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By the Way... 3.30.2009 |

In case you haven't heard, I have another site that is devoted to my more musical inclinations and aspirations. I'll be posting new songs, recordings, and scheduled shows there regularly. The address is www.dustinpattison.com. Please stop by, take some time to listen, share with friends, etcetera.

I'll continue to do my best to keep this blog full of good stuff (I know, she's been starving lately but I'll work on that).

A Couple More for Your Listening Pleasure... 2.17.2009 |

Due to a lack of free-time as well as a missing power cord to my recording device, I'm posting a couple of my older recordings.

The first song is entitled One by One by One. I wrote this a couple of years back when my brother who, among many other things, writes for the Burnside Writer's Collective, said that they would be putting together a "Summer Mix-tape" of songs that in some way related to or represented 'Summer.' After I sat down and put this together, I had no idea why I considered it a song that had anything to do with summer except maybe it's sound had a summer-like quality - I don't know - but I submitted it anyway. I think I like this song and like playing it because of its simplicity. With fairly broad brush-strokes, I tried to paint a picture of a specific scene but still leave a lot to the imagination. One reason I'm not so happy with this recording and prefer to play it live is because in a live setting, I can pull out a little more of the required emotion. Though I do like hearing, in the bridge, the cheap little foot-long keyboard I bought at Goodwill for a buck.

The second song is Right Before Our Eyes. I wrote this in 2003, soon after coming back from my first trip to Malawi. I was really struggling with what I had seen and learned in the short two months of being there. I knew that, somehow, it was not for no reason that I had met the people I had met and seen what I had seen. I wondered how responsible (or response-able) I was to the things I now knew and the people I now had relationships with. At the same time, I wondered what sort of responsibility we have, as citizens of the US, who consume an amazing amount of the world's natural resources and whose greed and hubris are often the root cause of many of the world's problems, and who have the technology to watch these problems (i.e. disease, hunger, genocide, etc.) play out in real-time. This song was, I guess, my attempt at laying down some of those thoughts and questions as they emerged.

Also, stay tuned. I mentioned earlier that I'm wanting to get more serious about writing music and playing out, so I'm developing a simple website that I can put up that will contain some of my music, updates, and a show schedule. I'll let you know when that's ready.



You line up the bottles and I'll go get the gun
The baby's inside and asleep and before you know it
We'll be runnin' out of sun

One by one by one we will blow them away
One by one by one we will show them who's boss today

Don't be such a scaredy-cat, my papa said we could
Besides he left this morning, this time I know it
He's gone and gone for good

One by one by one we will blow them away
One by one by one we will show them who's boss today


I've heard that I need to be
The change that I'd like to see
In this ever-changing world
But where's the change in me

I know I can't turn my head
From the dyin' and from the dead
Or exchange the things I've seen
For safety and security instead

Well, I know that my years
With plenty more to come
You may say that I'm full of dreams
But I'm not the only one

And how could I justify
A cozy suburban life
When the children are suffering and dying
Right before our eyes

Well, I've heard ignorance is bliss
But who knew it would come to this
If you say that it's not my job
Then I'm wonderin' whose it is

Well, I've tried to run and hide
Pleading that it's no fault of mine
Well it is if I don't respond in time
To what's right before our eyes

I know I'll never be satisfied with
Make-believing I care about it all
And never making the sacrifice beyond
Shedding a tear, watch it fall
There is a reason it's right before our eyes

No It Don't 1.24.2009 |

Here's a song I've been working on. It's a bit long but I'm not sure if it's done yet. I imagine that were I to finally record a full album, this one would end up being the 10 to 15-minute-long one at the end (don't worry, it's only 6 minutes so far). I apologize for looking so somber in the video. I just have a naturally sad look about me, I guess.

Hope you enjoy.


A Lullaby for Moses 1.19.2009 |

Click to listen to: A Lullaby for Moses

This song started out as just a tune I would hum as I would rock Moses to sleep every day when I was with him at the orphanage. It seemed to be a tune that he either really liked or found extremely boring because it always lulled him to sleep pretty quickly. After a while, I decided to put some words to it. I came up with the lyrics that you see below and was having trouble coming up with a second stanza. I finally decided that instead of forcing it, I would allow the song to be a work-in-progress. I would allow myself time to really get to know my new son because, as he grows, develops, and changes, so will his interests and his desires and his dreams. So this is a lullaby just for Moses that will be written and tailored to him over the years, maybe not fully finished even in my lifetime. who knows?


Sleep well, Moses, sleep for me
Dream well, Moses, dream sweet things
Sleep well, Moses, sleep for me
Dream well, Moses, dream sweet things

Dream of the tropical paradise
Where the sun's gone to get away
Dream the moon is one of God's eyes
She winks 'cause she thinks you're great
And dream that all the fireflies
Are the stars come down to play for a while

Sleep well, Moses, sleep for me
Dream well, Moses, dream sweet things
Sleep well, Moses, sleep for me
Dream well, Moses, dream sweet things
Oh, dream sweet things
Oh, dream sweet things
Dream sweet things

(thatnks to Holly Sharp for taking the beautiful photo above)


Return of the Jeli |

OK, so I want to start using this blog again but I feel I need to use it for more than just a way to share the ideas and writings of others. My intention when starting this blog was to challenge myself to write more often but I never felt like I had anything to say that wasn't being said much more eloquently and thoughtfully by someone else. In addition, I had no desire to use this blog as some others use theirs - a tool for chronicling their every daily move - as I was afraid my readers would find that I'm more - or worse, as - uninteresting as they suspected me to be.

Recently a friend of mine suggested that maybe, since I am a songwriter (more of a dabbler in songwriting, really), I could be posting some of my material up on this blog. I thought this was a pretty good idea.

Ever since my World Music class in college, I've had an interest in the ancient work and tradition of the Jeli (more commonly known by the French word, Griot). These were the poets, storytellers, and musicians of West Africa who either wandered from place to place trying to eke out a living or were hired to serve and entertain specific villages or wealthier families. Jeli were the guardians of their society's oral tradition. They were the keepers of ancient stories and were thought to have great social, spiritual, and political power. According to Paul Oliver in his book Savannah Syncopators, "Though [the griot] has to know many traditional songs without error, he must also have the ability to extemporize on current events, chance incidents and the passing scene. His wit can be devastating and his knowledge of local history formidable." I find it interesting, especially with our own society's need to "celebritize" our musicians and storytellers that the Jeli were a servant class. In fact, the word griot can be translated as "servant". The word jeli (also spelled jali) means "blood," implying the hereditary nature of the musician class.

I guess because I am a musician who wants to use his gifts in a way that serves his community and because I come from a line of musicians (My father and grandfather have incredible talent) and I already see a lot of musical tendencies in my own son, though he does not share my DNA, I think of myself as a sort of Jeli for my time and place. My knowledge of local history is not exactly "formidable" and never has my wit been described as "devastating" but those are both things I can work on, right?

So, starting now, in addition to the occasional post written by me or someone I admire, I will be posting audio clips. These might be full-length songs or just snippets or beginnings of ideas for songs. They might be good-quality recordings or, more often than not, fairly rough ones. To listen to these, you'll just have to click on the title of the post and it should link you to the clip. I welcome feedback on whatever I put up and look forward to that leading to an interesting sort of collaborative process between myself and the reader/listener.


the real reason for the food crisis 5.19.2008 |

Of the articles I've read, this is the best and most comprehensive explanation and critique of economic globalization and neoliberal ideologies and their harmful effects on the countries of the Global South.

As I've worked in Malawi for the last 4 years, I have been able to witness what effects 'structural adjustment' and the policies of such institutions as the IMF, the World Bank, and the WTO have had on the agricultural and other sectors of Malawi and the life and livelihoods of its people. I encourage you (whoever you are) read this article, reflect on what these concepts and data mean for real people, and then, somehow, get involved...please.

Jubilee USA
Jubilee Oregon
La Via Campesina
Bread for the World
Africa Action


Thanks John for pointing me to this.

thich nhat hanh__there is no path to peace. the path is peace. 5.15.2008 |

"You cannot remove wrong perceptions with a gun...Violence cannot remove violence—everyone knows that. Only with the practice of deep listening and gentle communication can we help remove wrong perceptions that are at the foundation of violence."
This article is adapted from his talk to members of the United States Congress on September 10, 2003.

Distinguished members of Congress, ladies and gentlemen, dear friends, it is my pleasure to have this opportunity to talk with you about how we can share our insight, our compassion and our understanding in order to better serve those we want to serve and help heal the wounds that have divided our nation and the world.

When you sit in your car on the way to work, you might like to use that time to come home to yourself and touch the wonders of life. Instead of allowing yourself to think of the future, you might like to pay attention to your breath and come home to the present moment. We breathe in and out all day, but we are not aware that we are breathing in and breathing out. The practice of bringing our attention to our breath is called mindful breathing: Breathing in, I know I am alive. Breathing out, I smile to life. This is a very simple practice. If we go home to our in-breath and out-breath and breathe mindfully, we become fully alive in the here and now.

In our daily lives, our bodies are present, but our minds might be elsewhere, caught in our projects, our worries and our anxieties. Life is only available in the present moment. The past is already gone; the future is not yet here. When we establish ourselves in the present moment we are able to live our moments deeply and to get in touch with the healing, refreshing and nourishing elements that are always within us and around us.

With this energy of mindfulness, we can recognize our pain and embrace it tenderly like a mother whose baby is crying. When a baby cries, the mother stops everything she is doing and holds the baby tenderly in her arms. The energy of the mother will penetrate into the baby and the baby will feel relief. The same thing happens when we recognize and embrace our own pain and sorrow. If we can hold our anger, our sorrow and our fear with the energy of mindfulness, we will be able to recognize the roots of our suffering. We will be able to recognize the suffering in the people we love as well.

Mindfulness helps us to not be angry at our loved ones, because when we are mindful, we understand that our loved ones are suffering as well. The person you love has a lot suffering and has not had a chance to be listened to. It is very important to take the time to sit down and listen with compassion. We call this practice “deep listening.” Deep listening can be used with the practice of loving speech to help restore communication with the people you care about. To listen like this is to give the other person a chance to empty his or her heart. If you can keep your compassion alive during that time—even if what the other person says is full of accusations and bitterness—it will not touch off irritation and anger in you. Listen in order to help the other person to suffer less.

When you communicate with compassion, you are using language that does not have the elements of anger and irritation in it. In this way we can help each other remove wrong perceptions. All the energies of anger, hatred, fear and violence come from wrong perceptions. Wrong perceptions result in a lot of anger, mistrust, suspicion, hate and terrorism. You cannot remove wrong perceptions through punishment. You have to do it with the tools of deep and compassionate listening and loving speech. With deep, compassionate listening and loving speech, we can bring harmony to our families, and our communities can become communities of understanding, peace and happiness.

When I was in India a number of years ago, I spoke to Mr. R. K. Narayan, a member of the Indian parliament, about the practice of deep listening and compassionate dialogue in legislative bodies. When you represent the people, you are expected to offer the people the best of your understanding and compassion. I said that a legislative assembly could become a community with a lot of mutual understanding and compassion. It could have strong collective insight to support the decision-making process and the people of the nation. Here in Washington, before a session of Congress, one person could read a short meditation: “Dear colleagues, we are elected by our people and our people expect us to listen to each other deeply and to use the kind of language that can convey our wisdom and insight. Let us bring together our individual experiences and wisdom so that we can offer our collective insight and make the best decisions for the country and the people.”

When a member of Congress is speaking from her insight with this kind of language, she is offering the best of herself. If we only act and speak the party line, then we are not offering the best compassion and understanding we have.

Members of Congress are very concerned about the levels of violence in our families, in our schools and in our society. Each concerned person may have his or her own ideas and insights about how to bring down that level of violence. If we can combine all our insights and experiences we will have the collective insight that will help to decrease the amount of violence in our society. If we are not able to listen to our colleagues with a free heart, though—if we only consider and support ideas from our own party—we are harming the foundation of our democracy. That is why we need to transform our community—in this case the Congress—into a compassionate community. Everyone would be considered a brother or sister to everyone else. Congress would be a place where we learn to listen to everyone with equal interest and concern. The practice of deep and compassionate listening and loving speech can help to build brotherhood, can remove discrimination and can bring about the kind of insight that will be liberating to our country and to our people.

Two days after the events of September 11th, I spoke to 4,000 people in Berkeley, California. I said that our emotions are very strong right now, and we should calm ourselves down. With lucidity and calm we would know what to do and what not to do in order not to make the situation worse. I said that the terrorists who attacked the World Trade Center must have been very angry. They must have hated America a lot. They must have thought of America as having tried to destroy them as individual people, as a religion, as a nation, and as a culture. I said that we had to find out why they did such a thing to America.

America’s political leaders can ask the question, calmly and with clarity: “What have we done that has made you suffer so much?” America’s political leaders can say, “We want to know about your suffering and why you hate us. We may have said something or done something that gave you the impression that we wanted to destroy you. But that is not the case. We are confused, and that is why we want you to help us understand why you have done such a thing to us.”

We call this loving or gentle speech. If we are honest and sincere, they will tell us how they feel. Then we will recognize the wrong perceptions they have about themselves and about us. We can try to help them to remove their wrong perceptions. All these acts of terrorism and violence come from wrong perceptions. Wrong perceptions are the ground for anger, violence and hate. You cannot remove wrong perceptions with a gun.

When we listen deeply to another person, we not only recognize their wrong perceptions, but we also identify our own wrong perceptions about ourselves and about the other person. That is why mindful dialogue and mindful communication is crucial to removing anger and violence.

It is my deepest hope that our political leaders can make use of such instruments to bring peace to the world. I believe that using force and violence can only make the situation worse. Since September 11th, America has not been able to decrease the level of hate and violence on the part of the terrorists. In fact, the level of hate and violence has increased. It is time for us to go back to the situation, to look deeply and to find another less costly way to bring peace to us and to them. Violence cannot remove violence—everyone knows that. Only with the practice of deep listening and gentle communication can we help remove wrong perceptions that are at the foundation of violence.

America has a lot of difficulty in Iraq. I think that America is caught in Iraq in the same way that America was caught in Vietnam. We have the idea that we have to go and destroy the enemy. That idea will never give us a chance to do the right thing to end violence. During the Vietnam War, America thought that it had to go to North Vietnam to bomb. The more America bombed, the more communists they created. I am afraid that the same thing is happening in Iraq. I think that it is very difficult for America to withdraw now from Iraq. Even if they want to leave, it is very difficult.

The only way for America to free itself from this situation is to help build the United Nations into a real body of peace so that the United Nations will take over the problem of Iraq and of the Middle East. America is powerful enough to make this happen. America should allow other nations to contribute positively to building the United Nations into a true organization for peace with enough authority to do its job. To me, that is the only way out of our current situation.

We have to wake up to the fact that everything is connected to everything else. Our safety and wellbeing cannot be individual matters anymore. If they are not safe, there is no way that we can be safe. Taking care of other people’s safety is taking care of our own safety. To take care of their well-being is to take care of our own well-being. It is the mind of discrimination and separation that is at the foundation of all violence and hate.

My right hand has written all the poems that I have composed. My left hand has not written a single poem. But my right hand does not think, “Left Hand, you are good for nothing.” My right hand does not have a superiority complex. That is why it is very happy. My left hand does not have any complex at all. In my two hands there is the kind of wisdom called the wisdom of nondiscrimination. One day I was hammering a nail and my right hand was not very accurate and instead of pounding on the nail it pounded on my finger. It put the hammer down and took care of the left hand in a very tender way, as if it were taking care of itself. It did not say, “Left Hand, you have to remember that I have taken good care of you and you have to pay me back in the future.” There was no such thinking. And my left hand did not say, “Right Hand, you have done me a lot of harm—give me that hammer, I want justice.” My two hands know that they are members of one body; they are in each other.

I think that if Israelis and Palestinians knew that they were brothers and sisters—that they are like my two hands—they would not try to punish each other anymore. The world community has not helped them to see that. If Israelis and Palestinians—and Muslims and Hindus—knew that discrimination was at the base of our suffering, they would know how to touch the seed of nondiscrimination in themselves. That kind of awakening—that kind of deep understanding—brings about reconciliation and well-being.

I believe that in America there are many people who are awakened to the fact that violence cannot remove violence. They realize there is no way to peace: peace itself is the way. Those people must come together and voice their concern strongly and offer their collective wisdom to the nation so the nation can get out of this current situation. Every one of us has the duty to bring together that collective insight. With that insight, compassion will make us strong and courageous enough to bring about a solution for the world.

Every time we breathe in, go home to ourselves and bring the element of harmony and peace into ourselves, that is an act of peace. Every time we know how to look at another living being and recognize the suffering in him that has made him speak or act like that, we are able to see that he is the victim of his own suffering. When that understanding is in us, we can look at this other person with the eyes of understanding and compassion. When we can look with the eyes of compassion, we don’t suffer and we don’t make the other person suffer. These are the actions of peace that can be shared with other people.

At Plum Village, there are several hundred people living together like a family in a very simple way. At Plum Village, we have had the opportunity to practice together as a community. We are able to build up brotherhood and sisterhood. Although we live simply, we have a lot of joy because of the amount of understanding and compassion that we can generate. We are able to go to many countries to offer mindfulness retreats so that people may have a chance to heal, transform and to reconcile. Healing, transformation and reconciliation always happen during our retreats. That can be very nourishing.

We have invited Israelis and Palestinians to Plum Village to practice with us. When they come they bring anger, suspicion, fear and hate. But after a week or two of the practices of mindful walking, mindful breathing, mindful eating and mindful sitting, they are able to recognize their pain, embrace it and find relief. When they are initiated to the practice of deep listening, they are able to listen to others and realize that people from the other groups suffer as they do. When you know that they also suffer from violence, from hate, from fear and despair, you begin to look at them with the eyes of compassion. At that moment you suffer less and you make them suffer less. Communication becomes possible with the use of loving speech and deep listening.

The Israelis and Palestinians always come together as a group at the end of their stay in Plum Village. They always report the success of their practice. They always go back to the Middle East intending to continue the practice and invite others to join them, so that those others might suffer less and help others to suffer less too.

I believe that if this practice could be done on the national level, it would bring about the same kind of effect. Unfortunately, our political leaders have not been trained in these practices of mindful breathing, mindful walking and embracing pain and sorrow to transform their suffering. They have been trained only in political science.

So I think we should all bring a spiritual dimension into our daily lives. We should be awakened to the fact that happiness cannot be found in the direction of power, fame, wealth and sex. If we look deeply around us, we see many people with plenty of these things, but they suffer very deeply. When you have understanding and compassion in you, you don’t suffer. You can relate very well to other people around you and to other living beings also. That is why a collective awakening about that reality is crucial.

One of the concrete things that Congress could do is to look deeply into the matter of consumption. We think that happiness is possible when we have the power to consume, but by consuming we bring into us a lot of toxins and poisons. The way we eat, the way we watch television and the way we entertain ourselves brings us a lot of destruction. Because we consume so much, the environment suffers. Learning to consume only the things that can bring peace and health into our body and into our consciousness is a very important practice. Mindful consumption is the practice that can bring us out of much of our unhappiness.

By consuming unmindfully, we continue to bring the elements of craving, fear and violence into ourselves. There is so much suffering in people. They consume because they do not know how to handle their suffering. Something should be done to help people go home to themselves and take care of their suffering. Congress could find ways to encourage people to consume mindfully and produce mindfully, instead of creating products that can bring toxins and craving into the hearts and bodies of people. Producing with responsibility should be our practice.

My strongest desire is that the members of Congress will have time to look into these matters and look deeply into the roots of their own suffering, the suffering of this nation, and the suffering around the world. This suffering does not have to continue. We already have the compassion and understanding necessary to heal the world. ©

Found in Shambhala Sun.
Thich Nhat Hanh is a Zen teacher, poet and leader of the engaged Buddhist movement. A well-known antiwar activist in his native Vietnam, he was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by Martin Luther King, Jr. He is the author of more than forty books.

shall there be no end to our madness!!!! |

Obama Attack Ad:

"I guess when you don't have any actual arguments for why you should be in charge, you rely on symbolism instead... Here's my solution. Obama changes his name to Barack Flag Pin Obama. He automatically convinces everyone of his patriotism, and eliminates the most problematic part of his name. From then on, whenever someone says, 'Why don't you wear a flag pin?' Obama can respond, 'I am Flag Pin!'" - Jonathan Stein

video__house of many stories youth centre 5.09.2008 |

Below is the video that my lovely wife Cara made after our trip to Malawi in 2007 (not bad for an amateur who just learned iMovie, huh?). It gives a pretty good look at what goes on at Bola Moyo's "House of Many Stories" Youth Centre. Check it out then visit our website and blog.


by Wendell Berry___ Love the quick profit, the annual raise, vacation with pay. Want more of everything ready-made. Be afraid to know your neighbors and to die. And you will have a window in your head. Not even your future will be a mystery any more. Your mind will be punched in a card and shut away in a little drawer. When they want you to buy something they will call you. When they want you to die for profit they will let you know. So, friends, every day do something that won't compute. Love the Lord. Love the world. Work for nothing. Take all that you have and be poor. Love someone who does not deserve it. Denounce the government and embrace the flag. Hope to live in that free republic for which it stands. Give your approval to all you cannot understand. Praise ignorance, for what man has not encountered he has not destroyed. Ask the questions that have no answers. Invest in the millenium. Plant sequoias. Say that your main crop is the forest that you did not plant, that you will not live to harvest. Say that the leaves are harvested when they have rotted into the mold. Call that profit. Prophesy such returns. Put your faith in the two inches of humus that will build under the trees every thousand years. Listen to carrion -- put your ear close, and hear the faint chattering of the songs that are to come. Expect the end of the world. Laugh. Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful though you have considered all the facts. So long as women do not go cheap for power, please women more than men. Ask yourself: Will this satisfy a woman satisfied to bear a child? Will this disturb the sleep of a woman near to giving birth? Go with your love to the fields. Lie down in the shade. Rest your head in her lap. Swear allegiance to what is nighest your thoughts. As soon as the generals and the politicos can predict the motions of your mind, lose it. Leave it as a sign to mark the false trail, the way you didn't go. Be like the fox who makes more tracks than necessary, some in the wrong direction. Practice resurrection.