Eli Schwamm: 17-year old rapper and Samaritans volunteer
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About Our Guest
Eli Schwamm is going to be the youngest guest on the feisworld podcast (for quite some time, I expect). At 17, Eli is a high schooler, audio engineer, rap singer, song writer, and a volunteer at Samaritans of Boston (suicide prevention) for 2 years. He started his journey at Samaritans when he was just 16 years old. I remember hearing about it for the first time and not knowing exactly how to react. Instead, I decided to respect Eli's decision but paid close attention to his journey. I have known Eli since he was a little kid. He has always shown a tremendous amount of compassion for others and deep appreciation for the life we have.
In this episode, I invite Eli to chat with me about philosophy, therapy, music and volunteering:
- What does Eli think of "the inconsistency of an artist seen as the biggest criticism"?
- Do we have a fixed identity?
- How much do we really know about ourselves? Why does Eli believe that "myself is in flux all the time."?
- Eli's advice as a teenager, for teenagers (a period of great uncertainty: adolescence is an existential crisis for many people.)
- What are the signs of a good therapist / psychologist?
- How does Eli practice medication and balancing himself on a regular basis?
- What was it like for Eli to participate in a 25-min sitting meditation?
- Why do we live in a much more anxious world today than we used to?
- How did the Samaritans volunteering opportunity come about?
- A Day in the Life of a Samaritans Volunteers (find out how little you know).
- What are the policies for working at Samaritans and what Eli is trained to help?
- What is the most controversial policy at Samaritans?
- What type of advice will Eli give to his even-younger self?
- How did Eli encounter hip hop and rap music?
- How does creating art and music make Eli feel?
- What does a dream project look like to Eli (with no constraint to time, budget and resource)?
Favorite "quotes" and snippets from Eli Schwamm:
On trying growing up quickly:
Nobody really is an adult, people are just varying levels of kids. Nobody has everything figured out, everyone's stumbling through life together. The moment you stop convincing yourself that you need to figure everything out, you can spend a lot more time living it.
On world view and definition for success:
'You have everything you need to be happy already'. That is easy to be confused with laziness. but I mean the process, the living. How do you know if you are on the right path? If you look back and that you genuinely believe the entire process is waste of time, then it's a waste of time even if you succeed.
"A sign of a good therapist is not someone who takes on a distinct personality but rather acts as a mirror to look at your own personality, and for you to make your own judgement."
"'I need to set aside my pride and that's how you practice. The duration of the angry action becomes shorter, and the moment in time you feel grateful becomes larger. "
"Statistically speaking, it is extremely likely that there is always something tragic happening somewhere in the world. It is easy to think that the world is going to hell. But the biggest problem of thinking this way is that we are far too limited in our perspectives as a result of making such giant conclusions of the world as a whole."
On volunteering at Samaritans (Learn more at: http://samaritanshope.org ):
"Volunteering at Samaritans generates such good feelings. As people, we really want to feel useful. The best way to be useful is to be helpful. The work we do is rooted in pragmatism - we are people who listen, I'd love to say that I save lives but that's not true."
It's a big commitment. Everyone will help someone when it's convenient.. Everyone is stumbling through life together. Eli walks us through what it's like to volunteer at Samaritan and why he thinks that making human connections is really important.
There is a very strict policy at Samaritans to not give advice. "We always believe what the caller tells us isn't true. A lot of the times people just need to be listened to."
"Only 40% of the calls are being answered. On a busy shift, we are have 6-7 people taking back to back calls."
"When you are feeling on the top the world, it is easy to help others. But when you are at the other end, that other person lifting a finger for you will make a huge difference for you."
On Art is Living:
"Art is really what humanity did after we fulfilled our basic needs. Art can be anything - music, speech, video game, painting, novel, etc. The purpose of art is to trying to construct meaning or maybe find meaning, or to make meaning, somehow. This is living. We live for art, I think."
On Hip hop and Rap:
"Rap music have a unique opportunity to do two things. One, beautifully sounding words put together to emphasize meaning; Two, construct multifaceted meaning out of physical words, and then take all of that and put it in the context in music. Rap music is poetry plus."
On A Dream Project:
"With Dali Lama: I want to work with him to address continuity between the different religions that exist in the world. I'd love to think that regions is about forging connections and not about causing dissent and conflict. We live in a world where religion is evoking a lot of violence. So a comparative exploration of religion will be interesting."
Check out this article "The Good Samaritan" on The Newtonite Eli was featured in.
People Mentioned / Musicians, Rappers who inspire:
- Adam Leffert (coolest uncle) & Sam Schwamm (best brother) who introduced hip hop to Eli
- Aesop Rock
- Mos Def
- Talib Kweli
- Kendrick Lamar
- Ab-Soul - "On the surface you may think that it's brag about thug-life. But if you look deeper for significance and then you will find abundance."
- Wu Tang Clan
- Tribe Called Quest (production and the beauty of the words themselves)
- Brother Ali