I enjoy running across intriguing references to music in our ancient literature. Today I found this, “…music has power to ease tension within the heart and to loosen the grip of obscure emotions… The enthusiasm of the heart expresses itself… From immemorial times the inspiring effect of the invisible sound that moves all hearts, and draws them together, has mystified us.” ~ found in the I Ching (or book of changes), Wilhelm/Baynes translation, in the commentary on Hexagram 16, Enthusiasm.
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This month I have a different book, but each by the Dalai Lama, in every room in my house (except the bathroom – no further comment). So I pick up one or another book at odd moments… which are quite frequent in my life. A recurrent theme, in the D.L.’s writings, is the veneration of the mother, in terms, for instance, of a meditation practice of imagining reincarnation over endless lives (it is not necessary to believe in this, literally), implying that one could regard every creature as having been one’s mother at some point in time, in some other life. For myself, I am using this practice suggestion to meditate on many different people I have known, and imagining them as close to me – as close as a mother or a father, a sister or a brother, a son or a daughter… It is so important now for more and more humans to develop empathy as best we can. What can we do to reinforce our sense of impartial positive regard or love? What is more pertinent to that project than the fostering of awareness and respect for mothers?
One of my spiritual teachers was the late John G. Bennett (1897-1974). He was an Englishman who off and on lived and traveled in the Near & Middle East, and he was really impacted by experiences in Islamic countries in the early 1950’s. Here’s a note from his published journals, “I began to be occupied with… sacrifice and trouble for the sake of work. As these thoughts proceeded in me, there was suddenly added the phrase, ‘the effects of a cause must always re-enter the cause’. (from Gurdjieff’s All & Everything, p. 1135)… [and] I saw afresh the whole significance of this ‘world law’ and its application to sacrifice and trouble. Wherever the sacrifice issues from, thither it will return. If it comes from our silly egoism and desire to be seen and appreciated, these will be strengthened by it. But if it comes from a sincere feeling of need to serve the work, then the result will give life to our own individuality… If we wish to carry with us something that can become immortal, then our actions must issue from an act of will that is not confined to this fugitive experience of life in space and time.” – Volume 2, p. 173. The journals were published in two volumes as “Journeys in Islamic Countries” – https://www.amazon.com/Journeys-Islamic…/dp/1881408124
… While doing a little home re-organization, I re-discovered in one of my old boxes of notebooks the following quotation… “Music is a sacred art, a pathway of life through a living universe, merging East & West, heaven & earth, addressed not to the snobbish few but to all people as an inspiration in their journey through the universe.” I’d attributed the quote to the American composer Alan Hovhaness (1911-2000) – but without a citation as to where it came from. And it is so parallel to my own philosophy of music that I must wonder if I simply dreamed it up one night, rather than read it somewhere. Or maybe Hovhaness has been more of an influence on me & my own musical work than I have consciously remembered, before now. His music is really wonderful: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ufbOIe1GuhI
It is interesting, being present to yourself, while you also let go of all content, and let the onrush of fresh music, the experience of the soundstream, flow over and through you.
This evening – or was it yesterday – I commenced a 21-day series of experiments in musical mind refreshment, with the wonderful Violin Concerto created by the late Welsh composer, Grace Williams. Listening as letting go and flowing into the future, riding the sound waves… It does one good!
“Our loyalties are to the species and the planet. We speak for Earth. Our obligation to survive is owed not just to ourselves but also to that Cosmos, ancient and vast, from which we spring.” #CarlSagan