Monday, March 31, 2014

What It's All About

"You put your right foot in, you put your right foot out...

Not exactly what I'm thinking all about. I'm thinking about my attention, and where I should direct it, namely to alleviate stress. St. Paul, in 1st Corinthians 3:16, said (variously translated, but the meaning isn't lost) Know you not that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? To me, I see this as meaning to look inward or inside myself, for God, whatever God is. God, most likely, if there is one, is so far beyond our ability to understand or comprehend that we might as well not look, at least "out there somewhere." Science keeps looking more and more inward, at smaller and smaller things, for "the meaning of life," leading to the discovery of atoms and their components, then  quantum mechanics, quarks, Higgs boson, and wherever all this takes us. But it seems to be taking us to smaller and smaller places, more and more "inward."

Where it takes me is back to my discovery, in a time of need, of Transcendental Meditation. I was feeling very stressed, and finding no solution in exercise, yoga, nature, or other places I looked. I was working in Hilo, Hawaii, and wandered into a bookstore and discovered a small book on TM. I purchased and read it, and decided it was exactly what I needed. So as soon as I got back home to Honolulu, I sought and found the local TM center and signed up. It involved classes so that I would know exactly what I was  getting into and what to expect. Then I was assigned a teacher who sat with me and taught me the actual technique. And I was hooked. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi spoke of a "field of all possibilities," a place where there was at once nothing and the potential for everything, all at the same time. And I went there, an absolutely indescribable place of not quite nothingness, but of infinite peace. It was as if I was all alone in the entire universe. And that is what is hoped for all who learn it, although I found later that not everyone achieves that. But my teacher(s) said that is the magnet for continuing the practice, to keep trying to get back to that place.

Let me regress: I had a lateral lisp for most of my life. All my "S" sounds came out of my side teeth, not my front ones. I had speech therapy as a child, and continued to try to figure out how to get rid of it into adulthood, even going to the U. H. speech therapy center when I was in graduate school at the University of Hawaii. And nothing worked, until about a week after learning TM, I noticed (without thinking about it or trying to do anything about it) that it was GONE. I was speaking normally for the first time, then and forevermore. The only thing that had changed was that I was looking inward twice a day for twenty minutes.

Coincidentally, I once worked with a show conductor who had a similar experience: he stuttered, and his stutter disappeared when he learned TM. When he stopped practicing for a while, it came back, but disappeared again when he returned to meditating. Stress therapy? Looking for God? Shutting out the outside world? Just relaxing by closing one's eyes? Who knows? There is lots of information about research that has been done on the benefits of practicing TM, but I have my own story, and it's a good one. You put your right brain in, and your left brain, and your whole consciousness, and look what happens. And that's what it's all about...

Friday, March 28, 2014


...are rampant. At least, that appears to be the case, in the music world, if not permeating our entire world. Many musicians, for example (and where I'm headed with this observation), are universally praised, frequently when they are nowhere near the elite status they are generally afforded. The question arises whether they are really thought of as being that good, or if their public (frequently other musicians) is simply being polite, or (ahem!) if the listeners really don't know, or are being fooled, or hoodwinked, or are fooling themselves, or are just going along with the crowd. In my experience, many musicians who are lauded in public and private do not deserve to be included in that elite top-tier of the truly great. That leads me to think that the majority of listeners are not sophisticated enough or knowledgeable enough to really know the difference between technical prowess and true artistry.

The creation of music involves many facets, but foremost of these is the ability to communicate with the listener. Some have been well educated, have spent countless hours in the practice room developing and honing their craft, many more hours listening and learning from the ones who came before, and so forth and so on. But sometimes (and perhaps frequently) someone comes along who is lacking in one or more of the elements we think of as being a requirement, such as having a pleasant voice (or sound on an instrument), or a knowledge of theory, or other things, but they have a gift for communicating with an audience, of "clicking" within a certain genre, and they become stars. So all of those elements taken together are not necessarily the answer. Indeed, sometimes the elements have been studied, practiced to perfection, but that one special talent, the ability to communicate, is missing. But too often, to my way of thinking, the listener is not sophisticated or learned enough to know the difference. A friend of mine long ago had business cards made up that read, "If you can't dazzle 'em with brilliance, baffle 'em with bullshit." So many listeners (and critics) seem to be baffled, or at least fooled. Maybe they are just trying to be, or seem, sophisticated or knowledgeable. Maybe it's a matter of intelligence; after all, half of us are at or below average intelligence. Maybe IQ has something to do with it; I don't know. I do know that I am sometimes impressed with the technical prowess of someone I hear, but hearing them once is enough. I don't seek out further opportunities to listen to them, live or on recordings. They don't move me. But then someone will come along who says things in the simplest way, but it strikes at my heartstrings, and a bond is formed.

There is an emotional element in true communication between artist and observer, in music and art, in poetry and prose. Of course we all have our own interests, and we tend to pursue the genres that do interest us, but sometimes something from outside our experience will intrude on our consciousness and pique our interest, and we experience, well, expansion. Our world has just gotten larger.