US-based film maker and musician Ben Stewart is doing fascinating work. His documentary films Esoteric Agenda, Kymatica and Ungrip have opened up many people’s minds and hearts to different ways of thinking, feeling and experiencing the world. His ontological work is very interesting. We chatted last year before he came to tour Australia to speak about his work.
I listened to an interview with you recently where you commented ‘Year by year in my life, I always encounter something that drastically changes me.’ I wanted to start by asking, have you encountered anything this year so far that has drastically changed you?
BEN STEWART: [Laughs] Oh my god, have I! This year is probably leaps and bounds more profound than any year of my life. It would stand to reason, understanding astrology and understanding my natal chart, being ruled by Saturn and this being my Saturn Return. As soon as 2011 hit I was in the studio with the band (Hierosonic) and as soon as we got out, things just started coming up: this Australian tour; a world tour at the end of the year; basically this film being finished but also, that’s just the physical material stuff that’s been shaping and forming in my life. A lot has been happening just on an energetic and conscious, emotional and psychological level.
I understand that when you were ten years old you got into Taoism?
BS: Yes. Basically it was my brother that handed me the Tao Te Ching. That was really my first introduction to anything along those lines. I was raised Catholic and it seemed to not really make sense to me until after I had been reading a lot of the eastern philosophy. It was pretty wild.
When you moved to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania at fifteen you ‘rediscovered’ Taoism?
BS: When I moved here to Harrisburg basically – I can’t even count, it was maybe the tenth to the fifteenth time I’d moved in my life – when I arrived here, it was quite a bit of a different energy. My entire life to that point had been making friends, leaving friends, making friends, leaving friends, making them, leaving them over and over again—when I would move I wouldn’t just move down the street or across town it was across the country, out of the country, across the world, different hemispheres, just all over the world. Finally, when I realised that this was going to be my home base for the remaining years of me being in school (because I was still in Junior High when I moved here) that was when I decided that I was going to learn to be in the best company by myself. Realising the fluidity of friends coming in and out of my life, some sticking there but also friends changing in their lives and molding and shaping on their own independently of me, I realised that the only thing stable in my life was within me. That was what got me back into reading the Tao Te Ching.
What was it about eastern philosophies that attracted you more so than western?
BS: I would say that there is nothing that I could really verbalize or put dialogue to in anyway because it was really just… I don’t look at one or the other being more correct or more true; there’s just a certain energetic stance that it had that really resonated with me. With the Tao Te Ching you can read one line and ponder it for months, that’s what I liked about it. It wasn’t this vast volume such as the Hindu Vedas. It was really just short, simple and poetic.
I was more interested in how to visualize or recognize the impossible rather than the very simple rational logical. It’s always made more sense to me, to look into those things such as some of the allegories and some of the things that they say you really need to put yourself into—nature being perfect if you try to hold it, it will be destroyed in your hand. It’s more or less this flow that you enter into, rather than something that you acquire. That’s me paraphrasing obviously. When I started pondering these things, I started to realise that that is where I felt more actual learning, actual wisdom; knowledge coming in, rather than reading a scientific or a geographical book or one of the text books from school. It required my conscious active participation. It required me to challenge myself, for me to look into it quite a bit more than reading a text book. I just didn’t find that interesting which is why from Esoteric Agenda, I moved closer to where I was with Kymatica which is far more arcane in its approach. I decided for those that are going to be watching, for those that like to enter themselves into this type of research, it’s better for them to balance a lot of that intellectual material with something that you can energetically attach yourself too or emotionally attach yourself to in some way shape or form. If you don’t have a relationship with the information that is coming in then to me, it’s kind of pointless to have it a part of your life. It’s like extra luggage and extra baggage; like furniture that you never intend on using for its function or purpose, you just have it.
When it comes to the eastern philosophies like the Tao Te Ching, it was something that there were only short little phrases. It would take me months to conceptualize and comprehend what they mean to me. When I would discover one of those lines in the Tao Te Ching within, in me or within my life, as something that I can feel or actually experience, that was a billion times more valuable to me than any bit of information I could read in any other book. That’s where my interest in eastern philosophies came from—they required me to actually be conscious and aware.
I felt the same way when I read Zen Mind, Beginners Mind. One line would basically say that things can be this, but it can also be this. It makes you think about it for yourself and how you relate to it and it gets you to have to think and make up your own mind—to experience it for yourself.
BS: Right! In the Tao Te Ching there is even a line that’s ‘have less and you will have more.’ Just that simple line is ridiculously contradictory. If you’re not really paying attention to what the meaning of that could be on a more subtle level, it would just seem like someone was just saying ‘look at this black button I have, it’s a white button.’ It makes absolutely no sense. To say, ‘here’s my computer but it’s not a computer,’ it’s far too contradictory but when you say something along the lines of, ‘if you will have less if you have more,’ you can see in some way shape or form the correlation with if you have less that attaches you to things you have more freedom to have anything.
Look at that Fight Club philosophy when Tyler Durden says, ‘It’s only after you’ve lost everything that you have the freedom to do anything.’ Being a part of pop culture I thought that was really interesting for them to put all those philosophies in a movie. I think one of the other lines in that was, ‘The things you own end up owning you.’ I agree with that to an extent. I understand where that is coming from in the sense that the things that we have in our life are the things that we acquire – it doesn’t have to be material possessions it can be ideas, concepts and beliefs. If you attach yourself to it, most of the time – I’ve found this within myself to be perfectly honest – growing up, you have beliefs, concepts, dogmas and ideas of how the world works and as you move further into meditation and really look into these things, I’ve realised that most of these beliefs that I really based all my actions around and my life upon, where things that I had somehow picked up from people around me. There was no real experience that I had that I was basing it on. It was somebody that I respected had said something that made logical sense to me so I based other things on top of that. It’s like building a house on top of a foundation that doesn’t really exist. There’s no way that it could ever be lasting. It could never really have true value in your life when it’s based upon a foundation that is nothing more than imagination, a hallucination, a concept.
I began to realise that everything that I was reading about: to look into what has true value? What is of value to you? What in your life do you believe really has some core meaning to you that when your physical body is gone, what’s going to be left of that? What has actually happened along the course of your life that is substantial that can stand the test of time? …that’s even breaching a lot of very mystical and even religious concepts when you look into it which is actually why I studied most of the religions out there that there is to study. They really do (at least allegorically) touch upon a lot of the same core concepts and ethics.
Another thing that I really, really truly love about the Hindu religion, something that is very explicitly stated in the Hindu religion is: pave your own path. There’s not one set way for people to liberate themselves, there’s not one set way for us to have peace on this earth, there’s not one set way to go about absolutely anything! Even if there were, that wouldn’t even, in my own personal opinion, give us any value. If you were to have a group or organization disarm the entire planet and bring about what most of us believe would be ‘utopia’ – disarm everyone, there’d be no wars, there’d be plenty enough food and places to sleep, warm clothes things like that… that should be enough, that would be utopia – we know that we need more than food and warm clothes and a place to sleep at night, some kind of shelter. The truest form of shelter doesn’t just shelter the physical body from the elements it acts as some type of environment to foster or facilitate that environment for us to have relationships with one another. In many ways that was what I really liked about the message of following your own heart. As trite and as cliché as it seems to just say “follow your own heart,” it really isn’t any intellectual back and forth or, is this the right thing to do? There’s no debate when it comes to the heart. Personally, I know that if I follow my heart, it’s right. If someone wants to disagree with me that’s something that they’re struggling with, that they deal with. That really doesn’t mean much to me. I care about people discovering that within them, discovering that it doesn’t need to be this psychological or intellectual argument between the two hemispheres of the brain.
The pivot point or the centre of gravity that I’ve tried to establish is now in the heart. When I say in the heart, it really is, it’s not just saying something as simple as ‘love’, it’s also ethics. If I can root all of my actions in ethics then I don’t really need to worry too much about what other people are going to think about what I say or what other people are going to say about the next documentary that I put out or how many people are going to agree or disagree or sign-up for the mailing list of the Hanged Man Project or any of those things. It really doesn’t matter to me because I know that I’m doing what I feel is best for me to create that environment within to have the life that I know that I should led. I know that because I’ve felt it and I already feel it. When you’re in love with someone you don’t need documented proof, you don’t need physical material evidence of it. If nobody believes that you’re in love does that person really care? No, not really. You feel the love and that’s all that really matters. If other people disagree you feel love, it doesn’t really matter. You could almost say, ‘Well I’m sorry that you feel that way but this is my life and I’m leading it the way that I want.’
A lot of the discoveries and shifts and transformations that are happening this year, at least with me, you might be able to find some kind of direct physical event or some kind of occurrence this year where a lot of things could be spawning from but I believe that everything that’s transforming… I’ve spoken to countless people this year that say ‘so far 2011 has been one of the most profound years’ for them, I can honestly say the same regardless of what it is. I don’t know what it is. I’m not going to sit here and say that we’re entering a singularity because truly the only thing I feel is my own life, my own transformations and changes. That’s where I root all of my actions.
Lately I feel the documentaries [Esoteric Agenda & Kymatica] symbolize the direction of where my life and where my consciousness has been building these past few years. It has inevitably led me to really what we’re talking about today which is the Inevitable Age of Art. I’ve talked with countless other people that really see this happening, this age of art we’re entering. You can just about see it anywhere. You can see it on TV or you can see it on the news. The old scientific, religious and philosophical foundations of where we are, has just led us up to this point to where art is what unifies it all. We’ve gone through a philosophical era, we’ve gone through a religious era and shortly after that the industrial revolution came in and we moved on to our scientific era. That has been exhausting itself rapidly over the past ten/fifteen years. You can see that a lot of the technology is already there, it’s just about making it smaller, quicker, more effective, and more efficient. There’s already a very good understanding of electromagnetics and a lot of the subtle waves of communication that we can use. That science has already been established. The only place that we can go from this point forward is with our art to unify all of the philosophies, all of the religions, all of the sciences. Not in a cultural sense because again that brings up so many connotations with people, unifying religious beliefs and unifying science and unifying this sounds a lot like the NWO [New World Order] – that’s usually the first thing that most people say – but who really cares what the outside world does when the real path is here within us.
To me, everything I’ve ever learned about religion, what does that even mean? Everything I’ve ever learned about science, what is that going to mean in my life? What is the point of having knowledge? What is the point of having that intellectual or experiential knowledge if I don’t use it and create a better life for myself and hopefully a better life for other people? What would all that mean if I don’t employ it somehow in my life? That’s what I mean about this Inevitable Age of Art that I see. It’s something that’s coming about from within, it’s not going to happen as a political, economic, social event or change, transition or a group coming about saying, “We’re going to do this instead of that now and this is our new era.” It’s not going to be like that.
When you look at what a grassroots movement is, the reason they call it a grassroots movement is because there is nothing truly that allows for that grassroots movement to grow other than it just doing what it naturally functions and does. If you look at anything in the mineral, plant and animal kingdom it grows naturally regardless. Going back to the Tao, it’s one of those things that… the most you can do for a child, the most that you can do for a plant if you’re growing food, the most you can do for that is provide the atmosphere, provide the environment, the nourishment for it to grow into what it naturally inevitably is going to grow into because if you hinder it… if you want an apple tree to grow into a pear tree because you know like my daddy was a pear tree, you’re going to be a pear tree, if we have that type of philosophy, the only thing we’re going to do is we’re going destroy the natural function of what that thing is. If we see children growing up in a family where the parents try to mould and shape what they think the child should be, that’s exactly the same type of thing as forcing an apple tree to become a pear tree—it just doesn’t work like that! The only thing you’re going to end up doing is destroying the vitality of that life, of that being.
What I’m getting into is pretty much what I’ve been seeing as what the Inevitable Age of Art is, it’s something that comes from within and it will in a sense it grow from within and grow out of us. …I’m not saying that this is something that everyone absolutely is going to feel profoundly like, ‘Oh my God that’s exactly what he’s talking about’ but it’s one of those things that when you pay attention to how your life is progressing, if you want to look at it as a path or a journey in some way, shape or form, look what has happened within the last few months, the past year in your life that is different from previous years. You can look at anybody and say this anywhere around the world. There are 7 billion people and counting on this planet, resources are dwindling and not for even the purpose or the reason of us having 7 billion people on the planet! Resources are dwindling because we don’t have a relationship with our environment anymore. We lost that ability to recognise that there is abundance but we don’t see abundance. When you are in that hoarding mentality, you want to horde as much food, as much water and as many resources as possible. What happens when everybody starts hoarding as much as they can? They’re not even using, they’re hoarding, they’re gripping, they’re trying to hold onto nature which again brings me back to the Tao—when you try to hold nature all you end up doing is destroying it. That’s actually what these talks are going to be about in Australia, the Inevitable Age of Art.
It’s going to be very interesting, it’s not something I’ve ever really done in my talks before but it’s been coming up a lot lately – showing examples and giving examples for the audience members to somehow be able to experientially relate the words that I’ll be giving. I’ll actually be using some slides and also some experiments to help people understand what that force of consciousness actually is; just the barebones, the actual observation of life. To actually come into contact with that and actually experience what it actually is in your life that is driving you and how many people have many different centers of gravity. They have a sexual centre of gravity. They have an emotional centre of gravity. They have an intellectual centre of gravity. That intellectual centre of gravity has a million different pivot points because of all the dogmas and beliefs that we’ve had growing up in our lives. To actually see that we are split in three different ways, instincts are saying one thing and our emotions are saying another and our intellect is saying something different, what are we actually creating?
If we’re looking at our lives as creating some kind of art or a masterpiece, what are we creating when we’re splitting our energy in three completely different ways? Ask any artist what would happen if you were trying to watch your favourite television show at the same time as talking on the phone with a friend as you’re doing a painting or a sculpture? You’re dividing your energy. You’re dividing the essence of what that art could become – something very meaningful in your life – but when you rob it of those nutrients, when you rob it of that environment of being able to grow naturally and to what it is, all you’re doing in a sense is chaining, imprisoning that art which trying to get out. In these talks I’m going to be actually showing physical, historical examples of this and also examples today that we can see, this Age of Art…
The reason why I say ‘inevitable’ is because in the next few years we are inevitably going to see some form of creation. That’s all art is, an expression, a communication of something that maybe we couldn’t get out just through our words. In a way every action, even our ego, is a part of our art. In a way, our ego is actually a tool that can be used because all it is, is an interface between us and others. I know in the past things that I have said and many have said about the ego, make it seem like the ego is an enemy but truly, just the belief that there is an enemy out there and that the enemy is in us is not the way I would like to express that anymore. That’s one thing that I can actually say in my past films that I would… I’ll be very careful of how I state that, the ego is not the enemy because truly it is a part of us; it is something that we’ve created. It’s no more of an enemy than it is if you make a painting, or you write a song, or sculpt something that you really weren’t paying attention to at the time and then you finally sober up and you realise that what you are looking at is a half-assed piece of art because you really weren’t giving it your attention, that could be the ego. All you need to do from that point is to incorporate it in some way, shape or form to where it actually means something in your life and you can use it for good. There’s a way to use the darker portions of our lives in a constructive way. Absolutely everything is nothing more than an expression of ourselves to our environment, to the people around us.
You have a couple of documentaries coming up; one is about shamanism, specifically shamanism in the form of art. Where does your interest in shamanism and shamanism in the form of art come from?
BEN STEWART: Shamanism specifically – this is something that I will be getting into in the talks – is something that I have been interested in from a very early age. One of my first real interests was of the North American and South American natives and tribes: their customs, rituals, beliefs and the way that they respect the earth and their environment. It’s something that I found really beautiful. It was something that touched me when I was very young because I understood in a way that I couldn’t intellectualize and that I couldn’t verbalize. It was something that I was drawn towards.
When I was legally allowed to, I hopped a flight down to South America. I’ve spent a lot of time down there. I’ve been going to South America pretty much every year since then visiting different tribes and different peoples, doing different ceremonies. I’ve met some wonderful people. What I’ve discovered from shamanism first and foremost is that art to me is something that I have just naturally latched onto in life. Art has always been there as some form of catalyst and also an exorcism for me. Where art and shamanism unite with me is that I see shamanism as nothing more than a journey through somebody’s life and through their ego and through a lot of their beliefs and dogmas as a journey into themselves.
When we look out into the world, we see the outside world. Looking out the window we see trees and cars and people, our family and friends, in shamanism what that actually is, is that we are looking at the inverted reflection of ourselves. We in a sense are reflecting something of our environment and our environment is reflecting something of us. To enter into a relationship with what we are perceiving in the outside world and, I mean absolutely everything! When somebody cuts us off in traffic and we get that feeling inside that we want to run them off the road because it’s that anger, that rage that we feel inside, that’s what’s going on at the moment, that’s part of our shamanism, that’s part of our art, that’s part of the energy that we are creating. All that that event really did – that person cutting you off – was reflect something from within you. In the same sense we are nothing more of than a mirror of what the Earth is trying to express. We in a sense are the creation; we are the art creation of the Earth. We are the intelligence of this planet. The planet is the intelligence of something larger, that’s the essence of the macrocosm and the microcosm. With shamanism specifically, you can look into the ones that use specific substances – DMT, Ayahuasca, some of the ones that I have done specifically – you can look at that as one form of shamanism but shamanism to me in its truest sense is nothing more than that journey through the reflection of ourselves, deeper into ourselves to find that one pivot point deep within us; that one essence that has always been there that has carried us through that. That’s what shamanism really does—it breaches the bullshit in a sense and it brings us back to that centre. That centre is something that in many ways is disguised or hidden by all the stuff that’s going on in our lives, all the people that cut us off in traffic, all the trees outside, the family, the friends, the stresses, work, not wanting to do this, really wanting to do that but not having enough of this, having too much of that—all those things are just things that are going on within us. If there’s stress in your life that’s not because of the outside circumstances, at any given time we can choose not to be stressed out. At any given time, any human being can choose to be free but, we’re not doing that. It’s not just something as simple as saying, “Ok I’m done with all this” but in a sense it kind of is. I know that’s very contradictory but it really is as simple as saying that “I choose not to let myself be a conduit for this type of energy.”
Emotions are still going to come up – people are going to cut us off in traffic. When people cut me off in traffic it’s not like I don’t recognise that I want to respond how I would a few years ago but when it happens today, what immediately kicks in at those times is instinct. That’s centered at the base of our spine. It’s just a neurological response in a sense or some form of a response within me that I have just been conditioned to respond in that way. If I dislike that then I can make the decision, ok this is something that I choose to not allow myself to ruin my day anymore, it’s as simple as that and there’s much larger examples I could use, like the loss of a family member, or losing a friend or loved one, a separation or a divorce. Truly all these things are reflections of some type of energy that is trapped within us. It’s on auto-pilot. When something happens and we always respond in the same way all that is, is a conduit that energy travels within us to create certain neurological, chemical responses, energetic responses within us. Shamanism is doing nothing more but showing us those programs that are on auto-pilot within us. That is why many times it seems dark. It brings everything to the surface and shows us exactly who we are.
A perfect example is that the first time when most people record their voice, they listen back to it and it sounds completely different. Most people very much dislike the sound of their voice when they first start singing and first start recording it because when they are listening back to it, they’re actually listening to all the little inflictions that they don’t notice when they’re speaking. It’s the same thing when there is video footage of them. It’s like, oh my god is that how I act? Is that how I respond to people? Is that how I hold my body? Am I really in that much of a hurry all the time? Am I really that angry or depressed? Am I that noisy or obnoxious as a person?’ All those things that we recognise are always there, the only thing that’s happened is that we’ve recognized it in some way, shape or form through art.
Shamanism and art to me is one and the same. There’s nothing different about them. Most of the time when people look at art they think of it as something that we create with our hands, a paintbrush or through music but to me absolutely everything that we do is art. Politics is an art. The economic system, that’s an art form. The way we live amongst one another; our architecture, the way we carry ourselves as a community; the way we get out into the community and the relationships we have within our community or the way we seclude ourselves in our houses that is an art. All we are doing is expressing something about ourselves. I actually would like to believe, and many people like Max Igan and Jason Gregory who are going to be speaking with me, are of the same belief. All the things that we see on the planet as far as the political agendas on the news this year of which there has been quite a few, all of these things, we have a relationship with whether we recognise this or not.
Osama Bin Laden, everything that’s been over the news, above and beyond the fact that he may have been killed in 2001 or 2003 and he’s been put on ice, besides the fact of all of that and everything we’re hearing about like, why did they throw his body in the water immediately after? Where are the pictures of his body? All these things… my question is, what is our relationship to that? How do we feel about it? It’s easy to come up with ideas and concepts of what happened but in a sense, if we take a look at the big picture, what is the art that’s coming from this event? Or something like the royal wedding or any of the big events that has happened this year—what is our relationship to that? That is what’s showing us something about ourselves.
At times when I’ve watched your documentaries Esoteric Agenda and Kymatica I’ve found myself being overwhelmed by all the information that’s presented and ideas to digest…
BS: Absolutely. The two films that I created, Kymatica and Esoteric Agenda, are nothing more than where I was at that point in my life. Sometimes we forget that everybody across the planet, we’re just humans; no matter what name they have or what family they come from, what they’ve done in their lives. If we take a look at it that was it should be very apparent to understand why Esoteric Agenda and Kymatica came out the way they did. When I released Esoteric Agenda I was twenty-five and that was where I was at that point, that was my frame of mind; the art that went into, the research that went into it—all of that was where I was at that point. You can definitely tell the difference between Esoteric Agenda and Kymatica. Kymatica began delving further into the mind, into energy, into specifically the trinity between masculine, feminine and equilibrating. I went further away from the details and the political agendas and things like that because I wasn’t in that environment and at that place at the time I was creating Kymatica. To put it very bluntly I was overwhelmed at the time of Esoteric Agenda but with Kymatica I was overwhelmed at a different phase of my life. It was really me venturing further into myself and realising that all of this research that’s fine and dandy but none of it is my experience so, within Kymatica I began stepping away from that. 50 -60% of Kymatica was what I’d experienced in my life.
The very next one [documentary – Ungrip] that I’m going to be releasing next month is about a sovereign, a friend of mine that’s up in Canada – his name is Robert Pagé. That’s something that I have been working on for the past three years. It’s quite interesting. It infuses a lot of what Esoteric Agenda and Kymatica was and where I’ve come to after that. I’ll be finishing it within the next few days. That’s where the information comes from and that’s why it gets overwhelming sometimes because everything that I found out I felt like I had a responsibility and duty to expose it, to share it with others. This next film is only going to be an hour because the first thing I recognise is that I don’t like sitting through two hour documentaries any more. It’s really just meant to evoke something for us and for us to pay attention to what it evokes. Nothing is suggested, nothing says ‘this is what we should be doing.’ It’s just a story of this person’s life. I figured a one hour exposé of one of the most inspirational people I have ever met would be a great way to simply state where I am at this point in my life, within my art. I have my band on the side, that’s another way I express my art but specifically through the documentary I’ve chosen to give less information and more of just an overall vibe, an overall experience for people to have. Whatever they take from it, or get from it, that’s something that they should explore. It’s to create a moment for people to take from it what they will. The very next documentary film after that is the one that we were speaking on before, shamanism and art.
The next stage of the Hanged Man Project and Talismanic Idols (my production company) is to allow people to be able to create the art that they want. If there are others out there that would like to create a documentary, that is one thing that I am going to dedicate myself to: providing the resources, possibly the money and my time and other people who have also done this to allow other people to give their art; to release their art in documentary form, music form or anything. I believe that the more we are given this opportunity to express ourselves the more we see ourselves. The more we see ourselves the more we understand that, oh my god this is what I’m doing, this is the energy that I’m creating, this is the art that I’m expressing.
Even though I don’t very much so relate to a lot of Esoteric Agenda there’s no way that I would take it offline. There are some discrepancies in it here and there but there is no way that I would take it down because it’s my expression of art when I was twenty-five years old. Two years later when Kymatica came out that is where I was at that point, even though I’ve grown and moved on from there—that was my expression of my art. I used specifically those events and those scenarios in my life that were very uncomfortable and painful for me and I keep them very close to my heart because those were the ones that I had the most magnificent response to and that shape me in a way… I can’t say am proud of but, in the way that I am today, the way that I carry myself and absolutely everything.
While we move towards the place that we’d like to be, those moments that were painful are our best friend – the humiliating moments, the painful moments, the moments where we lose something, the moments where we gain something that was very uncomfortable – all those things are the moments in our lives that help shape us best. In a sense that’s where true art comes from.
Where we are as a species on this planet may look detrimental and extremely painful and it may look as though we won’t come through this but, the thing is that we are basing all these ideas and concepts off of things that we see online, things that we read in books or see on the news. Even though yes, there’s really much room to argue that there are 7 billion people on this planet but in a sense, how would we know? How would we know any of these things are going on, on the planet and why are we allowing these things that don’t’ directly affect us to have the most direct effect on us. We’re allowing these worldly issues that we truly have very little connection with rather than a 1 in 7 billion person connection to; we’re allowing these things to control our lives in a way that we are trying to shape and mould these global events when we’re forgetting that we live in a community. We’re forgetting that we have families, we’re forgetting that we have loved ones back home, that in a sense we may be neglecting. All of those emotions, all of those traumas, all those things that we have experienced through our lives, they’re showing us something very specific about ourselves.
The first place that we should be learning how to hold ourselves, how to really express ourselves artistically, is with our loved ones and with the people that we feel closest too; with the people we don’t mind seeing us how we truly are because it’s difficult. In many ways we don’t want to see ourselves how we truly are because the best way to see ourselves and know ourselves and to know our quirks and to actually better ourselves is to have those relationships. Those relationships reflect us.
Do you have any daily rituals in your own life? Do you meditate or recite mantras?
BEN STEWART: I have done absolutely all of that but really I don’t adhere to anything really because every single day my meditation is as soon as I wake up in the morning, I just pay attention. I pay attention until I go to sleep at night. I pay attention to absolutely everything. When I am driving and I realise half way through this thirty minute drive that I haven’t paid attention to one thing, am I really living my life? No. I’m caught in some program that’s rattling around in my head, I’m off somewhere, I’m in tomorrow or yesterday, or what I’d like to be doing right now but it’s not really what’s going on. That’s my meditation, that’s my ritual.
To me a ritual… the reason why you will see a medicine man have a very specific headdresses that was passed down from generation to generation – a talking stick or conch or something like a necklace or beads, something that means something very much – from an intellectual perspective, it’s just, these are just beads, this is just a hat, these are just feathers, I don’t get it? Well of course the intellect doesn’t get it, it’s just one of three forms of communication we have. As far as ritual goes, one thing that I’ve noticed, remember back in the 50s and 60s how they used to tie ribbon around their finger to remind them to do something later on? One thing that ritual can do is well, if we have a reminder and it doesn’t matter what reminder that is because we all have our own way of doing things – some have sticky notes on the mirror to remember to shave in the morning, anything like that but how about those things to remember that you know what, I’m just going to appreciate the fact that I have air to breathe, food to drink and water, a house and warm clothes and loved ones around me. I’m going to appreciate that because that is just as important if not more important than to remember to shave for work, or remembering to make this phone call later on. If you’re going through your day and you’re not appreciating what you have then literally the quality of life is being scattered in many ways.
Any ritual that I specifically have… for instance, when I do the dishes I just try to do the dishes and try to appreciate the fact that I have that time away from all of the stresses and everything else that is going on in the world. The only thing going on at that time is that I’m washing the dishes. It’s the same when I clean my apartment or I sit down to eat, some people do a prayer, but I just sit down and I make sure that I understand that this food doesn’t have to be on my plate, this water that I’m drinking doesn’t have to be clean—luckily for me because of the way that I have carried my life or the situation that I have been in I have clean water and I have food and the air isn’t poisonous where I live. That is one thing that I would like to be appreciative for because if I forget that then it would be easy for me to make a decision for me to move into an area that may not have clean water, that may not have good food or clean air or loving people that the environment may not be very conducive to me. A ritual is something that reminds me that, I don’t care how I do it whether I say it’s Krishna or Jesus or just the universe, it doesn’t matter if I believe in any of those things, the only thing that I want to do throughout my day is appreciate the fact that I do have just the ability… I don’t know if you listen to Tool or not?
I sure do!
BS: There’s a song on Lateralius where Maynard says: we are here in this body/this body holding me. Basically all of those lyrics in that one song are saying that we are here, we are in this body and we are given the opportunity to be able to experience life. It doesn’t matter if you look at that in a religious way, a philosophical way or a completely atheistic way. We are given the opportunity to be able to experience things such as making love, to experience things such as eating good food and having good health and having loved ones in our life. A lot of the time people forget those very simple things as being the cornerstones of our lives because we have a job or because we want to make another million next year so we can have this boat and go out on this water – that means we have to work extra hard and it means for the next year we’re not going to have any fun because all we’re going to be doing is working. That’s one year of our life we’re never going to get back. When we are on that boat and are on that water, we have fifteen minutes of that before we remember that the payments for this boat means I have to go back to my job for another year to do something I don’t truly appreciate to do something that I really don’t have a relationship with. The only relationship I have with my job is to say that, I’m not here to do this work, I’m here to eventually not have to do this work anymore so I can have that boat and be on that water—to me it’s missing the point.
In many ways people don’t realise how beautiful it is to live a simple life anymore. To just wake up in the morning, to look around and to appreciate that you have a place that protects me from the elements; I have food to eat I don’t have to go through my day starving; I have a job that I am lucky enough that it pays me money. Look at how our lives are right now – not the concepts or the fact that money is debt or the concept that Obama is ushering in this New World Order; not the fact that any of these things are going on in the outside world. Wake up in the morning and say thank you for the simple fact that we have a roof over our heads, food on our plate, clean air to breathe and we have loved ones in our life. We can get more enjoyment and fulfillment from taking a simple walk around our neighbourhood than almost anything else but very few people now days see that as being rich. People see something like that as, oh that’s something I’ll do after I’m done working. It’s missing the point that all of the things around us don’t necessarily have to be around us. The environment we have around us, the grass, the lakes, everything around us is not necessarily there and it’s not necessarily clean and it’s not necessarily free to go there all the time so why not appreciate it as such. When I move to the end of my life I at least want to be able to look back and say I had a quality, I understood that in the moment is when you cash in on value. It’s not at the end. It’s not like you’re saving up for some type of emotional or spiritual value within yourself that you can cash it in at the last moment of your life—it’s cashed in, every single moment. If we forget about that and forget about that right now is more important than an idea of tomorrow or the remembrance of yesterday, we’re going to miss right now. If we go through our entire lives unconscious like that, that is what you hear about in all the scriptures, that is what you hear about when you hear about meditation—to me meditation and ritual is just a reminder of hey, we’re human beings, don’t place these demands on yourself and feel you have to be a super hero. That’s something that I had to personally go through.
I make music, I do make documentaries and I do care about the world but along the way there were certain points in time that I did forget about myself. I forgot about the necessity of taking care of myself and of being gentle with myself, not beating myself up over ideas like, oh man I should of done this or I wish I would have said that or done this earlier so I could of saved up enough for today and I would be doing this now. But guess what? I didn’t save up, I’m not doing that right now but I’m doing this. I have a roof over my head, I have food, I have water. I have people in my life that I absolutely love and if we can’t recognise that as being the richest people in the world because we have people that love us and we have comfort and good health, then that’s where I see us as missing the point. That is why Kymatica was an attempt to bring us back into ourselves to recognise we are human beings so let’s be human beings first. If we want to be a super hero later that’s great that’s fine we can work towards that but right now we are a human being.
With love & light,