The coolest person I ever knew passed away on June 16th, 2023 at the age of 51. He was Danny, my brother (in-law). His wife, my sister, organized a celebration of life with live music by his ex-bandmates, playing songs he wrote. People shared memories and afterward, everyone enjoyed feeling the energy of his music which, to me, served as a reminder that though we leave this world, the vibrations that our energy creates continue to reverberate through space and time and that some small energetic part of us remains through the things we create and the people we touch.
I tried, rather poorly, to express some thoughts about this at Danny’s celebration of life and this short reflection is an attempt to express them a bit more eloquently. I know that nothing I say or write can be much comfort to anyone, other than perhaps, myself, but I share it to record what gives me some small comfort.
In my line of work, I think a lot about the question, “what is art?” The definition I’ve settled on is this:
Art is the ultimate expression of the insatiable human hunger to create. Its purpose is to serve as a medium of transmission that enables humans to send inspiration and energy to one another across space and time.
To listen to Mozart or to read Homer’s Odyssey, and to connect with the energy - with the mind - of a person who lived hundreds, or even thousands of years in the past - well - it’s not almost magic. It is magic. It is literally to forge an internal connection with another human’s ideas, to have a meeting of the minds across space and time.
The current most accurate scientific theory of how the universe works is quantum field theory . Without delving into that topic, I’ll grossly simplify and say, according to quantum field theory, all of reality is nothing more than vibrations in quantum fields. We (and everything else) are literally nothing more than these energetic vibrations. Perhaps due to this underlying vibrational reality, it seems, to me, that in many ways music, itself made up of vibrations, serves as the purest art form of transmission of this human vibrational energy.
And, as I sit here, thinking of my beloved brother-in-law, Danny, listening to the music that he wrote for his old band, Beef Jerky, I receive his energy. And, as I absorb the “offbeats of Danny” (he was the drummer) and receive this energy, it occurs to me that Danny lived in the truest spiritual sense.
So many of us today are biologically alive but don't truly live. We don't chase our dreams. We don't pursue the things that deeply motivate us. We don't follow the path that God has clearly placed in our hearts. We don’t even enjoy the infinite miraculous present moments we are presented with each day. Instead, we are the walking dead.
Not Danny though. Danny pursued the creative callings of his heart. He listened to that insatiable human hunger to create, placed there by the divine. He didn’t drown it out with the frivolous distractions of modernity, like most of us do. He didn’t give up on his passions. He didn’t ever take a job he hated to pay the bills, but he always creatively found a path to allow his passions to come first in a way that, as a side effect, paid the bills. That is a path in today’s world that requires conviction and courage. And because of that, it seems, to me, that Danny lived more in his 51 years than many people, some far older, for Danny was truly an artist, a musician, in the noblest sense of the word.
He lived as an artist in a modern world increasingly devoid of art. He pursued beauty in a world that eschews the beautiful and is obsessed with only the rational. Danny wouldn't have worded it this way, but to live, as he did, one must pursue the irrational. The illogical. The mystical. And, indeed, the spiritual. He did that. He did not waste the life he was gifted.
To live that way, you must connect with your soul. There's a reason we are moved by "soul" music and Danny's music did that for us. And thus he lived: he made music. He brought Joy to the world. It doesn't matter if an artist has a wall of platinum records, a regional following, an audience of one, or even an audience of none. For to create art from your soul, and to follow your passion is a noble thing that brings joy to other human beings. It reminds us that we are all connected.
Our art is a small piece of our soul that lives on and continues to connect with others. Beef Jerky (the band) called it “Soul Power.” What more could anyone ask for out of life but to bring joy to humanity while doing the very thing brings joy to oneself? For that, to me, must be the purpose of life - to live joyfully, to listen to that divine voice, and thus to bring joy to others.
That was something that struck me at Danny’s celebration of life - so many people, whom I’d rarely or never met, shared with me what Danny had meant to them. How he had inspired them. How he had pushed them to become better. That was the main theme I heard was that Danny made them better - better at their craft, better at their music, better as people. Danny made me better too, for the same reasons. He continues to make me better.
Danny’s calling was clearly making music - that sweet vibrational music that connects us to the Divine vibration.
I love you, Danny, my brother-in-law who became my true brother. And, until we all merge into God's divine grace from whence we came, I miss you.
And for now, I have your music - a direct connection with you, and by extension, all music as an indirect connection that we share. In the future, when I’m moved to tears by a piece of music, or when I’m banging my head, or when I’m dancing in the kitchen, or when I’m just simply listening to music with a glass of wine, I will take just a moment, and listen carefully.....I know that, hidden within the melody, within the rhythms that Danny loved so much, I’ll hear my brother’s divine whisper telling me to do as he did, and live. And I will listen to him and through that vibrational energy, that whisper, Danny will continue to make me a better person.
“You never meet the people. You never shake their hands. You never hear their story or tell yours. But somehow, in the act of making something with a great deal of care and love, something’s transmitted there. And it’s a way of expressing to the rest of our species our deep appreciation. So we need to be true to who we are and remember what’s really important to us."
- Steve Jobs
1. My (long) missive involving quantum mechanics and why I think the latest science points to all of us existing both alive and deceased in alternate realms is available at Dreaming of Infinite Quantum Lilies. It is likely (and I am hopeful) though Danny is no longer playing drums in this universe, he is in another and science, increasingly, seems to support that view.