I had no doubt about the central place music occupies in life until I was recently informed by a well-meaning friend that I take no time for myself. This was News to me, coz me, I was thinking that's all I do, is think of myself. The comment therefore came as a new Behavioral Challenge. I was not sure how to respond: it even somehow surprised me that I needed to reflect in order to figure out what the friend meant; but I decided it's got to be somehow Transcending. Transforming. Competing Across Multiple Strands. Triads Cascading. Reflecting The Physicality Of The Musical Universe?
Musing about it, I was reminded of a woman I once knew who had a long-term attachment to a Person of Interest, a guy who told her repeatedly that they had a Relationship. No-one in her family liked that guy, not a single one of her friends thought well of him but still she defended him and defended him, noting his good points: intelligent, good sense of humor, musical ability. (I won't get into an additional not-so-subtle reason for the attachment: this is a public forum.)
It will come as no surprise that the opinion of her family and friends turned out to be Right On. The guy was wrong from the start even if she could not, would not believe he meant what he said when he said they would never last as a "we" - that they were ships passing in the night, et cetera, et cetera, and so forth. She had plenty of evidence to support his opinion but none of that evidence mattered or added up for her because she esteemed him enough to doubt his word about that one issue, central as it might have been.
Although I was privy to her struggle and patient when she confided in me, my own misgivings went unheeded. What should have made it incontrovertible, IMO, was that he was really terribly stingy with her about music. Although he had a great collection of albums - CDs, tapes, even LPs - he rarely, if ever, said, Hey I want you to listen to this! Never put a CD in her hands saying, You Have Got To Hear This, Take It With You. And (this was the kicker, for sure, I thought) although he did once take her out to a musical recital in a local concert hall, when they ran into people in the lobby whom he knew socially, he did not introduce her to them. Say, What?
Of all the large bells tolling out repeated warnings to advise that he was Not Right, I myself think that one ought to have made her dump him quicker than a full bucket of kitchen scraps needs to be put out onto the compost pile. (He was contemptuous of composting, as well: another warning sign I kept reminding her she should not ignore.) Of course, since she did not heed any of the warnings, she was actually taken by surprise when he dumped her for a younger woman, sore needier, more demanding, less sophisticated, than she.
Moral of that story: "Live and Learn" ain't always easy. Recognizing machismo when you encounter it doesn't mean you've internalized how best to deal with it. Which might underscore a 'should-be-obvious' fact: we humans do make things complex for ourselves.
It was learning that neurologist-writer Oliver Sachs recently died which got me thinking about how complicated our perceptions can be, especially (as was the case with my woman friend's befuddling relationship-that-was-not-a-relationship) when one is besotted with those perceptions. Now, Sachs, may he Rest In Peace, who was an extraordinarily gifted researcher, wrote about Matters of Interest, including Perceptions of God, about which there is a link below to his article about this subject in The Atlantic.
With respect to this, as it happens, I have Something To Say, having had a Near-Death-Experience (NDE) following a mid-winter auto accident after a car hit me. I was not in car myself at the time, and can say with complete certitude it is definitely not a good idea to be lying out on an icy highway with your skull fractured.
But a benefit of that experience was that it gave me occasion to reflect at length and at will upon the vast unknowable force which people tend to call God. I was more than a little mystified by my NDE: it seemed to have been quite different from those I read about (after the accident - I knew virtually nothing about them before I had one, had no interest in them, really; had never met anyone who'd had one and hadn't given them much thought) until I happened to reread Yogananda's Autobiography of a Yogi, in which Yoganada mentions that Yukteswar Giri, his teacher, says about meditation that "the purpose of meditation is to see God" and then explains to Yogananda that "when your meditation is successful, you will see the God you are able to believe [in]. If you believe in Jesus, you'll see Jesus; if you believe in Krishna, you'll see Krishna; if your view of God is [somehow] more intellectual, you will see A Great Light."
Well, Bingo. That's just what I saw. In fact, I (whatever the "I" was, that was having that out-of-body experience) was *in* a great light - a soft, translucent, almost misty kind of light which went on forever and ever yet somehow had some kind of boundary or boundaries. No tunnel. No light at the end of a tunnel. Just that Light itself, as ineffable as could be, had I ever set myself to imagine such a phenomenon, had I ever even thought about trying to imagine it.
What was unnerving, though, were the orbs. I did my best to avoid contact with them, with the countless dense, glowing orbs that were darting about chaotically in that Light. Somehow I knew that if any of them came too close, the "me" that was there in the Light with them would merge with the energy of that orb and I'd not get to finish whatever I had been in the middle of, when the car on the highway slammed into me and left me for dead.
It took me years to figure out how I'd managed to avoid those glowing balls of energy until it came to me that I had eluded them by copycatting, mirroring their movements, each one, one at a time, because all I knew, when I was conscious enough to remember and reflect on the experience, was that it was the hardest work I had ever done in my life. But eventually it came to me that I had mirrored the action of all of those I encountered, in order to keep each one at bay - like a Creative Drama exercise, only deadly serious. In that way I was, eventually, able to follow the sound of my heartbeat back into my body.
When I woke up, I was lying alone on a bed in a room that I knew could only be in some kind of hospital, trussed up like a turkey waiting for the Thanksgiving oven. My left leg was encased in a plaster cast from my toes to the top of my thigh; my head was in a bandage that covered my left eye, my right arm was in a sling. Clearly, Something Had Happened but I couldn't imagine What because I had no memory of what that Something had been.
Eventually, I did find out. And fortunately for me, lots of people were involved in my adventure of learning and relearning. Lots of people, lots of conversations, over the course of lots of time: seconds, minutes, hours, days, years - decades...
But with respect to Dr. Sachs, what I wish is that I'd managed to talk with him, before he died, about my certainty that it is what one believes which affects what one sees if/when one has some sort of out-of-body experience like Near-Death. I think he would have enjoyed having a conversation about it.
Reflecting further, it occurred to me that my grandchildren, among other people, did not know me before I was turned into someone who could be labeled a "disabled" person. Since I am feel I am still pondering that identity change, this has now become a new point to ponder.
All of which serves to reinforce my conviction that it is up to us to decide how we shall live. Each of us gets to decide what kind of person s/he wants to be...in the great scheme of things. Since I believe it is true, what Rinpoche said, that most of life is accident and how we deal with the accidents we are given is how we create karma, I'm stating again that I believe we (I mean, all of the Arconauts) need to put our heads and hands together to establish a cooperative at Arcosanti.