Happy 2004 everyone I hope you had peaceful and memorable holidays. I spent time with my mother, father, son, and extended family celebrating the birth of Christ and what that meant for world. Another 365 days gone, it doesn't feel like a year since I took a look back at all the accumulated memories. Now that I am 33 the years seem to diminish at a quickened pace and yet life seems so much sweeter in quality as perhaps I am wiser to its fragility. I have a great feeling about this next year. If New Year Eve was any sign then it definitely will be.
I spent NYE night celebrating the arrival of 2004 with tens of thousands of Widespread Panic fans at Phillip's Arena in downtown Atlanta. Getting to the show from the Wyndham hotel was insane as everywhere huge masses of people relegated to celebration, fashioning the whole city in festive atmosphere. Seventy plus thousand others were also in town for the Peach Bowl between Clemson and Tennessee taking place on the 2nd of January at the Georgia Dome. Orange and Crimson colors everywhere flew intermingled among the Clemson and Tennessee college football enthusiasts. There was a strong police presence as hundreds of police officers worked over-time trying to keep Atlanta safe from any kind of terrorist threat.
A strange signature to the times we find ourselves in, outside of Phillip's barricades aligned the whole procession of people to one main entrance where everybody could be surveyed by the auspicious eye of big brother. Helicopters swarmed above raining down spotlights to flood the night in clarity. Having been to more than a hundred concerts in my lifetime, I had never experienced such hassle just to get inside. With the elevated terror alert, it seems that every major social event drawing together large number of people will now always attract such attention from law enforcement. Even though there were some moans and groans the crowd was compliant, the last thing anybody wanted was some incident to happen that would make people uncertain about our national environment.
I always get excited once inside. For me there is nothing like being with a crowd of people all gathered for like minded celebration of life and moment. It doesn't even really matter to me what gathers everyone together for occasion, what matters most is that feeling of shared consciousness, sense of collective harmony, and excitement of coming together for experience. That's the beautiful thing about being at a Widespread Panic show, it seems everybody there is a friend who you've just never had chance to meet before. Everyone is about looking out for each other and sharing whatever one might have. It's not about I want to take what you've got and horde it all for myself. It's about hey you need, I've got, let's come together.
Music has that way of elevating conscious experience so that individuals can step outside the norms of daily life and embrace for time something higher. Therein lies the draw which attracts multitudes. Concerts allow music to speak directly to soul exchanging feeling without need of verbal dialogue. It touches us where truth is acknowledged without necessary definition or need of explanation. And so we gathered to be witness to a direct experience of what is divine in life and living. Music, this concert, this band, this experience all culminated in what was going to be beautiful memory, the stuff of poetry.
We were to share the kind of feeling and memory that changes lives, bonding people to connection which often makes them lifelong friends. That same feeling is why I followed the Grateful Dead back in the day, traveling from city to city, town to town, state to state. I loved that feeling of brotherhood sisterhood familyhood, of everyone caring for one another, of sharing everything, and looking out for the collective. It is easier in huge gatherings to take notice of the commonality of people as a group. Whether, I'm at a Widespread concert, ADAPT action, or Falcon's football game, I find in the moment something to erase people's focus of why they hate what is different in each other. During that time, we recognize what makes each of us the same, no matter which form we inhabit or what desires, dreams, goals we have that define each as individual. In those moments we are but a collective prayer, a heartbeat that comes together to merge all disjointed pursuit into the same goal.
When people come together in celebration of sport or music, people notice that impression of kinship, of family, of I feel awesome connection with everything and everyone here and for that moment it is the exact space to be, no other place we'd rather be. That is connection with a kind of bond uniting humanity and world, that all fear, stress, and worry cannot dissipate or mask over. When it comes to such things as having fun, family, children, and love we each want what is best for ourselves and others. It is only when money and the pursuit of materialist goals come into play that we compete with each other and seek self interests instead of what is grand for the collective good. If somehow we could seek to experience this feeling of kinship and connection with everything in all pursuits of government, religion, and national pride, I think we could change the world in one day. If everybody could somehow experience the love that people share and feel at a Grateful Dead or Widespread show we could easily change the world.
And as I looked around in every direction taking in moment, I had a thought
come to mind that defines what I feel is my work for this lifetime - How can
I help utilize all the energy of all of these people gathered here for what
would be peace and positive change in a world controlled by the limited few
who own the power of wealth and decision. How can I be a vessel to guide change
and elevate consciousness in people who may not care for politics or standing
up for the right of the world common good? If the world could just get along
the way all of the people here at this show were getting along, we would all
be just fine. Justin Dart one of the founding fathers of the disability rights
movement once said "Get involved in politics as if your life depended on
it, because it does." So there lies the challenge and so I challenge you
to be knowledgeable and involved in this upcoming election year. Delve into
the actions of the candidates and not just the words they say on network TV.
It is rare that a person's action follows or fulfills what they might say. Look
into who you wish to vote for in the coming election with all the time you would
spend in buying a house or some large investment capital. As much as a person
may hate politics certainly all of our lives depend upon who we elect in every
coming election. Certainly it is the only way to change the things we need to
change if we are to accommodate us all beautifully (Earth included) in the coming