News Flash: Compassion does not equal Pity

A little over a week ago, I posted a picture online of two gentleman sitting behind a table, staring at a computer, steeped in conversation.  It looked as though they were sitting in a living room, working on one of the gentleman’s taxes.  In actuality, I was at a bar with some friends, watching a women’s arm wrestling tournament (that’s right, I said it), these young men were the DJs and the ‘music’ they were playing was AWFUL. In all fairness, I am not sure you can really even call it music.  The sound coming out of the shitty speakers could better be described as screeching or static, with an occasional ambient track sprinkled in.  Adding to the misery, they had the volume turned up so loud so that every time the speakers would scream in pain, my amygdala was scraping at the back of my skull searching a way out of the wretchedness.

My partner is a music producer and a DJ, and a damn good one at that.  His father is an amazing guitar player, whose musical roots are steeped in jazz.  As a retired professor of Jazz Music, his father instilled S with the value of skillful practice and appreciation of music. Having honed his craft for over 20-years now, he has appeared on major music labels, toured around the country, played at countless fashion shows, art galleries and film festivals, and hosted local events showcasing talent from across the region.  In other words, he knows his shit.  On many occasions, I have heard him lament as to the lack of diligent practice, or appreciation of music as a whole, that DJs of modern day possess.   He isn’t the only one, mind you.  I have had numerous conversations with other musicians, all who have made similar observations about how so much of music today “has no soul”.

Thanks to the advancement of technology, anyone is now able to ‘produce’ music from a laptop yet, not everyone can make it sound good.  You need a sound engineer who knows what the fuck they are doing, someone who knows how to blend rhythm, melody, harmony, timbre, and pitch. A Sound Engineer works in a studio, fashioned with equipment designed to emphasize the quality of the musician and the dynamics of the piece.  Talent, or perceived talent, isn’t enough.  A true musician, like any craftsman, also practices their skill, hones their craft. Every. Fucking. Day.

As someone who has personally studied (ad nauseam) the power of music to not only bridge the divide between languages and cultures, but to shift the vibration and feelings of people, I 100% agree with their assessment.  The modern musician would be better described as a Top40 musician because it is mainstream culture and mainstream media that glorifies sex over talent and soundbites over substance.  Not every single musician lacks talent, nor every single DJ has zero understanding of how sound frequency affects our entire being.  The Top40 musician is looking to make money, rather than make euphony.  They feed the public misinformation about what music is and how it should resonate in your soul.  The ‘music’ these gentlemen were playing was not just loud, it resonated under 60 Hz which incites a fight or fight response and can fuck up the pressure in the middle ear, causing disruption in your sense of balance.  Maybe extreme agitation was the mood they were looking for, but I’m guessing they never took the time to understand the effects of sound frequency on the human brain.

Given their ignorance is allowed to run rampant through the millennial generation today, I did what any responsible and educated citizen would do and alerted my fellow following on the Book of Faces to this travesty of talent lurking about on a Friday night.  I posted their photo with a simple statement, “Gentleman, this is not DJing. #stopit #UHaveNoTalent” to which an onslaught of interesting conversation ensued.  I realize now that I probably should have not deleted it, nor the picture, so that I could share more about that here, because it would have aided in giving a better frame of reference for this dialogue, but sometimes I have this very bad habit of deleting conversations, once they have run their course, from my page to make way for something hopefully more positive, or a bit more funny, or at the very least pimptastic.  (Sue me.)

Suffice to say, the statements ranged from agreement and frustration for the continual promotion of such crappy music being played on a daily basis, to those who thought we should at least give them credit for showing up and trying, to the most poignant observation that, as someone who claims to be a Yogi, and advocating for individual’s rights to the freedom of self expression, they were appalled that I would be so judgmental of these young men.  Concluding this rant was hashtag, “#UHaveNoDharma”…which is quite possibly true.  Dharma has many varied translations or meanings from “support” to “model” to “cosmic law”.

Throughout the time I have spent studying and practicing Yoga, I have always refrained from calling myself a Yogi.  While I have tried to practice many of the guidelines Yoga recommends, I am not perfect and I think it’s awfully presumptive of one to say that they are a “Yogi” simply for practicing Yoga – most of whom only do the physical exercise and make none of the lifestyle modifications necessary to truly become “one” with the universe.  Calling oneself a “Yogi” implies that one has obtained enlightenment, and therefore can go about touting this superiority to others.  There are many people who believe they should, and do, this very thing – every day, without giving any pause to what “being a Yogi” might actually mean.

One thing I can tell you is that the precepts to enlightenment is to live in a non-violent manner towards all living beings in ALL thoughts words and actions.  It’s known as ahimsa.  The second precept is to live speak truthfully in ALL thoughts, words and actions.  It’s known as satya.  Ahimsa is the first requirement, satya is the second.  Some yoga practitioners believe that it is important to tell the truth, but it is more important to be kind.  I never took the order of these precepts as literally, but more like a “they all go together” kind of thing. And, while I always tell the truth, I am not always kind.  I do try to be compassionate, however, and kindness and compassion are not one-in-the-same.

Many people mistake kindness for compassion, they also mistake compassion for pity.  Maybe you will agree, the truth is not always kind.  Sometimes the truth is gut-wrenching, painful, and horrifying.  I don’t believe in sugar-coating the truth, or blowing sunshine up someones ass, just to stroke their fragile egos.  Just because I am compassionate does not mean I will take pity on you. I believe that it is best to get to the truth of the matter as succinctly and quickly as possible, and not just pussyfoot around the issue.  This, to me, is compassion.  Naturally, I often get this shocked and dismayed reaction from people when I choose this route.

If I am being compassionate, I believe that means empowering someone to be a better version of themselves than they are right now.  That means I can’t lie and say what you are doing is great, if it really sucks ass.  If there is a willingness to show up and learn how to become better, then by all means let’s celebrate and build upon that.  That’s different than giving someone an “A” for effort just because they showed up, yet made ZERO effort.  By buying into that whole “everyone deserves a ribbon” bullshit theory, then I am not serving your highest purpose to become better, am I?  I think I am just setting the other person up for utter failure because no one taught that person how to fail to begin with.  It’s like teaching someone how to do inversions without ever teaching them how to fall.  That implies we will never fall, we will never fail, and we will never suck at anything.  That is a level of denial that I am just not willing to embrace.  Call me an asshole if you want, but I’ve experienced first-hand where that gets you and it usually is at the bottom of the hole of a depression that is hard-as-hell to dig out of.

From my viewpoint, telling you what you want to hear, means I am playing to your bruised ego and that, to me, means I am taking pity on you because I don’t think you can handle the truth.  If I take pity on you, then I am not being compassionate, because I have given up on you becoming a better version of yourself.  I get really tired of the idea that “living compassionately” involves believing in rainbows and unicorns and I should be “nicey-nice” all of the time.  While compassion and pity are related, they are not the same.  If these gentleman had shown up, or at the very least STOOD UP on their feet, interacted with the crowd, or looked like they gave the slightest shit about what they were doing, they would deserve my understanding that while the music wasn’t what I would have preferred, I know they are still learning and growing, but they are doing the work that it takes to get there.  That is me being compassionate.

If you show up, do absolutely nothing, and call yourself something you’re clearly not means that you are not being truthful about the level of craft and skill it takes to mix and produce music, I will not take pity on you, and I will not give you a gold star because your ego is too fragile to admit you didn’t really show up to begin with.  Maybe that makes me a “bad yogi”, but I do not believe that compassion equals pity, and I do not believe that lying to you will best serve your time or mine in improving upon the lives of others.

Hugs and kisses,