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What We Can All Learn from This Man Who Plays The Harmonica

3 . 02 . 2018

My bean and I were crossing the streets in Berkeley as anyone would, except we were gasping at how wide the streets are here compared to downtown SF, how it’s so nice to take a breather in a different city, and how the city looked so quirky!

Yeap, definitely quirky.

The tunes of a harmonica brought us to a crossroad. Bean really wanted to listen to the harmonica so we ended up stopping here longer than we initially intended. We waited for the guy before us to drop his donations before bean dropped his in this old man’s little hat. The donations sunk comfortably in a bed of silky brown handkerchief nesting in it as I took a mischievous peek at it.

A little context: I’m guessing we were one of the few that actually stood there for a good three minutes when he wasn’t even playing, until he flashed us with a wide, toothy grin.

Basking in the warm California sun, the sun worked in our favor to amplify our sensory experience and made everything we looked at infinitely brighter than it might have seemed to us otherwise. The one thing it didn’t alter was the essence of this man’s words:

“I’ve stood here for so many days and years, and most of what I saw was people rushing from one place to another. Their heads are always down, always rushing to the next appointment, the next thing to do. They get so disturbed by these and forget to slow down.

If you slice up time in nanobits, because it’s a symbol, it’s an icon, an eternity – there’s no sustain of time. This is an eternal moment; we’re all divine beings. But, I’ll tell you a story about the Buddha.

So the Buddha went through all these trials and tribulations to become enlightened. He decided, after all these things, you know, practically starving to death, he said, “I’m gonna sit under the Bodhi tree and I’m not gonna get up until I become enlightened. Eventually, Buddha becomes enlightened. And the first words out of Buddha’s mouth — he started giggling, he started laughing. His disciples gathered around and they said, “Oh Buddha, why are you giggling? Why are you laughing?”, and he said, “I realized, I was already enlightened!”

So, you’re already God; you’re already enlightened. I have this Jewish comedian voice, “So, what’s the problem?”

The problem is – we’re divine beings, but we have to work on it. I use music and art and I study philosophy to get in touch with my heart and soul, but everybody has something – find something that they love to do. It’ll open up your heart and soul, you’ll make that divine connection and you’ll find out that you are, like I said, we’re spiritual beings in physical bodies, and we’re already enlightened — we’re all already one with God. So, the problem is, why are we living in heaven? Because you have to work on this, like a job. It’s the beginning. And this passes on because it’s in my mind, I’m working on it everyday and when I play, I forget about problems and worries and I just get in the moment. The harmonica is like yoga because you’re observing your breath. With that breath, you can make an infinite number of melodies, songs, or what they call, riffs. This is something I made up playing here. It’s like, I don’t know what it is – it’s kind of Scottish, Irish? I don’t know. It’s something I made up while I was playing here.

*starts playing song*

Something like this.

While I’m standing around making up stuff, it’s a blessing. It means more to me than anything, it means more than all the money that something had when you listen. Because when you listen, you make me play better.

There’s like a mystical spiritual thing that, you’re part of the creative process, and it’s like what the Blue’s musician, Howlin’ Wolf said, “If there were no audience, there will be no Howlin’ Wolf”. If they weren’t people like yourself, I could play in my closet, but I get bored. I mean, when you reach a certain level you have to share it. You must share it. Because otherwise, it’s like gold. You’re holding it – it needs to be shared with the rest of the world.

“Can I ask you one question? When you play, do you remember it after?”

Oh yeah, I turn 77 in December, I’m developing a photographic memory. Well, I’ve used my brain for years and years and years, so you develop the brain cells. It’s like Ray Charles says about your voice, “USE IT OR LOSE IT”. In other words, if you have a brain, use it.

Use it creatively.”

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