The Three Great Chords of Might

I have been making music as a writer, composer, producer, and performer since my teenage years, so I am well aware of the power of just three chords. Songwriter Harlan Howard once said “All you need to write a country song is three chords and the truth.” Just substitue “country” with “punk,” or a myriad of other popular music genres, and you get the point.

Colby and I visited Harvard, our alma mater, this weekend. I noticed and photographed the inscription on the music department building, which reads “to charm / to strengthen / and to teach / these are the 3 chords of might.” Although I have taken classes in the building before, I had only just noticed this inscription for the first time, perhaps because I was accustomed to entering and exiting from the opposite side of the building from the inscription. I later learned that this quote comes from a poem called “The Singers” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. The quotation really struck me because I have been thinking a lot lately about the purpose of my life and work and how I synthesize and integrate the various streams of my interests and experiences as a musician, social innovator, and as an educator.

Longfellow offers a succinct and poetic framework that helps me sum up what I do:

To charm: I bring delight and inspiration to others through creativity.
To strengthen: I support the work of changemakers and social entrepreneurs, helping them articulate and communicate their ideas in a more effective and powerful way.
To teach: From my first post-college job on the JET Programme to teaching in the MFA Design for Social Innovation program at SVA next year, as well as my work at Purpose, whether I have been a “teacher” or a “consultant,” I find my greater calling to be that of fostering learning and critical inquiry, not just to “empower” others, a rather well-worn term, but to inspire in others a greater sense of the possible. Teaching also helps me to perpetually learn more.

My purpose

My purpose is to be
me
a catalyst
a spark
(ok, maybe even a full-on flame)
for change
through art
through stories
through action

My purpose is to serve
to enable and to empower
others and ourselves
to expand our realm of the possible

My purpose is to unlock
the creative force
in myself
in my team
in my community
in my world
so we can give each other license to dream
to dream big
to dream bold
to dream crazy

My purpose is to fly
the freak flag of freedom
evangelize
radical freedom
freedom in the agility that comes
from embracing unexpected outcomes
the joy
the ecstasy
of serendipity

My purpose is to believe
to preach
faith
faith in alternatives
to our reality
faith in what is beautiful
faith in what is true

My purpose is to doubt
spread doubt like a virus
doubt about our preconceptions
our prejudices
doubt that the injustice that is
must be
doubt that I have all the answers
but we
come closer
to finding them
together

5 Minute Love Poem

Today in my Show and Tell Studio class with Nancy Hechinger, we went through some creative exercises to help develop our communications skills and the ability to respond quickly to challenges.  Our first task was to write a love poem in five minutes.  I am usually a tortured writer who takes hours to write short pieces, so I love the challenge of being forced to write something quick and raw.  Here’s my five-minute love poem:

True love waits
But it doesn’t
That’s bull$h1t
It just hits you like a bus
Out of the blue
Knocking you out
And then you wake up one day
Naked
Alone again
Is it over?

San Francisco Alleyways

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Alleyways in the
City of Saint Francis
Hide Victorian houses
Charming
California dreaming
Or warehouse walls
Covered in human excrement
Hipsters or homeless
Smoking the dregs of humanity
Oh California
California
You finally spread
Your golden legs of
Sunshine
Before I leave you
Again

SanFranciscoAlley2