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Solomon Burke and Me in 1983

The legendary soul singer,  Solomon Burke, died on October 10, 2010. The King was on his way to a gig in Amsterdam.

I had the blessed fortune of working with King Solomon in 1983, remixing a live album of his for Rounder Records, called “Soul Alive.” Of all the unique characters I got to work with in my years in the music biz, Mr. Burke was one of my favorite. Solomon told me that he had a Cadillac, a girl friend, a child, and a church in every city of America. He would land at the airport in, let’s say, Chattanooga, Tennessee, and his car and woman would be waiting for him.

Solomon’s gigs were made up of endless medleys interspersed with his personal brand of sermon. The King’s philosophy, at its heart, could be summed up in one word. He told us that the word love was overused these days, as he purred in his rich baritone, “I love you. I love you. I LOVE you.” You could feel the women in the audience sweat. But though the King truly walked his talk by siring at least 21 children, he was something of a feminist.

“And if he doesn’t love the child you had with another man, don’t give him none!” he would shout to the hot squeals of the women in the audience. “You don’t need a man to sign your welfare check for you!”

The big guy and I had lots of fun together in the studio. He had a great sense of humor. But I learned later on that it was not a good idea to mess with the King.

In the late 1980’s I worked with Paul Shaffer of David Letterman fame on a song called, “What is Soul.” The song was co-written and produced by Shaffer, the god-like Steve Cropper, original guitar-playing member of the Memphis Stax rhythm section sometimes known as Booker-T and the MG’s and writer of such timeless classics as Sittin’ On the Dock of the Bay,

and Don Covay, another immortal soul-cat who wrote Aretha Franklin’s super-funky hit, “Chain of Fools.”

Covay would come into the studio each and every time and grab me by the shoulders, look me in th eyes and say, “Glenn? Are we goin to make history today?”

I would say yes, and then he’d say, “Then I’m ready. Let’s make a hit record.”

Shaffer’s idea for the record, which would be a part of his album, “Coast to Coast,” was to reassemble the “Soul Clan.” In the early 1960’s, Atlantic Records, headed by the R and B loving Turk, Ahmet Ertegun, were making the hottest soul records in the nation. A group of the extraordinary singing and writing talents from that label came together in 1968 and cut one single. Circumstances led to the almost immediate dissolution of this holy grail of supergroups and aficionados of soul tried for decades to reunite these players. Shaffer, Cropper, and Covay had almost managed to do it. On this one record appeared the original surviving members Covay and Ben E. King of “Stand By Me” fame (check out the beautiful and departed River Phoenix in this clip),

along with Wilson Pickett who performed such hits as the seminal “In the Midnight Hour,”co-wrote with Cropper.

All that was missing was the King himself. (Otis Redding, who sang “Dock of the Bay,” and Joe Tex, of “Skinny Legs and All,” fame, were dead.)

Shaffer got Burke on the phone. We were psyched. But the reunion second only to the Beatles was not to be. Burke told Paul that not only would he not sing on the song, “What is Soul,” but that he had written it, (He hadn’t. Shaffer, Cropper and Covay had.) and if Shaffer insisted on putting it out, he would sue! Alas. You gotta love it.

The moral of the story is, you can’t go back. In Cropper’s day, you’d write a song in a few hours at night, cut the A side from 10 in the morning till lunch, take a break, do a little blues jam for a B side, that might turn into “Green Onions,” press the record, stick a $20 dollar bill in the sleeve, bring it over to the local radio station, and in 24 hours you’d know if you had a hit. (Notice on this clip that this hit-machine of a combo was all the more extraordinary in the Memphis of the mid-60’s for having white and black guys in the same band.)

Shaffer’s record was ruined by the taste-deaf record company execs who kept demanding changes to make it marketable. Over-produced, we worked on it for months. At one point, in rageful frustration, Wilson Pickett screamed, “You pluckin’! You chicken pluckin’ now!”

You can’t go back. Isn’t that what the sweet pain in art is all about? The King is dead and the soul clan will never be reunited. This moment in American musical history is no more. But I get to hold onto these memories. And Solomon Burke, with songs like, “Everybody Needs Somebody to Love,” (and in Solomon’s case, it should have had the sub-title, “And I’m Available”) and his 21 children, 90 grandchildren and 19 great-grandchildren, truly leaves behind a legacy that will long endure.

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I never had a dog and never wanted one. Until yesterday.

Two days ago, I got a call from Mickey, an old psychotherapy client of mine. He asked if he could come in and see me. I agreed, knowing something was wrong. Had he broken up with his boyfriend? Did his elderly aunt finally die? I didn’t think about it too much. I’d know soon enough. When he came in the next morning, it was good to see him, but I could tell that his mood was somber. He carried a small plastic bag. He removed a photograph. The photo was of my client, his boyfriend, and a nice looking pooch. I knew the dog was dead. Mickey said, “It’s been so hard,” and gripped his heart with his hand. Then he told me Sandy’s story. (more…)

My favorite joke of the week. I guess there a few other people who like it, too.

In the culminating vision of the Sage, Mencius, heart, the Heavenly Mandate, and flood-like ch’i are combined with the Tao, or the Way. One accomplishes an alignment with the Heavenly Mandate, or universal law, by manifesting the heart, the faculty of goodness, resulting in flood-like ch’i or fully embodied vitality and courage. The method for living in such alignment is called the Tao, or Way. To quote from “On the Practice of the Mean,” one of the four canonized books of Chinese wisdom, “by ‘the ‘Way’ we mean that path which is in conformance with the intrinsic nature of man and things.”  By following the Tao, or Way, we achieve the moral life by living in accordance with natural principles and we become the profound person. We achieve jen, or authentic human-ness.

It is in the natural order of the universe to have manifested a compassionate heart in humankind. We are also given the faculty of cultivating ourselves. What this means is that we can advance our own evolution. By developing ourselves, we participate in the perfecting of nature. The purpose, telos, or entelechy of the universe is love, where love is the ultimate realization of compassion and harmonic relationship. We are each given a capacity for goodness through our inherent compassion and it is our task to develop this capacity optimally in order to play our part in the realization of the universe. Cultivating the compassionate heart is fulfilling the mandate of heaven. This is what it means to live according to the Tao. As the furthest extension of universal development, humankind finds its optimal harmony with the purpose of the universe when we self-cultivate toward the realization of heart.

We come to an alignment with heart through living according to the Tao. The Tao is the heart in time. The heart is the Tao in us. The heart is the faculty that can comprehend and practice living according to the Way.

When we live according to universal principle, our inner conflict ends: what we should do finds harmony with what we want to do. As Mencius put it,

“The profound person steeps himself in the Way because he wishes to find it in himself. When he finds it in himself, he will be at ease in it; when he is at ease in it, he can draw deeply upon it; when he can draw deeply upon it, he finds its source wherever he turns. That is why a profound person wishes to find the Way in himself.”

In this sense, to develop morally is not to learn moral rules, though these provide a framework for the real learning. Instead, we want to cultivate our hearts, the capacity for knowing right from wrong within. In this way we do not obediently follow some rule imposed from without, but intrinsically do the right thing in any circumstance, as the circumstance dictates.  As Confucius put it, “The profound person, in the world, does not set his mind either for anything, or against anything; what is right he will follow.”

Self-cultivation, or the process of developing our human potentials, is accomplished by living according to the Tao. It is through the realization of our human potentials that we embody the Heavenly Mandate, or universal principle. This embodiment of universal principle is our purpose, what we are meant to be, or our entelechy. The full realization of our potentials is to fulfill our human nature and is the way we come to know the universal law. The full manifestation of our human nature, which is an embodiment of universal principle, is compassion. Compassion is the purpose of the universe. To realize loving compassion is to manifest the entelechy of the universe. When we manifest the potential of the universe, we are at one with the energy of the universe.

For the Confucians, we get “close enough” to the Tao by having optimal relationships in each domain of being. We cultivate these relationships by developing our empathy through practicing the virtues of benevolence, respect, and compassion and we do this by accessing the heart.

The Confucian conception of the personal heart and its interconnection to all other hearts, the heart of the universe and the transcendent spiritual heart, is best explicated in the monumental work, “The Highest Order of Cultivation.” Here is my interpretation of the core of this text.

•    Only once one has an embodied experience of the interconnectedness of all, can one integrate all aspects of the psyche, leading to integration and wholeness; where the parts of the self exist in cooperative relation.

•    Only when we are whole can the potentials of the heart be realized. Only when we are whole can we realize our potentials for perceiving, thinking, feeling, imagining, acting and connecting.

•    Only when we have realized our potentials do we manifest virtuous moral being. Only when we have manifested virtuous moral centeredness can we put our relationships right, having harmonious relationships, meeting the needs of our partners and growing optimally.

•    Only when we can put our relationships right can we have happy, good children and flourishing families.

•    Only when we have balanced families can society be at peace and harmony.

•    Only when society is in order are we living according to the Heavenly Mandate, or the laws of the universe.

•    By cultivating ourselves, we fulfill the purpose of the universe.

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In a medieval town in Umbria, a maker of spectacular Italian clothes is attempting to run his company from humanistic values derived from the wisdom of the ages. I highly recommend a visit to Brunello Cuccinelli’s website. You can also read his profile in The New Yorker by Rebecca Mead.

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Dr. Frank Lipman, a wonderful holistic doctor and author has a great web site with terrific resources for health and wellness. Here’s the link.

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How do we get all that we want in life? There is a philosophy of success in life that has been understood by the wise since the dawn of human thought. This is the philosophy of heart. This hidden wisdom can be found everywhere if you know where to look and what to look for. It is in the patterns of nature. It can be found in the great works of art, myth and philosophy. We can see it in every person we meet. Most significantly, it is within you. What this hidden wisdom tells us is that there are universal laws that pervade all of existence. When we understand these laws and live in accordance with them, we can get all that we want in life. When we live out of harmony with these laws, then we have problems in our lives. These laws are the laws of growth and harmony.

The law of growth tells us that everything that lives has an ultimate purpose. This is a reflection of a universal movement toward perfect realization, or love. It is our task as human beings to discover our essential nature, that which we are meant to be, and to do what we can to actualize that nature. In so doing, we help the universe to grow toward its perfection.

The law of harmony tells us that all things in the universe have their proper relation. In order for us to have all we want in life, we need to have harmony within ourselves, with others, and with all of nature.

When we live according to the laws of growth and harmony, we not only get what we want in life, but we find true peace, happiness and fulfillment.

The Five Potentials

How do we live in accord with these universal laws? We need to fulfill the five potentials. The five basic human potentials are for thinking, feeling, imagining, acting and connecting. When we cultivate these five potentials, we become wise, passionate, creative, strong and loving. When we realize these virtues we have clarity, purpose, confidence, courage, stamina, and goodness. These are the qualities we need to get all that we want in life. These are the qualities of the heart.

The Four Listenings

In order to cultivate the five potentials, we need to transcend the conditionings of our past, live fully in the present, and imagine the best possible future.

In order to accomplish the great task requires devotion. We must devote ourselves to daily work on the four listenings. In order to become all that we want to be and get all we want in life, whether it is the best body, the greatest abundance and wealth, or the deepest sex, we need to learn how to listen.

The first listening is listening to yourself. You must learn how to introspect. If you go within and find your heart, you will discover the source of guidance toward the good. By listening to your body, you will access your emotions which inspire and motivate us. You will discover the source of universal energy and power within you. You will discover your imagination, which is the source of the vision that creates your future.

The second listening is listening to nature. By listening to nature we discover the laws of the universe all around us. We see the patterns of harmony that lead to endless fruitfulness. When we penetrate the true secrets of nature and discover the principles of growth and harmony we find perpetual, sustainable, unlimited energy and abundant manifestation that is for the good of all.

The third listening is listening to culture. When we encounter the works of the mystic, seer, philosopher, poet or artist; when we read fairy tales or watch movies; when we visit the great buildings of Chartres or New York; when we follow the works of the great scientists and technologists, we listen to the story of the great before us who have traveled the journey of the heart. Their story is our story, as each one of us in our unique way “dreams the myth onward.” By listening to culture we gain from the experience of all those who have blazed the great path before us.

The fourth listening is listening to others. By working on our connection skills, and learning how to truly listen to all those we encounter, especially those we are most intimate with, we find our greatest place of growth. Each authentic encounter gives us the opportunity to expand ourselves and become more of all that we are meant to be. All rightness in the universe depends on the growth and harmony of our personal relationships.

The means for finding our hearts is to devote ourselves to the four listenings. Through this daily work we realize the five potentials. By realizing the five potentials, we have everything we need to get everything we want in life. Having your best possible body, being a success in work, and having great sex are simply the byproducts of self-love, confidence, courage, and the realization of our capacity for love and authentic intimacy. This is what we manifest when we cultivate our hearts by living in accord with the universal laws of growth and harmony. By finding our hearts, we achieve true peace, happiness and fulfillment. That’s what we really want, isn’t it?

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