My Journey with Mozart and the Taj Mahal

Lately, I’ve been listening to Mozart’s Symphony #41–the “Jupiter” Symphony.  I enjoy classical music, but Mozart has always eluded me.  Certain musicians, one a jazz musician, have praised Mozart exuberantly.  The jazz cat said of Mozart, “He’s a real entertainer!”  Ever since the ’80’s movie, “Amadeus,” the whole world thinks Mozart is The Man.

The thing, I think, that makes Mozart hard for me is that his music is subtle.  I am finding that Mozart is capable of startling tonal breaks, and also of breathtaking beauty.  His music is like a crystal, not a flame.  So, which is probably my failure, I find my mind wandering only to be recaptured when Mozart does one of those startling things.  I would say I’m at about 1/2 able to stay with Mozart’s 41st Symphony.

I think my efforts to get Mozart are of value.  I have been following a life-long course of appropriating Euro-American civilization.  My formal education was only a start.  I have broadened and deepened my learning of Euro-American civilization.

You can learn only so much in one lifetime.  When I taught Humanities, the department made me use a book that had Euro-American civilization parallel with Chinese civilization and Middle-Eastern civilization.  So you would get one paragraph on Julian of Norwich then a paragraph on the Chen Dynasty, then one page on the Golden Age of Islam, another page on Napoleon and another page about the Great Wall of China then a picture of the Taj Mahal.  I don’t think in that order, but you see how jumbled all this is in my mind, now.

I think the only way to get a handle on, say, Chinese civilization is to study it as a whole–not pieces of it parallel with Euro-American civilization.  I have studied Chinese religions as part of my theological education, and I understand them to some degree.  I have also participated in Chinese culture through the pockets of Chinese immigrants in some of the cities I’ve lived in.

But I am an Euro-American.  I don’t know if I’ll ever really grasp Chinese culture.  I didn’t grow up there, don’t live there now, don’t live in Chinatown.  There are limits to what a person can grasp honestly and really.

Then there is the fact of conflicting ideologies.  I have also touched base with Chinese music.  I would listen to it during the period when I was undergoing acupuncture treatments.  What I found, though, for me, is that the kind of psychic balance that Chinese doctors strive to manifest in their patients is antithetical to some Euro-American ideologies.  This may sound strange, but I found I had to make a choice.  I couldn’t be both Western and Eastern at the same time.

So I’m back home.  Trying to understand one of Euro-America’s geniuses.  I feel that I have an understanding of a little of Chinese civilization.  But I’m not Chinese, never will be.  I’m not denouncing Chinese civilization.  I am not a xenophobe.  I have great respect for the achievements of that culture.  But it seems more valuable for me to broaden and deepen my foundation in Euro-American civilization.  Then I have a shot at becoming masterful in my knowledge.

BEFORE AND AFTER YOU

There was a time before you

life was hollow

There was a time before you

time itself was a bitter pill to swallow

 

There was a time before you

I cowered in insecurity

Now you are with me

I measure my steps with confidence and surety

 

Now you are with me

in every trying situation

Now you are with me

with constant affirmation

 

Now you are with me

life is meaningful

Now you are with me

for you, for us, I am grateful

 

You and I are us

your joy is my study, my occupation

You and I are us

our joy is a continuing vacation

Melanie: Woodstock’s Unsung Voice

We still hear about Woodstock, even in 2020.  But we hear only what the media wants us to hear about it.  Media accounts of Woodstock make it look like the festival was all about drugs, sex, and rock-and-roll.  But it wasn’t.  Peace and love filled to spirit of the festival.  Love isn’t just free love, or sex.  It is a love for each other.  And we don’t hear much about the spirit of Woodstock.  And spirituality at Woodstock.  Even in the four-hour documentary movie about Woodstock, there is no footage of Melanie.  Melanie’s take on Woodstock makes the festival a spiritual experience.  Indeed it was, or it wouldn’t be remembered.  No one would remember just a week-end of drugs, sex, and rock-and-roll.

Listen to Melanie’s words about Woodstock in her song, “Lay Down (Candles in the Rain)”:

We were so close there was no room
We bled inside each others wounds
We all had caught the same disease
And we all sang the songs of peace
Some came to sing, some came to pray
Some came to keep the dark away

Melanie had a spiritual experience while performing at Woodstock, and the crowd knew it, and they were with her.  She says,

“At that moment, 500,000 people saw me have this spiritual awakening because I realised that I wasn’t a body. The body is a separate thing to whatever you want to call it, the spirit or the soul or whatever. The actual being of me was not that body. I left.  That moment that happened in front of those people, that was the uniqueness of Woodstock, for me. And even though people didn’t know what was happening, they knew something had happened. And they were with me.”

Melanie doesn’t use drugs, so the spirituality was real.  There was that spirit, that spirituality at Woodstock, too.  There were those who came to pray, to keep the darkness away, who sang songs of peace, who were so close they bled inside each others’ wounds.

For whatever reason, we don’t hear about that aspect of Woodstock.  And we don’t hear about Melanie.  She is Woodstock’s unsung voice.  But for those of us lucky enough to know Melanie’s music and beautiful spirit, Melanie’s take on Woodstock gives as much light as 500,000 lit candles raised against the dark.

REFLECTIONS ON DEATH

Death, the intangible, mysterious thing

Not only the cessation of life here

A thing

The Mexicans dance

With half their face painted like a skull

On Dia de los Muertos

The Day of the Dead

Some call it Completing the Circle of Life

As in the Mayan prayer

“We come into the world, and we go out of the world

“Remember that every morning”

I used to think only of the afterlife

And so there was no death

We think of those we loved

And go on without their company

Can’t talk to them anymore

Probably around twenty-five or thirty years till

My death.  I can see it, sometimes.

Till I complete the circle of life

This world is all I know

Despite Swedenborg’s visions

Or the five experiences of the Indigenous man I heard

One doesn’t want to let go of what one knows

Let go of what I know

The Indigenous man knew

Things look different if my life continues

If I sit next to my grandfather, next to a flowing river that is all love

Consequences matter more, matter infinitely more

Than if death ends it

Then the world looks different

When death is a palpable thing

The mysterious dance of the Mexicans

That will be for me in twenty-five to thirty or so years

BIRTH AND SECOND BIRTH

Today we celebrate the day that’s you

But I celebrate this day for me, too

On this day you were born into life

As if a second birth, you are to me as if a wife

 

Your birth, your birth to me, made my life live

That is what your birth and what you give

I didn’t really have a life till you

Then you came, then I was born anew

 

Today, this day is all yours and all you

But it’s also all about me, too

Now it’s us, not you or I separate

With you, our life is one eternal date

SILENT LOSS

I suffer

Silently

Proficiency stolen

Asleep for years

Bipolar Disorder

My friends don’t want to hear

Why I am this way

 

I am waking up

Only to see what I’ve lost

I try to explain

To deaf ears

Try to pick up the pieces

So I suffer

Silently

Remembering

My tragic loss

Only to me

SO SAY THE BUDDHISTS

The Buddhists say we are all connected

The coffee plantation in Africa and breakfast in New York

My coffee cup and a Chinese factory worker

The rice paddy that gave her supper

The exploding star that formed the iron of which the plow is made

The exploding star that made the iron for the bullets in my enemy’s gun

My enemy who would shoot those bullets at me

The iron in my body’s blood

The iron in the blood of the other political party, who stands under my flag

We are all connected, all one

My enemy as my beloved are all one with me

Everything is mine, is me

And I am one with everything

Makes me think twice about rage, about hate

About causing anyone harm, anything

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