I have been shuffling a heavy workload lately and have been basically burying myself in my cave to catch up. All in all, good problems to have. Since my last blog post, news of the world outside of my cave has been catastrophic.

Civil unrest, terrorist attacks, mass shootings. I choose to employ a tactic of disengagement from social media the last month but I couldn't get away from all the bad news. Things are looking very grim in the world at the moment. Louis missed all this, he would have been saddened by the state of the world right now. I often think of him and the things he taught me. I am constantly meditating on one thing he told me in particular.

The world is out of balance, so you must be in balance.
— Louis Johnson

I have much to say about my time with Louis. There is much that needs to be said about my time with him but for now this lesson and this story is at the front of my mind.

When Louis started teaching me bass in 2006, we would simply sit and chat a little and then sit and play for 30-60 minutes. Pretty standard, although the material was anything but standard. Eventually and as we grew closer, we would change things up.

First, we would get lunch. Sometimes he would pay or I would pay, but this was important to him. "You must be ready and focused, a person needs to eat to be focused." Then we would do Kata forms. He introduced this concept to me in and I was open to it. Kata forms are Tai-Chi like movements that involve moving your limbs through space. Somewhat similar to martial arts, but without a combative directive. The Kata forms were there to simply help me focus on playing with no distractions so that I could absorb the lesson fully.

This is similar to what we did.

This is similar to what we did.

When he first introduced the idea to me, he did so in his sweet, shy way. He left room for me to say no just in case I was doubtful or skeptical. I wisely accepted the idea and we would start each bass lesson with Kata forms. It always left me feeling refreshed, focused, like a warrior. Louis often called me a warrior and of course I didn't believe him. He insisted that I was a "Warrior of Funk!" I am even embarrassed now by this title, all these years later.

Indeed, I am even embarrassed now to be sharing this! It definitely wasn't standard operating procedure in music education but then again, Louis was anything but standard. Once we finished the Kata forms, we would sit and drill the bass strings like it was a karate class. Thump, slap choke, mute, pull... over and over again like I was doing combos against an opponent. It was incredible. He was my sensei and I was his pupil. Warriors of funk, practicing the moves and focusing all of our energy into the task at hand.

One day as we were doing the Kata forms in my apartment, Lou told me about the world being out of balance. "People out in the world are out of balance. They're greedy, selfish, misguided. Not you, Phil. You are a warrior. You need to be strong. You and I need to have balance within ourselves to combat the chaos of the world."

I remember his words to me when things aren't going my way. When I get cut off in traffic or I am running into conflict with someone or some thing. I have Louis telling me that I am a warrior, even when I don't believe it myself.

I need to pause a moment and let you the reader know that this is painful for me. I have never shared this. I feel that it this story is needed right now and I am not doing Louis any honor by keeping his stories and lessons to myself any longer. You see, Louis was a gift in my life and I always held on to that gift selfishly. I am working on sharing that gift to all those who are interested in hearing what he taught me.

That's all I can say right now. When things are chaotic in the world, find the balance within yourself so that you can navigate the world with a clear mind and spirit. My only hope for the world right now is that enough people adopt the inner fortitude to overcome all the negativity in the darkness present today. Love and light are the only things that can conquer darkness and hate. Standing idly by and letting the darkness spread is not going to solve anything. I will continue writing about this topic and offer some strategies I use to balance myself when things are falling off the rails and the narrative isn't going my way. Be good to each other today and always.


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