You are currently browsing the monthly archive for April 2010.

A few compelling articles I’ve come across in the past couple days:

What If the Tea Party Were Black?” by Tim Wise
Don’t think about white privilege? Well, read this article and you will. Tim Wise’s astute questions and role-reversal scenarios spell it out clear as day.

“Free Speech. Hate Speech.” by Shira Tarrant
I’m a big proponent of free speech. Which makes the questions this piece raises especially engaging. Who benefits from the right to free speech in the United States? Where is the line between free speech and hate speech? What about when free speech contributes so much to a culture of hate and violence that it overwhelmingly inhibits marginalized populations’ right to free speech—and consequently the very concept of free speech for everyone?

“The Surprising Reason Why Americans Are So Lonely, and Why Future Prosperity Means Socializing with Your Neighbors,” by Bill McKibben
In this excerpt from his new book, Eaarth: Making Life on a Tough New Planet, McKibben explores how the price communities have paid for cheap energy goes beyond environmental degradation, depletion, and destruction—it has torn the very fabric of our social relationships. Also, he uses the Farmers Diner in Quechee, Vermont, to illustrate one of his points—never been there? Next time you’re passing through, I highly recommend the chocolate milkshake. I would even recommend a pilgrimage if only that didn’t defeat the purpose of eating and buying local (though I may admit that I did that myself once). P.S. No, the extra “a” in the book title is not a typo; the book blurb explains it: “We’ve created, in very short order, a new planet, still recognizable but fundamentally different. We may as well call it Eaarth.”

    I just got back from an AmeriCorps reunion, during which my friend Angela told me about this fascinating Kotex ad she had seen on TV the week before. Check it out:

    So, my first reaction was: this ad is genius and refreshing in the meta way that it blatantly calls out all of the stock ways that big-time advertisers (in this case, for feminine products) try to sell to women. Rock on for pointing out that advertisers so often use lame mainstream tactics of playing on standard definitions of beauty and trying to convince viewers that this or that product will make you and your life “better” and more like what you see in the commercial—and for pointing out that such appeals are boring and obnoxious.

    But my second reaction: but, wait, they’re still selling something. Only now they’re just marketing themselves as a “cool” and “alternative.” Even though their product, from what I can tell, is pretty standard (and I’m not even going to start thinking about what they’re made of, the environmental impact of their production and use, etc.). So basically they’re just co-opting “subversive” to sell a product? Ugh.

    So, I’m torn. What do you think?

    Before I left my job as associate editor at Kripalu, I had the good fortune to take Claude Stein’s Natural Singer workshop. Below is a piece I wrote about the experience, just printed in the newest Kripalu catalog.

    I love singing—in the shower, in the car, around my apartment—always by myself. I hate public speaking. My voice shakes, my hands tremble, my heart races. So, it logically follows that the idea of singing in front of people terrifies me, even in front of really close friends. And yet, somehow, the weekend after Thanksgiving last year, I found myself standing in front of a room of 27 strangers, staring at the floor, trying to find the strength somewhere inside of me to sing the first few lines of “Seasons of Love” from the musical Rent.

    I’d gotten to a point in my life where I was sick of letting my fear silence me. In all sorts of ways. So I signed up for Claude Stein’s Natural Singer workshop, something I had always wanted to do but never gotten up the nerve to.

    The first night of the workshop, we all sat in a circle, sharing our goals, which ranged from singing karaoke to improving vocal technique to just getting started or getting back into singing again after a long break. We sang simple things together and did warm-ups and exercises to work on tone and projection. You could feel the nerves in the room calm a bit, and excitement and joy begin to bubble up.

    Claude urged us to hold on to the reasons we were there. He told us that emotions would naturally come up during the weekend. “Don’t think, just sing,” he said, urging us to let our intention to sing be more powerful than anything else—more powerful than nerves, emotions, fear. Scared? Sing louder. Crying? Sing through the tears. Just keep singing, even if it’s “Row Your Boat” or “la la la.”

    That’s how I found myself in front of the room, staring at the floor. I took a deep breath, opened my mouth … and nothing came out. Still looking at the floor, I took another deep breath and then sang my song quietly, hands gripping my pockets for dear life.

    Claude has an uncanny ability to know just what to say, just what exercise will get you—and by you, I mean anyone—to loosen up and let it out. He knew my goal was to get past the fear that silences me, so he identified volume as the first thing to tackle. “Volume is the key today—to life, to everything,” he said, which felt so incredibly true for me.

    We started with baby steps. Literally. He asked me to take a half-step toward the audience (“I don’t think you could get any further from us unless you opened that window behind you”), and then another half-step. Then I sang about what scares me, to a tune Claude provided. Half of what I sang didn’t even make sense, but I just kept on singing. When I sang that I was scared of looking silly, Claude suggested a new exercise: sing “Seasons of Love” again, only this time with the accent of a Russian from Paris who spent time in Bolivia. When I told him I’m not very good with accents, Claude said, “Perfect!” and sang with me in an accent for the first line or two. It was hilarious. And awesome.

    At the end of my time in front of the group, I sang the first lines of “Seasons of Love” one more time—this time looking into the eyes of the people watching me, singing louder, smiling even. I wasn’t shaking; I felt amazing. And I sensed that I could bring this feeling back into my life—this conquering of fear, this getting past silence, this bolstering of self-confidence. Looking around the room, I saw supportive, smiling faces. No one was judging me. One woman said to me afterward, “It’s clear you have so much in there, and we could see it start to come out, and it was beautiful.”

    Not only was my time in front of the group amazing, but witnessing everyone else was, too—seeing myself in others, watching people work through what came up for them, appreciating their strength and talent. Recognizing how far each of us came in our own particular ways, in such a short time, was awe-inspiring, and left me wondering what it is that silences all of us. We have things to say. We have things to sing.

    Jessica L. Atcheson is a writer and editor whose work has been published in regional newspapers and online. Formerly Associate Editor at Kripalu, she now works as a writer/editor at the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

    © Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health. All rights reserved. Originally published in Summer 2010 issue of the Kripalu catalog. Reprinted with permission.

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