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Music Care Blog

  • Is it More Important To Be Right Or To Be Human? Tuesday April 30th, 2019

    Individualism has reached a breaking point. Convinced of their own right-ness, individuals have destroyed sacred buildings, attacked and killed religious celebrants, shunned homeless people, hidden unfavorable aspects of their own lives behind assumed power and privilege, and, in some cases, bragged about all of it with impunity. Why? Because they feel it is more important to be right than to be human.


    We can see the results of this kind of thought and action in troubled sovereign nations such as North Korea and Venezuela. Other recent examples from the last 100 years include Iran, Iraq, and the Balkans. Germany and Japan have reversed their pre-World War II destructive tendencies. Being right in those cases and others have had a high cost in human life as citizens and soldiers pay with their lives for short-sighted individualism. America and “the West” are not immune from this needless loss of life just to be on the “right” side of history.


    Collective individualism – many people who share the same opinion – often guides responses to natural disasters and wars against rogue states. It’s easier – more “right” in some ways – to join together, put some of our individual preferences on hold, and step up when a righteous war or fire, tornado, mega-quake, volcano, or tsunami creates suffering. How about climate change? Will that natural disaster be resolved only when the majority of voters decide that their individual aspirations are so compromised that they must work together instead of in competition? Will individuals put what’s “right” for themselves aside in service to a greater humanitarian good?


    The downside of collective individualism

    Policies based on the majority opinion often go awry. Consider Brexit. Or the Trump administration. Or the War on Terror. Unintended consequences aren’t often apparent to voters. It’s for this reason that representative democracies – whether capitalist or socialist – function better than dictatorships or government by popular opinion.


    When civics were taught in my grammar-school days, we were instructed to vote our personal choice: what is best for me. While that’s a respectable way to make choices, it ignores the possibility that what’s best for me – what’s “right” for me – may be wrong for someone else. Instead of voting my individual preferences, these days I tend to vote on what I think is best for others, too. This is why, as a Libertarian in America, it makes sense to support policies that help more people move in the direction of social responsibility, which is often at odds with collective individualism.


    Society – perhaps worldwide – is discovering the downsides of collective individualism. How does it feel, for example, to be a Palestinian or Israeli living in the shadow of terrorism? Is either nation more “right” than the other? Citizens of both are, first of all, human beings, and their governments’ disagreements, though ancient, don’t serve the larger world in any way.

    Symptoms of collective individualism appear as racism, homophobia, misogyny, nationalism, sexism, and religious fundamentalism. The ghosts of Nazism still haunt us. Many nations offer civil ...

  • The Two-Minute Treatment: Meetings Saturday March 02nd, 2019

    The March monthly meeting of the San Diego Veterans Coalition was effective. Several Partners told me they left more energized than when they arrived. For collaboratives, which are often fraught with competition and anxiety over funding, politics, and limited resources of all kinds, that’s a big win for this Coalition.

    How did it happen?

    Did money magically fall from the sky? Did representatives from each sector of Veterans Services suddenly get invigorated to work more closely together? Did a high-ranking government representative praise the Coalition’s efforts on national media?

    None of the above.

    In fact, the meeting was just like all the other meetings except for one important difference: music.

    How it went down

    Coalition meetings normally start with a flag salute, and this meeting had an additional feature: a powerful rendition of The Star Spangled Banner. The gentleman Veteran who led the singing had such a resonant voice that very few could resist joining him in song. It reminded me of watching the commissioning ceremony Marine Corps Officers, where the great hall of the National Museum of the Marine Corps resounds with The Marines Hymn.

    But there was more.

    After the opening formalities, a solo trumpeter played the songs for each of the five branches of United States military service: Army, Marines, Navy, Coast Guard, and Air Force. Veterans of each service were asked to stand during their branch’s song.*

    Following the music, the meeting proceeded as it normally does.

    The bonus

    It wasn’t until the meeting ended that people began observing the difference in energy that took place. It was tangible and positive. People were standing taller, looking happier and less stressed, moving into the networking section of the meeting more invigorated. The bonus? Let me spell it out for you: positive intervention with distress, depression, and anxiety. Who couldn’t use that?

    All it took was the intelligent application of music. No explanation needed.

    How can you do this too?

    If your meetings lack the kind of energy you want your team to have, take encouragement from this. It’s just not that hard to add music where it matters most. Yes: it’s easier in a purpose-driven collaborative with national/patriotic roots, but if your team has a strong purpose too, why aren’t you taking it to the next level?

    There was a time when employees of corporations like Ford and IBM regularly sang their company songs, just like university fight songs. Think about it: why did that work? Could music work for your team today?

    Want to know more? Bounce ideas around? Drop me an email or give me a call. Wander through my YouTube channel for additional ideas.

    You could spend a lot of time learning the science behind why this works. My contribution to the general knowledge is a course that teaches these things, but you already know what to do, if you’ll just allow yourself to think outside the meeting-room box.

    In music –



    * I’ve had family members serve in every branch except the Navy, and as a ...

  • How Could Music Care Help Methodist Church Face LGBT Choice? Thursday February 21st, 2019

    (Published just prior to General Conference weekend)

    Jess Glynne has a hit song with a timely message for the United Methodist Church delegates at this weekend’s conference: Hold My Hand. This music could help the Methodist church face a significant historical moment as it decides how will it treat its LGBTQI+ believers who are called to be its pastors.

    Here’s how that works. And not just for Methodists…for you.

    Music Care for Your Mind

    Mentally, the lyrics of Hold My Hand invite at least two levels of understanding. First, the words cry out for resilience after a breakup.  But deeper than that, don’t they also ask for reconnection to what matters most: human being? The tension between what was lost and what comes next is the mental paradox grounding the whole song. And because the paradox cannot resolve one way or the other, it can only be – must be – embraced by innovation. This is the great Christian mandorla in real life.

    Music Care for Your Body

    #musiccareHold My Hand is a song that won’t let you sit still. You just gotta move. It does this with perfect rhythm at exactly the right beats per minute (around 120bpm). Instant aerobic entrainment – for most of us – toward energetic motion. This breakup song isn’t about moping around in depression; it’s driving ahead, fully forward-focused. Powerfully realistic.

    Music Care for Your Heart

    Powerful music is music that aligns completely with our emotions. Hold My Hand owns us, mind and body, but that’s not enough. You can find the same magic in the music. Most of the melodic lines rise…dramatically. Except for a very short, quiet bridge, the music is literally uplifting. All those rising melodies just pull our emotions upward with them. Physiologically, we can’t help it: we were made this way.

    If we are emotionally grounded, we can rise higher. Solid foundation means taller, stronger building. That foundation is right there in the music, 120 times each minute, unmistakable: kick drum. Reaching out to help your heart beat, and you want that because these emotions are intense and they feel, strangely, really good.

    Music Care for Your Soul

    All that energy – mental, physical, emotional – is there for a reason: human connection. Hold My Hand isn’t about going solo; it’s about the longing for a togetherness that only can come spiritually, at the level of the soul. Being close, cared for, safe, trustworthy, “all in,” – those are spiritual attributes of human connectedness. They feed us at the level of the soul – or, to use scientific terminology, as pleasantly-necessary increases in neurotransmitters and hormones related to heightened positive physical, mental, and emotional states.


    All In

    Hold My Hand invites us to be all in: mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. It’s a song for you: will you take the singer’s hand? You don’t have to walk alone. Now you know why ...

  • Got it? Spend it Wisely. Please. Saturday February 16th, 2019


    If you have the kind of discretionary funds that Crazy Rich Asians do, or you’re the next Jeff Bezos, or you’re able to spend in the way Microsoft threw money at the issue of homelessness in Seattle recently, this is a plea to use your money wisely.


    Over Valentine’s Day 2019, the hue and cry for taxing the rich gained another public acolyte: Sir Richard Branson. He actually said “…if you’ve become a billionaire because of what you’ve done…I think you have a responsibility to make sure that wealth is used to tackle the big problems in this world. If every entrepreneur can use their wealth in that way, most of the problems in the world can be sorted. I think entrepreneurs can be better at doing it than governments.”


    The Billionaire’s Club

    If you are in the billionaire’s club, the nearby graphic gives you an idea of where Branson stood in relation to his peers in 2017: not even on the chart. Yes: there’s income inequality even at the top. Some are calling this “the 0.001%.”


    billionaires club

    If you are part of America’s wealthiest 0.01%, your minimum annual salary is $18.9M and you have a net worth (wealth) north of $400MM. That sounds impressive, considering the huge disparity between you, the 0.01%, and the rest of what Occupy Wall Street used to call “the 1%,” whose net worth ranges from about $8M at the low end to about $40M at the high.


    We could argue about this or extrapolate it worldwide but the point is how to motivate “the rich” to use their excess wealth wisely, regardless of how rich they are or where they reside.


    So, who are the rich? Or, perhaps more accurately asked: what are the rich? Amazon is rich: in 2018 it earned $11.8B…and paid no taxes. Legally. Is Amazon using some of its earnings to tackle those “big problems in this world” Branson mentioned? It would be nice to think so….


    While there are legitimate tax loopholes that incentivize the collective “very rich” people, corporations, foundations, and not-for-profits to do the right thing with their wealth, the last time America was in a similar economic situation was 1929, and we all ought to know how things played out back then: to the detriment of the 99.99%, government stepped in to fix things for good, just like it did during the Great Recession 90 years later. And yet, here we are…and now income inequality has become a worldwide issue, both for the real people in the 99% and the crazy rich in the 1%.


    The real question

    Instead of relying on government intervention, which is well-meant but incompetent to actually resolve anything for the 99%, how do we motivate those with wealth to help solve the problems of the world?


    An interim answer must offer tax advantages for doing the right thing, and to do that, the government must relinquish some of its fiduciary responsibility for solving some of the ...

  • Why Government Doesn’t Understand Suicide Monday February 11th, 2019

    The perfect storm of misunderstanding, misguided policies and programs, and bloated agencies with neither empathy nor compassion explains why government doesn’t understand suicide. Even worse, it explains why government can’t really do anything about it.


    Here are two recent examples:




    It’s enough to make one want to kill themselves.


    We pay the government to do better, especially in ways that we, as individuals, cannot. But suicide is a very individual issue, and trauma plays a part. The government will never be able to do what human beings can and, in these headlines, we can begin to understand why:


    In the face of suicide and trauma, the thing that works best is an authentic human connection.

    Authentic Human Connection

    When you provide a human connection, regardless of the issue, things can improve. Respect, trust, acknowledgment, empathy, compassion. That’s what makes human-centered programs work.


    • The VA causes loss of life when it fails to offer respect, trust, acknowledgment, empathy, and compassion to trained warriors whose ethos works because of those very human attributes. There aren’t enough VA workers to offer every Veteran the respect, trust, acknowledgment, empathy, and compassion every Veteran deserves! Remember Vietnam? We can do better. But government solutions are expensive, so all of us had better be willing to ante up or we will pay the price: defending broken, understaffed government programs that don’t work.


    • An immigration policy that tries to scare off asylum seekers? It’s hard to say anything useful about how misguided this is. What an embarrassment. America used to be better than that.


    It ought to be no surprise to any thinking and feeling human being that things won’t get better by paying the government to fix problems. Even if we had the political will to afford government solutions, they take too long to implement, are usually misguided, and don’t serve anyone outside the first standard deviation, which means the 20% of the most at-risk people or issues will go unserved or unresolved.


    But not un-stigmatized.


    The stigma of suicide

    Stigma serves the government by separating human beings that need help from the rest of us …and from solutions that actually work. The scare quotes around “mental illness” are there for this reason: see “mentally ill” people as separate from you and you don’t have to recognize everyone’s common humanity. This stigma helps the government step in to “solve a problem” no one else wants in their backyard.


    Suicide is a good example. If one claims to be “suicidally ideated” it’s almost a guarantee that the next stigmatizing label will be “mental illness.” Sweeping suicide into the “mental illness” dustbin allows the government to expand its ineffectual attempt to help. But, remember, government programs don’t work at the margins, and someone who’s thinking about taking their own life is well outside the government-served first standard deviation.


    So why do we keep looking to government as a suicide solution?


    • No government can offer Veterans a fair exchange on the full price of ...

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