My friends. I am truly saddened today at the news of death yesterday, June 21st of this beautiful being who taught us that 'we are not alone, we are not so utterly special, we are not so wise!' She opened my eyes and heart twenty-five years ago when first I learned of her. If you do not know about Koko, watch the video included here of her absolutely compassionate, tender interactions with the actor Robin Williams. They were good friends. We have lost an ambassador for the rest of the planet. I remember her signing once that humans are 'very stupid' while still having such compassion for us! What an advanced, enlightened being she was!! No doubt she will return in some form quite soon.
Song for Koko
Some Thoughts on My Life
We’re All Different: Musician Glenn Copeland on his journey as a
Black, Buddhist, transgender artist
An interview by John Negru published in Lion's Roar, an online magazine March 31, 2018
“The message of my Buddhist practice is, ‘Be courageous. You are exactly what is wanted. We’re all different,'” says Glenn Copeland musician and composer Glenn Copeland. John Harvey Negru talks to Copeland about his life as a pioneer in music, his fourty-four years of Buddhist practice in the Soka Gakkai tradition, and his mission for the future.
If you haven’t heard of Glenn Copeland, one of Canada’s musical greats, you’re missing a bodhisattva in our midst.
Those of a certain age likely saw him perform for decades in a different incarnation on CBC’s Mr. Dressup. You’ve likely also heard the children’s music he wrote and performed on Sesame Street, Shining Time Station, and the Treehouse Network. If you’re an aficionado of Canadian jazz, you may also be familiar with his more recent work, which is infused with world beats and sonic mystery.
As a Black, Buddhist, transgender pioneer in his field, Copeland seems to have lived many lifetimes worth of achievements in his 74 years. Today, he quietly plies his trade in the relative obscurity of Sackville, New Brunswick.
I spoke with Copeland about his life’s journey and his forty-four years as a practitioner of Nichiren Buddhism with Soka Gakkai International (SGI). Here is some of the conversation that ensued.
Not much to say here friends.
A perfect winter day, blowing hard from the north, the skies grey white.
Reminded me of this song written so many years ago.
'Courage' is part of a work of ten related songs (also known as a songcycle) called 'The Misa'a Tapestry.' It is for choir, soloists, orchestra, and other instruments.
It has been a particularly difficult time in the world these last weeks, at least for me. News continues to pour in with increasing force from all fronts where individuals, groups, nations are struggling with the accelerating spin towards fracture.
I wonder...how can I hold optimism, and actualize my concerns with 'hands on' work? Some days...easy. Most days I can remember my 'vow' and move forward with courage and determination. Some days...not. I hold my head in my hands, and weep.
This song was written to honour the approximately 12,000 Acadians who were deported 'en masse' from New Brunswick in the 18th century. Families were torn apart and shipped out to the Louisiana Territory, most never to be reunited. One third of those deported died en route.
Same thing, other places, still happening.
It is of interest to note, the Acadians of New Brunswick have thrived. Their culture represents some of the most forward thinking, culturally rich aspects of New Brunswick.
Courage, mes ami. Courage, my friends. First and foremost...courage.
Music and lyrics: B. Glenn Copeland © SOCAN 2014
Courage, my friends
With hope we can move forward
Courage, my friends
With love let us live.
Lift our hearts
Lift our hearts
Hope...lift our hearts.
In 1973 while living in Montreal, my closest and dearest friend, Sharon Klein, dropped by to wish me well as I was soon to leave for California for what I imagined to be an extended period of time. As a parting gift I gave her a hand knitted black shawl and knee length soft skin moccasins. We exchanged hugs at the end of the visit, and my last memory was of her walking away in the moccasins with the shawl clasped lovingly around her shoulders. The very next day she was dead from a sudden, massive coronary at the age of 26.
Years later, thirteen to be exact, I woke from a dream with this song fully written. In the dream my dear friend was walking along a broad dirt path through beautiful countryside. To the right were fields of brightly coloured flowers. On the left, hills rose up. Many of us were walking, together, laughing and playing - good friends all. We were very happy. It was a glorious day. I noticed that Sharon was walking and talking with just one person, gradually getting further and further ahead. Leaving us behind really.
This is the music with the message she sent me in this dream.
Gone now for almost 45 years, she remains in my heart and daily prayers. Sometimes I look at those with whom I have since made deep bonds who are younger. And I wonder....is that you, Sharon?
You know you know
This song is a snap shot of what gave me hope about myself, and what pained me.
While I have always been an optimistic person of good cheer, the voice of doubt nevertheless sometimes sent out loud messages to keep me 'real' and focused. Then, of course, the voice of 'relax, your doing just fine, you're figuring life out' would counter, and encourage me.
I suppose that is the great balancing act that encourages us to love ourselves while discovering and attending to what needs shoring up.
I worked as a co-counselor in a psychotherapy practice for almost ten years during the late 80's and 90's. I noted that both voices seem to sit one upon each of our shoulders. For most of us, both voices want the best for us. But the critic can be very harsh in its approach, depending upon the individual.
Well, anyway I've survived my critic thus far!!
May you all survive yours. And may your 'cheering section' cheer you on eternally, my friends.
Colour of Anyhow
The young me is looking out, directly at the world. But either the world is veiled, or I am, somehow.
What a complicated internal and external reality I inhabited then. How difficult is was to just be myself. Years spent being partials ... a bit of me here at this time, a bit of me there at another. Youth. Pain. Yet, still somehow, optimistic and quiet within.
I thank the young me for having the fortitude to see me through to the old me. She knew then. He knows now.
Suffering the loss of a loved one is part of life. We all know it. Makes no difference though, when loss comes to call as it did for me in 1998. Suddenly, and totally unexpectedly, my beloved was gone, gone, gone.
I wrote this song ,which still today, happy as I am, startles me with the depths of its painful reflections.
The good news is...I lived through it, learned from it, made a subsequent mistake because of my assumptions about having healed from it, then really healed and found 'the perfect one' waiting for me. She was waiting for me to go through all of that, and emerge more whole, and more able to love.
'Aint it the way!
We walk our path, stumble, get up, and finally look back one day in deepest appreciation for having been able to rise wiser, and perhaps more beautifully adorned by our scars.