introduction to Africa was to be a 27-page, multi-authored expose on one of the most prevalent myths about the continent: that before Europeans arrived there it was a massive, sprawling backwater devoid of civilized people.
As American writer Adam Hochschild wrote in his 1999 bestseller, â€˜King Leopoldâ€™s Ghost,â€™ this myth is rooted in the racist perceptions of the colonialists themselves, who failed to see the complex societies abounding around them through their pre-conceived romantic notions of savagery. Hochschild writes:
To see Africa instead as a continent of coherent societies, each with its own culture and history, took a leap of empathy, a leap that few, if any, of the early European or American visitors to the Congo were able to make. To do so would have meant seeing Leopoldâ€™s [King of Belgium] regime not as progress, not as civilization, but as a theft of land and freedom.
From this perspective, it is plain why Africans want to make it clear that Africa already had numerous complex societies in place by the time Europeans found their way there in the 15th century, particularly the northern part of sub-Saharan Africa, places we now know as Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, Tanzania. The New African magazine was making this point abundantly clear as a follow-up to Black History Month, and they were doing so to restore a most precious resource in Africa: pride.
African pride has been much maligned by the experience of colonialism and the unprecedented scale of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. The Nigerian writer Chinweizu described this phenomenon in his seminal work â€˜Decolonising the African Mind.â€™ Colonizing the mind describes a centuries-long form of psychological warfare aimed to separate the colonized from their cultures and convincing them of their own culturesâ€™ inferiority to that of the colonizer.
This practice is commonly used by colonizers and often leaves the colonized to love their oppressor. In 1964 Ghanaian novelist Ayi Kwei Armah observed this love of the white oppressor in his classic novel â€˜The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Bornâ€™ as follows: â€œThat is all anyone here struggles for: to be closer to the white man. All the shouting against the white men was not hate. It was love. Twisted, but love all the same.â€
Unfortunately, this mindset remains present among many of the Ghanaians I met during my time working there as a journalist, many of whom were desperate to leave their home and travel to the West for riches and glory. To live among the colonizers.
In order to decolonise the mind, African scholars, activists and writers are determined to re-write history, this time as told by the colonized, to create African pride in African history, while at the same time elucidating the great injustice that was done.
Scholars draw on archaeological, anthropological, historically recorded, and orally traditional evidence to distance Africa from the â€˜primitiveâ€™ ways of living. One journalist writing for the New African, when writing of Yoruba artworks (found in modern Nigeria) wrote that â€œuncivilised people cannot produce artwork of this high quality and sophisticationâ€ as one means of proof that the continent was indeed rife with civilizations by the time the Europeans arrived.
This fact of history is beyond reasonable academic debate. The evidence is overwhelming, and the Yoruba empire itself, complete with a large capital city, goes back to the 11th century. In many cases African civilizations pre-date European ones, and their knowledge of the lunar cycle was well developed before it occurred to any European to think about it. Many scientific and artistic firsts can be traced to Africa.
These truths are important, and I wholeheartedly support the effort to erase racist mythologies, but I lament that the source of African pride, or anyoneâ€™s pride, should be linked to civilization. Civilization, defined by large, centralized, hierarchical societies usually surviving from the toil of the few, is the most oppressive, unjust, cancerous system of human organization in all of history. Those â€˜pre-civilâ€™ societies that Africans (and most other people too) are distancing themselves from never committed genocide, never extinguished so many species, never destroyed their own environments to the extent that â€˜civilâ€™ised people do.
It is ironic that African scholarsâ€™ efforts to create African pride are so linked to the very system of living that created colonialism. In a sense this latest effort brings Africans one step closer to the oppressors that have become so beloved by so many who are oppressed.
Read on: Civilized Oppression
As I’ve begun to have a go at making a living as a musician and artist, I’ve thought at times about how difficult it seems for people who try this. So many struggling artists, starving artists, nobodies trying to become somebody, so little opportunity to make it into much more than a hobby, such small odds of really hitting the big time.
At some point, I realized something about this. It’s just like Barnes and Noble, Borders, Home Depot, Lowes, Wal*Mart, Target, Stop and Shop and Hannaford coming into town and putting out of business the local mom and pop bookstores, hardware stories, grocery stores, general and department stores, etc., etc. It’s the same old story, it just doesn’t seem like it. With all of these situations, we get giant stores purveying huge selections of stuff at low prices. What does that have to do with people who hit the big time as musicians?
I’m going to focus on music, but this could really apply to anything, maybe something you want to do, so keep that in mind as you read this. For the sake of argument, let’s look just at the business of recorded music — CDs and MP3 downloads and such.
According to various sources (like this and that), in the United States around 2003-2004, the average annual per capita spending on recorded music was, rounding off, about $45. Ballpark that again at 300 million people in the U.S. for total spending of about $13.5 billion.
That fairly modest amount per person supports every music sale made by U2 and Jay-Z and Christina Aguilera and Kenny Chesney and Michael Buble and every other huge music star you can think of. Plus every new copy sold of every old album by every other huge music star you’ve ever heard of. Plus every single these stars have ever done, old or new. Plus every album and single sold by less huge but still famous acts like Ben Folds and TV on the Radio and Diana Krall. Plus every album and single sold by everyone you’ve never heard of. All of it.
The U2s of the industry make gazillions. The Diana Kralls, who knows, but a plenty good living. There are probably some who get by. And most people who put something out probably barely sell any of it. It’s a lot like the economy in general — a few big haves, a ton of have nots, and the expected gradations in between.
Now, for sure, many of these artists get extra income — often very signficant extra income — from live performances, royalties from radio airplay and use of their songs in TV and movies and elsewhere, etc. So the money from purchases of recorded music isn’t at all the whole story. But imagine if it was. At all these levels from the rock gods to the nobodies, everyone would have that much less coming in, and there’d be even fewer actually making a living just from their music. How many would there be?
Let’s play with some rough numbers. According 2002 U.S. Census figures, for the entire economic sector of musical groups and artists, there was about $4 billion in revenue, $1.25 billion of which was payroll for about 50,000 people. Obviously this isn’t all for recorded music, and obviously the $13.5 billion spent on recorded music means a lot of money is going to distributors, retailers, etc., not to artists, and obviously not all artists are included in this 50,000 since many couldn’t possibly justify putting themselves down as musical artists for the census. But take this 50,000, then, as a ridiculously high estimate. Probably the number of musical artists making any substantial money from that $13.5 billion in a given year is much smaller. 25,000? 10,000? 5,000? Well under 50,000, in any case.
But now think about this. There’s a lot of talent out there. There are people every bit as talented as many of the most famous artists out there, or at least as talented as many of the less talented artists out there who have somehow found their way into making a plenty good living at music. And they are everywhere. There’s a Springsteen type somewhere in your region, whatever your region is. A Celine Dion type. A B-52s type. And so on. They’re out there. Could they all make it somehow? How many musical artists could really make a living if given the chance by the people around them?
Naturally, there would still be issues of manufacturing and distributing the recordings. But a lot of that would change if people were buying more locally. There’d be less markup needed for people and businesses to make money. There’s no way to really estimate it, but let’s just say, for the sake of argument, that $50,000 a year would be a pretty decent amount for an individual musical artist to get as their total income from making a living at recorded music and also having to cover all expenses. How many people, earning that much per year, could the U.S. afford? At $13.5 billion a year, a whopping 270,000 people.
Fine, the numbers are rough. Nothing is really accurate. There’s live performances and royalties to consider. There are foreign acts who account for some of those domestic record sales. But I think the order of magnitude probably can’t be denied. If the wealth was spread around, there could probably be anywhere from 10 to 100 times as many people making a living through recorded music.
Instead of everyone in the country having a Bruce Springsteen album, everyone would have an album by the Bruce Sprinsteen type from their region. Would it be as good as Springsteen? I suppose most probably wouldn’t be quite as good. But would most be so much worse? There’d still be real competition. Only the people with real talent would make it in every niche. There would still be quality. But with people focused more locally, the playing field would be leveled a lot. We wouldn’t all be competing with every world-renowned act out there. It wouldn’t be a lottery jackpot to get rock star success, with very few acts achieving superstardom. There’d be less of a chance of getting filthy rich, but far more of a chance for far more people to really have a go at it. And people would still end up with basically the same variety in their music collections, the same variety of concert choices. There’d still be rock and pop and jazz and rap and country and everything else. We just wouldn’t all know the same stuff. Would that be so bad?
Now imagine this. Keep the Springsteens and the U2s and the rest. What if only half of that $45 per person per year went to locals? Could we get 5 to 50 times as many people making a living at recorded music? How about taking just $9 of that $45, just one fifth, and putting it toward locals? How about on average everybody buy just a single CD per year from a local act, usually around this price for independent record sales or full albums from iTunes? Could we increase the number of people earning a living from music by 2 to 20 times? It’s sort of unbelievable to think that this kind of thing might be possible with even a fairly small change.
And now add in the royalties and the live performances. Surely the figures would multiply several times.
And now think about everything other than music. Think about filmmaking. Live theatre. Painters. Sculptors. Writers. People who make handmade clothing and jewelry. Woodworkers.
Now think about where this started. Bookstores. Grocery stores. Hardware stories. So think about what’s in between these and the artists. Almost anything you can think of, almost any line of work at all. This is why it’s all the same thing.
Whether chain retailers or fast food restaurants or rock stars or whatever else, the more we all put our money toward the same places, the less likely people will be able to make a living doing the things they are really good at. The more we’ll have to spend our lives doing things that aren’t as fulfilling. The more we’ll be subject to the whims of the relatively few who are providing the things we want.
The more we go local in whatever way, the more we all give each other the opportunity to share our real gifts with each other, the more variety there will be, and so on. If I felt like connecting this to big issues about economics and ecology, I could, because the connections are there to make and have been made by many before. But I think even just giving each other more opportunities to make a meaningful living doing things we enjoy is good enough reason to think this way.
On a more personal note:
I’d been planning to write this essay for a few months. Then, about a month ago, my buddy Howard Ditkoff and I decided to create, from scratch, a submission for the first American Idol songwriter contest. Over 25,000 submissions would end up being made, and they were going to pick only 20 for the public to vote on. That’s pretty bad odds. But we went ahead.
We experimented by writing the song using Appreciative Inquiry, a positive change process that is central to the work of Emergent Associates, the coaching and consulting company Howard and I had founded. We ended up having a really interesting time writing the song. There were ups and downs, highs and lows, as might be expected trying to work from scratch from concept to final recording with vocals, with a deadline only two weeks after the contest was announced. We should have started last summer when they announced that there would be a contest this season! But we ended up with a song that we thought was pretty good — Our Whole Lives. Top 20 for the contest? Maybe not, I don’t know, I’m biased. But it was worth having written, and worth submitting.
As soon as we submitted it, though, I started stressing over the contest. Gone was the enjoyment of the writing, the composing, the arranging the recording. Now, it was all dreams of winning and worrying about the low odds. No surprise, we weren’t chosen. Maybe the song just wasn’t as strong. Certainly the recording wasn’t quite as good as the ones they chose. But I remember thinking, it’s supposed to be about enjoying doing things we’re good at, doing what we do because it’s our calling, and that’s that. Now, it was about becoming the American Idol Songwriter. The first winner of possibly the biggest songwriting contest ever. An instant star with a practically guaranteed number one hit and probable lifelong career as a songwriter.
The lottery jackpot!
The top of the high high hierarchy.
Sure, it would have been great to win, but it was somehow muddling up the whole experience. I ended up feeling like I wished I hadn’t entered the contest at all, like I’d entered it for the wrong reasons. Hell, given the very nature of the contest, it seems like it would be impossible to enter it for any right reasons. Rather, if I could enter it and then let it go, without feeling that stress, then it would be fine to enter it. But obviously I couldn’t do that. Not yet.
So I think all there is to do is to do my thing. Do it enough, enjoy it enough for what it is, find my way through that, and hopefully I’ll get to a point where I can make a go at it, make a living at it, maybe even be able to enter contests like that and just see what happens and not worry about it.
And how’s it going to happen? Maybe by people starting to decide that one or two CDs they buy each year could be from people who are just about as good as U2 and the Dixie Chicks and Outkast but a bit closer to home.
Here’s hoping that you’ll be back to buy some new music of mine when I put it out in the near future!
Howard Ditkoff and Emergent Associates, LLC, the company he co-founded with Mark S. Meritt, were featured in the Detroit News today. Reprinted here is a copy of one of Howard’s announcements of the article.
As many of you know, about a year and a half ago, I started a company called Emergent Associates, LLC along with a partner, Mark Meritt. The company was very much directly inspired by Daniel Quinnâ€™s work. The idea of the company was to apply knowledge and tools we have found useful from various fields (all of which we saw as relating to and helping to make practical some of Quinnâ€™s ideas) to help people improve and fulfill more of their potential in their lives and organizations, something Iâ€™ve always been passionate about. We came to feel that this was our best opportunity to both improve our own lives, while also doing our part to improve the world. Using these tools, we found we were able to impact people in areas ranging from career, relationship or business issues, to helping develop projects or ideas people had, to just helping someone find their direction or work through any particularly challenging issue. Mark has since gone on to spin off his own company, Potluck Creative Arts ( http://www.potluck.com/arts/ ), as well.
About a month ago, I saw an article in the Detroit News about a person who had left his job to start his own company. He talked a lot about how, in his new company, he had the freedom to focus on doing what he found worked well, rather than on the more superficial things that he found less important, but that some other companies spent so much time worrying about. I really related to that story and so I emailed the writer, Brian Oâ€™Connor, about my own career change. Last week he got back to me and brought me in to take a photo and then did an interview. The resulting article, which Iâ€™m really excited about – along with a photo of me with several relevant books that include Ishmael and Beyond Civilization – is in todayâ€™s Detroit News at:
Over the last year and a half, many of you have asked me to explain more about what Emergent Associates does. As the company and its marketing is still developing, Iâ€™m still improving my ability to give people a clear picture of what I do (since itâ€™s much easier to demonstrate than to explain). Hopefully, after reading this article, youâ€™ll have a little bit better understanding of that. As mentioned in the article, Iâ€™m still really developing the marketing of the company â€“ including a far better, professionally-created website that I hope youâ€™ll come check out when itâ€™s done (the current site is really just a placeholder). All of this should help clarify what Emergent Associates is all about, and in great part what Iâ€™m all about, as time goes on.
Like most articles Iâ€™ve been mentioned in, there are a couple small errors. Technically, I am not a psychiatrist, but rather I left medicine after finishing medical school but before starting a residency in psychiatry. Also, I am currently looking for a new place, so I may not be in Oak Park any longer (and by the way, the best way to reach me is still at my old phone # by leaving a voice mail). But other than that, I think the article does a nice job of capturing the mindset of the company. It also is an example of something I think is very important which is that the best way we can promote Quinnâ€™s ideas in the world is through embodying them and then promoting the things we do as a result of being changed by his work. I was never able to get much publicity for Quinnâ€™s work directly, yet here I managed to get a couple of his books in the paper by publicizing not his work, but the things that Iâ€™ve done after being inspired by his work. So I hope some of you find it interesting and feel free to talk to me if you have any questions about what I do, and to forward it on to anyone else who might find it of interest.
Thanks to all of you who have been offering support as Iâ€™ve been making these changes in my life and working to achieve my goals, and help others achieve theirs, through this company.
Emergent Associates, LLC