Wandering Lost in the Infinite
I'm learning that these blog entries are a little like an unplanned pregnancy for me. Even though I wasn't trying, I must've been doing something that caused it. Now I have to make choice of either terminating it or carrying it to term. Both choices have implications and consequences. If I keep it, I've got to devote some energy and time to it and behave myself. The birth process is usually painful. And then I've got to deal with the little bugger running around causing havoc and mayhem. Bother.
|Mozart in Mirrorshades|
Searching for the On Ramp
I've touched on this topic obliquely in a previous post... kinda knew that I'd end up coming back to it... but was struggling with the right entry point. And then earlier this week, I read this piece from the New Yorker: The Nick Cave Song That Changed My Life. I linked to it on Facebook but it didn't seem to get much traction. I'm guessing most folks saw the title and thought, "Oh there he goes again with the Nick Cave fanboy nonsense". And that's a shame because the point of the article was not Nick Cave. It really is something that I wish my artist and creative friends would read and consider. I won't even summarize it here. Go do your homework.
But that article led me back to the topic of... (oh god I can't believe I'm doing this)... God.
Let me pause for a moment to allow for most of you to close this tab and go back to your cat pics and partisan warfare and porn... Okay for the remaining few, allow me to explain. There are three things that you need to know about me:
- I've already identified myself as an agnostic theist. I'm not going to rehash here. Again, go do your homework. But the point is that when I use the word "God", it likely doesn't mean what you think it means.
- I've been deeply interested in the subject of religion and mythology since being infected by a high school class in comparative world religions (damn you David Butler). Yes, I do idolize Joseph Campbell.
- I am a born instigator and monkeywrencher. My mythological guides are Loki and Kokopelli. I cannot help it. It is my nature. Iconoclasm is one of my favorite hobbies.
All of this leads to me having friends that range from deeply religious to militantly atheist. I am comfortable interacting with all. And I delight in causing them endless vexation by pointing out the inconsistencies in their belief systems (yes, Tom, atheism is a BELIEF SYSTEM). If that causes some of them offense... oops. I, of course, carry no illusions and am immune to this type of deconstruction of my belief system (cough).
Now let me try to weave in that New Yorker article. One of my primary conduits into the Infinite (aka God, True Nature, whathaveyou) is music. My church is a music club late at night filled with believers where there is the potential to experience, in the words of Emily Flake, "the spiritual apex of a tent revival for a profane and broken people". Those "profane and broken people" are my congregation.
I have been blessed by some of my most profound spiritual experiences in relation to music - both as performer and audience. I don't not know why that is true. But it is. And I can look into the eyes of others and know that it is true for them as well. Sometimes the sacred arises in the most irreligious contexts. And that delights both Loki and Kokopelli.
Through music and live performance, I have learned that there are facets of reality that are ineffable... that are not subject to scientific measurement... that are beyond our limited cognitive capacities. Those facets (a nod to my Diamond Approach brethren) make up a larger reality of which we are only vaguely aware. Now, I fully acknowledge that I am deep into my own 'belief space' here, and you are free to challenge me on any of this. All I'm telling you is what I can discern of the elephant from where I stand. Your perceptions can, and probably should, vary.
Deus Ex Machina
I'll share one experience I've had as performer. And I'll stay away from the drum corps experiences because that will just leave me crying and drinking and singing Never Walk. Anyhoo... for several years, I was a baritone with the Atlanta Choral Guild. One year we performed Bach's St John Passion. Now from what I know of Bach, he was a royal pain-in-the-ass to work with and I doubt he was much fun to be around at parties. But the man tapped into the Infinite like no one's business and was the conduit for some mind-blowing creations. Learning a Bach choral piece is like being inside an engine or a clockwork. You realize that you're essentially a component... a gear in a giant machine. I recall the baritone part in the Passion as being mechanical and somewhat boring. Performed alone, it would make little musical sense. But... when you put all the parts together... when all the gears are meshing... when the pistons are firing with the correct timing... something magical happens. That machine turns into a living breathing organism. And you can feel it coming to life. At that point, you touch the Infinite... and realize how truly small you are in the universe.
I imagine some of you know, from a deep place, what I'm talking about. Then again, this may be a foreign language to some. And that's okay. As Pirsig noted in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, there are many paths leading up the mountain. This is just mine.
Going back the Emily Flake's piece, she reflects on being obsessed with a song. This one is my current obsession. I know almost nothing about the band, but with any luck I'll get to see them live in February in a church called Cayamo. I hope you enjoy it and I hope you find your own pathway up the mountain.