Few years ago, I had an opportunity to get to know a great talent, who has a real spark in his works as a musician. Getting to know him in real life, being friends and brothers, I also realized, his strength comes from a special bond with God.
Here, I asked him to share his points and ideas on everyday issues which we all face.
Meet Ben Lorentzen in the new series of interviews and find his latest music in it.
There are 14 questions and answers, feel free to share your thoughts at the end!
1. Dear Ben, How are you doing these days? Are you ready and prepared for the Christmas? It must be quite of a challenge at least logistically speaking at your family and extended family.
You know… we never really prepare for Christmas. Ha ha! It comes as a huge surprise every year. “What, you mean it’s Christmas already…? But it was Christmas just recently, about a year ago…” So yeah… We usually get the tree up the day before Christmas and we send out gifts way too late. But I like Christmas.
Actually: Christmas used to bring me down. Christmas is family time and it took me a while to be able to get to a family situation. I am a sentimental person too, so there was something in me realizing the “Christmas thrill” I would sense so strongly as a child would never really ever come back. This is a childish notion of course, but then I think our emotions are pretty childish. Or simplistic. So I was missing that childish thrill… in a way… I think… and I would then go into “hiding” emotionally rather than enjoy the moment. Now I finally have a family and experiencing the simplicity of “being together” is now enough. I don’t need “the thrill”. But I get a sort of a second thrill watching my 5 year old son being super excited.
The best about Christmas is having family come together. I have a tight family myself and I am getting closer to my wife’s family too. Every time my wife’s family sit down together and just share, they usually comment on how nice it is to just sit and share, and I realize that this experience is rather new for them. Everybody needs a family of some sort. But I think especially my wife and her siblings, who have very few experiences of real family time, they seem to appreciate this as almost a new experience. It’s beautiful to watch. And I see how lucky I am that has a tight family unit to lean back on. Also for Christmas.
2. You are from quite a different culture from your wife’s and you live in New York, what is told to be the melting pot of the world. How can you cope with the differences, was it easy to tune in to each other?
I don’t see my wife as culturally different. I know she is Korean, I am Norwegian… but when I see her I do not think “there is In Jin, my culturally different Korean wife…” Ha ha! We realized quickly how eerily similar lives we have had. Very dramatic instances happened almost at the same time. She is four years older than me, so when things happened to me when I was 5, similar things would happen to her when she was 8 or 9 or very close to. When we started talking we discovered this very quickly. And yet, yes we are very different. My wife is very much a people person, even though she might come off a little cold to start with. She taught me the strength of “celebrating the other”. Her dad too was very much like that, I think she has it from him and that is why people feel so attracted to them. She was very much in a celebratory type of mindset over the fact that I am Scandinavian. She knew very little about this part of the world, but was eager to learn. This was contagious. I saw the beauty in it, saw how cool it is to deal with something totally new, totally fresh, unknown….Like discovering your favourite band for the first time. A new sound, a new taste… something you couldn’t even imagine, and yet there it is. Now I crave Korean Kimchie too, I eat it with almost every meal. My wife discovered brown Cheese from Norway which we can get a special stores… and so we are tuning in daily:) I think we are at a place where we celebrate our differences and use each other as a soundboard… “what do you think of this”-kinda thing… and it’s not about being right, but precisely about being different. “This is my idea, what do you think”. The feedback will put the other in a different mindset and help the other see new things. It has helped my career tremendously. I could never have made my album “Pains & Pleasures of Intimacy” without her.
3. Do you have any advices, practice for couples?
Do these three things:
-say three kind/ positive things about your love every day. Make it a stupid rule, and I don’t like rules: but this is a good one. You will feel stupid to start with, because “it should come naturally”. Screw naturally!!! Fake it until you become it. Think about it: will it ever HURT anyone to say three positive things about them daily?
– If she or he does ANYTHING that benefits you, ANYTHING (dishes, gives you something, kind word…. ANYTHING), say “thank you for …….” Make it specific! Don’t just say “Thank you”. SEE the other, validate the other, appreciate the other.
– touch each other often! Find a moment, go over and touch them! Touch is incredible! Touch is extremely powerful. One touch, and everything has changed. That is why I never touched a girl until I was 25! God’s honest truth! I knew that one touch and all sorts of things could happen. And I wanted to be in control, I wanted to make my relationship really matter. Really be special. Really unique and different. Everybody around me wanted to have sex as soon as possible, but I thought: what is so special about that? That is just what everybody else is doing…. I wanted to be different!
If you are in a relationship where the other or yourself doesn’t want to be touched, my guess is you are in serious trouble and need some serious help!
If you need to talk about problems: here is my rule!
Positive feedback; ANYTIME!
Negative feedback: CHOOSE THE TIME. Self control. Anger management. Moral development. These three things are needed to be able to handle this rule. Start to practice if you know you are behind in this area. Best way to practice these three areas is to work with PEOPLE. Not just work with them, but work very focused: develop my self control, develop my anger management, develop my moral. The knowledge you accumulate from this will be instrumental in your successful relationship. I am not really good at this but getting better.
4. Your latest album has been released recently. Why did you choose that title and in what ways is it different from your previous works?
Pains & Pleasures of Intimacy”… I chose that title because it sums up my life. Everything revolves around the relationships you are making. We are living in a culture where we are celebrating people who are horrible at relationships. Like the tv series: HOUSE, BREAKING BAD, MAD MEN, on and on and on we are looking at people who are close to being sociopaths. They do NOT know how to create good relationships and are the the extreme focus of our pop cultural attention right now. Probably because we are looking for an easy way out. But there is none. We have to evolve, have to learn. It is childish that the world have to tell you that you shouldn’t FORCE other human beings into doing ANYTHING, and yet we see now people of power coming under scrutiny because of their forceful, violent pasts. Often by men towards women. Finally it is women being heard and it has real consequences for real people (even though they let Trump go, they let him win, but also maybe precisely because someone like him won). Life is a series of moments, not a series of the big wins and the big losses. From moment to moment I think that what is the most valuable is the relationships we are creating. And they are being created, even when we don’t do anything we are undoing what could be a relationship. So it all adds up.
I strongly believe in this. It is more often than not the reason why we do or don’t do certain things. The pleasure and the pain.
5. If anyone watches the music videos recorded for this album, s/he could easily suppose you have had gloomy days a lot. Is the world really that dark and hopeless?
The world is very very dark! Very, very dark indeed. But the world is slowly getting better. We kill fewer people. Fewer people starve. Fewer wars. I have great hope. But we CANNOT get better without a deep dark look into the truthful mirror. Seeing things as they really are is the only way forward. I don’t think God or Jesus or anybody will come down and make you rich, make your dreams come true. I believe we have to understand our God given talents and forge our own paths. And in order to do that we have to know our dark places and our light places. My natural tendency is to phase out anything dark and troubling. I use my art as a tool to force myself to look at the places in me I otherwise would not. So, it might come off that way. But as they say: the lighter the music, the darker the life. I rather it be opposite!
6. If there was a chance to send a message to the world, preparing for the different religious events and celebrations, commemorations, what would that be?
Hmmmm… I don’t really subscribe to the idea of one message. I don’t believe in it. Then Bono would be the Messiah, he he. But he is not. He would have changed the world. But he did not. He would have ended wars, and starvation. We all do want that. Yet, it continues. There isn’t a single message that needs to go out. It is 7 billion. Daily. That is how difficult it is. Do we really want peace? End of starvation? Of course we can end war and starvation if we want to. But we don’t. We don’t really want it. Because we don’t really care. I only care about me, at best my immediate family. And that is the darkness staring us straight in the face. It doesn’t mean that everybody wakes up every day franticly acting to deal with the worst problem of the moment. But I do think it requires everybody waking up every day with a sense of “us” in their mind. And not only just “me”. So we are talking about a philosophical change or a spiritual change. A Cultural change. And every time anyone passes around their thoughts, they are affecting someone’s thinking. That grows and grows and grows. If it makes sense. And therein lies the hope.
7. Let’s lighten up a little bit. Which is your favourite series nowadays?
As I am answering this I am about to watch “Versaille”. A sucker for historical dramas.
1. Really looking forward to “Strange Things”.
2. I saw Veep and House of Cards. Both good.
3. Really loved America’s take on “The Office”.
4. Really, really loved the Vikings. Such a cool series.
5. Handsmaid Tale. Really awesome.
8. I know you read a lot. Which book/author made the greatest impression on you?
First and foremost my Father in law: Sun Myung Moon.
His thinking is just completely out of the box. There is a rawness to his expression that I am striving for myself.
Secondly Lawrence Kohlberg who delved deep into moral development and after a huge study discovered the six levels of moral development that every human being goes through.
Third The Old testament story of King David. Probably one of the most fascinating stories ever told. The lessons learned here are invaluable. A must read!
9. We can’t avoid the fact that you are deeply committed to God. How would you describe your first encounter with Him?
God is a presence that has just always been there. And as far as I can remember I have just been in a constant communication with that inner place.
I tell you about one experience. I was 21 and I was in England. I was in a youth program collecting money for a school in Eastern Europe somewhere. I think it was Poland. This was before the wall came down. Someone had said something that morning about “loving everyone around you”. I didn’t know how to apply that to myself, whether that should be a nice thought or something nice to aspire to or something I should force myself to feel, or how I should apply it. So I simply asked God: “why should I love the british people”? Kind of like: what’s in it for me? Then a very distinct voice inside me said: “hop on that bus”. This voice was of course inside of me, but it didn’t feel like me just talking to myself, which I do all the time. It was different somehow. I have heard this voice many times and it always fills me with a strange sensation of peace. Or calm. Anyhow, so I decided to go with it, let it play out. I sat on the bus for about 20 min. It took me outside of Londons city center, and frankly I did not know where I was or where I was heading. Then the voice came back and asked me to get off. I looked around and I saw a church and a bar and just rows of houses, a typical London suburb. So I did as you do and walked into the bar. This is about 11 am, no one there except the bartender and a strange looking guy sitting in a corner to my right as I walk in. He looks like an old hippie, long white beard, long white hair. I say something to the bartender, asked him for a simple donation to the school, he refused, I turned around, started to walk out, thought to myself not to even ask the old hippie, and thought that it was strange to even be out here and that I should make my way back to the city center. As I get closer to the old guy, he looks at me and says: “How old are you?” I say I’m 21. He says: “where are you from, you have an accent.” I tell him I am from Norway. He says: “That’s funny. When I was 21 I enlisted in the navy as a volunteer and I was sent to Narvik to fight the Germans”.
Narvik is very close to where I was born and the battle of Narvik is famous because it was the first battle of WW2 the Germans initially lost. It was possible to beat them. But here was a guy that at my age had been willing to fight for my country, risk his life for it. Answer to my question, big time! So I went outside and I cried my eyes out. It was incredibly powerful. I mean: what are the chances? And within 30 minutes of me asking.
10. Can you always feel His presence? Has it ever happened to you that you felt the connection was lost?
Yes, always felt it. Never felt it was lost. I do not doubt God. I doubt myself. Because it is sometimes a struggle to see my connection to an entity like God. Am I really connected to it? Do I matter? Does my life make a difference? In there somewhere it is easy to get lost. So I can lose connection to my faith in me. That has happened often. I recently met Dr Lowery, who worked hand in hand with Dr. Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement here in the US. As we are about to leave he says, kinda out of the blue: “God really exists. But you have to be patient”. He is now 92 years old and stuck to his chair, cannot move around so much. But I thought that this life experience has led him to this un-doubtful conclusion because he has seen it over and over. We need the same: experiences over time. But we don’t seek those experiences and don’t give it time and therefore often miss out on them. I have so many such experiences so there is no doubt.
11. Why do you think so many people turn away from the established churches, even from the words “faith” and “religion” or even “God”?
I turned away from organisations using these words because the way they applied these concepts felt stifling. The minute you say Faith or Religion or even God there is automatically a wall built of inside and outside. Here is a set of rules and if you don’t apply them then you are on the outside. And very soon you find that people who say they apply to the same faith or the same set of rules they start comparing who is more pure in their application of these rules. It is a human thing, I guess. An immature human thing. We need right from wrong, clearly, and we need to be able to discern the difference in ourselves and in life around us. But can it lift us to higher level of brotherhood so that people can misstep and still be on the inside? Can we use faith, religion and God to help people win? Help lift them? In an unselfish way? It is interesting that as people leave organisations they at the same time have a higher need for it. They will look for it on the internet for example. This is of course measured by big corporations like Google. What they find is that there is an increase in people searching for spirituality, the afterlife, God. So it’s not that people are turning away from the concepts themselves. But they are looking for new truths about it outside the established canals. I think it is a good thing. I think God gave us the internet so that people’s thoughts and experiences can be shared super fast and we can elevate the conversation and our views of the world accordingly.
12. Seeing the headlines, it seems everything is related to the religions, if so, wouldn’t it just be easier to get rid all of them?
It is a tempting thought. But there are other forces at work too. Money. Should we get rid of it? Power. Get rid of it? Politics. Get rid of it? Will life change if we do? What about peoples freedom to engage freely as they see fit? How would you get rid of religion? It is there because humans wants it and needs it. Can I decide for them? No, absolutely not. And they should not decide for me. Only thing that creates real change is moral development that effects the culture we create around us. And it is happening. The world is in fact slowly getting better and better, despite the headlines.
13. How do you think the world peace can be reached if at all? Is there anything such as “Heaven”?
World peace is absolutely possible and becomes more and more possible everyday. In fact, we don’t have to change THAT MUCH to make it happen, I don’t think. A combined effort from 7 billion people can make tremendous changes within a short period of time. There is no task we cannot do. I think we are on the verge of it. Because 99% of us wants it. We want peace, love, & understanding. We all desire it. And it will happen. The question is how fast. Can we speed it up? I think it will propel, meaning once we get to a critical level, humans will make certain decisions and from there on logically follow a path that propels into a tide wave of change. We have seen this before of course. The massive change the industrial revolution brought on for example. One day we are riding horses, the next we are flying through the skies. Morally speaking this will happen too. But when I do not know. Here in the US I am astonished that it is right now an incredible force against harassment of women. Even if you forced someone to kiss you your life in the public could be over. If this now takes root, can you imagine how life will change over night? You better behave to have any hope of positions, whether that be inside politics, entertainment or finance. Never before has there been so much pressure on this matter. People are just tired of abuse, they want change. And changes then happens.
14. What are your daily practices to maintain the spiritual health and growth? Would you recommend any to the readers?
I read a good book in the morning, just a page or two. Other than that I don’t really practice anything. I am not religious. Religion is just too boring for me. I don’t like rules, I don’t want to think about my life that way. But I do make time to sit down for 5 – 10 minutes and read something spiritual. It puts my mind at ease, and with a quick little change of perspective I feel that I lift my mind out of it’s normal pattern and I give my mind room to breath, to look around, to see something new. It’s refreshing, like stepping outside for a quick breath of fresh air. It is not laborious, or difficult. Life is difficult enough. I mean, it is challenging. There is a lot we have to learn, a lot we have to do, there are challenges as we go through life. A spiritual perspective is like going to a spa in the middle of a hectic week. It is a resting place. That is how I see it. I pray from time to time, but not on the clock. Same thing: it lifts my mind into a different place, like going away from the norm, the boring, the usual. If you don’t like books then listen to something online. You can google keywords like: “3 good mental states to have”, or “3 ways feel better”, “3 new perspectives on life”, “3 ways to think about life differently”. People who have thought about this and experienced something special will often have talked about it, and there is a well out there of stuff, of info, of really cool perspectives and experiences. And it is so simple, right there at your fingertips. I do this too, from time to time. I love TED talks for example. Or I sometimes type in “Poems about….” And I found some really interesting people that way with really interesting stories.
Copyright by Joshua Dragon, 2017.