Friday, August 26, 2011

What Matters

All week, I've been drowning in stories of liver cirrhosis and addiction and what kind of person we become when the addictions win. How we get to that point. I was struggling. Then, there was this message and this song from a childhood mentor of mine, Duncan Sheik and I was heartened. Real honesty always wins.  
Hello Friends,Duncan here, offering you belated apologies for the cancellation of my June tour.  The truth is I didn’t do it because I realized I was drinking too much and chose to confront that situation, with the help of family, great friends and some thoughtful, highly qualified professionals. In fact, I entered a treatment center the same day my most recent effort Covers 80s was released.  With as much gallows humor as I could muster, I told the staff there,  ”My record is coming out and I’m checking in.”
Those of you who know me through music, personally, or both, know that like everyone else I’ve had my share of ups and downs in my life and career, and there were many contributing factors here that I will share with you in the future.  While this episode may sound like a low point, the experience actually confirmed for me how much I want to go forward in my creative life, and how much I sincerely value all of those who have supported me.
I do want to share one very fascinating thing I learned while at the treatment center. Drinking as much as I was, it would seem I did a real number on my neurochemical functions.  As I learned about dopamine, serotonin, and GABA levels and how they affect the “reward” center in your brain, some bells started to go off in my nuerochemically compromised head.  To vastly oversimplify this physiological process, the current thinking on the subject is that all alcoholics and addicts have something called Reward Deficiency Syndrome or RDS.  The example I was given was this: Person One, with normal brain function, wakes up on a beautiful crisp autumn morning and walks out the door enjoying the sun and the nice cool air and all is well in the universe of their head.  Person Two, whose brain functions have been rejiggered due to too much drinking or drugging, walks out the same door on the same beautiful morning and doesn’t feel any joy at all about the weather or anything else for that matter.  Not until they have a drink anyway.  What was terribly interesting about this example to me was how it characterizes a very similar situation Vis a Vis my Buddhist practice.  When I get up in the morning and chant with a lot of focus and determination I’m Person One.  When my practice is undisciplined or lazy or rushed, I’m Person Two. There is actually much more to say about how my practice relates to this situation but I will leave it for another time.
Having left treatment with the blessing of my excellent recovery counselors, I’m currently in Jakarta, Indonesia, writing songs as well as formulating ideas for a book and working on a few musical theater projects, including Alice In Wonderland, The Nightingale and American Psycho. I’m chanting, playing guitar and writing stories. Life is good. Actually, exponentially better than when I was drinking like a ridiculous fish. 
All of this to say, I’m well, and truly sorry for any inconvenience or disappointment caused by my abrupt cancellation of the tour.  But I look forward to the opportunity to make it up to you. Plans to reschedule the tour for this spring are currently underway, (It looks like I’ll be doing a bunch of shows as a co-bill with the wonderful Suzanne Vega) as well as for a coinciding remix version of Covers 80s (by lots of cool electronic music folks and some fancy DJ’s).  So there may be, God forbid, music people will want to dance to. I consider all of it a good thing, a new challenge, an interesting riddle, a gift.  And I promise you that both the music and I will be better for it.
Love, DS
You can see it here

When I think back on all the times in my life where I truly needed a gift, I always received one in the form of a song. "What Matters" is a prime example of that. The following are some of the most vivid and real lyrics I've heard in ages. 
The sense of place, the simultaneity of humor and introspective reckoning is at a level I aspire to every day. This is why, since I was a kid, Duncan's been a kind of hero of mine. A hero who let me share with him some his life and some of his struggles whether that be chanting together or talking about musicals, or laughing at his 40th birthday dinner or through songs I wish I'd written. Like this one. Talking about what matters-- it has all mattered and continues to matter to me. 

I wish I could share this with my mom. 

  What Matters by user2298931

Here in the choir room
Where no songs are sung
Only the talk of frequent doom
from a smoke-filled lung
Here in children's chairs
there is little comfort
everyone's aware
of innocence that's done for
doesn't matter who you are
or who say you wanna be

it matters what you do
about what you don't wanna see

on these basement floors
there are some things you taught me
I did not come for the decor
I did not come here for this coffee
and somehow take along
and somehow leave behind
and you'll say that may go wrong
'cause you're a true friend of mine
it doesn't matter who you were
or who you thought that you might be

it matters what you did
about that version of yourself 
that you didn't wanna see

doesn't matter who you are
or who you say you wanna be
it matters what you do
not what you don't wanna see

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