Dialectic Flowers, Invisible Disabilities, and the Origin of Our Band’s Name
My name is Jason T. Ingram, also known as Fake Zappa, multimedia artist and mental health activist. I run this band. The name “Dialectic Flowers” came to me about seven years ago when I was trying to put together a band to perform at fundraisers for mental health nonprofit organizations I used to work for. Although I have a certificate as an official “peer support specialist” it doesn’t mean much, especially now that I’m no longer working in mental health in a recognized position for anyone important. I do find myself advocating for peers (people who live, suffer, and work with mental disorders) because we are everywhere and the needs are overwhelming.
When teaching a class for beginning mental illness coping skills, we touched on some Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) concepts, one of them being dialectical thinking, and we used a flower in a vase to illustrate how to make a dialectical statement. “The flower is wet and dry”, as opposed to the flower is wet “but” it’s dry, which helps peers to combat black-and-white thinking. It enables us to see two apparently opposing things as coexisting and not canceling each other out, like when we say, “I had a good day but the car wouldn’t start”, we can think of things being, “my day is good AND bad”.
I found that I was unable to fulfill my dreams with any of these organizations, so in 2015 in the midst of some very oppressive situations and mental/emotional turmoil, this project was birthed. Within a year, we included a musician with two peers in his care, along with a mental health caregiver. Our current lineup, including myself, has two peers, which makes us a two-thirds disabled band, for lack of a better term. We have also included a few guest musicians on our recordings and performances who also live with debilitating mental and emotional disorders, including our Art Wizard who has been an outspoken peer and advocate for several years.
One of my personal campaigns, is that when I do business as the owner of a production business Sunday driver, LLC – I ask for accommodations to make the environment a safe place for peers to avoid triggers and give us extra time to setup our gear. This was met with so much opposition and stigma, it, and other aspects of the world of arts and entertainment, has made it to where we had to take a break since February 2018 until we can find a public venue that will listen to our needs. At the time of this article, we have focused entirely on private sessions unfortunately. It’s nice that a venue will spend thousands of dollars to make their auditorium and restrooms accessible, however very sad that nobody has been willing to listen to some simple requests; and these accommodations cost little to nothing. But than again, most of them have to comply with ADA standards, which do not require anything for disabilities like I am referring to. It’s also sad that a community like Portland, Oregon, in my experience has been the most hostile when it comes to these issues, while we label ourselves as “tolerant”.
Aside from me being a loudmouth when it comes to our cause, what does mental health have to do with the music itself? First off, for music to be in the context of dealing with mental illness, it should be soothing and therapeutic. With that being said, soothing and therapeutic music is, in my opinion, not very interesting. In fact, it’s typically tacky, campy, cheap, and overly conventional. That’s where the second aspect comes in: it must be as intellectually stimulating as it is emotionally helpful. It’s art, as much as it is music therapy. My hope is that it’s not too weird, and that it creates an ambient experience as well as being immersive – in addition to staying on the cutting edge. Heck, we’re probably the first band to record Hindu/Buddhist meditation music in addition to Contemporary Worship Music. We’ve done music at Portland Insight Meditation Center, and Grace Bible Church. We’ve also been published on the Insight Timer app, with over ten thousand listens to our “Power Naps” series.