Notes From My Phone* Reading Event

I had the privilege of participating in this event with 2 of my favorite people/writers at Centenary College here in Shreveport, LA on October 24, 2017. Music was played (by me), poetry recited (by Jennifer Strange), and books read (by Michelle Junot).

Below, listen to the audio of Michelle reading from her most recent memoir (a self-portrait constructed entirely from content in the Notes app on her iPhone) and from the panel discussion among the 3 of us about all things art-making, vulnerability, work and "real" jobs, the value (and confusion) of liberal arts education, health, etc.

Hope you enjoy!

Sarah Duet performed original pieces at Michelle Junot's book reading. Sarah graduated from Centenary in 2011 with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication: New Media. Song Titles: 1. The Times They Are A-Changin' "by Bob Dylan (cover) 2. Allow 3. Lover of Leaving 4. Mercy Make Acquaintance. Sarah is a writer, artist, and musician.

Alumna Michelle Junot reads from her newest book, "Notes from my Phone*." Michelle Junot is the author Notes From My Phone* a self-portrait in her twenties, and of and the floor was always lava, a collection of essays exploring childhood and memory. Her writing has been published in BmoreArt, Welter, Industry Night, The Avenue, Reject, and Baltimore STYLE.
Michelle Junot

Michelle Junot

Michelle Junot majored in Communication: Professional Writing as well as Dance at Centenary College and then headed to the University of Baltimore where she earned the Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing and Publishing arts. She did the writing, design, and publishing of her first book, and the floor was always lava. Then she slacked off and only did the writing part of her more recent book, Notes From My Phone*, published by Mason Jar Press. She has also published essays in several magazines and currently teaches graphic design and works as Director of Alumni Relations and Assistant Director of Communications at University of Baltimore School of Law.

Sarah Duet

Sarah Duet

 

Jennifer Strange

Jennifer Strange

Not Okay: A Community-Wide Grief and Lament Service

I'm honored to be involved in this upcoming event. I'll be part of the music team with Caitlin Milam and others, and we're joining my good friends Katie James (live-painting), Val Robideaux and John Hawkins (speakers). This is how John describes what the evening will entail:

Most of us have really great lives.

But we still hurt.

No one’s exempt from suffering. There’s no pass when it comes to cancer. Or grief. Or rejection.

That’s why we’re so excited to announce an upcoming opportunity called Not Okay.

If you or someone you know is hurting, grieving, confused – even angry with God – you’re invited to Not Okay, a worship experience highlighting grief and lament, Thursday, March 12 on the campus of Centenary College.

Sponsored by the Office of the Chaplain and ClearView Church, the evening will be an opportunity to worship without fake smiles and easy answers, an invitation for those who are walking through a difficult season to trust God with their honest thoughts and emotions.

The practice of bringing one’s questions – and even accusations – to God is remarkably common in the Bible. It’s called lament, and it’s a needed form of worship today given our unfortunately common habit of stuffing it instead.

This is a rare and beautiful opportunity. Please don’t miss out.
— John Hawkins, Pastor of Clearview Church

I really hope you can make it. I'd love to experience this together. Add it to your calendar.

Influences: The Bookshelf (Part 1)

I appreciate when other artists give us glimpses into the influences that undergird the work they're making, so I've decided to periodically offer you those glimpses of the things that comprise my creative process. Hope it's interesting or helpful to you in some way!

IMG_3479.JPG

There's no way around it. What I read highly influences the way I'm thinking and whatever work I'm making. Whether the content is directly related to art and the creative process or it seems like it's from somewhere out in left field...in some way or another I'd say just about all of it makes it into the work I'm doing (or will eventually). Because nothing is actually out in left field when we're talking about art and creativity. Everything is fair game for material, and some people even land on a definition for creativity as something like: making connections between things previously unrelated to create something new...

Of course, the reading material doesn't only affect my tangible work, but it also & just as much influences my conversations & relationships. I had a couple of friends ask for book recommendations last week, and I realized that those are some of my absolute favorite questions to answer! So I thought hey, why not "answer" those questions for anybody who might be curious?! If you're one of the curious, AWESOME! I hope getting a glimpse of my bookshelf might point you to some valuable reading of your own. 

In compiling the list, I've realized that we're working with a pretty large bookshelf...so I'll break this up into a few posts divided by category. Today's: Art & Creativity. Upcoming categories will be: 

  • SOCIAL-PSYCHOLOGY, PERSONALITY & CONNECTION
  • SPIRITUALITY/PERSONAL GROWTH
  • INTENTIONAL COMMUNITY
  • BIOGRAPHY/AUTOBIOGRAPHY
  • FICTION


ARTS & CREATIVITY

Hope this points you in the direction of some good information and inspiration to undergird your work and relationships! Next in cue for part 2 of this mini-series, Influences: The Bookshelf, will be a list of books roughly centered on Social-Psychology, Personality, & Connection...

Until next time,

sd.

The Making Of... "Have Mercy" Video Session

Let's go behind the scenes of making the "Have Mercy" video in photo essay form...Ready? 

Why would you do a video shoot/painting session without a solid spread of food & drink? Hint: There's no good answer to that question.

We filmed at my apartment where I love to make a peaceful, comfortable space for people where creativity can flourish, vulnerability is natural, and fun is easily found. These things seemed extra important for such a night as this, so I got excited and kind of went all out.

Sidenote: "Have Mercy" was written in the apartment and appropriately shot here as well.

Britney Winn Lee hard at work on the watercolors. She's my first call for watercolor work, but I guess her primary creative medium is words. Read some of the gems at britneywinnlee.com.

She picked a good one to tie the knot with a couple years ago. Luke Lee of Fusiform Design Workshop is an amazingly talented and generous friend who skillfully shot and edited the whole "Have Mercy" video.

A huge thank you to Luke and Britney for their time and efforts. I'm happy to share this video with you all and look forward to more of all this in the near future! Thanks for reading/watching/listening/caring...

sd.

The Mercy Tapes (EP)...available now!

I released a new EP this week! You can download "The Mercy Tapes" by using the buttons below:

Album art, Watercolor by Britney Winn Lee

Album art, Watercolor by Britney Winn Lee

In compiling a larger group of songs, I realized a pattern forming in this small handful that carry themes of mercy & making. So I got to thinking about how the songs might fit together and then got to work. What you hear in this project is the product of that process.

In Hebrew, the word for mercy is actually the same word as womb with different vowel points. In light of that, I’ve heard mercy defined as “womb-like mother love” or the willingness and capacity to give oneself over entirely for the sake of another. I’ve found that any encounter with mercy seems to be generative of some creative act–either it making something of the stuff of our experience or moving us to make in response to it (or more often some combination of the two). This connection in mercy’s etymology to the word womb seems to characterize that nurturing, creative aspect of it that I’ve intuited. And that’s exciting to me.

An acoustic performance of "Have Mercy," track #2 on The Mercy Tapes... (Video by Luke Lee)

So these songs explore what mercy makes of us, what it makes of time, and how it can restore what we have made of things when we haven't done the best job. And they are something(s) I've made in response to encounters with great mercy.

As for the title, "The Mercy Tapes"... it is a riff off an author whose work I read gratefully. Dr. Brene Brown talks about the "shame tapes" that play in our heads that say things like "You'll never be good enough," or on an occasion in which we might start to believe we could be, "Who do you think you are?!" I'm well acquainted with these tapes, as it seems many of us are. The shame that speaks these lies isolates us. Shame erodes our humanity & sense of worth; it breaks us apart when we're meant to do this together. Another way I've heard mercy defined is a "generous connectedness to the other." My hope is that rather than those all-too-familiar, all-too-divisive shame tapes we might have different words on repeat in our minds–words that remind us who we are and that we belong to each other and that move us to connect generously. Maybe those words would more appropriately be called "mercy tapes.” I don’t claim that the words found in these songs would function as those tapes for all of us, but they are words that I have pieced together in my journey from shame to mercy, from hidden to known, and from alone to together. And I hope they can be valuable to you in yours.

So, “may mercy make much of us as only mercy can"...time and time again,

-sd.

P.s. Lyrics and credits can be viewed below. (A PDF download of these files is included with your Noisetrade download...)

Pedals for sale!

Hey everybody! I'm saving up money for a small PA system I'll need for some upcoming live shows, and to add to that fund I'm selling some non-essential gear I've got.

I'm selling these 2 great pedals–the Roland Space Echo double pedal and the Fender Reverb '63! They're hard to part with, but it's the best thing to do at this point. And I'll be excited for someone else to get to enjoy them...

They're basically like new as I've only used them a handful of times and they've never left my apartment! 

$100 for the reverb,

$200 for the Space Echo...

OR $275 for the combo if you want 'em both.

$100

$100

$200

$200

Original boxes included.

Original boxes included.

The first step to a non-violent society is...

...wait for it...self-awareness.

That's right. Now, if you really stop and think about it, it makes so much sense. However upon first hearing it, this did give me pause. Partially because you don't often hear deeply personal things like "self-knowledge" and "change of heart" mentioned in discussions on world peace and whatnot. And that's exactly where I first heard these claims. I remember it vividly, though it must have been 4 years ago now: I was sitting on the 2nd floor porch of the Yellow House working on a painting project with my iPad open next to me streaming a series of TED Talks when Scilla Elworthy's "Fighting with non-violence" started to play. The second reason this gave me pause was less about shock and more about excitement because, even back then, my friends and I were beginning to learn the immense importance of self-awareness work, the study of our personalities, counseling, etc. in keeping our friendships alive and the community thriving.

It just made sense. The more aware we were of ourselves, the less violent we were with each other. 

Don't misunderstand me. I don't mean that we're the kind of people that went around throwing literal punches, drop-kicks, shooting things, or putting one another in choke-holds. No, not that kind of violence. Though on some days, I could see how things could escalate to that. (I'm kidding...sort of). But in all seriousness, we can do just as much violence with our words, our silences, our body language, and in our comings-and-goings as we can do with your fists and feet and weapons.

When we're aware of how we innately react to certain things and why we do, we're a little freer to choose whether we will or won't react that way the next time a similar situation arises. When we know that not everyone is going to react the same way we are, we're freed from the pressure of putting unfair, unrealistic expectations on each other...and from the hurt feelings and frustration that follow in our disappointment when those expectations aren't met. We can take fewer things personally, understanding that rarely is an interaction with a person only what it appears to be on the surface–there's always more going on. We can be aware of when we're nearing our breaking points, when we're tired and need to recharge. And we know that different people need to recharge in different ways–one becomes a hermit with a book for the weekend, the other fills the weekend with friends & shopping–and we can willingly make space for each other to do those things. When we're at fuller capacity, we can be most present and love each other more selflessly–avoiding the harsh words, brooding, over-sensitivity and/or outbursts that can come from tired persons. When we're aware of the different gifts and abilities that we each bring to the table, we can make space for each other to contribute in those ways–functioning as body less plagued by power dynamics, where everyone plays their particular part that is just as essential to the whole thing working as is the next person and his/her particular part.

That's a brief look at the interpersonal level of the connection between awareness and non-violence. I'll let you watch the TED video below if your curious about the bigger picture. But I'm grateful to be reminded that the bigger picture only changes if each of us individually is changed. I'm convinced that maybe we can't really change the world (yes, a millennial just said that), but we can change ourselves which will change our friendships which will change our communities. And a whole world of changed communities becomes a changed global community–a changed world.

So, if society is simply a system of relationships–and I believe it is–I think we're on to something here that is radical. Not radical as in extraordinary and hardly attainable by a normal person. No, but rather radical as in what that word actually means...getting to the root of something. 

It doesn't feel extraordinary to have a conversation about why the dishes didn't get done (again)...or to confess an insecurity...or to take a neighbor-kid with a stinky cast on his arm to the ER for a few hours...or to ask the hard questions...or to bury a dead chicken...or to listen to confession of sexual struggles...or to watch "daddy issues" rear their heads again...or to feed your kid and change the diapers...or to sit with a friend through another day of grief over loneliness and waiting for a partner to do life with.

But these are all part of life together. And if we can do these things more peacefully and lovingly with the help of cultivating self-awareness, that we might be better aware of those around us, then by all means let's do it. And let's acknowledge that it's radical. It's healing and nourishing the roots of a giant tree that won't change for the better until it's roots are strong again... 

ENNEAGRAM COMPANIONS

This is the 7th of 25 books I have committed to read & review this year for a project I’m calling “25/25.” Follow visual updates on Instagram (& Twitter) with the hashtag #read25in25.

Enneagram Companions: Growing in Relationships and Spiritual Directionwas written by Suzanne Zuercher, O.S.B., who is a member of the Benedictine Sisters of Chicago, a licensed clinical psychologist in Illinois, and has a background in spiritual direction. She has also written 3 other books about the enneagram: Enneagram Spirituality: From Compulsion to Contemplation, Using the Enneagram in Prayer, and Merton: An Enneagram Profile.

In brief, the Enneagram ("nine sided figure" in Greek) is a personality typing system that was introduced in the 1960s by Oscar Ichazo in South America, however the philosophy behind the Enneagram contains aspects of mystical Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Taoism, Buddhism, and ancient Greek philosophy (particularly Socrates, Plato, and the Neo-Platonists.) Numerous credible psychologists, MD's, spiritual teachers, etc. from all over the world have contributed to the Enneagram's growing tradition and continue to today. According to Enneagram theory there are 9 basic human personality types, though the system is extremely complex, and there are actually more than 54 variations on those 9 types and countless levels of information about each if you dive into the nuances. For the purposes of this blog, I won't go into more detail about the Enneagram itself and rather will focus specifically on Zuercher's book. I am in the process of preparing some writing and presentations on the Enneagram and will share those as they become ready. In the meantime, learn more here...or here...or here...

Zuercher's book focuses on the Enneagram as it relates to the field of spiritual direction. 

Spiritual direction is the practice of being with people as they attempt to deepen their relationship with the divine, or to learn and grow in their own personal spirituality...The director listens and asks questions to assist the directee in his or her process of reflection and spiritual growth.

Who are spiritual directors? Zuercher claims they are people who often didn't seek out this role. Rather

"they are people who grapple with the hard questions and learn to resist the temptation to settle for easy answers. They grow increasingly comfortable with mystery, their own and that of others...They relax into their bodies with its strength and limitations. They attend to their own issues rather than flee from them into those of other people. On the other hand, their growing humble acceptance of themselves in their own humanity brings them closer to others...Over time such people find others approaching them, not for solutions but for accompaniment." (8)

The Enneagram can help us learn the art of self-obersvation, which can help to release us from the trap of self-deception, and lead us into the self-remembering and understanding that are necessary to grow, heal, and move toward wholeness in our lives. This observation and understanding can and should, with the help of the Enneagram, translate into us being able to more clearly observe and understand not only ourselves but also others, thereby enhancing our relationships with one another and providing tools to aid us in communicating, resolving conflict, and working together. 

We all fight this process of viewing reality and ourselves as we really are. In doing so, we resist the possibility of growth and change. We've all developed defense mechanisms from a very early age to help us handle life, and these mechanisms are different for people of each different Enneagram type:

If you'd like to know which Enneagram number you might be, you can  try taking this online test  (or any number of others available on the web). However the best way to identify your type is to read about each and reflect on which one best describes you. The test can be a good starting place, leading you to a couple of numbers to investigate.

If you'd like to know which Enneagram number you might be, you can try taking this online test (or any number of others available on the web). However the best way to identify your type is to read about each and reflect on which one best describes you. The test can be a good starting place, leading you to a couple of numbers to investigate.

"Some of us get overly busy; some of us shut down. Some fill inner life with perceptions to avoid doing anything. Some fill outer life with tasks around connecting to individuals and groups. Some shuttle back and forth looking for the one answer, which, because it is never found, never needs to be embraced. Our enneagram stance will shape our resistance." (11)

Zuercher's book has a simple structure. 3 sections, 5 chapters per section. The sections are divided by the basic triadic groupings of the Enneagram numbers: 2/3/4 the Feeling (Heart) Center, 5/6/7 the Thinking (Head) Center, and 8/9/1 the Action (Gut) Center. There is first a chapter that contains a general overview of the instincts of the triad in focus. Following that overview, there is one chapter per number exploring how directees of that type may be motivated and may behave in a spiritual direction situation. And finally, each section concludes with a chapter on how directors of the triad in focus would be influenced by their instincts when directing in various contexts.

I realize this content could seem limited to a fairly small, specific audience. However, I don't want to mislead you to perceive it that way; all of the information presented is valuable in any relational context–not only that of spiritual direction. I believe you'd find what this book has to offer as valuable in family life, friendships, professional relationships, etc.

I hadn't necessarily thought of my work (especially at the Yellow House) as spiritual direction, even though "director" is in my title. However this book shed some light on the fact that this sort of direction is a huge part of what we're doing. I'm grateful to be able to take that more seriously, attend to it more intentionally, and apply the knowledge of these Enneagram dynamics even more deeply in my relationships with our interns and coworkers!

light.bread.name.life.

About a year ago I was burrowed in the studio (aka my bedroom at the time) working on this project called "light.bread.name.life." I haven't shared its story in depth on the blog yet, and it came to mind recently as there is some early-stages conversation taking place about potentially expanding the project. 

The concept/vision came from Matt Rawle (pastor at The Well UMC), my friend and collaborator. He was working on a teaching/sermon series based on some of the "I Am" statements that Jesus made as recorded in John's gospel. He wanted to incorporate short films set to original instrumental music that expressed the ideas, themes, emotions, etc. that would be highlighted in the teaching each week. The statements chosen for the month-long series were as follows:

  • I Am the light of the world.
  • I Am the bread of life.
  • I Am the good shepherd.
  • I Am the resurrection and the life.
An example of the print/screen designs that accompanied the music, videos, and teachings. See more in my  portfolio .

An example of the print/screen designs that accompanied the music, videos, and teachings. See more in my portfolio.

My task? To converse with Matt on the content of each teaching, study and internalize the theology, then express it artistically in a way that would complement the teachings and be digestible for congregation members each week. I ended up making pieces in various mediums that work together to accomplish that goal.

  • Short ambient song recordings (Listen or download with player above)
  • Videos set to the ambient music as their "scores" (see below)
  • Graphic art designs for print and screen display each week

LIGHT "When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, 'I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.'” (JOHN 8:12)

These sounds and images illustrate the most mysterious aspects of Jesus. The ever-present yet illusive light that simultaneously illuminates everything and blinds our human eyes.

BREAD "I am the bread of life." (JOHN 6:48)

These sounds and images act as reminders of the sacred nature of the mundane...the life that is providentially sustained in the most common, ordinary but necessary elements of our days.

NAME "The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen for his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out...I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep." (JOHN 10:3,11)

*choreography and dance performance by Anna Kirkes

The music and performance of this piece are essentially a prequel to the scripture referenced above. That tense, almost frenzied search for the one who knows you, is calling to you, and makes a home to share with you...the search for your true and identity and its Source.

LIFE "Jesus said to her, 'I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die...'" (JOHN 11:25)

Specifically, this is a sonic telling of the story of Lazarus, and generally it is a resurrection narrative. Visually the elements of abstract and concrete from the previous videos are combined. It starts slow and builds to a breaking point followed by silence that represents a death. Then the music and film bursts back to life and represents resurrection. The music ends with the same 3 swells with which it began, illustrating that we must be brought back to life again and again and again.


I learned so much during the course of this project. It became clear where I was on the learning curve for all of the media I worked in. Those limitations in skill that I encountered challenged me to focus on smaller corners of the larger concepts than I intended to, and to develop those with close attention. It is much simpler and more modest than maybe we originally dreamed up, but I hope still compelling, centering, and beautiful in some way. Special thanks to Matt Rawle, Anna Kirkes, and Grant Merritt for their assistance on this project.

I look forward to doing more work similar to this in the future!

Thanks, as always, for reading...

sd.