James Spaite

New single "Soil" out now | International Touring Artist, James Spaite, is a captivating percussive-fingerstyle guitarist and singer-songwriter from Southern California. Expect honest lyrics and colorful textures.

The Disconnect

Photos by Corrinne Pickle


I am 6’2”. Plane rides have never really been comfortable. Honestly, sometimes the prospect of a plane ride makes me reevaluate more or less everything about my existence. If it isn’t clear, I feel strongly about them. But they get me to where I need to be. They provide me with the privileges of seeing family, going on tour, seeing friends that are across the country, have new experiences, the list goes on.


After twenty hours on a plane, I landed in Tanzania, Africa. I was privileged to travel with 13 incredible humans to literally the best children’s home in Tanzania (as decided by the Tanzanian government). So that you know, I am extremely cynical about short term humanitarian/missions work. If you want to know why, email me and I will happily explain. Amidst my cynicism, I am enamored with Small Steps for Compassion. I could do a mediocre job of explaining why I am so fond of Small Steps, but there are some forms of knowing that live outside of language. So, there is a link below to help you somewhat understand why I love them.


In returning, I realized that I have done pretty much the worst job ever of loving those in my own community for roughly the past year. My involvement in my embracing the oppressed has been pretty much a big zero. I had some mental stress relief in ideologically affirming that embracing the oppressed was a good idea, but when it came to my actions there was a major disconnect. Naturally, I decided that I was going to re-immerse myself in the practices that I had in previous years. That was almost two months ago now.


In five or six different conversations over the course of this past week I have kept coming around to the thought that “We like the idea of good better than we like the practice of good.” Perfect example: this weekend I will be joint-speaking with a few friends in an art gallery about reconciliation with music and personal stories interwoven throughout. Any guesses as to what I still haven’t done?


Me personally, I don’t particularly think that there is a “me” that exists outside of who I am right now. There isn’t a “person I was made to be.” BUT there is a me I am becoming and I have the privilege of making choices that will incorporate goodness into that future me. I’ve learned to treasure the moments that I am honest about the disconnect between my thoughts and my actions. The discomfort of those realizations has moved me to where I need to be. Those realizations allow me to better incorporate goodness into my being.


I encourage you all to find a way to get involved in your immediate community in a practical way that promotes empathy, human connection, and makes a lasting change. For a specific example, don't just attend protests against the ban on refugees/immigrants from Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, Yemen and Iraq. Go and spend your time with those near you who are from those areas. Put in the work to learn at least basic Arabic, Kurdish, Persian, or Somali to be able to connect. Go to a Mosque in your city. If someone from one of these areas has a business, go and support it. Volunteer with organizations that help refugees through the difficult process of adjusting to a new life in the U.S.


Become friends with the homeless in your city. Dignify the humanity of those of us with varying levels of ability. Get involved in the support of migrant workers' rights. Read literature on the experience of minority groups in the U.S. Adopt or Foster a child. Buy products from companies that treat their employees justly. Tutor kids from lower income areas. Get involved in the advocation and rescue of sex slaves in your city. Make decisions that take better care of the earth. Maybe even start an organization that does one of these.


Basically, I think we should all take care of each other. I know that I have done a less than satisfactory job of that. I hope that the honesty about the divide between my ideals and my actions helps you to consider your own divides and practice goodness.


James Spaite