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June 2012

The downside

Over these past few years, the ideas discussed on this blog and on the podcast about absconding and authentic living have been at least somewhat consistent.  But these past few weeks, I've been visiting my family in the US and it occurred to me that I might have overlooked something quite important.

The overwhelming majority of people don't want to live a more authentic life.  They don't want to fully express and fully realize their uniqueness as individuals.  The fact is, we are more than just individuals...we are all members of various groups.  We are citizens of a country, members of a family, employees of a company, and residents of a community.  Conformity and belonging have very real advantages.  Expressing authenticity can sometimes be problematic because then it becomes difficult for a community of conformists to accept you. 

In this corporate, branded, personalized world, few people would openly admit that they are conformists.   Americans, for example, like to think of themselves as a culture of individualists.  This is true to the extent that Americans would rather do things for themselves than ask for help or work together.  But, when you consider ways of thinking, ideas, values, and beliefs, Americans are very conformist.  For the most part, people think and act in ways consistent with their culture, community, and groups.  People define themselves as members of a certain demographic, supporters of a specific political or religious movement, as fans of a specific type of content, or as residents of a specific neighborhood.  People define themselves by their career, level of education, the way they dress, or the car they drive.  None of this has anything to do with authentic living.  None of this has anything to do with fully expressing the unique genetic mutations we all are.  These are only ways of describing how you choose to conform. 

For most of my life, I have had deep problems with conformity and belonging.  But there are times when I look at how most people seem so good at belonging, how they seem to perfectly fit their positions in life, and sometimes I question my ideas about seeking and expressing uniqueness.  On the surface, everything seems easy when you fit-in.  People know exactly what to expect from you and they pretty much get it.  Most of us, from the earliest age, just want to be popular.  We just want to belong.

Perhaps if you are good at belonging and if you find it natural and easy, then this is the life path for you.  Who am I to say that you'd be happier, that your life would be richer, that you would realize the purpose and meaning of your life if you were to begin seeking a more authentic life?  This is not for me to say because maybe I'm different from you.

In my life, I have always found it possible, but extremely difficult, to belong.  I certainly know how to fit-in.  I absolutely believe in being appropriate in a setting or situation.  But, when I have any real choice  in the matter (my free time, etc.), I'd much rather be real, honest, and authentic.  Because I find it so difficult and unpleasant to be fake and conform, I'd just rather be myself to the extent that it is allowed.  If I'm judged harshly, shunned by a group, or lose a friend just for being myself and living according to what my experience and intuition tells me is right...then this is a price I'm willing to pay for the happiness and meaning I've found on this path of unique experience and self-discovery. But maybe you don't find it difficult to fit-in.  Maybe you get great joy from belonging, from being popular, and from being accepted by the the larger community. 

Everything I do as Abscondo is talking to just one part of you.  Maybe that part only exists in some of you or maybe everyone feels like I do to some extent...I don't know.  But I'm talking to that part of you that finds it hard to belong to a world that sometimes seems insane.  My thoughts and ideas have to do with that part of your soul that screams out in situations in which you are stifled by the crowd, limited by your family, judged by your friends, and questioned by society in general.  If this is how you sometimes feel, then I think you'll find some of what I'm saying interesting.

Posted by Mark Manney (mark.manney@infobeing.com).

New songs? Old songs? What are we up to?

Recording and releasing music has always been a solitary experience for me.  For for than 5 years now I have been writing and recording songs at home on my laptop.  I'd play pretty much all of the instruments myself, mix everything, and release it via Creative Commons. 

But by the end of 2011, after my free release of the album Victory in a Landlocked Sea, I realized that I had probably come to the end of this phase of my musical journey.  Quite simply, the songs on this album were written for a band.  The songs were recorded pretty much as if they were played by a 5-piece band...but it was a band that, unfortunately, didn't exist!  I wanted to hear these songs in reality, in a moment, in a performance.  I wanted these songs to come alive.

So on January 2nd, 2012, I started the long, sometimes frustrating but mostly rewarding process of putting together a band.  It certainly isn't easy to start a band from nothing, but if you can meet just one right person then the rest of it starts to fall into place.   The truth is I got lucky when I met these guys.

The Abscondo band has been playing together for about three months and, during this short time, it became obvious to all of us during our rehearsals that the songs which I thought were finished are now dramatically improved.  This shouldn't have been a surprise, as each of the 4 other members of this band are truly remarkable musicians, but we faced a dilema.  

What do we do with these new, improved versions of songs that have already been made public?  The band have made an interesting and unusual decision to record an album that is made up mostly of previously recorded Abscondo material.  Last week, we went into a studio in Kosice to record with Robert Tkac.  We started by recording two singles -- Strangled Into Gray and Thunder.  What came out of these sessions surprised even us and we can't wait to let you hear these tracks.  We have plans to release these singles properly so that our Internet (and hopefully radio) audience can hear what this band actually sounds like!  Then we will move on to recording additional tracks to complete our album by the end of the year.

The new album will consist of the remade version of the one song from the Midnight Snow album (Strangled Into Gray), Thunder (which is a song I actually never recorded properly until last week), several tracks from the Victory in a Landlocked Sea album, and maybe even one or two new ones.  The only goal we have is to put together the best album we possibly can.  It doesn't matter whether or not the songs are new or a few years old...what matters is the complete song and we believe that, with this band, the songs really are new.  Anyway, we hope the outcome will be as interesting to you as it is to us.

Here's a few shots from our recording session:

IMG_8610
IMG_8623

Posted by Mark Manney (mark.manney@infobeing.com).

I think I'll start a bank

I think I'll start a bank.  I'll call it the Abscondo Bank.  I'll make you some promises and then I'll gladly accept your deposits (take your money) with a smile.  Then I'll buy a few private jets, maybe a few hotels, of course I'll throw some extravagant parties, and eventually I'll buy a few mansions.  You'll respect me, envy me, and you'll also tell yourself that I'm smart and I must deserve it.  Oh, then I'll also gamble your money away on some really risky investments.  Finally, I'll buy a few politicians because, you know, you have to plan for the future.

One day when the money starts to run out, when my spending gets too far out-of-control, and when my bad investments catch-up with me, then I'll just go to those politicians I bought.  They'll help me out.  After all, nobody wants you to realize how you've been screwed.  If you realize what I'm up to, this whole system will collapse.  Then how will I exploit you?  So, when I start to run into problems, of course the politicians will hand over some of that other money of yours...you know, the money you unquestioningly pay to the government through taxes.  I'll use that money to prop-up my ponzi scheme just a bit longer.  We'll call it a bail-out.  They'll tell you the bail-out is necessary to maintain your way of life...but in truth this is only about maintaining my way of life.

Sounds like a pretty good idea, right?  Does anybody want to give me their money right away?  Or do I need to first rent a nice office space, buy some nice suits, and put out some slick advertisements?  I'm starting to like this idea!

Posted by Mark Manney (mark.manney@infobeing.com).