Lately, I have found that the most welcome greeting when seeing friends is “How are you?”. We are all dealing with so much personally only to turn around and be confronted with even more socially, economically, and geo-politically. When I am overwhelmed by the world, which seems to happen a lot these days, I have two guiding principles: 1. Don’t look away. 2. Find the art.The first may seem easy, but for me, it’s really tough. My knee-jerk reaction to war and terror and oppression and heartbreak is to think “Ahhh! I don’t want to see that!”, but really what I want is for those things not to exist. Unfortunately, they do exist, along with many more unspeakable realities, and even if I can’t help or do anything physically productive, I can pay attention.Once I focus, I find that I immediately need more information, understanding, and context for what I am processing. This is the time for art. Since people painted on caves, art has served to help us communicate with and build empathy toward each other. Even more incredibly, someone is making art in and around every dire circumstance on earth. We only need to seek it out to better understand these moments and the people involved.  On May 7th, The Colonial will open its doors to live music after two years of a dark stage and our season opener is a masterpiece of empathy and human connection. Letters from Iraq is a collection of actual mailed letters from women and children in war-torn Iraq put to music by renowned oud master Rahim AlHaj. This music is incredibly moving. It grabs hold of you and tells its story in a way that is beautiful and gentle while also impossible to dismiss. There is something about conveying ideas through melody that creates an understanding beyond linear thought—an understanding in the heart, if not the head.Rahim AlHaj on the making of Running BoyThe compelling nature of this music has attracted national attention and was recorded by the  Smithsonian through their Folk Ways record label in 2015. Listening to the album now I can’t wait for this show. It will do my soul good to experience this incredible music, but the best part of all is that I get to experience it with you!Join me on Saturday, May 7th at 8 PM for Letters from Iraq with oud master Rahim AlHaj.