Wednesday, November 11, 2009

An Eternal Harmelody of Adams

It is an existentialist cliché that modern man is "exiled in time," since he has lost his mooring in the eternal. But this cannot be quite correct, unless we forget what time is.

For time is not a successive appearance of independent "nows," or "points of time." Rather, it is a serial unfolding of past--> present--> future, in which the past anticipates the future and the future recalls and retains the past. Again, one cannot understand time -- or history -- by isolating a single point of it, any more than one can understand a melody by hearing one of its notes.

But since postmodern secular man is not in real time, where is he? Good question. I would suggest that he is in the same place existentially as is the contemporary pop music listener aesthetically, which is to say, "nowhere." I have no idea what's in the Top Thirty these days, but I'm pretty sure you won't find much beauty.

Now, if time is indeed a melody -- or, to be precise, if music is the image of time -- then we should expect time to have all of the same fundamental qualities as music, which include melody (the horizontal component), harmony (the vertical component), and rhythm (the repetitive, containing, or "boundary giving" component).

Modern man doesn't lack for rhythm, except that the beat is either jagged and inhuman on the one hand -- dragging him along by the ear with it -- or as boring as a nine-to-five-to sixty five to the grave necronome on the other.

Nor does he lack for melody, except that the melodies are either trite and sacharrine, or overly "free," verging on not being melodies at all, just a succession of notes with no internal consistency.

What man really lacks of the time element is harmony, and it is harmony that lends music its richness and its depth. Now, transferred to the human plane, to what could harmony be the analogue?

The first thing that comes to mind is tradition, especially the deep tradition of the orthodox revelations, through which man resonates at the same frequency as millions of other living souls, past, present and future. Ultimately one resonates with the first man and the last, or Adam and Christ. Compare this to metaphysical Darwinism, in which one resonates only with an animal and ultimately material past.

In other words, in the case of the Judeo-Christian stream, the harmonic tradition extends back to the dawn of man as we know him -- but really, to the (vertical) origin of the cosmos. To say in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth, is analogous to the da-da-da-DUMMM that enunciates Beethoven's fifth and keeps coming 'round until it is resolved.

Thus, when we harmonize with this tradition, we are still our own note or chord, so to speak, except that it is given a kind of infinite meaning by being situated in the vast cosmic Symphony of Man. Here again, ritual, prayer, meditation -- these are all specific ways of adding a voice to the celestial choir of temporal resonance.

Now, the beat -- the rhythm -- is exceptionally important in these meters. As alluded to above, meter involves repetition, containment, and boundaries. Without it, we could not "think" musically, since it would involve one endless display of novelty, with no breaks (i.e., boundaries) or patterns. A beat is like a unit of time that allows us to think about it.

Transfered to the human plane, this means that we live in various natural rhythms, i.e., the day, season, year, developmental stage, etc. This is how we can say that all Sundays -- or Christmases, or Springs, or Weddings, or Adolescences -- are the same, and yet different. Thanks to rhythm, we have retention with variation. And of course, we can all add in our own groovy little syncopations in order to make life swing. Now that I haven't been blogging every day, I've noticed how the whole thing depended on being locked into a certain rhythm. I'm guessing that most creative people find this to be true, at least if the creativity is to last.

Time is motion, or movement. This is why the ears in general and music in particular are so ideally suited to disclose it. Interestingly, Zuckerkandl observes that "A God enthroned beyond time in timeless eternity would have to renounce music," because "temporal omnipresence would make the revelation of audible beauty impossible."

Imagine what temporal omnipresence would be like: you would hear all the notes of, say, a Mozart symphony, except all played simultaneously instead of in succession. Just one eternally cacophonous OMMMMMMMMMMMM going out and returning to itself. In fact, there wouldn't even be enough time for OM, just OOOOOOOOOOOOOO..... Or O. And O would literally have no content.

But -- and we will have more to say about this later -- if God is not one but three (or three-in-one), then this has definite implications for the Cosmic Symphony, for it means that there is an intrinsic time element in the Godhead. After all, no matter how you play it, it takes some kind of time for the Father to give birth to the Son, even if it's a timeless time. I don't intend to start an argument, but it can't be literal timelessness, or it could never "happen." And this is the position of non-dualism, that "nothing happens" in God. Rather, there is no time, no individual self, no nothing, just a static eternity, compared to which everything else -- including notions of Trinity or personal God -- are illusion.

The Christian God is clearly not monistic, i.e., a "simple one." But nor is reality dualistic, i.e., God and creation. Rather, a key point, both for man and music, is that God is trimporphic. That being the case, perhaps the trimorphism of music can tell us something about the interior of God.

And when we say "interior," we mean this literally. Again, as Zuckerkandl notes, the eyes reveal the exterior of things, while the ears reveal the interior. Remember, a mere tone can be situated in the external world, but a melody cannot be. But nor is the melody simply on the side of neurology, since the tune-deaf person hears the identical notes, but not the melody.

Therefore, melody -- which is the meaning of the notes -- is the quintessential example of something that occurs only in the mysterious transitional space, the psychic third where everything -- everything -- meaningful actually takes place.

Indeed, one cannot even say that the the most stubborn external fact exists in the absence of this transitional space, for without it, we wouldn't even know what was important. Rather, everything would be of equal importance, which is another way of saying that there would be no facts. To say "fact" is to say "value" is to connect the dots is to sing a melody, however insipid or profound. And suffice it to say that the left specializes in destroying harmony and insisting that all melodies are arbitrary.

To be continued....

20 Comments:

Blogger walt said...

Connecting many dots in my pea-brain:

"...if music is the image of time -- then we should expect time to have all of the same fundamental qualities as music, which include
- melody (the horizontal component),
- harmony (the vertical component),
- and rhythm (the repetitive, containing, or "boundary giving" component)."


Thanks!

11/11/2009 08:36:00 AM  
Anonymous Gazriel said...

When I was a teenager, my favorite thing to do was lay in the dark with my headphones on, listening to music. I didn't realize it at the time, but it was a form of meditation. My thoughts would become silent, replaced in my awareness by the music. There was simultaneously space around the 'object' of the sounds, and an intimacy, as if the music was a me that I could let go of at any time. Eventually this led to feelings of vastness and, once I actually began a formal meditation practice and learned to consciously alter my breathing patterns, some pretty amazing Life experiences within the 'transitional space'.

Slipping into the isolation tank of my headphones
I begin skipping amber stones on rainbows
And surfing lightning bolts
Emitted from clouds of a blood red sky.
Three silver orbs beckon me on the event horizon
Each more brilliant than sunshine,
Rotating at the speed of light.
Spirals of unconscious matter
Converge to sing a lullaby
Then remove the chains from my heart
And emancipate my contemplative eyes.
Turning cartwheels from galaxy to galaxy
Becomes the universal pastime.
Passion fills the spaceless sky
Disconnecting the illusion of living to die.
Traversing astral pathways
When I encounter a radiant deva
With blue skin and even bluer hair.
Beauty transmits from every photon of her being.
She has eyes in the palms of her hands
And when I ask her what they mean
She simply smiles and motions for me to follow.
She turns and because I can no longer see her face
I feel empty and hollow,
Hollow like a decaying, unplayed drum.
I trail her 30 million light years in six seconds
To a planet where we take the form
Of a primordial, chaotic thunder storm
And make love to everything.
Waves of ecstasy envelop me
As we destroy the land with our presence
And nourish it with our essence.
When after a billion years and the tempest of our love-making subsides
I have a direct insight into the Emptiness/ Creation divide;
There is no other side.
I hover near the radical Mystery in astonishment and fear
Eliciting the realization that nothing ever dies.
The fog of transcendence lifts and I feel paralyzed;
On my bed, wearing headphones, music flowing through my head,
I am left with the strangest words which I've never heard nor said-
Mogdin Augury.

11/11/2009 09:16:00 AM  
Blogger Brazentide said...

no matter how you play it, it takes some kind of time for the Father to give birth to the Son, even if it's a timeless time. I don't intend to start an argument, but it can't be literal timelessness, or it could never "happen." And this is the position of non-dualism, that "nothing happens" in God.

This hits on something that I've been mulling over for the last week or so.. The scripture verse: ‘You are my son; this day I have begotten you‘ grabbed me as it creates a strange paradox from a temporal perspective.

Trying to understand timelessness from where we sit is about as easy as inventing a new color, but an old post you made about dream-logic as well as a few others put me on the right path. My search for a workable analogy led me to the idea of time as a long and narrow field of grass with each blade growing separately but all existing simultaneously from the Genesis side of the field to the Apocalypse. Although we (the blades of grass) see and interact with others around us, our 'present' - the infinitely small point in time in which our consciousness resides - isolates us from others who each exist in a their own (different) 'present'. Those around me don't really exist
in my present, and I don't exist in theirs, Our own present world is full of shadows of the future and at the same time echos of what were. In a sense, our present is surrounded by timelessness.

Looking at it this way, you realize that there is really only God and you in the moment, and the world is a mere collection of props, plot elements, and cameos in the drama. Of utmost importance is our rapport with the Playwright, but our (inter)actions with those who are spacially close to us on the temporal stage are integral to the main plot as well. Will our role in the drama of others be a hindrance to their goal or a help, will we be a hero or a villain, a Samaritan or a Pharisee? It is a profound reality and a rather daunting responsibility for us, especially knowing that our performances as well as the entire cast will be (and has been) honestly reviewed in light of the script that we've been given.

If timelessness means that all time exists simultaneously, movement - that is action - is no longer confined to a single point in time. Here we are writing our song as we play it. Once freed from our temporal bonds everything we will see clearly and all that we do will be illuminated and glorious. Rather than static, timelessness seems to me to be infinitely dynamic.

There is no potential in the Godhead, no beginning or end. Rather there is only pure action and actualization. Today (yesterday and tomorrow), the Father has begotten his only Son, and when it happened isn't remotely as profound to me as where...

I mean whodathunkit... in our own back yard!!

11/11/2009 11:12:00 AM  
Blogger robinstarfish said...

The first thing that comes to mind is tradition, especially the deep tradition of the orthodox revelations, through which man resonates at the same frequency as millions of other living souls, past, present and future. Ultimately one resonates with the first man and the last, or Adam and Christ. Compare this to metaphysical Darwinism, in which one resonates only with an animal and ultimately material past.

We saw this in action last week at a gallery opening of Gees Bend quilts. Where some people (other quilters, mostly) saw nothing but "poor craftmanship and shoddy materials" others saw jazz and rich spiritual history rooted in transcendent faith.

Later, during the talk one of the visiting Gees Bend gave, the source became clear. She never mentioned her craft once but spoke for a good long while about joy and how it manifests in the most unexpected ways. It was great, right from the soul, and got lots of deserved applause.

Nevertheless, the first question at the end was "I came hoping to hear you speak about your quilts" to which she responded, "I forgot".

Later still, we discovered a higher source still - the deep Christian roots of the Gees Bend quilters. They don't speak much about it in public, too controversial in art galleries you know. But it was front and center in the documentary being shown in a side room. It was the key that turned the walls full of color and pattern into windows.

11/11/2009 01:24:00 PM  
Anonymous Sean said...

excellent post and comments!

even with halfPetey tied behind your back you hit homers.

11/11/2009 02:13:00 PM  
Blogger swiftone said...

In the beginning was the word.

As you began your riff on music, I remembered the first time I heard music speaking. Truly musical talents hear colors, so I'm told. But I hear voices. Sometimes I want to lean in to hear the words, to have to story spelled out instead of listening quietly and letting it open me.

WV: gloperl I guess that might begin to explain music to the deaf? As OC begins explaining experiencing the spirit to the vertically challenged?

11/11/2009 02:20:00 PM  
Blogger swiftone said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

11/11/2009 02:23:00 PM  
Anonymous bob f. said...

The November edition of First Things, available on-line, has an article, "Sacred Music, Sacred Time", which talks about the same, or similar points as your article. It is written by David Goldman and is worth reading.

11/11/2009 03:09:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Here's a search you don't see every day:

how to hang wedgie yourself by a door

11/11/2009 05:40:00 PM  
Anonymous Word Veri said...

"how to hang wedgie yourself by a door"

It's music to my ears.



RR

11/11/2009 06:30:00 PM  
Blogger Retriever said...

Like this post, especially that part about "melody -- which is the meaning of the notes -- is the quintessential example of something that occurs only in the mysterious transitional space, the psychic third where everything -- everything -- meaningful actually takes place. "

Because, like what you also write about how all the notes at once would be, what leads one into the song is space as much as the notes.

Wondering if this space is like the freedom God gave us to make braying jackasses or useful pit ponies of ourselves down the mine bringing up coal. If we were automatons, everything could happen ratatat (like machine gun bullets or an assembly line). But because we are free, we hesitate, detour, get lost, go around, return, run away and only God can see that the notes and the spaces are part of a dance with a pattern that coalesces over time.

I always liked the swirls of light from time lapse photography of headlights or torches held by dancers. Well, music creates patterns like that too. The individual notes, the spaces, over time tracing a path that some follow and others turn away from.

On the other hand, also remembering that my obnoxious youthful blasting of music on some huge KLH speakers I spent part of my tuition money on freshman year got me a lot of angry door knocks and complaints from the nerd upstairs. He did not share my enthusiasm for surrounding myself in music (Gazriel had his headphones, but I liked to feel the music across the room). Shake the windows. One person's ecstatic listening to"All good gifts around us..." leads to another's snarls about calling the university police...

11/11/2009 08:09:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

"For time is not a successive appearance of independent "nows," or "points of time." Rather, it is a serial unfolding of past--> present--> future, in which the past anticipates the future and the future recalls and retains the past. Again, one cannot understand time -- or history -- by isolating a single point of it, any more than one can understand a melody by hearing one of its notes."

Indeed, One of the magical things about music, is that it takes you out of the moment, and expands your temporality to encompass the past, present and a hint of the future together in an expanded moment. Music, cannot exist in the infinitesimally thin present alone, it must involve the past in the moment and allow it to be just as alive as IT IS, and the future is intertwined with it's parent and grandparent, felt before it is experienced - music cannot be grasped except in the realization of past, present and future together - the three meet face to face in you.

"But since postmodern secular man is not in real time, where is he?"
Temporal provincial's... all is now... worse... all is only acknowledged as being what now should have been, if it was as realistic as they are.

11/11/2009 11:37:00 PM  
Blogger Joan of Argghh! said...

Bob, this post is on the verge of healing a monstrous rift in my mind regarding eternity, and at the same time it has confirmed and blessed something I was afraid was a shortcut of laziness on my way to spiritual connectivity: music.

I used to chide myself for not feeling more connected to God outside of musical interludes and worship; outside of the arts. There's all sorts of silly reasons I am like this, but I was fighting against a fundamentalist pressure, an "ought" that wasn't, and it never fit into mind, and now I don't care.

Like the Berlin Wall, I feel that the MANufactured border has been allowing idea escapees for the last few weeks and now it's just a matter of Time before it all falls together.

I've not much time to coontemplate this new wine before I have to go sling old wine bottles across the cashier scanner, but thanks so MUCH.

11/12/2009 06:46:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You play an instrument Bob? If not you should get into it.

Get a Casio keyboard and go at it. You don't need any musical training.

In order to really get the groove on, few instruments are better than an electric bass or guitar.

How about singing? A karaoke box can be a blast.

Music consists of the listening enjoyment of others but the other side is rolling your own and together they make the complete musical Tao.

Post clips of your output if you come up with anything you want to share. Doesn't have to be long just a 10 second loop even.

11/12/2009 08:31:00 AM  
Anonymous RiverC said...

I think we would say that the Son is ever-begotten, in that sense... but then I think (to Brazentide) the Psalm verse is interpreted as being prophetic of the incarnation, i.e. (From the womb before the morning star I have begotten thee...) and likewise with what you mentioned.

I wish I had a good reference, but the time of Eternity is not time in the sense that there is no movement or duration or distinction, but as I understand it is not time because it is not directional or entropic. In eternity time acts as another dimension the way the three we experience do, you might say. Therefore future, present, continuous and discrete and so forth become unified without confusion.

Of course there is also the notion that unlike us, the Son is born this Day, he is only begotten and ever begotten and always begotten and first begotten... His begetting, like that of the Spirit is not an act of separation within God but in some way a reflection about something deeper in God that I can't even begin to comprehend. What precisely it means to be begotten I have never seen an orthodox author venture to guess or if they did, did so in anything but speculation - nor what it means to spirate for the Holy Ghost.

But rest assure, the three are not a relationship within God only but some kind of existential reality - if we can use the word 'exist' when referring to God...!

As ole' Patrick said:

I arise today
Through a mighty strength....
Through the belief in the threeness,
Through the confession of the oneness,
Of the creator of creation.


Also I've heard that 'I AM' as the name of God can also be understood as 'I DO' as in 'I AM THE ONE WHO DOES' and certainly if you're saying God is love, he cannot be pure stasis and multiplicity cannot be complete illusion.

But anyway Maximus Confessor said it way better than I can.

WV: 'psynamo' !

11/12/2009 09:05:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

Joan said "I used to chide myself for not feeling more connected to God outside of musical interludes and worship; outside of the arts."

Outside of those 'activities', we tend to be involved only in the moment, and separated, disintegrated from a wider meaning and purpose to our lives. We dwell in the present Or the past Or on our druthers or dreads of the future Or what we are sure should have been.... Unless we keep a mindful attention in the larger perspective, we are less connected to God, outside of those 'activities'.

And of course it is in those 'activities', music, arts, worship... where we are involved in contemplating something which is One, it is Whole, it IS not only past, present & future, but form, function & purpose and Good, Beautiful and True... all at once, time is less... difuse. These activities give us a glimpse of what the perspective of God must be, where all things are not separate, but of and contained as One Cosmos.

11/12/2009 09:07:00 AM  
Blogger ge said...

Out soon, another Tarot book for the ol' library?
http://www.amazon.com/Way-Tarot-Spiritual-Teacher-Cards/dp/1594772630/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1258073680&sr=1-4

his spiritual autobio. was a rewarding recent read

11/12/2009 05:06:00 PM  
Blogger debass said...

Harmony, as we know it, is a relatively new phenomenon (around the middle ages). Some cultures don't have harmony in their music which may explain their behavior.
You can look up equal temperament, just intonation, pythagorean tuning, etc. on your own.
The point being that the harmony we are accustomed to hearing is not based on natural harmonics but a synthetic tuning system based on mathematical ratios. An unnatural harmony.

11/12/2009 09:13:00 PM  
Anonymous Flutes are amazing! said...

i like the pic with the flute isnt that krishna im pretty sure it is anyway great blog and i love some of the quotes in the flue section anyway i love flutes and poeple and anything u can do with a flute and anything related to a flute in any way even if it meant animals playing the flute i love animals then if a plant had a flute i love plants anyway i love the flute section it was amazing absolutely one hundred persecnt without a doubt amazing and well the rest of the blog was okay but not as great as the flute as in seriously i am in love with the flute seriousely anyway i love the flute sectiona and anything else about a flute you put up on there just brilliant about the flute

11/22/2009 03:22:00 PM  
Anonymous Francis Albert said...

Well, in lama land there's a wise old man and he'll toot his flute for you.

11/22/2009 04:06:00 PM  

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