Sunday 29 September 2013

Parents, patterns and metaphors of music

We don't remember being born, we take our early years as given, we build our lives on a platform we've never recognised, because we haven't taken time or attention to check it out.

Our parents are these magical people whose influence is inescapable, though we may dare to stand up to what we have experienced.

Love between parents and children is one of the strongest instincts ever. It's also one of the most misinterpreted.


Most of us have the experience of responding to parents and responding to our children, and we, ourselves, are the difficult bridge between these two responses, because the construction of the bridge is not a given, but that which we create, ourselves.
We're born into a pattern, an emotional pattern, a pattern of belief, a cultural expectation, an economic reality, an historical sequence. We're not responsible for the pattern, yet we're responsible for how we change, don't change, ignore, take responsibility for that pattern.
You have to get personal, and start paying attention to what was going on, what was happening in respect of everything that determined the time and place into which you arrived, how it felt, what it meant, what was required.
They weren't thinking about you, they were responding for better or worse to their own arrival, development and history. They were doing the best they could in respect of their lives, hopes, disappointments, purposes, expectations, ambitions. They were responding to their own patterns of experience.
No-one is free from parents, biological sequence is inevitable. The implications are huge: person, purpose, life-plan, predisposition, preferences: all these come from somewhere, and the point of immediate entry is birth, that biological event in respect of which we exchange muscular contractions for emotional obligations.
Take a short test:
Pay attention to your life:
List your Mom's strongest (not best) character traits. On a scale of one to ten, rate her frequency of performing these. On a scale of one to ten do this for yourself.
List your Dad's strongest (not best) character traits. On a scale of one to ten, rate his frequency of performing these. On a scale of one to ten, do this for yourself.
Do this exercise for one mere week, thirty minutes a day, and I guarantee life-changes.
One's life is a pattern of meaning, and alas, this word is an empty one, unless it's filled with action. If you do something with your life other than look for superficial gratification, necessary survival, short-term joy, fun-filled distraction, your life will feel at first to be alien, then large, becoming properly purposeful.
Whereas entertainment is an industry, experiencing music is not really an economic activity. Music, itself, is a reflection of living. If you take a few moments to hear your life playing, the chords of your soul, the melody of your intent, you will find possibility of cadence, impertinence of melody, beauty of composition.
The pattern into which you are born is a music, playing at that time. Few feel able to change the music, some can interpret, most simply perform, leaders conduct.
However, the more you bring your own music into focus, the more the score changes.
Living one's life is like resonating within a particular chord, or cadence. You just keep on adding, either the same, or one sharp, or flat, or seventh, or minor, while your kids are adding on another semi-quaver. It's true that technology is changing extremely rapidly, yet emotions don't change as such, they merely vary the chord.
What we see is who we are, what we do is what we want, what we feel is our direction.
We have an instrument to play within our soul: all the notes that were given to us on arrival are ours, and the composition, counter-point and harmony are ours to create.

Avoiding a moral imperative of simplistic obedience, we will find a dilemma of authenticity.
What an amazing sequence of steps to gain mere movement towards truth...
Harmony of experience may seem difficult to achieve.
Way too much of humanity is trapped in rebellion, cruelty: destructive patterns that seem inescapable.


One of the best metaphosr of music is relief. Dissonance disappears when notes and chords connect. The soul feels it.

When you're free to move, in your soul and spirit, and your connection to the material world is known for what it is, a temporal connection, you can do what you want within the recognition that affords music an eternal appreciation.

One note played meaningfully can be utterly liberating...

Thus also, one life.





Monday 23 September 2013

Planning to live more than one life: RIP James Thomas

Today I was shocked and saddened to learn of not only of the death but of the killing of a friend from long ago.

When death comes from natural causes, it's sad enough. Abrupt, needless death is another matter.

James Thomas used to phone me on a Wednesday evening, or a Thursday evening or even a Friday evening, in a desperate situation, looking to put a band together to play for a party or a barn dance. Sometimes a mere couple of hours' notice. I was always happy to oblige, with my bass guitar, with the prospect of a rowdy dance, good fun, decent pay, and more.

The more: I want to dwell on that, because it was more. It meant much to me,

James gave the folk a short crash course on barn dancing: "heel and toe, do-ce-do and around you go" and then the whole thing would take off picking up ridiculous speeds.

Now that he has gone on, and I am left with these deeply affectionate memories, I think about the "more" that was involved, and my thoughts are daring.
He was a good Christian, living the standards of the Christian proclamation. I am not the same. I ask questions that Christians don't ask and can't answer. Yet I believe that if we were to catch up with each other, right now, we wouldn't do anything else other than laugh about the madness of those years, recognize that which is more, and live for that imperative.
It is an eternal imperative. The church that he attended made the statement via the local leader that James looked for growth, as an imperative matter for all, and my view of his work is that it shows this, throughout.
I pass the billboard to Cape Town, on the left, close to Maitland, the one that reads "Don't leave a will, leave a legacy" and I like the feel of this, even though I am not a multi-millionaire.
Do you come back?
Well, "coming back" is a loaded term, sounding very Eastern to the Westerners. No, YOU don't come back, you don't get the same plate of food twice, ever, nor do you step into the same river more than once. That's why our feelings let us know what's special.
Yet, if you have a plan to change more than what one life inhabits, your plan is greater than it could be, and if pursued, simply greater in effect than one life.
Most of us desire no more than to survive and if possible, to thrive during our one life.
Again, re-read Brian Weiss. He has a finger on the pulse of living's summary.
The point is this: living is full of meaning. We participate, gently, intuitively, and given the sense of purpose, penetratingly, in this sphere.
The service motive is more fruitful than the profit motive.
Thank you, James! It will come back, all of it, until humanity itself ends...

Friday 13 September 2013

Core Intelligence

Intelligence isn't what it used to be. Tests were designed, way back, to measure various defined intellectual capacities. In those days we measured verbal IQ, non-verbal IQ, we had stannines, bell-curves and cultural bias.

Now we have emotional intelligence, spiritual intelligence, ecological intelligence, intuitive intelligence and industrial intelligence. Astute books have been written about these, and I am sure more intelligences will be found as we go along.

I am interested in intelligence, because when I feel unintelligent, as I frequently do, I seek to feel intelligent again. Feeling intelligent is better than feeling unintelligent.

How do you know when you are being or acting intelligently? This question has fascinated me all my life because I was brought up in a way that encouraged me towards scholastic intelligence, spiritual obedience, economic ignorance, emotional servility, sexual idiocy and subjective clarity. I have had the good fortune of experiential influences in my life to have changed the balance of all this, and have learnt things that have changed my mind, direction, values and intelligence. I am sure that I am intelligent, but I can't prove it, not even to myself.

For a very short while I worked in the context of that well-known oxymoron, military intelligence. My job was to carry the files from the top secret cabinets to the meetings and put them away again after the meetings.  They trusted me not to open the files which was probably the height of  stupidity. What I did learn, however, was that if your enemy knew more about you than you knew about the enemy, you were likely to lose the battle.

In the functional world, intelligence relates to data-gathering, analysis, decision-making, policy, action, delivery, feedback. In the personal and interpersonal world, intelligence relates to insight, balance, wisdom, values, right action and one special core aspect which I deem to be impenetrable and inscrutable because it lies beyond the  reach of language and even thought. Fortunately, or unfortunately, this core aspect lives cheek by jowl with the mixed up sphere of emotion and instinct. These very alive imperatives remind us that we come from the belly of a very hot earth, and that our earthiness and starriness are linked in unclear ways.

This core intelligence is humbling, but not to the point of inaction. It is electrifying, often to the extent of premature commitment such as religious zeal. It can be restrictively instinctive, resulting in maternal over-protection, sexual addiction, purposeless aggression, over-identification, by way of examples.

I don't know what it is, what to call it, whether humans can conceptualize it, whether anything can be done to domesticate it.

It is an aliveness, even more, Presence, before which we had better lose all pretensions at intelligence, and learn, as quickly as possible, to relate, communicate and above all, grow in recognition. We tell ourselves strange stories, moving myths, poignant poetry and use music, architecture and art to appropriate this aspect of core intelligence that words fail to capture.

In my view, this mysterious core intelligence is a matter of grace: if you aspire too much, it evades, if you desire too much, it escapes. If your heart remembers the heat of conception with ease rather than urgency, perhaps the dream will be remembered more clearly.

Does the idea of intelligence actually apply in respect of such a view?

I think it does, if we move away from a neurologically-centred basis, and go towards subjectivity itself, realising that neurological activity and subjective awareness are not an intelligent enough combination.

The "I" of the "I", the heart of the heart, the soul in itself, the spirit, if you can catch it, the Holy Spirit, if you are prepared to recognize: these are all a little dazzling, and can't be reduced to an academic thesis or a statement of conscience.

If I believe I have captured the castle, perhaps I should go back to bringing the files.