Recently, news has surfaced about new and exciting projects concerning different members of the Dave Matthews Band. Specifically, Yukon Cornelius, Stefan Lessard’s creation, is set to announce summer tour dates soon, and Dave has worked with Liz Phair on a new compilation which includes a song called “You Should Know Me,” where Dave plays guitar. But one contemporary announcement, it seems, has stirred up a bit of controversy for the ensemble.
Tonight, in Arlington, Texas, the Dave Matthews Band will play a corporate gig for Altria Group, the parent company of the major tobacco producer, Philip Morris. Many fans have mixed feelings about this event, as it seems largely uncharacteristic for DMB to play for a company who is known for manufacturing carcinogens. It just seems out of place for a band who devotes so much of their celebrity to green and healthy causes. Personally, I have always battled allergies, and cigarette smoke is one of my greatest pet peeves, so this news has not settled too well with me. And yet, I recognize in this situation, a worthy opportunity to work with both acceptance and tolerance, two qualities that can enlighten even the dampest of circumstances.
First, let me acknowledge that we don’t know which factors influenced the band’s decision to perform this concert. So, in the absence of this information, I’ll just inject what I think would be a really fantastic reason. What if Dave and the boys are taking the approach of embracing something that they would normally fight against, in the hopes that somehow they can make a difference? The great Buddhist teacher, Pema Chodron, advocates a similar practice, encouraging her students to “approach what you find repulsive,” in the spirit of making space for negative feelings and emotions, as she believes that avoiding these states only leads to greater suffering. As humans we tend to use any means available to run away from what we dislike, but if we can learn to sit with that which is uncomfortable, we paradoxically gain a happier existence. Wouldn’t it be brilliant to find that this kind of reasoning fueled this seemingly odd choice?
But perhaps this is just my wishful, or even grandiose, thinking. Maybe this decision boils down to nothing more than pure business. In that case, as enthusiasts, we may need to come to terms with the fact that it would be unrealistic to expect that a group of musicians, even our favorites, would never take a step that we could not endorse. As with any relationship, there will always be bits and pieces of the other person’s behavior that we feel we could do without. But those places are precisely the jumping points from which our own tolerance, compassion, understanding, and acceptance can take flight. If we can look upon the actions, both of ourselves and others, with a kind and open heart, then perhaps we can free the world of the harsh judgments that bring everyone down. Because in the end, when we forget what we believe, naked, we are all the same.
Hayley Bauman, Psy.D.
Author of Serendipity and the Search for True Self