Carpe Diem – Ben Harper

My degree is in environmental studies. I thought I would save the earth. I thought I would have saved it by now. That’s a story for another post though. Back to the 90s…

In an attempt to get some experience in my field, and simultaneously see my sister more often, I applied for a summer internship with the Student Conservation Association. On the application, I had to put down four places I wanted to go. I put down Chaco Canyon, and three parks in California (my sister was in the Bay Area by then). I ended up at Bodie State Historic Park. Near the end of my summer, I met some folks that worked nearby at the Mono Lake Committee. They were awesome, adventurous, and cared about the environment. I bonded pretty strongly with one of the guys, and we’ve remained friends all these years.

Classic eco nerds, dressed as a riparian ecosystem. He's the water.

Classic eco nerds, dressed as a riparian ecosystem. He’s the water.

Not long after we met, he made me a mixed CD. It was full of musical treasures, most of which I’d never heard before, and most of which I still love deeply. This CD contained the first Ben Harper song I ever listened to. I was in my early 20s, but I’d had to break up with my first love by then. Hearing Walk Away for the first time made something inside me resonate so strongly that it has been echoing there for almost twenty years. I bought more albums, I listened to them obsessively, I made others listen to them, but I’d never gotten to see Ben Harper play live until last night.

If you ever find yourself debating if you should spend the money or take the time to go see one of your musical heroes, the answer will always be, OF COURSE YOU SHOULD! Carpe diem! Make it happen. For eons cultures have used music to tell stories, to call up the spirits, to heal. If music touches your soul coming out of a speaker, it will lay you open, release you, and heal you seeing it live.

Ben Harper has been giving me his gifts for years, but seeing him live was the biggest gift of all. He is vulnerable, real, angry, tender, funky, has an amazing crew of musicians he works with, can sing like nobody’s business, and the man man loves tots. Roll your eyes if you want to, but it felt like I was being allowed to kneel and pray with someone through all their pain and joy. Thanks Ben!

Buying ChinChin feels very much like a carpe diem moment. Those moments are part of what I think this blog will be about, so I’ll keep reporting them as I come across them.

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