Monthly Archives: January 2014

Harmony is for the Birds

Let’s face it: some music is really hard on the ears! I don’t mean the noise that’s out there, I mean the real and serious music. What makes music rough is this beautiful, unstable and highly useful thing called dissonance. In a dissonant chord, the notes aren’t aligned harmonically and so the sound is tense and unpleasant. But dissonance doesn’t last. It can’t. A dissonant chord wants to, has to, resolve. And so it’s always in motion toward some new place, some integrated and harmonious place. A still point.

If we look around us and feel into ourselves, our entire universe is flowing between these states of instability and alignment. Our very lives are organized around this phenomenon of tension and release. And as artists we love this! These states course through our craft and the more that we’re aware of them and employ them, the more effective and communicative we become. Where instability is missing, we create it. We set up tensions in music, in dialogue, in movement. We give, we hold back. We show, we conceal. We grate, we soothe.

Consider that everything inside us and in the world around us – the conflicts, let’s say – are there in service to us, seeking to resolve themselves in us and through us. Our very impetus to make art may just be the avenue we’ve chosen to give meaning to life and to nature’s inherent conflicts and tensions, its ebb and flow, its instability and balance. Trust therefore that what you perceive as something unresolved in your life – a task, a relationship, a reality – is right now working its way toward alignment, with and without your input.

This too shall pass. It has to.

The way of chords is also the way of questions. The question that hangs out there unresolved is moving toward the answer. Like a chord it has to resolve itself…and bring another question and an answer after that. And so it goes, like the sun around the earth and all the seasons. Therefore embrace the instability in your life. It’s temporary. Accept it. Use it. Every day, throw yourself off! Leave your still point. Leave something behind – the harmony maybe. Risk that.
What happens next may be the sweetest sound you ever heard.

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The Seed Within

Within us all there is a seed of resplendent life force. We artists feel it especially. This seed lies in its casing, a hard exterior shell. 

We have to let the flowering take place. For an artist this is always a necessity…this having to bloom. We cannot help it. We can hinder it, prevent it, stifle it, go another way. It does not go away. It is patient. It waits for us. And then, when we allow it… even then we cannot help it. It grows itself.

Resistance to it comes from the mind and through the body. It does not come through the heart. The heart may race with fear as easily as with exuberance. The two are the same when fear feels exuberant and exuberance, fearsome. Both originate in thought, in mind. And we resist. We resist feeling fear and we resist feeling exuberance.

My life in art has been a long path of getting out of the way of the flowering. Of not putting up walls and other defenses. Of becoming increasingly trusting. Of listening. I have thrown myself into the stream and sometimes I have floated and sometimes I have been hurled into rocks and I have come close to drowning more than once. Here my mind, my ego, has come to be a necessary ally. And I have survived, with the seed intact. And this seed has grown and begot new seeds. And that’s what it means to live as an artist. To sow the seeds of our destiny and see the path we must follow.  Like Hansel & Gretel and their breadcrumbs, only with better results. 

At whatever time you awaken to the seed that stirs within you, that is where you start….whether you’re a child or a very big grown-up. No matter how old you are or how you look or who you’ve been or what you’ve done. Or haven’t been and haven’t done. Start there. Begin to listen.

The other voices in your head will be there too. They will have you wait until some certain time, or some other thing happens first or is achieved – when I turn 21, when I quit my job, when I quit my marriage, as soon as the kids are gone, as soon as I lose 50 pounds, as soon as my father dies, as soon as I have a million on account – are stories. Set the story straight. Start where you are. Become the one who begins at last.

Everything comes from nothing. You have an inspiration, your intuition tells you something, turn in. Listen to that something, attune to it. It is the stirring of your seed.

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It needs your attuning and that’s really all it needs. Just your attention. Attune to it, believe in it, and watch what happens next. You are given things…clues, ideas, instrumental people, energy. Soon the seed becomes a root and a stem and a branch and a bud. The flowering happens naturally. Our job is to cultivate the seed, to make fertile the earth and to water it all the way into budding with our love and our belief. We can let others love it and believe it for us first, before we do. It’s all the same to the seed.

No flower asks for permission to bloom. It blooms in its own time. Claiming our birthright as artists is like making a pact with nature. Our responsibility is to the seed. Nature takes care of the rest. Our true nature.

If you are reading this posting, then something has likely already stirred in you. Your soul has been aroused from its deep sleep, or perhaps from a recent nap. Long ago or just this morning. It has called you to art. What will you do now?

A new year is an impressive time. It always feels pregnant to me. All of us people on earth who count the years, and that’s most of us, are focussed on this turning. And we feel it collectively, that focus. All those intentions and all that dreaming. Very potent.

Some things will stick. Some seeds will pop out of their shells. Some won’t.

Don’t set yourself up too broadly, too vigorously, hang up too many hooks around yourself. Pick a thing that is your heart’s desire and feed that. Just one essential thing. What is it you dream of most nights? What have you known about for as long as you can remember? What inkling have you had time and time again…

Here in the northern hemisphere it’s winter and all the seeds are dormant in the earth.

Any day is New Years day, all the live long year.


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