Sunday, November 25, 2007

A Quarter Note on Music

Music is amazing. It's transcendent. At least for me.

In her comment to my last post Kim mentioned that "Music can recreate a feeling in the here and now when words fail."

I find that an eloquent description. And I will add to that by saying that I can use music to CREATE a feeling within me...allowing me to evoke certain moods and states of being within myself just as one might cultivate different soils to produce different fruits.

I wrote something back in December of 2003 on music. It was an attempt at trying to convey its importance...

"what place inside does a series of notes touch that moves us to a feeling so strong that the life in front of us seems but a shadow, less than real?

a dream in which you know you are an actor, and in that knowing remain somehow protected from the full spectrum of what the heart is heir to..

if on the other side of the world there is a berry of which we have never tasted, how can we know that taste by another's description? or its smell?

therefore, what langauge does music speak that our heart finds fluency? from where in our lives have we felt that music with our hearts and not our ears?

and what doors have we shut on our own lives that the heart must remember its fullness by the tune outside the window?"

This is where I would normally blather on and on about what music means to me. And I would use colorful language and rich metaphors to describe something which has no good verbal explanation. But rather than go in to all of that, I invite audience participation. I would rather you all comment on music's influence on you.

The floor is open....

Sunday, November 18, 2007

The Horror...the horror...

In Wind, Sand and Stars, Antoine de Saint Exupery writes about the idea of describing a traumatic event after the event itself has taken place. He says,

“The cyclone of which I am about to speak was, physically, much the most brutal and overwhelming experience I ever underwent; and yet beyond a certain point I do not know how to convey its violence except by piling one adjective upon another, so that in the end I should convey no impression at all – unless perhaps that of an embarrassing taste for exaggeration.

It took me some time to grasp the fundamental reason for this powerlessness, which is simply that I should be trying to describe a catastrophe that never took place. The reason why writers fail when they attempt to evoke horror is that horror is something invented after the fact, when one is re-creating the experience over again in the memory. Horror does not manifest itself in the world of reality. And so, in beginning my story of a revolt of the elements which I myself lived through I have no feeling that I shall write something which you will find dramatic.”

I take his point to be mostly true. It’s difficult for me not to, as I adore Saint-Exupery. If you haven’t had a chance to read him before, or if you’ve only read The Little Prince, then I highly recommend that you check him out.

For me, another angle of his position is of equal importance….it is only when you are mired in the situation itself that you are able to describe what is really happening, in a form and intensity that closely approximates how you are experiencing it at the time. Every story told after the event, while perhaps enriched with the meaning and context that time provides (due to reflection, contemplation, imagination, etc) is also tinted by that same mental processing. That is, in retrospect, you might be able to provide a better story for the experience, but the actual details of the experience, as you experienced them, can only be told from a time within (or just adjacent to) the event itself.

I mention this because in the last few days I’ve been meaning to capture the insanity of my life by writing about it from the inside; scribbles on the asylum cell wall. I could have written about my 15 hour days (including the day I had 12 clients in those 15 hours), the fact that I haven’t had heat at home, or that I have constant construction going on, or that I basically live in a 5 foot by 5 foot section of my living room (which is otherwise full of kitchen appliances, an 8 foot tall stack of kitchen cabinets, as well as all of the normal living room items). I could have written about the stream of checks I’ve been writing out to workers, or that I’ve been sleeping on my loveseat (which is not as long as I am tall), or how my downstairs tenant now has a nice little skylight…with a complimentary view of the bottom of my kitchen floor.

But something happened. Two things, in fact. First of all, as things slowed down slightly, all of that energy that had been pulsing through me, fueled by the craziness, ran out and precipitated in to fatigue, dissipating my original desire to write. And secondly, all of the words I had been trying to capture along the way to relate the experiences got crushed under the time of more experiences, until finally there were no longer any words left to convey. It’s like running in to an old friend, who asks you “So what’s new in your life?” If only a few weeks have passed since you’ve last seen them you can probably recall many of the details of those past weeks. But if a year or more has passed, especially if the time has been particularly eventful, you no longer know what to say, and you are reduced to replying with something vague. There is too much. And there are no longer words to describe what you could have easily described at the time of the experience without any difficulty.

That’s what this moment feels like to me. It’s less a fear of “piling one adjective upon another” (and thereby watering down the experience), and more a lack of being able to summon forth the words to begin with. Or the energy to do so.

Lucky for you. :)

Some people believe that the things that happen to us in our lives are often preparing us for other things later on. It’s an interesting belief. And there is some sense to it, I suppose, if one believes that there is some guiding principle in the Universe. Although knowing the human tendency to find meaning in everything makes me suspicious of thoughts like this, even though I do, in some manner, believe in such a guiding principle.

Still, if such a thing exists, I have to think that many of the stressful and unsettled experiences of my past are what now enable me to function in the craziness of my current life.

CRA-ZY. Whew!

In some demented way, it’s almost humorous. :)

Sunday, November 11, 2007

And I Used to be Such an Interesting Person...

Ok, perhaps I'm thinking a bit too highly of myself....but humor me for the purpose of this post...

"Perpetual devotion to what a man calls his business, is only to be sustained by perpetual neglect of many other things."--Robert Louis Stevenson

We have a tendency, I think, to really appreciate the man or woman who puts everything else aside and with pure heart and single-pointed attention and constant devotion seeks out to do or create or sustain. And certainly one cannot deny that such a quality has some merit and is commendable in its own way. There are plenty of examples of what extraordinary things can be accomplished by one so focused.

And yet, like everything, it has its cost.

For me...with so much attention put on the rigors of self-employment (and the subsequent financial implications thereof) I find myself being less interesting. I don't have the time or energy to keep up on the things that interest me...the reading, the listening, the studying, the doing. And failing to do those things makes me feel monotonous. And if you know me, I don't do well with monotony....especially as it pertains to my life.

Of course, in spirit, the creative, dynamic quality still flows and circulates within me. I am moved by it every time I allow myself to shut the "machine" off. It rushes in and fills the space.

So like everything, it comes down to balance. The ability to give time to everything that feeds you. Of course, it's a dynamic balance...oscillating back and forth across the center line and never quite resting right in the middle. And that can be the tricky part...recognizing the moment when you've drifted too far away for the natural gravity of the middle to pull you back. Once you get beyond that point, it takes act of move you back towards the center.

And even when you've cultivated that will, you have to find the actions to support the new course.

That's where I am right now....slowly rotating my thrusters in to the proper position but still slowly drifting further out.

Perhaps just recognizing this, and taking the time write about it, is in its own way a small deceleration.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

What Dreams May Come When Darkness Falls

There seems to be an inverse relationship between craziness levels and creativity levels. Meaning, my life has been completely and utterly crazy...and my creativity has plummeted. It's not that I don't have those creative moments, however, because I do. I just don't have the time or energy to massage them in to something, say, writing. So it's been awhile since I've written. And even though I now have the time, the residual of that anxiety keeps the stillness (in which the creativity blossoms) from really taking root.

Oh well..... it is what it is...

I need to go back a couple of weeks and reflect for a moment on dreams. Two weeks in a row I had very vivid dreams about death. Not my death, but deaths of others (although I was present to both).

Dreams are familiar territory for me. First of all, I remember them (for the most part, at least). I also have experience with them...their form...their content...their quality. And it's the quality that I want to focus on, because more than anything, it's that "quality" that moves me to either find meaning in them or to write them off as psychological babbling.

And like many people, I think we can probably write-off most of our dreams. It's the scientific explanation, right? Just our minds way of taking care of random pieces of information, etc... But there are some dreams, and you know when you have them, that are something more. It's like they come from a different place. And therefore, deserve a different type of attention. These death dreams were like that. It wasn't just the content that stood out, but the quality.

I don't really know yet what the meaning of them could have been. I don't necessarily see them as "predictive". I don't think my dreams have ever had that "foretelling" sense. It's more about the "why?". What in the dream has a message? And what IS the message? It could be that it's just my reactions to what happen that are the important thing...reflecting back to me something about myself that's difficult to see in real life because the "trauma" of the experiences are less. In that way dreams can be a great boon....teaching us something about ourselves without having to experience the tragedy in real life.

Thinking about things in that way can be tremendously helpful. And certainly you can learn a lot using that kind of reflection...whether what you are reflecting on is "real" or "dream".

But is there something more? I tend to think that there is. Not because I believe that all dreams are messages, but because I recognize when a certain type of dream stands out as unique from the others. I also probably believe this because of all of the other experiences I've had (ghosts, OBEs, lucid dreams, etc...). It's not so difficult for me to believe that "Life" is so much more than we perceive it to be, because I've already witnessed things that lie behind the normal veil of perception. Once you've seen behind the curtain, suddenly everything seems possible.


Can you believe the darkness? A number of my friends have mentioned to me what I had already been thinking... it seems darker this year. Of course, it probably isn't...but why does it seem so? Perhaps it's also a reflection of what's going on inside of us. Or even a reflection of the overall universal consciousness. There IS a lot of darkness. And it compounds the absence of the sun. Which in Seattle right now seems non-existant between the hours of 5p and 7a.

See how I just keep moving from one subject to another...without a creative segue??

Well, in keeping with that, I injured myself last Monday night (this is an addition to the lingering injuries, of course), and it never ceases to amaze me how much that affects my mental state. There are so many issues wrapped up in my "athletic-ness"... It's not just that I'm physically active...although that alone would be enough to drive people crazy. It's also that it reflects upon my career... and my stress-reducing methods...and in many ways, to my self-esteem. It's funny how we package ourselves up in our own minds. The image that we carry around about ourselves. In many ways we live so small. So confined. And in some cases, totally delusional.

I'm pretty sure that this is the point where I would talk about all of the other meaningful things that I've thought about....but alas....none are coming to mind. It's only 9pm, and already the weight of the darkness has me leaning towards sleep. Well, that and the end of an exhausting week. And the fact that I woke up at 4am this morning. Ok, so maybe I'm not doing the math correctly. Still, it seems early to feel this way...

Oh! Wait! One last thing... and I guess it's back on the death issue. It's interesting how you can work yourself in to an INTELLECTUAL place of peace regarding "death"...whether it be your eventual death or the death of someone that you love. But it's quite a different experience when the potential moment of death arrives. It can cast so much unrest on your conceptual ideas of "ok-ness" with the whole thing. I have walked on that boundary before....and observed both my delusions and my insecurities. As for me...and this has been shown in both my real-life experiences and my deep deep discomfort comes not from the death itself but the horror or agony or pain or suffering that are present in that moment. And I'm especially referring to the cases of other people dying. It's the thought of their pain or suffering in that moment that shakes my core and causes the emotional reaction. I can barely sit with it because of how strongly it affects me. I, of course, don't enjoy pain and suffering, but the thought of the people that I love experiencing it is the thing that induces horror in me.

Ok, so...ick. That's probably not a good subject to end this post on, huh?

Let's think of something lighter....just for a moment...

Hmmmm...I want to end with something that Gene Ching (I think?) wrote on Kung-fu On-line back in 2003...mostly because visualizing it always makes me smile. He was describing his stay at a Buddhist monestary...and the rigors of trying to meditate all day long...

"Tea is the meditator's friend and I sure wished I had some then. I was losing this battle, and like losing any fight, I feared the embarrassing thud of my head hitting the floor. You never want to hear that sound from the inside."


And with that, I bid thee adieu...