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East Africa is the second of my journeys. I am learning more about the characteristics of the “journeys” as I go. That is, my perspective and understanding of what I am doing is growing.

It has become apparent to me that though East Africa is as different to China as chalk is to cheese, there are underlying qualities which are shaping my experience. I am learning that “Journeys” has its own nature.

To the casual eye, there are the obvious things. Seeing beautiful places nourishes that human longing to take in the great vistas, to absorb space, to pull out thought from hidden stones in the subconscious, and to feel humbled by the vastness of the earth we inhabit.

Meeting people of every nation, color and creed expands us. It challenges our prejudices, educates our understanding, invites us into the brotherhood of man that is available to all of us, but which we, consistently, as a species fail to embrace.

Traveling shows us the qualities of motion; the buzz of a small plane swooping over Arusha channels our mind not into thought but a condition of being that is about flow and rhythm and feeling. Hiking on Mount Suswa, thirsty under the hot sun and your ill rationed water, reduces your complexity and conditions your consciousness to the the pounding of feet, the meditation of the next step, the simplicity of doing what needs to be done.

I am lucky to be within this project, this moment in my life. But I am also not particularly interested in the casual eye. I am interested in the nature of things under the surface, that´s where the good stuff lies, even when it is ugly, scary and we´d do anything in the world to avoid it.

“Journeys” has arisen out of a multiplicity of events in my life, and I can list them at a glance. My mothers death at 19 somehow leading me to the discovery of music, at first as catharsis, and then as a life partner.

Touring the UK in the back of a white van in the naughties, shivering trying to sleep in it in December from Aberdeen to Cornwall, getting back to London having not made a bean, and knowing there is no musical future for me in the UK.

Arriving in Berlin, crashing my van, getting put up next to the Tacheles in an abandoned building, pissing in bottles and playing night after night and learning that the road to nowhere does in fact lead somewhere.

Panic attacks in Bahnof Friedrichstrasse, knowing there is no past, there is only future, no one to help make it for you, no one to carry you, only just the brute strength we find when we finally learn we are truly alone and ready to rediscover the nature of prayer and to bend a knee and to ask for help.

Getting signed by EMI and making my way out of the underground, touring Europe, fulfilling some dreams, getting to the crest of a moment in which you feel all the yearning and hungering and wandering has finally led somewhere, just to lose the deal on the day of release and to find yourself back in that very same underground and joyous with your friends, drinking a hefeweisen and knowing that yes, this is your life, yes, this is where you belong, yes it is okay to be finally at one with it.

And then stopping because you have given everything, and the only thing to do is to stop. And learning that nature hates a void. Nature is inherently creative. Nature demands the expression of potential, because that is its very nature – the nature of nature.

Life happens. Dreams, shattered and lying disconsolate, slowly start reweaving their own patterns, colors, threads. The patchwork of your life has not unraveled, it has necessarily re-constituted itself.

We deconstruct to reform. We break down to rebuild. We fragment to become more whole than we had previously been.

And the journey continues.

The perspective the causal eyes sees a celebratory gig upon the rooftop of PAWA 254 in Nairobi. It does not witness the conditions needed to get there. It does not see an exhausted figure on the back of a 30 gig tour in 4 countries, on a foreign continent, feeling displaced and under slept and unsure if he can go on at 4pm under the burning sun. Or the moments you wake up in the middle of the night, deep in fragmentation, wondering where you are, what you are, you being for a time transmorgified into something young and afraid. Or the 40kg on your back you take from place to place on the buses, trains, ferries, trucks and taxis of the world to try and do you job.

Everything thing is pregnant with its contrary. The casual eye is the eye with least insight, but dammit, if it sees something pretty I hope it can enjoy it none the less.

But what comes back to me consistently as fundamental to the nature of “Journeys” is the need to say yes to life.

I have been more privileged than many people on this planet. But I´ve also been backed into a fair few corners in my time. And in every corner I´ve been in, especially the worst ones, when it feels like there is nothing left and no capacity to go on, I have discovered 2 things.

First is that we have a strength that we often lose sight of. Man, for all the evils he has committed, did not rise to be the top predator on this planet by giving in. I don´t like to put it in those terms because I feel deeply uncomfortable about how we treat nature. But when it comes to those moments, there is a power in us which we only conceive and intuit when we are really up against it. As Dostoevsky wrote in one of his novels “there is a capacity to endure anything”

Second, that when you are backed into a corner you get to a point that is beyond choice. There is no more time for thinking, there is no more time for analysing, dissecting, discussing, considering. There comes a point when you simply have to say yes to life.

You have to say “yes” to the acceptance that you are in that moment. And you have to say yes to making the tough choice to move forward. You have to embrace the conditions of reality, light and dark, and you have to crack on. One step at a time. And those feet always take you somewhere. And usually, when bound with a yes, to the place where you are meant to be.

I have moments when I cower before my life. I have days when I am exhausted and feel fragmented and I think to the future – of the future I am trying to build for my life through this project – and I would do anything to exchange the adventure and excitement for stability and security.

But in those moments I know that, simultaneously, life is asking me to say yes. To get to the next gig. To write the next song. To shoot the next movie. To take a leap of faith and trust it.

I know that I should have listened to the advice I got in my twenties:

“The music industry will never pick up, it is dead, dying, make a life for yourself while you still can”.

I could not accept that choice. There was a spiritual question at play. I just could not stop doing what I felt what I was meant to be doing, regardless of the consequences.

I gave up some time ago on some ultimate vindication, of some validation that would make it all okay, all worthwhile.

At some point I realized that, for better or worse, this is my life, these are my choices, and despite my failings, I do have the courage to stand by them.

I feel that life is an article of faith. I feel that sometimes being too fixed on where it is going, limits the capacity for life to take you where it wants you to go. I am not in control, and I never was. I am in life, not yet with total belief, understanding or flow, but with the knowledge that this is what is meant for me for now.

And in that way I believe in saying yes to life, in trusting her, in taking her hand and knowing that before my time is up, she will take me where I am meant to go.

So I have understood something of the nature of our journeys:

Say yes to life.

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1.

It is never too late to begin. I know of nothing more illusory and unhelpful than the idea that the time we feel we have “lost”, is time we cannot regain. The very nature of creativity is that it is not about the past, or even about the future. It is about the moment – an exploration of it, a celebration, an engagement. What we feel we have not done – what we feel guilty of or frustrated about – needs to be let go of. It is okay to “have wasted time”. It is okay to have avoided starting something because we feel that we have lost so much time already that there is no point in beginning. We have to forgive ourselves of our own frustration if we are to create something.

2.

I believe that creativity is as native to us as our humanity. It is in each and everyone of us, and in utterly unique and individual forms. I have never seen a child who is not fundamentally creative. Somewhere along the line – whether through our education, our parenting, or our society or our collective will to “safety”, it gets eradicated. Or rather repressed. The first step in re-discovering one´s creativity is to be assured that it exists inside yourself. As something from nature, or life, or God. It is always potential, and can never be destroyed.

3.

You are not in control.

4.

Creativity makes us better. It reveals to ourselves our feelings, lets light into the dark places. One of my favorite books is called Mandala Symbolism by Jung. In this book a deeply damaged woman discovers her centre through Jung´s encouragement of her to draw every week a mandala to represent her psychological state. At first the mandalas are simple and childlike – she has never drawn. Over time they become pregnant with meaning, imagery, even a growing technical ability. I believe that creativity broadens our humanity, helps with our problems, leads us to greater health.

5

The cycle of up´s and down´s is utterly subservient to the creation of a life´s work.

6.

It is not about the amount of time you put in but about the quality of the time. So often we will sit down at our desks when our energy is low, when we have a hangover, when we are tired, after work – and expect miracles to happen. We sit there, the page is blank, our frustration grows, we start being foul to ourselves. We check the internet. Wait. No result. A horrible mood ensues, a darkening. “We cannot do it” and this type of thought comes up. But all that has happened is that we have sat at our desk because we feel that we “should”. And we have chosen the wrong moment. If there is one thing that creativity thrives off it is fresh energy. You have to obey its rules and its requirements. You cannot make art out of ego, you can only make it out of subservience to its own principles. So my advice? Be lazy! Take a rest. Churchill slept religiously for 2 hours every afternoon. He said it gave him two days and improved his concentration. So manage your energy, not your time.

7.

Equally, creativity requires process. I have never tried to write a song. Never once in my life. I am always within writing. Some days this is only single lyrics. Other days a changed chord. Or a fresh seed for a new idea. But I give myself utterly to the ongoingness of the process. It is as real to me as time itself. By giving into the process, you become it. It is not something external, something separate. If we make ourselves available to something – that is doing a little every day – it becomes a part of our fabric, our way of life. Creativity does not want to require energy. It simply wants to be channeled. If one makes oneself a receptacle, a vessel, it will come to you. For instance, if you want to write a book, you simply have to write everyday. Every unfinished book dries up simply because we cease to write. But we have to stop tying to “will” our art. Rather than trying to make it in a month, we have to accept it as a partner into our life. If the book takes a couple of years, its okay. But it will write itself if we make ourselves available to it.

8.

We overestimate what we can do in a week, underestimate what we can do in 5 years.

9.

If you want to improve:

turn off the internet
turn off the phone
don´t answer the doorbell

10.

The history of man has its triumphs, but its over riding characteristic is of brutality, persecution and war. If we are to change things, we must have the courage to explore, discover and express our creativity. A rich life is a creative life. Creativity deepens us and allows us to bring our subconscious into play. In this way our problems and troubles are processed far deeper than in our purely conscious life. Rationality and reason are heralded by man, our progress only possible through the application of “enlightenment thinking”. But look at the state of things. From over-fishing to genocide in Rwanda, to the rise of the Right in Europe to the the destruction of the rain forest. Things are our of kilter. Our creativity is like the mother we have repressed – I think the world is built on the rules of the father. I believe that our capacity to be “at one with the world and nature” lies in the expression and exploration of our creative potential.

Some thoughts on Depression in art

11.

Learn to look at a blank sheet of paper not with fear, but with love. It is an opportunity. It is always potential. Writers block is not something that just exists. It is usually a sign. We have become to obsessed with ourselves. We must go for a walk. We must go on holiday. We must read a new book, listen to a record, see a friend, get drunk, howl at the moon, do something different. Allow the world in anew.

12.

Equal to the importance to the acquiescence of the will to “process” is the subjection of the ego to discipline. Process is the way that we allow creativity to breathe – to make ourselves available as a channel or vehicle for that fundamental creativity, of which the universe is just an expression. But to channel something we have to develop the tools to do so effectively. A great song, a beautiful painting does not emerge from nothing. It is an elixir – that is something which induces life. It itself is not something but something which has an inherent transformative power. Art is not something dead, but something living – something which in turn creates and continues the dialogue of the universe with itself. A dance, a ritual, an explosion of the fundamental “yes”. The Hindus understand this perhaps more than any of the other great religions. But an elixir choses its channel carefully. It arrives to the medium which is at the present moment, most receptive, most available. In this way how we live, the choices we make, the discipline we live by, effects our capacity as an artist. Our technical ability, very simply, opens new doors to the universe which were shut before. That does not mean wonderful things do not happen to the non-technician. Someone like Jackson Pollock had as great an effect on art as a David. But the more we develop, the greater our own capacity and receptivity develops.

13.

Quality will out.

14.

On the subject of technical ability I have had a long dialogue with myself. I came to music very late – at the age of 19. I never had the lessons as a child that many of my peers had. I never had the thrust of motivation a teenage boy has to learn his guitar scales so that he can impress a girl. I came to music because I was suffering. My mother was dieing, and I had to find a way to channel what I felt. My musical life was born of the search for catharsis. I am not particularly musical. I never often played a gig where I did not think that the support or headline act was considerably more talented than I am. On top of coming to music late, I also came to music in the worst period of my life. I didn´t have the mental capacity to develop technically because to do that often you need a degree of stillness of mind. It has taken me years to learn good practice techniques, and of this, I am still a novice. But one thing I have learnt. And that is that the more humility you have, the more you will learn. Practice takes time. It takes an acceptance that there is no quick fix. If you try to rush it you don´t develop. You can only improve by slowing down. You have to learn to “be” with what you learn. You have to remove your ego, remove your daily concerns, and you have to be with what you are doing.

15.

Someone will always be “better” than you. But they will never be the same as you. What matters in art is not to be “the best” but to discover “your voice”. As a species we are one. But our variations are infinite. Value you individuality. No matter what any one says, it is unique to you.

16.

One must have the discipline to work, the courage to improve, the patience required to get better.

17.

Technical development is slow. It does not make you stupid, it does not make you incapable.

18.

Great work is pre-existent.

19.

Live with the devil – you will be given hell in creativity. It is a condition of the job that there will be a demon who questions much of what you do. Are you willing to dance with him? Does he really have to be an enemy? Learn to befriend him. He is the one that can make you better at what you do. He is the one that will challenge you. That will cause you to question your work. Listen to him. Communicate with him. Disregard him.

20.

Do not be afraid of a void. As Shakespeare said – “nature abhors a void”. Allow it to be, and gently explore it. In time, and at the right moment, it will find away to fill itself up with something new, something wonderful, something yours.

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