Daniel Miller

The First Two Things I Read This Morning

Entering the Dark Wood

The mystics of all the great religions, along with classic literature like Homer’s Odyssey, intuited that life was a journey involving completion of a first half and transition to a second half, sometimes called “a further journey.”

Dante describes the human experience: “In the middle of life, I found myself in a dark wood.” If you’re letting life happen to you, you will be led to the dark wood where you have to ask: “What does it all mean? Why am I doing this? Why don’t I feel fully alive or that my life has meaning? What am I doing wrong?”

I think at this point the author (Richard Rohr) is suggesting that “letting life happen to you” is a positive, the way life should unfold. It just dawned on me on a second reading that many Americans, at least, might consider that a negative.

It is only by a foundational trust in the midst of suffering, some ability to bear darkness and uncertainty, and learning to be comfortable with paradox and mystery, that you move from the first half of life to the second half.

Novelist Robertson Davies wrote, “One always learns one’s mystery at the price of one’s innocence.” …The innocent one hasn’t yet learned from his or her wounds, and therefore doesn’t know his or her full reality yet. Human life only develops in the shadowlands, never inside of pure light or total darkness.

…If you only move from success to success, or you never live in solidarity with the suffering of others, you normally know very little about your own soul.

Then as it was / Then again it will be…

I met him twenty years ago. I spent a decade getting to know him, musically and personally. Ten years ago today, those of us who loved him were forced to say goodbye.

I’ve spent the last decade missing him, and not a single day has passed that I haven’t thought of him, or felt his influence. He’s there, in the music I listen to, in the music I write and record, in the choices I make onstage, he’s always hovering. “What would Carter do?” That’s a thing. I actually ask myself that…a lot. I just wish I listened to that voice more often.

I remember the last time I saw him. We were recording (what, unbeknownst to us, was) the final Sorta album at Tomcast. We sat on the couches between takes, chatting and playing guitars. He showed me the unusual open tuning for his song “Country Living”, which he had just recorded for his upcoming album.

I wrote this song, “Always In Awe”, the day he died. It’s in the same tuning as “Country Living”, the chords and melody are directly inspired by it…it’s a tribute to him, but also a musical homage.

You should go buy Carter’s record Jesus Is Alive (And Living In London) (Amazon / Apple).

Chris would later re-work some of the lyrics of Always in Awe for Margot’s memorial service and the Memorial record.

I last saw Carter as we passed outside of Salim’s studio. I was coming out of a session and Carter was headed into one of his sessions for Jesus Is Alive.

I’ve had a little time to breathe this long weekend. And in that space has been the opportunity to reconnect to a spiritually most frequently accessible through art. Life has been so hectic for the last half decade (at least). Co-founding a startup, joining another startup, starting a coding education initiative, two more children. Opportunities to connect to something greater than myself, or even connect to my own experiences that allow me to “learn from my wounds, and therefore know my full reality”, are rare. But as I age, I realize in an increasingly acute way how important those moments are.

And “knowing my full reality” is important for all those aspects of my life. When I think about those people I most respect, especially in business and technology, they are those who seem most connected to a larger reality, who have a broader perspective on what are uncommon aspects of humans learning to work together.

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