I remember being around 20 years old, in the town I grew up in: Visalia, CA. It's not a very big place. It's not very small either. It's between those two things: small enough for rumors to bother you and big enough for it to take 25 minutes to get from one end to the other—I'm sure information was faster than the car there, even before the advent of the internet.
I fell in love for the first time in Visalia. It was love at first sight for me—but ended up not working out. I think back on it, and I know all the places where I made errors. This is important to me, because I feel I have room to learn from my mistakes. Lauren is happily married now and has children, and I am thrilled for her, deeply and truly. She is a good person.
What's really painful is making mistakes and realizing you have made them shortly after making them. This was the case between Lauren and I. However, we are not defined by another person.
While we may be defined by our decisions, partially—ultimately, I feel that we just are. We exist I mean. Nothing beyond that. To put it a better way, we all come in and out of each others lives, changing one another, so that we may continue on: all the additional perceptions attached to it, are human notions.
If we look at ourselves as purely animals, we just exist, accumulating life experience in the form of memories. We own our past. It is involuntary in so much as it pertains to it being deposited in the banks of chaos that are our minds. Beyond that, we can chose to own it as a verb, which is more along the lines of accepting it, and not perceiving it as a burden. Perhaps like cargo floating on a rive in tandem with us: effortless.
I am fascinated by the thought of how much more malleable I was in my younger years. I could love, fall out of love, and love again rather quickly. If I were to be honest with myself, I have become far more guarded with my heart over the years.
19 year-old me fell in and out of love with Lauren, was at the forefront of his love of music, had parents who did not encourage the pursuit of music as a career, so he felt as if he needed to find his own footing and encouragement in other places—even if that was just in the daydreams of his own head.
He worked two jobs: one during the day and one during the night. He practiced guitar in between. He kept trying to write songs, but found it extremely difficult to like what he wrote—to genuinely love what was being made by his own creativity.
The first song I ever tried to write was about a young girl who tried to commit suicide off of a freeway overpass. It was a good song—I couldn't see that though, at the time. So I hid it away, and never shared it.
I remember discovering Dave Matthews Band for the first time, and learning all of his songs. I remember meeting a young girl named Robin that same summer. We loved each other in a window of time, before she moved away. In that window of time, I began reading a book that I very much enjoyed called " The Tao of Pooh". I was 20 years old.
It was a very beautiful interpretation of Taoism, in so far as Winnie the Pooh being a prime example of an individual who lives the Tao. I gave it to Robin when she moved to San Jose, along with a few Calvin and Hobbs comic strip books.
In hindsight, I was more malleable in those days—which isn't to say that I am not that way now—I'm just beginning to wonder if I was living more "the way" at that time, than I am now.
Robin was no possession to me. She enriched my life. Hopefully, I enriched hers as well. We keep contact with one another, and I am friends with her whole family. I love them all dearly.
I continued to play guitar. I was also very fascinated with Chess. I played a gentleman named Jason McKaughan at his house in downtown Visalia. He was an amazing musician himself. He was also studying philosophy at California State University Fresno. We would play chess together. He would introduce me to movies and new music that I had never heard of such as Michael Hedges or Charlie Hunter or "The Matrix" or "Deconstructing Harry"—to be honest they are too numerous to name.
I began to learn how to play Michael Hedges and became obsessed with him, much as I did Eric Clapton and Stevie Ray Vaughan before that. However, I remember showing up to his house to play chess on one day in particular and he had something fun to share with me.
He popped on a song called "Comfortable". He asked me to name who it was. I listened. "Comfortable" displayed amazing songwriting. The lyrics were incredible. His voice had a masculine baritone quality that was very beautiful and entrancing to listen to. I listened the whole way through without saying a word.
When the song was completed, I said "Jacob Dylan?" I knew this wasn't the answer, but it was the closest thing I could think of that matched the timber of his voice. His answer was, "this is Matt Mangano's roommate at Berklee School of Music. His name is John Mayer." I was hooked.
Matt Mangano was also a Visalia native who had just moved to Boston to attend Berklee School of Music. He was there to study recording and sound engineering. He recorded John in the dorm room they shared together. The recordings I was listening to, were those recordings. Matt brought them back with him on summer break and told Jason, this is my roommate John Mayer. Remember his name. He's going to be a big star. Jason was skeptical that this was the case, but there was no denying his talent.
He shared numerous stories with me regarding Matt and John. I began to follow John on my parents old AOL dial up computer. The World Wide Web had just started. John was present on a website he created at johnmayer.com and posted music he wrote to another website called MP3.com. He had left Berklee School of Music after one year there, and moved down to Georgia. I enthusiastically watched and supported his very quick rise to fame.
There were no crowd sourcing platforms at this time. This was all between the years of 1999-2000. Jason McKaughan would go and visit Matt and John at their place in Atlanta, Georgia. John took Jason out to go sight seeing around the South, historical landmarks and so forth. He brought back stories. They were fun to listen to. I shared John's music with people I thought would like it.
When he started to be able to afford to tour, I went out and supported his first tour solo acoustic. He opened for Glen Phillips from Toad the Wet Sprocket. He played a wonderful set over a bunch of people screaming over the top of his music, talking loudly, waiting for Glen to take the stage. He didn't appear bothered by it, but having been there myself, I'm sure it was no fun to have only a quarter of the room listening to you.
Shortly there after, he was signed to Aware Records, which is what that CD up yonder is. He went on tour with a band. I caught him three times during that tour. Once in San Francisco, once in Los Angeles at The Roxy, and lastly at The Coach House in San Juan Capistrano. He came out after every show and would chat with all of us that attended. John is a very funny guy, and was always a pleasure to talk to. I emailed him once to ask him how to play one of his songs, and he was kind enough to provide the info I was after.
I look back on my life, and I see that around the years of 19 to 21 is when I woke up to art and how much I loved it. I have tried to avidly support local and independent music as I find it. I suppose John was the first musician to not be spoon fed to me by a major label? I had never thought of this before in plain terms, but I suppose that is the truth.
My whole life, I have been living the way. I am sure you can say the same. That's what "Tao" translates to: "The Way." We are all living the mystery is what I mean. Allow me to explain myself a little better—I don't want this to be a Chinese Finger Trap.
I started reading "Change You Thoughts, Change Your Life" by Wayne Dyer. In a nut shell, it is the "Tao Te Ching" by Lao Tzu, but with his interpretation of each concise chapter of "Tao Te Ching" which often reads a bit like poetry. I'll give you an example:
Pretty interesting, right? I kid.
The Tao that can be spoken is not the eternal Tao
The name that can be named is not the eternal name
The nameless is the origin of Heaven and Earth
The named is the mother of myriad things
Thus, constantly with
out desire, one observes its essence
Constantly with desire, one observes its manifestations
These two emerge together but differ in name
The unity is said to be the mystery
Mystery of mysteries, the door to all wonders
OR alternately it could be translated to this, as we are working from Chinese characters that are no longer in use. This alone is fascinating to me as language allows for so many different interpretations, especially when it has been translated from a translation. This text is nearly 2,500 years old. As far as I know, these both have been translated directly from the original Chinese characters listed above.
The Tao that can be told
is not the eternal Tao.
The name that can be named
is not the eternal name.
The Tao is both named and nameless.
As nameless it is the origin of all things;
as named it is the mother of 10,000 things.
Ever desire less, one can see the mystery;
ever desiring, one sees only the manifestations.
And the mystery itself is the doorway
to all understanding.
This is paradoxical thinking—and very thick. It has the viscosity of maple syrup. Yet, it is also simple. We just are. That is Tao, yet by my reducing things in simplicity of those words of explanation to you, another human being, that is not Tao. But I digress. This is what I was getting at in the words of Wayne Dyer:
.".. enjoy the mystery."
"Let the world unfold without always trying to figure it all out. Let relationships just be, for example, since everything is just going to stretch out in Divine Order. Don't try so hard to make something work—simply allow. Don't always toil at trying to understand your mate, your children, your parents, your boss, or anyone else, because the Tao is working at all times. When expectations are shattered, practicing allowing that to be the way it is. Relax, let go, allow, and recognize that some of your desires are about how you think your world should be, rather than how it is in the moment. Become an astute observer... judge less and listen more. Take time to open your mind to the fascinating mystery and uncertainty that we all experience."
"Practice letting go of always naming and labeling."
There are many things to be interpreted from these very concise lines from the first chapter of "Tao Te Ching." Similarly, there are many things to be interpreted from a lifetime already lived. Beyond that, is living. It's the present moment.
I've enjoyed sharing a bit of my past with you. I've also enjoyed thinking back to a version of myself that is 20 years old. I find it fascinating that I have ran along a twenty year cycle, a continuum, in which it has begun with me reading an interpretation of Tao Te Ching (but with Winnie the Pooh bonus round), and led me back to me reading an interpretation once again, and me arriving at my own paradoxical understanding. In the process of writing that last sentence, I also just realized that putting exclamation points on things can be construed as shouting. However, most of the time, it just means enthusiasm, nowadays.
What a mystery!