Integral Ragtime Blues

I read a very compelling essay by Greg Thomas recently called An Integral Take on the Blues Idiom and it re-energized my committment to developing my own Integral Practice as a musician, and applying Integral Theory in general to the sound possibilities of music.

Integral Theory refers to the good work of Ken Wilber and many others, (see Wilber’s book, A Brief History of Everything, or go to and poke around.)  When I read Wilber, I get it, but explaining it to anyone else is another matter.  So that’s why I really perked up when I read Greg Thomas’ wonderful analysis of the blues idiom with literary insight from Albert Murray and Ralph Ellison, commentary from musician Wynton Marsalis and several classic music videos from Billie Holiday, Eddie Jefferson, Duke Ellington, John Coltrane and others.  Greg’s article is here =>

The ideas behind Sound Possibilities have been integral from the start, I just had not caught up with Wilber’s work until this year, and so am still processing and digesting his terminology.

This new song is a baby step in that direction.  I’ll attach an audio copy soon, just finished writing this today.  This is far from the depth of the kind of thing Greg Thomas describes in his article. It’s more of a ‘fun’ thing, (is there an Integral Humor department at The Integral Institute?) I’m much more of a folksinger than a blues or jazz musician. And yes, I know, it’s a lot of words!! But it’s set to a pretty quick ragtime rhythm and flies right by.  The light-hearted humor here and there comes across more effectively with the music than with the words alone.  Think Tom Lehrer meets Dan Hicks and the Hot Licks after listening to a Ken Wilber discussion.  Enjoy!

Integral Ragtime Blues   by Tim McKamey     5-25-2011    capo II  Am

When I turn my thoughts to God
It fills me up with wonder,
But it’s hard to wrap your mind around such notions.

How would you explain the sun
Or the sound of distant thunder
To fishes living deep down in the oceans?

Now some folks just can’t stand the fact
That God could simply turn his back
On all this pain and misery we know.

Yes at times it’s hard to see
But it’s our responsibility
Not God’s, to help each other grow.

God is great and God is good
And if he could he surely would
Take us all to someplace really cool.

But God’s incomprehensible
Omniscient and immutable,
Not like Grandpa Charlie or Aunt Flo.

The cosmic plane on which God operates
Has no address, no pearly gates.
Those were just the best words we could find, at the time.

And language like all living things
Is a constantly evolving thing.
Poetic, scientific,

Sacred or syncretic,
Philosophers and mystics,
Its all about linguistics.

We’re just too attached – to these words we use,
They’re just tools…
Fingers – pointing at the moon.

Now we all start out here on earth
More or less the same at birth
Innocent, curious and hungry.

But quickly all that starts to change
As society will rearrange
And culture alters how we view the world.

Symbols help communicate
Interact and relate
Language helps us co-create a consensual reality.

And that can serve to educate,
But those who seek to dominate
Use language   to hijack history.

Knowledge and Believing,
Both can be deceiving.
It’s the empty cup that’s ready to receive.

When we’re too full of what we know
Then we have no more
Room to grow.

The Dalai Lama spoke the truth
“The mind is like a parachute,
It only works – when its open.”

Many ancient mysteries,
Different ways of knowing,
Alternate realities,

The Intuition of the heart,
The logic of
Renee Descartes.

How can we embrace all this diversity?
We don’t need a new department we need a whole new university.

(musical fragment of Pomp and Circumstance ending with Laugh-In)

An integral inclusive, holonomic,
A mytheo-poetic theosophic point of view.

If you really want to know the Truth,
Nothing less will do.

Hindu, Muslim, mystic Sufi,
Jain, Baha’i, Shinto, and Buddhist,
Catholic, Christian, Orthodox,

And all those strains
Of Protestants.
Now don’t forget the Jews!

Pantheists, agnostics, humanists, and even atheists,
Indigenous, cross-cultural,
Different roads to common goals.

Now the Truth of each tradition
Is simply their rendition.
One song can be arranged in oh so many ways.

To deepen the relation,
Encourage conversation.
It’s not so much ‘bout unity, it’s humanity in harmony,

It’s breaking open all the teachings,
Letting out the light.

This polarized economy
Of Left and Right wing polity
Just reruns of the same old comic tragedy.

Science and religion
Must re-integrate their vision, and
The artist is the bridge between the two.

Well, let’s build that bridge, (bubumb, bub, bubumb)
Build that bridge, (bubumb, bub, bubbumb)
Let’s build that bridge,

And take these Integral Ragtime Blues….

And see what we can do.

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