November 17, 2022

The dimming and brightening from a shadowy planet


The wrong question to ask a creative person is, where do you get your ideas?

A better question would be, where do your ideas get you?

That angle assumes a baseline of humility, surrender and acceptance that typically underscores the process.

Bob Weir, the hippie pioneer of jam rock, once said that a song is an alien organic life form that comes to visit us.

Isn’t that a beautiful way to think about the creative process?

Because on one hand, music is nothing more than air molecules hitting your ears differently. If you consider this art form scientifically, it’s frankly not that remarkable.

Whereas if you treat music with a spiritual perspective, it’s literally a miracle. The word miracle is defined as a breach in the laws of nature, and that’s what’s going on.

Many musicians actually believe that the songs already existed on some other plane before they wrote them. And their job as artists was to simply locate them somewhere in the ether, lovingly pluck them out of thin air, and make the word flesh. They felt the green tentacle of love that the alien muse was offering, welcomed it into their heart, and then whatever happened, happened.

I’ve written dozens of songs that felt exactly like that. In the composition process, I wasn’t conscious of the fact that the alien had come to visit. Only after the song was finished and I had been performing it for a few years, I looked back and said to myself, man, where the hell did that come from?

I have no idea. It certainly didn’t come from me, at least not originally. There must’ve been some kind of visitor. And only through my naive hospitality did that alien take residence on this earth.

Does that sound a too pretentious and woo woo for your liking? Fair enough. And maybe it’s another moment of me taking myself too seriously.

But then again, what’s the harm in opening myself to that outlandish experience? What do I lose by assuming that the idea is an extraterrestrial being?

Nothing. Because this is the story I choose carry. If it’s the reality that lives in my heart, that means it’s valid. Kooky as it sounds to us unsophisticated earthlings.

The point is, the world is full of naturally occurring shapes that I can appropriate whenever and however as I want. There’s no such thing as failed creative experiment when I’m tuned into my surroundings, earthly or otherworldly.

Becoming excited to build something new out of what just visited me is one of the great joys of my life. It makes me feel deeply human and highly connected.

And my theory is, the hardest part of the creative process for most people is letting go off the idea that it can’t happen.

It can. It does. It’s always happening, whether we participate in it or not. That alien is waiting for us to surrender, jump into the stream of life and let the current carry us where it will. Artists who complain about being blocked are, in my estimation, not open to the complete possibility of what could be.

They’re not willing to stay in observation mode, so they get sucked into judgment mode.

No wonder they struggle to come up with new material. They need to believe in aliens.

Reuters actually surveyed more than twenty thousand respondents from twenty countries, and over half of them said the believe in the existence of intelligent alien civilizations in the universe. And among those who believe that we are not alone in the universe, sixty percent of them say we should try to seek contact with alien civilizations.

No problem. The good news is, we don’t need to waste billions of taxpayer dollars on the stupid space race, we just need to make more art.

You want to make first contact? Write a song. Let’s not pretend they’re not already here. Aliens have been living among us the whole time. There may not be men in black who supervise extraterrestrial lifeforms who live on earth and hide their existence from ordinary humans, but they’re definitely here.

Just not in the form we think they are.

Conspiracy theorists believe the government is covering up proof of extraterrestrial life in an elaborate act of political theater, but those local probes and transmissions are happening all around us, all the time.

The dimmings and rebrightenings from shadowy planets have been parading across the star’s face for longer than we’ve been around this rock.

Sagan once wrote in his science fiction novel that the universe is a pretty big place, and if it’s just us, then it seems like an awful waste of space. Tell me that’s not the best goddamn song lyric you’ve ever heard.

I actually may have to go write a nursery rhyme based on that very sentiment.

At the risk of writing another song about writing songs, I bet the aliens would really appreciate somebody down here throwing a tune their way.

How hard is it for you to let go of the idea that new ideas can’t visit you?