Welcome to my musings! Short columns on key topics.
Art feeds our brains to fuel the body
In many different ways, the full spectrum of human art—both output and input—can trigger astounding brain changes for an expanded mind and better body. These are expressed and shared differently with virtually unlimited benefits, including increased self-awareness of our very human condition.
Along with sex and politics, religion is a most common medium used in creativity, a theme of this column. These artforms have been presented for centuries in books, plays, poems, music, and modern movies. This includes satire.
Can satirical storytelling safely spoof religion? Yes, and in important and serious ways. It can help us confront ourselves and society more holistically. Comedian, social critic, and satirist Lenny Bruce said, “People are leaving the church and going back to God.” From day one, the 1971 musical “Jesus Christ Superstar” drew the widest range of critique, from delight to blasphemy, adding to its popularity.
Religious satire is not just written by the non-religious. Jonathan Swift, who authored “Gulliver’s Travels,” was an enthusiastic cleric, Dean of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin, and also the most impactful religious satirist of the 18th century.
Songs often utilize humorous, tongue-in-cheek lyrics referencing religious stories or conceptual translations of social over-simplicity. Using satire in entertainment, these narratives offer a cultural purpose not unlike the themes they spoof. This can bring out intended and intricate meanings for great personal and social benefits, helping us better understand each other.
While many sacred stories are not meant for literal translation, they are best read and appreciated as poetry. Like song lyrics, music, and other art, this promotes alpha brain waves cultivating clarity, compassion, self-confidence, wisdom, patience, and love. It encourages individuality, a reason art is understood differently by different people—I sometimes learn more about my own music from its interpretation by others.
Satirical humor in song lyrics often lives on the edge of reality. They may be taken too literal and misinterpreted—misconstrued as confrontational—leading listeners to miss key meanings. Such is the case with two spoof songs on my last album.
The first song’s provocative title, “The Devil Always Wins,” modernizes the reference of the devil as both herand his, ready to light the fire under us at life’s painful end. The theme tempts us to just give in and play with both wrong and right. After all, the devil always wins.
In the second song story, a sexy lady runs out of a house of worship to spread the word, in tongues, that religion is a dumbed-down form of philosophy. At least that’s what the Lord whispered to her. The simple satirical “Message in My Ear” adds more social commentary on spreading the word about world communal peace through music.
In all artforms, global satire continues growing in popularity, becoming a strongly influential modern-day genre of humor. While generally healthy, the deeper meanings behind the wit offer valuable lessons for all.
4 Keys to Public Performance: An open mic odyssey
We all do it—from music to speaking, poetry to karaoke—or at least dream of doing it. Whether a toast, recording, teaching, or playing at an open mic, it’s never easy; or is it?
In fact, it’s supposed to be uneasy. Imagine a football quarterback taking a snap, he appears to be relaxed with lots of time. Or the rock star’s great live performance—she only seems calm and cool. In these situations, the brain’s uneasiness helps assure success.
Just the thought of public performance raises the heart rate, reflecting an anxious uneasy but positive stress. When unprepared, however, we can become too stressed and fumble. This prevents many from taking the plunge—and not reaping the rewards. After thousands of public lectures and other gigs, I’m still fascinated by this modest preperformance stress, and hope it never wanes.
To benefit most from healthy uneasiness, some simple steps can enhance personal performance.
1. Keep it simple—be a minimalist. Or at least give that impression. Leave the unnecessary gadgets and gimmicks at home, whether visual, verbal, auditory, or otherwise. Your creativity is all that’s required.
2. Be yourself. As soon as we try emulating others we fail. Admiring great speakers and musicians is inspiring, giving us the impetus to be our natural selves. Exude this confidence as if you’re announcing, this is me!
3. Perform in private. Create your routine at home or in seclusion over and over, whether a song, poem, or talk. Bob Dylan said I know my song well before I start singin (“A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall”). This promotes confidence, passion, and helps get you into the zone. Mimic the performance-day environment the best you can. This includes the position of the mic, paper or digital notes, instrument, and what little else is needed. Likewise for your body posture—relaxed and natural.
Once stepping up to the real performance mic, take a moment to organize, breathe, and get into the zone.
4. Big don’ts. Avoid the traditional banging the mic asking is this on? Just as bad, don’t degrade yourself or apologize for anything, skip the nervous excuses or endless fumbling. Adhere to the routine of your home performances. Certainly, some situations require adaptation. I once spoke to a group of athletes at a large sports bar. By the time I arrived it was so overcrowded there was nowhere for me to stand. I spotted a pool table, removed my shoes, jumped up on it and gave my talk.
And like your home performance, avoid doing it when hungry, or after too much caffeine or alcohol.
It’s great to look at your audience, especially making eye contact with individuals paying the most attention—your biggest fans. Stay in the zone. Yes, you want to leave them laughing, as they say, wanting more. Applause is the priceless reward. Thank them.
Afterwards, you should feel good, even great! Avoid proclaiming perceived mistakes—there is no perfect. Yet we will know how to improve on our next gig.