The Bates Student

The Voice of Bates College since 1873

Author: Matthew Bodwell

The Dharma Society Retreats to Shortridge

In my nearly four years here at Bates, I have found that spending time off-campus is crucial to making the most out of the college experience. It’s always healthy to burst out of the “Bates Bubble” from time to time, as some students will volunteer in the Lewiston/Auburn area, some ski the slopes of Maine and New Hampshire, some go to the movies in Auburn, and others attend concerts in Portland. I had the pleasure this past weekend of getting off-campus by joining a retreat to Shortridge with the Bates Dharma Society. For those who do not know, the Coastal Center at Shortridge (referred to as Shortridge) is a Bates-owned property in Phippsburg, Maine utilized for field research, meetings, conferences, and retreats.

This retreat focused on practicing meditation and mindfulness, and was strategically timed at the beginning of the semester to set a calmer tone as we head into the heart of second semester and the Maine winter. As we arrived Friday night, we each claimed a bed for sleeping before engaging in our first 20 minute meditation sit of the retreat. After a delicious dinner (a special thanks to the Commons dining staff), we meditated once more for twenty minutes and talked into the night about a range of topics including philosophy, religion, the upcoming semester, and about a time we felt grateful.

On Saturday, we ate a tasty breakfast of bagels, peanut butter, apples, and tea, followed by a particular type of sit called a body scan – in which one student led an exercise where we focused on being mindful of our whole being from the feet to the face. This made me especially present and helped me drive away lingering dwellings on homework and other concerns at Bates. After this sit, we suited up and headed to Popham Beach, which is only a quick drive from Shortridge.

We walked along the sand, chatted, and felt the water and wind. While walking along the beach on the way back to our cars, we practiced a walking meditation, trying to pay particular attention to our sensual experiences at the winter beach. For Abe Brownell ’20, co-president of the Bates Dharma Society, this was one of his favorite moments from the retreat.

“I enjoyed going to the beach, because the sand was so beautiful that it made you think really hard,” said Brownell. We did indeed notice on the way back, through paying attention to the present moment, that our feet were sinking into the sand in ways we had not noticed before the walking meditation.

After the time at the beach, we returned to Shortridge for an afternoon of various activities. These included eating lunch, reading, journaling, listening to music, walking up the hill behind the house, and looking out over Meetinghouse Pond, and more meditation sits. One of the final meditation sits was particularly memorable, as one student, who had not slept well the night before, began to snore, prompting everyone to break their meditation and burst out laughing. As it started to get dark, we finished meditating, packed up our things, cleaned up the house, and headed back to Bates.

When asked about her experience attending her second Bates Dharma Society retreat at Shortridge, Christina Perrone ’20 remarked, “The retreat was wonderful with all the different personalities and ways of meditating. It’s always fun to just be at Shortridge. There’s like a calmness to it that’s really    special.”

Similarly, co-president Caleb Perlman ’19 left the retreat feeling it had been a positive and meaningful experience. “This retreat was special,” said Perlman, “because it offered me an opportunity to be part of a community of individuals exploring the depths of their minds and the depths of their sensory experience. It was relaxing in that it unlinked my mind from several irrational and uncomforting thought patterns that can’t be dealt with in a single meditation in the Gomes Chapel.”

To hear about more experiences from this past weekend at Shortridge and take part in a future retreat, /come join a daily Dharma Society meditation sit at 5:45 p.m. in the Peter J. Gomes Chapel. No prior meditation experience is necessary, and all are welcome.

An Inside Look at the Dharma Society

If you noticed a student sitting on a cushion on top of a table at this year’s fall 2017 student activities fair, you got a little preview of the Bates College Dharma Society. While club members do not sit on tables, they do gather at 5:40pm every day in the chapel to meditate for 20 minutes. Cushions are provided, and no experience is necessary to attend the daily sits, which often feature a mix of community members including students, staff, faculty and local residents.

After a sit this past week, I caught up with some Dharma Society members to learn about their interest and experience with the club in their time at Bates. Co-president Caleb Perlman ’19 describes how daily meditations with the Dharma Society ground him in the present moment.

“I joined because I wanted something that would slow down time so that life wouldn’t roll by me. I wanted to create space with the hazy fog of anxiety, envy, frustration, greed and lust. The candle of your life is burning right now as we speak.”

Ethan Benevides ’18 similarly finds that meditation slows down time and helps practice patience.

“It gets really, really fast all the time here at Bates, and with a lot of anxiety for a neuroscience major going pre-med, it’s good to just sit and breathe,” he says. “It’s easy to forget, but it’s really hard to sit still, even for 20 minutes. Having the discipline to sit that long is important.”

Christina Perrone ’20, the club’s community liaison, appreciates meditation for its ability to work hand in hand with her artistic passion.

“I meditate because I am very visual person,” she describes. “I like to see my problems out before me … Meditation unlocks a lot of my own artistic creativity.”

Co-president Abe Brownell ’20 simply quipped “I sit to meet myself,” prompting Christina to question “What self?” whereby Abe’s eyes widen and he throws his hands up in question.

Sydney Anderson ’20 discusses how essential the group-focus of Dharma Society is.

“It is nice to sit with a community of people who aren’t in your regular group of friends but are committed to the practice of meditation. Sometimes cool things happen here.”

As for me, the reason I became involved with the Dharma Society has to do with its consistency and reliability. As someone who struggles to self-start and has struggled in the past meditating alone, it is very effective to have a daily practice knowing that there will be individuals meditating daily who you want to show up for and be with.

However, Perlman wanted to stress that meditation is not always a simple exercise where one can bliss out and find peace.

“Meditation is not always easy; in fact, sometimes is can be very painful and difficult.” he says. “Nonetheless, it gives you what you need. It’s the space where you do the most essential work to figure out what kind of person you mean to be.”

Aside from daily meditation, the Dharma Society holds a retreat to Shortridge each semester and co-sponsors guest speakers along with other Multifaith Chaplaincy clubs. Caleb described that a great long-term goal for the club on campus is getting one percent of the Bates community (around 18-20 people) meditating everyday together.

While the club is ecumenical, there is a Zen Buddhism service every Tuesday led by Bates Associated Buddhist Chaplain Heiku Jaime McLeod and Brownell. It begins with a 6:40pm orientation for new members, 7:00pm for all others, and lasts until 8:45pm.

To keep up with the club, follow their Instagram @bates_dharma and their Facebook page @batesdharmasociety. We hope to see you at 5:40pm in the chapel!

 

Be sure to locate Khalid’s American Teen

One part of feeling old seems to be recognizing that many popular, talented individuals are younger than you. From twenty-year-old Olympic gold-medalist Simone Biles to nineteen-year-old University of California, Los Angeles basketball phenomenon Lonzo Ball, talent bends to no particular age. This is the case with Khalid Robinson (who records and performs under the stage name Khalid), a nineteen-year-old R&B singer-songwriter based out of El Paso, Texas. His debut album, American Teen, was released on March 3, 2017 through RCA and Right Hand Records.

The third track, “Location,” is likely the most well-known song from the album, released in August 2016 as the albums only single. In “Location,” Khalid sings smoothly to a catchy beat layered with claps and snare hits. He flows “send me your location” as the song’s hook, and one reason my friends here dig this song is because we too say this line (or something similar) when waiting for each other in the Fireplace Lounge before dinner or looking to meet up on a Saturday evening. “Location” has nearly ninety million Spotify hits as of April 2, 2017, and has been remixed by Lil Wayne and Kehlani.

It can be easy for artists to diminish the quality of their work by trying to cover themes they have not experienced. Yet, one of the strongest qualities of American Teen is that Khalid sticks to what he knows –the trials and tribulations of being a teenager. His descriptions of his experiences are witty, catchy, and ultimately relatable.

Look to the chorus of the seventh track, “8teen,” where he sings “because I’m eighteen / and I still live with my parents/yeah they’re not like yours / yours are more understanding.” I understood these lyrics from my own experience as a teenager; among my friends some of our parents were a little cooler and less strict than others. The second track, “Young Dumb & Broke,” highlights his feelings of youth as well, where he sings “yeah, we’re just young, dumb and broke / but we still got love to give” and later ends the chorus with “[While we’re] Young dumb broke high school kids.”

His lyrics convey the innocence of free-spirited high school students beautifully: the youths who do not have much money and do not make the best decisions but are passionate individuals with strong emotions who make meaningful experiences with their friends and lovers. It is difficult to listen to these words without reminiscing on those four formative years and their distinct memories. Khalid’s nostalgia-coated lyrics make high school, an experience that is only about three years old for me, seem like something much more distant.

While it may have been tempting for Khalid to solely sing simple songs about being young and free, he strives to show a lyrical maturity throughout the album. This is best demonstrated on album’s fifth track, “Saved,” where he lets the listener know why he has kept his ex-lover’s phone number.

He initially puts the obligation to reach out on his lover, writing “I’ll keep your number saved / ‘Cause I hope one day you’ll get the sense to call me / I’m hoping that you’ll say / You’re missing me the way I’m missing you.” However, he puts this same obligation on himself as well, singing “So I’ll keep your number saved / ‘Cause I hope one day I’ll get the pride to call you / To tell you that I’m finally over you.” While he ultimately asserts that he has gotten over his ex, he feels the urge to call them to let them know, suggesting that strong feelings remain.

By acknowledging his real feelings, albeit subtly, he signals that his carefree days as an American teenager are winding down because he is aging, growing to something bigger, older.

 

Music Review: Drake’s More Life

This is not an album review. This is a playlist review. That Is right. Drake’s More Life, which dropped on March 18, was released as a playlist. For those who do not know, a Guardian article by Alexis Petridis published on Monday, March 20 quoted Drake defining a playlist generally as “‘…a collection of songs that become the soundtrack to your life.’”

Drake has resumed his trend of exploring new venues to release his music through. He has published a slew of his music in the typical formats of studio albums (think: 2016’s Views), mix tapes (e.g., 2006’s Room for Improvement), and extended plays (like 2009’s So Far Gone). However, he has also released commercial mix tapes such as 2015’s If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late, which costs similar amounts to a studio album but is nonetheless referred to as a mix tape. This time around, Drake has ventured into new territory by releasing this musical project as a playlist, a clever marketing scheme that will surely be emulated by other artists in the near future.

What struck me about More Life is how Drake incorporated a wide variety of his prior styles into the playlist. This is likely in part due to the numerous producers who worked on this project, including such names as 40, Murda Beatz and Nineteen85. Yet I feel that Drake’s music releases generally stick to a specific style and trajectory. The songs of Views and 2011’s Take Care tend to be rather deep lyrically and more mellow when compared to the louder, cockier, party-staples of If You’re Reading This.

In his newest release, the songs do not fit such a mold. Rather, they integrate sounds from his previous releases to create a cohesive whole. For example, the fifth track, “Get It Together”, ft. Black Coffee and Jorja Smith, is reminiscent of his 2011 hit “Take Care” ft. Rihanna, both in terms of its smooth female vocals and fast-tempo rhythm. The laid-back beat and lyrical depth of the third track, “Passionfruit” builds off of similar sounds Drake solidified with 2013’s “Hold On, We’re Going Home.” Yet he does not abandon the signature confident, hard-hitting rapping style he exemplified in 2015’s “Energy” and “Know Yourself”; one can hear it alive and well throughout the playlist, like on the tracks “Gyalchester” and “Fake Love.” To create unity between this wide variety of songs, Drake eliminated the time gap meant to transition between each song, making them less rigid and enabling them to flow right into one another.

Another highlight of More Life is its strong guest features. I was delighted to hear Kanye on the eighteenth track, “Glow,” where he sings a catchy hook and raps to a signature Kanye soul-sampled back beat. The nineteenth track, “Since Way Back,” features the talented and fellow OVO label artist PARTYNEXTDOOR teaming up with Drake on a song slower than their 2014 hit “Recognize”, but that nonetheless continues their journey of coming to terms with the rise and fall of past relationships. The eleventh track, “Portland,” features Travis Scott in his finest form, drawing on an auto-tune style perfected on 2016’s Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight and enabling Drake to experiment with yet another layer of sound.

At 22 tracks, totaling just about 82 minutes, More Life is one of Drake’s most comprehensive and sprawling projects to date. Drake has resumed his status as an icon, and while we enjoy this release, we cannot help eagerly waiting to see where his next album (or whatever form his next musical release is in) takes us.

 

Loving the Bates live music scene

One thing I missed during my semester abroad last fall was living on a campus with a vibrant music scene. Having been back at Bates for a couple of months and having attended three shows, it has grown into something I cherish.

A jazzed-up version of the childhood staple “My Favorite Things,” Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy” with heavy distortion, Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” with chorus drum-fills and an extended jam: these are a few examples of the quality and variety of music emitted from the guitars, keyboards, basses, drums, and voices of Bates students. No two student-shows are the same, and just like it was for the Grateful Dead, the audience does not know what to expect and keeps coming back for more.

One of the cool aspects about live music is that it creates a mutually beneficial experience for the performer(s) and those in the crowd. Justin Demers ’18, guitarist and vocalist for the student band The Remedy, member of the Deansmen and co-president of the Bates Musician’s Union elaborates on the feeling he gets playing live music in the smaller, more intimate venues Bates has to offer. He describes it as “a surreal, out-of-body experience that is a synthesis of the senses.” You feel each strum vibrate through your fingers. You see a mass of students an arm’s length away, most of whom you know. You hear the sounds you and your band mates have been diligently practicing the past few weeks to create. And yes, you smell the sweaty guy to your right.

Ian Clarkson ’18, of student bands The Remedy and the Bates funk band, as well as the jazz band and Bates orchestra, has played his fair number of shows as the most sought-after bass player on campus. As a musician, he finds the opportunity to perform in small Bates venues for his friends invaluable. “Since I feel comfortable in the environment, it gives me the chance to try new solos and continually create new music,” he says.

What interests me is why these student shows are always packed. It would seem that as college students seeking autonomy and variety in our lives, we would prefer to chill in a friend’s dorm room and bump our latest Spotify playlist. “The fact that you are seeing music made spontaneously in front of you…it’s like why people love theater, whether they know it or not,” describes Demers. “You could see a movie that’s been edited, or you could be truly present in the moment, dialed into the performer and doing the art justice.”

There is a lot of truth to this. We are very accustomed to final products, a tendency that stifles our ability to be in the moment. I often catch myself half-listening to an album or passively watching a movie because I am thinking about what work is due next week. Yet it is quite difficult to experience live music passively. It grounds you, helps you appreciate the process over the result and realize that the journey is the destination. This is something we are all working towards, exemplified by the wide variety of sports teams, clubs, and class years represented at student shows.

“The musicians at Bates don’t try to define ourselves by any genre,” remarks Clarkson with wide eyes. “Live music here could really go anywhere.”

 

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