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This Museletter will be about dancing, freedom, courage, & risk-taking (all basically different ways of saying the same thing)
Ben and I did a Radnor & Lee mini-South American tour in January – five shows in Brazil and one in Buenos Aires – and it was tremendous fun. The crowds were so warm and engaged and their enthusiasm was contagious. I’ll say this: There are few things more thrilling than hearing large crowds of people sing along to songs you wrote with your friend. 
 
(Some quick touring info: Before we head to Australia in May, we're doing a quick swing through the Midwest: Des Moines, Iowa on 4/27, Freemont, Nebraska on 4/28, and - my hometown! - Columbus, Ohio on 4/29. Join us if you can!)
 
There’s an additional kick to the whole thing for me because I’ve had to bust through so many fears and doubting voices throughout the whole becoming-a-musician process and I'm finding a new kind of freedom and exhilaration with each barrier I cross. 
 
Here's a sampling of the voices in my head that made me self-conscious about performing live with Ben:

I’m too old
I’m too inexperienced
I’m too identified with a certain TV character
I’m not cooooooooool enough
 
But those voices always get activated whenever I’m about to embark on something new. It almost doesn’t matter what the voices say, they’re going to use any tactic to make me turn around and go home and hide. The brain - in my experience - is constantly warning us away from the unknown, from that which it hasn’t experienced, catalogued, and deemed safe. 
 
I like to think of the brain as an accountant. It’s very good at sifting through the receipts, at telling us where we’ve been, what we did, and how it was. What the brain is terrible at is prognostication. It’s a lousy reader of the future because its only frame of reference is the past. So if we take our cues from the brain – or at least that fearful accountant part of our brain – there’s a good chance we will lead lives absent a certain kind of magic and surprise. It will simply have us repeating that which we’ve done, over and over, whether it was any good for us or not. 
 
This is probably the main reason why we hold onto emotionally or physically abusive relationships, toxic friendships, soul-destroying jobs. The unknown – for whatever reason – is often much scarier than the horrors with which we’re already acquainted. 
Quick detour: Thanks for all the kind words about "Rise." I love this show and I'm happy it's out in the world. We shot ten episodes for the first season. Four have aired, six more to go (Math!) If you want to catch up, you can watch here. Also I think it's streaming on Hulu. You could even watch it on television (Tuesdays at 9/8c) which is a thing I hear some people still do.
 
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I’ve historically had an anxious relationship with dancing. It’s something my body longed to do and my brain – weighing the social risks – more often than not talked me out of. 
 
On stage with Ben in Brazil I found myself dancing at various moments in the show and a curious thing happened every time I danced: The audience went nuts. I suspect they weren’t cheering my proficiency in any actual sense (Tbh, my moves are a little weird) I think what they were responding to was my joy. When we see others celebrating it gives us permission to celebrate as well. To make some joyful noise, as they say.
 
Here’s one of those vivid adolescent memories that continues to sting: My junior year of high school I was at the Homecoming dance and I was getting pretty crazy on the dance floor and during a lull two younger guys I was friends with said “This is how you dance” and they imitated me. All is can say is: It was not flattering. I was horrified. “Is that how I look?” For years after that I had to be eight sheets to the wind to get on a dance floor. Why would I want to look like a malfunctioning robot in front of a large crowd of people? 
I’m a very, how shall I say this... specific dancer. Put me and my moves at Burning Man or a Phish show and no one would bat an eyelash. Put me in a club with pulsing house music and I’m, let’s say: out of my element. When I can get out of the prison of my head there are few things I love more than dancing. When self-consciousness descends – when I’m watching myself or fearing others are watching and judging – I seize up. 

This is a fear worthy of transcendence. Studies are showing sitting is very bad for us. We’re meant to move. Einstein’s greatest discoveries came to him during walks. He was apparently a hyperactive child who had trouble sitting still. For him, cognition was connected to motion. One provoked the other.  

I feel like one of the cruelest things we can do is tamp down another person’s exuberance and freedom of expression. A friend recently told me she loved to draw as a kid and one day someone told her she was quite a mediocre artist and she seized up and never drew again. How many of us have done something joyfully un-self-conscious only to have it crushed by an ‘authority’ or ‘expert?’
 
By the time people hit forty, they’ve generally isolated their strengths. We tend to stick with what we’re good at because that’s what we’ve been rewarded for. And to get really underneath it: that’s how we’ve gotten love. Our trying-new-things muscles - so actively engaged as children - slowly atrophy. To learn to play an instrument or learn a new language demands that we be a novice. We’re going to hit more wrong notes than right notes, our grammar will be a mess. But how else are we to learn? We have to let ourselves be foolish and silly and imperfect and bad at things. I truly believe it’s one of the secrets to life.

Starting to play guitar at my advanced age – I started at forty two – was a kind of rebellion against the part of me that told me I shouldn’t or couldn’t.
I loved this tweet from songwriter Dan Wilson tweet: "Figuring something out - rather than presenting something you’ve totally figured out - that’s what people want to hear."
 
Ben and I tend to announce at some point during Radnor & Lee shows that we are a ‘mistakes-permissable’ band. It’s partly a reminder to ourselves to stay loose and not be felled by perfection, but it’s also a reminder to the audience that they’re participating in a thing unfolding in real time, and we can all enjoy the process without being gripped by the result. Life is so much more fun that way! I know from all my years in the theater that the most electric and alive moments on stage are when something goes wrong: the missing prop, the flubbed line. Actors and audience come to life in a wholly new way. Something real is happening.  
 
Maybe what I’m saying is obvious, but it’s worth considering how resistant we are to taking on new things the older we get. We like what we like, we do what we do, and we stick with that. But the miracle of playing guitar for me is that it makes me feel actually younger. Not like a fifteen-year old starting a band. I’m not delusional. I mean it fills me up with energy and a fresh sense of possibility. Life always offers the promise of the new. 
Have you guys ever seen the clip of the band Future Islands performing their song “Seasons” on David Letterman? It became a viral sensation a few years back almost entirely due to the supremely strange, hypnotic performance of the lead singer Sam Herring, and also - probably - for how delighted Letterman seemed at the end of it (“I’ll take all of that you got.”) If Herring was nervous about appearing on national television it certainly doesn’t show. He doesn’t even seem all that concerned with being liked or appreciated. He simply looks like a guy who must sing this song and do these moves or he’ll die.

That aching urgency coupled with his apparent absence of self-consciousness has made it one of my favorite cultural artifacts. When I first saw it I had no idea what I was watching. I didn’t even know if it was good. I just knew something was going on with that guy and dammit, he was going to get it out while the cameras were rolling. I’ve rewatched it countless times.  
 
It's bracing to witness this level of passion and ferocious commitment. Because courage is contagious (So is fear, incidentally) When we say something is ‘inspiring’ we mean it fills us up with spirit. And spirit is new, spirit is alive, spirit is nourishing, spirit is in a state of perpetual reinvention. 
 
I was talking with Rob Bell about this recently, that the biblical prohibition against idolatry might essentially be saying “Don’t put borders and boundaries upon that which has none.” Spirit is always on-the-go, ever-replenishing. It refuses to be idle (idol!) On some level, our own stuckness is a kind of idolatry, a worship of stasis, a rejection of the call of spirit, which is always whispering: “Keep moving. Keep going.” 

(Now lest anyone misunderstand this I don’t think spirit is whispering “Leave your husband and children and move to Bali.” I mean maybe that’s what spirit is whispering, but let’s assume for the moment that spirit is not trying to blow up your life but rather open up your life.) 

I’m never going to dance like Prince or throw myself around a stage like Iggy Pop. I’m never going to play guitar like Jimi Hendrix or John Butler. But something is coming through and it feels best to simply honor it and see where it goes. I’m going to keep dancing and playing guitar and writing songs for no reason other than the fact that it gives me joy. We can trust joy. If it’s nourishing and sustainable and of some benefit to others, I think joy is a reliable GPS for our lives.

The man who taught me to meditate offered a slightly subtler version of this that I reflect upon often: “Follow the charm.” Life, I've found, is actually safer when I follow the charm and step boldly into the unknown. Cosmic forces unfailingly rise up to meet and support our bravery.
 
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I flipped for this book that Ben recommended, “Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk" by Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain. It’s salacious and filthy and sad and fun, but also weirdly inspiring. A detail I loved: No one really knew how to play their instruments when they started their bands. That was almost beside the point. They were filled with energy and vitality and rage that needed an outlet. The yearning and ache came first, then the details. 
 
Here's Legs McNeil on Punk: “This wonderful vital force that was articulated by the music was really about corrupting every form. It was not about being perfect, it was about saying that it was O.K. to be amateurish and funny, that real creativity came out of making a mess, it was about working with what you got in front of you and turning everything embarrassing, awful and stupid in your life to your advantage.”

Here's to making a mess.
Deep peace, 
Josh
Some things I've loved recently: 

Johann Hari’s book Lost Connections: Uncovering The Real Causes of Depression – And The Unexpected Solutions. (I loved Hari's earlier book: Chasing The Scream: The First and Last Days of The War on Drugs. If there’s a theme running through both books it’s the ripple effect of trauma and the dangers of isolation.)

My dear friend and favorite artist Jon Marro has an astonishing book coming out on April 24th called The Keepers of Color: A Creative Hero's Journey Into The World Within. Part art, part coloring book, part journal, part pep talk, wholly thrilling and inspiring. Please buy one for yourself and everyone you love. (Also: come to this on 4/22 in LA to celebrate Jon and the book.)

Fred Armisen's Stand Up For Drummers made me laugh.
This trailer for the upcoming Mr. Rogers doc made me cry.

Three great profiles of three great musicians: I love Trevor Hall and loved reading about what inspired his latest album: The Fruitful Darkness. Also this talk with another songwriter I adore: Julien Baker. And this terrific Jonathan Merritt interview on the evolving spirituality of songwriter Audrey Assad.

This Michael Gerson piece on evangelical support of Trump is a must-read. 
So is this harrowing Andrew Sullivan piece on the U.S. opiate epidemic.

I loved Leslie Jamison's 2014 essay collection The Empathy Exams and have just started her latest: The Recovering: Intoxication and Its Aftermath. This Paris Review interview with Chris Kraus is excellent.

Also from The Paris Review: The Time For Art Is Now (I wanted to give this piece a standing ovation) 

Molly Ringwald: What About “The Breakfast Club”? Revisiting the movies of my youth in the age of #metoo.

The Bittersweet Beauty of Adam Rippon: How much an out gay Olympian could mean to a kid now—or to a 34-year-old who’s been waiting for it his whole life.

And finally: I dare you to not be inspired by this Vanity Fair profile of Lena Waithe
 
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As always, if you're enjoying these please spread the word: http://joshradnor.instapage.com. Thanks!
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