In the year 2000, when I was first getting into underground hip hop, I came across this rapper from Minneapolis who blew my mind.
Edit 12.12: Eyedea was from St. Paul
Eyedea was a musical prodigy, beginning to tour at just 16 years old, and already starting to develop his signature style of fast paced delivery with mind-bending lyrics. He released his first work of genius at age 20.
As Quakers, we traditionally do not honor traditions such as Christmas, Halloween, the naming of weeks and months, swearing on the Bible.
Wait… what? Does anybody actually do this anymore?
Nobody that I know. The Quakers I know call the days of the week by their names, eat a giant turkey dinner on Thanksgiving and unwrap presents on Christmas morning.
The only difference between us and the rest of the culture is that we might participate in “Buy Nothing Day” rather than Black Friday (but then we go shopping all the same).
My question is: have we lost something?
By celebrating holidays (“holy” days?) with the rest of the culture, are we consolidating our worship of God? Are we trivializing it?
In 2006 I chose to turn to the model of Quaker ministry to inform my making music. Getting low. Being humble. Only writing songs that felt like a message from the Spirit. Knowing that the message is not my own. Attempting to be a vessel. Releasing my agenda, knowing my limited perspective. Letting go and letting God.
For the past 5 years, I have been writing songs about Quakers, blogging about Quakerism, making videos about Quakers, vlogging about Quakerism, and traveling amongst Friends, sharing my music and my thoughts.
Vital ministry is essential to vitality. Vital ministry breaks us open, stirs us up, inspires conversations, exposes us, makes us uncomfortable, puts us through the refiners fire. Ministers activate people. In short, without vital ministry, we are lost.
Over the past month or so I have been engaging in a public clearness process about how I should move forward with my music and ministry. I have publicly revealed what is working well and what isn’t. (in short: broad spiritual life and success, financial shortfalls)
I think that my sharing this may be somewhat confusing to Friends. I have heard from many folks who are concerned about me, who wanted to offer emotional support through my tough times. And then there’s the opposite reaction to the same interpretation:
Buck up. Get a job. Quit whining about not getting to live your dream and passion, we all have to give that stuff up at some point and grow up.
“Following Passion” VS Servitude
While I’m grateful for such broad engagement, I find many of these responses to be fundamentally unhelpful.
Our spiritual forefathers and mothers spoke of a “Light” that was an intense spotlight, something distinctly uncomfortable, that would shine on the the dark places inside of ourselves and reveal the things that we are trying to hide. This “Light”, honestly, sounds horrifying. It is no wonder they also called it the “refiner’s fire”.
Growing up in Liberal FGC Quakerism, I would often hear reference to “the light” as something warm and comforting. I felt comforted when someone said that they were going to hold me in the Light, and I felt comforted when I heard Friends profess to honor the Light within everyone.
After reading Early Quaker writings though, I wonder if I didn’t grow up with a Disney-esque version of “the Light”.
Our spiritual forefathers and mothers spoke of a “Light” that was more like a spotlight, intense and uncomfortable, that would shine on the the dark places inside of ourselves and reveal the things that we are trying to hide. This “Light”, honestly, sounds horrifying. It is no wonder they also called it the “refiner’s fire”.
The Early Friends believed that we must all go through the refiner’s fire before we are healed, before we are whole and before we step back from our greed, our oppression, our brokenness. We must let go of the ways that we are hiding, the things that we are using to shield ourselves. We must become naked. Continue reading “Is it Time to Strip Quakerism Naked?”
But here is my point: we spend too much of our lives feeling insignificant, feeling not-powerful, waiting for someone to tell us that its okay to use our voice now.
Stop waiting for cultural credentials to write your book. Write it now. Stop holding back from singing in the streets. Stop waiting for an “appropriate” message to stand up with in Meeting for Worship. Stop robbing us of your gifts.
Back in the 17th century, our ancestors risked a great deal to try to prove the point that God didn’t speak more or more clearly to educated clergy, that every person had equal access to Truth. In an age where church and state were the same, it was a dangerous idea. A radical idea. A revolutionary idea.
Some might say that a lot has changed since then.
I would argue that the 17th century concept of “educated clergy” is still alive and well, but has been internalized and manifests in different manners.
Culturally, we give more potence to someone with letters behind their name, if they are wealthy, or speak in an educated manner.
We relegate our gifts into one professional specialty that then becomes so strongly linked with our identity that we cease to experiment with other forms of expression.
We as Quakers often present ourselves based on “Quaker credentials” (what committees we’ve clerked, where we have membership, etc).
Sing with Me!!!
One aspect of my musical ministry is improvisation. I love to make music in the moment, using whatever is available. I find that it allows for a kind of playfulness and communication amongst Friends that silent worship or verbal dialogue does not. Continue reading “Stop Robbing Us of Your Gifts.”
When I released my new album, “Clothe Yourself in Righteousness”, last Fall, I promised to myself (and to you!) that I would edit all of the footage I had taken during the recording process and turn each song into a videosong.
I got through 8 of these videosongs, and then needed to take a step back and rethink the way I was approaching them. Video editing is an entirely new skill for me, though there are some aspects that are akin to audio.
When I released my new album, Clothe Yourself in Righteousness, last Fall, I promised to myself (and to you!) that I would edit all of the footage I had taken during the recording process and turn each song into a videosong.
I got through 8 of these videosongs, and then decided to take a step back and rethink the way I was approaching them. Video editing is an entirely new skill for me, though there are some aspects that are akin to audio.
Anyway, here I am returning for the last two videos! This is the new and improved Jon-the-filmmaker! Enjoy!
I have been a bit too busy working on video editing to continually update the “press” section of my website on the fly, as coverage comes in. Most of the attention so far has come from blogs, which (luckily) leave the posts up forever. Here are some of the blogs mentioning my project since its release: