The Violence of Nature… and other life changes.

The San Fernando Valley from Mulholland Drive, on my way to my music school.

It’s been a hell of a couple months, as I write this.

In the midst of moving to Los Angeles from my hometown Chicago to open my second music school here, among other things, I’ve dealt with over-charging movers who arrived late, the standard issue heartache of leaving behind ones hometown, and I’ve been limping around on a bum knee. Nothing against bums: other peoples’ money is the source of many of our incomes. The past year has been a tremendous challenge, too. My wife has lived in L.A. while I continued working on my school in Chicago, and she and I actually like each others company a great deal. We’re pals in love. Things have worked out. From the difficult year apart to the last couple months of fertilizer in the fan. In fact, it seems like things always do work out. That is, as long as we stick with it and ask some basic questions along the way. It’s like a formula. Queries land something like these: Is this hardship protection from something else or a source of growth? Is my path in a different direction? Is there a way I can adapt? These sorts of inquiries with ourselves give perspective and encourage an open mind; open to the realm of possibilities ahead of us instead of the obstacles directly in front of us. I think my wife, Megan, and I ran this list pretty much daily through this recent move. Again, we made it. In fact, after much prodding the movers reduced our rate and the team that delivered our stuff was much nicer and more attentive than the team that picked it up. My new doctor ordered an MRI and has a treatment for my knee. And of course, the L.A. school is now up and running. It’s quite nice and I love the location in Westwood’s Persian Square, just blocks from UCLA. The drive from our home is pretty amazing, too; 20 minutes of winding roads through the hills past countless cleverly placed canyon homes. Find the beauty in the process works even in traffic.

My introspective nature being something of a constant, I remained reflective during our 4 day drive from Chicago to Los Angeles. Across the vast and slow rolling expanses or Illinois, Iowa and Nebraska, through the mountain passes and deep canyons of Colorado, Utah, Nevada and California, I found myself pondering the nature of, well, nature. And our place in it. Travel by road or rail are a couple of the rare times I actually find myself just staring into the expanse and taking things in. Maybe it’s the change over the distances and how they trigger the primal nomad. I wonder how often people give consideration to the technology of travel and how it plays on our biology. Before horses joined us, you wouldn’t see much dramatic change in your environment strolling across it by foot. Add planes, trains and automobiles, and well, it’s kind of a shocker to the inner primate. Ever walk into a room and forget what you were going in there for? They say that’s related to our primitive selves.

As you travel across our country, at first glance, you may see the rolling hills of grass cut through by flowing rivers, the long rows of golden wheat and tall cornstalks, brush and squat trees of deep green and sage punctuated against red and yellow rocks, scattered stands of succulent cacti, or the lush fronds of the tall palm trees in the wind off the ocean. But what’s underneath all that beauty of life? What else is happening that we don’t see or give awareness to? Violence. Literal tectonic shifts. Battles with adversity; all the pretty flora is fighting against weeds, disease, drought, storms, stone, and human impact. The fauna struggle with half that list. All the gorgeous colorful stones and sand were, for millennia, thrust from the molten depths or beaten into submission by wind and rain.

Though it may sound like it, I’m not trying to be negative here. I’m sharing perspective. Albeit, dramatically. Underneath all the beauty of life is the struggle to live it. But the result is strength and growth. The beauty and good following deep struggle are signs of a winning life. Steadfastness itself is victory. I don’t think most of the rest of nature thinks about how hard this or that is. It just exists. It adapts. It lives and dies in that old circle of life. Reflecting on the fact that we’re part of the same ecosystem, given this perspective on hardship and growth, we may allow ourselves some room to persevere more easily. Just like the plants and animals with which we share the planet, it’s kind of a given that we’ll experience adversity. Let’s just grow with it.

Of course, I still give it lots of thought while I’m in the process. That’s my nature. I load myself with questions and wonder why I’m dealing with this. But remembering that it’s the path of all living organisms and even of the Earth itself, I can remove the victimhood from it. Even if I’m wronged, I understand there’s likely to be some opportunity in it. It’s been remarkably transformational for me as an individual to stop spending so much time and energy being angry, frustrated, anxious, or spinning amongst my thoughts. Shifts in my life, like this latest one, challenge my negative tendencies. But they also strengthen my resolve. To continue to move my life into the next phase with some semblance of grace and certainty is a pretty great feeling. I highly recommend it.

Peace and music,

Phil

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Phil Circle

Phil Circle

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Phil Circle is a Chicago-based singer-songwriter-guitarist, award-winning music coach and author, and the founder of Guilt By Association Records.