Musical Milliner

September 22, 2014

Vivace!

Musical Milliner offers her kind regards to all of you who have hung in there with her the past five years as she has been circling the Inferno that was her life. She’s/I’m (changing tenses here) glad to be alive, and pleased to tell you that despite dedicated and focused attempts to dismantle my psyche and resources, I am well.

On this lovely atumnal equinox, I feel…balanced. I swear, I didn’t  plan that last sentence. Exploited the opportunity, certainly.images

My sons are thriving. I am rebuilding my business, and I am experiencing one of the most productive phases of my life in music.

Socializing is still a bit of a challenge. Ever the introvert when not performing, but I am taking steps to improve.

Here’s the thing: I recently heard a song which reminds us that after so many years on this journey we all share, comes a time to lose some of the load. Keep what you need or want, and continue in a leisurely stroll toward the sign marked “exit.” It takes so much effort to keep track of all the emotional hording, and is so unnecessary.

Who knows, I may even write an upbeat lyric or two. God bless the lot of you.

August 27, 2013

The Grace of Suffering

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In high school, I discovered hatha yoga, which led me to the writings, and eventually the lectures of Ram Dass (Dr. Richard Alpert). I consider him my first spiritual teacher. He popularized the phrase “Be here now,” which later became the title of a fascinating book. Some recent drama has called me back to these teachings.

This excerpt is from a 1988 interview in The Vegetarian Travel Guide.

 

 

Ram Dass: “…that’s (suffering) the one that is hard for this society to recognize. That is one of the highest mystical teachings, that suffering is great. But who wants that? To hell with that…later, baby.

VTG: When one is suffering, it’s very easy for the heart to close down. In my own life when I’m hurt or feeling angry, it’s often an automatic response. What do you tell your own heart when you feel it closing down, when the stimulus is just too strong and you’re ready to run for the hills?

Ram Dass: When my heart starts to close down, first of all it’s incredibly painful because you get addicted to having your heart open and staying in that kind of liquid space of just being in love with the universe, like the divine beloved is just everywhere. When it closes down it hurts. What I do is I sit with it the way it is. I don’t try to push away my closed heart, that just closes it further. I just say, ah ha, my heart is closed, and I realize that what is closed will open and what is open will close so that I start to have a little patience about it. And then instead of trying to open my heart by thinking loving thoughts, usually what I do is go back into my breath because the thing that closed my heart was a thought that I had. It was nothing out there.

Nobody did anything. They just do what they do. It was my interpreting what they did that closed my heart. And so I can see that what I’ve done is get stuck in a thought form. And what I can do now is go directly into my mind and go back into the rising and falling of my breath until I get to the point where the thought dislodges and I’m just with the thought of the rising and falling, and then at that moment that whole constellation of thought that closed my heart isn’t around anymore.

EJR: Do you actually identify what the thought was?

Ram Dass: I used to do that. I’m an old psychotherapist so I would say, “why are you unhappy?” or “why is your heart closed and what caused it?” Now I’m not so interested. When you go into the causes then you move into the psychological reality. You’re treating it as real. That’s one strategy, but it’s only one strategy. Sometimes treating the psychological as thought and going back behind it is a much more efficacious manner to get on with it. It is a bottomless well of trying to figure out why it is you’re angry, why it is your heart closes. It just never ends.

August 6, 2013

The Singer’s Mind

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This is an informative article from a teacher’s blog. Lots to think about. The art of singing involves so many inter-connected systems. One’s psychological and spiritual state is a huge part of the equation, and technology is giving us answers as to how the musical brain functions.

Mostly, singers are bat shit crazy.

Read on.

 

http://www.singalexander.com/blog/2013/8/Training-the-Singer-s-Mind

http://www.singalexander.com/blog/2013/8/Training-the-Singer-s-Mind

November 7, 2010

Follia

Disheartened, discouraged, discomfited. Crying. Sulking. Repressed passion. More than anything she wants to crawl back into the cave, into the darkness that kept her safe. In its favor, the darkness is familiar. She  knows how to be there. Rather, when in the cave, she knows how not have to “be there.”

Once the light starts to crack its way in, she begins to take note of her surroundings. She is relieved by her solitary confines. At first this is reassuring.  At last!  All alone here, thank God. Nobody requiring her to explain or justify herself.  Relaxing from the tumult, she rests.

Eventually her thinking turns on her as her vision gains focus. Is this good, all this isolation? It is a bit… lonely. Perhaps she needs some company after all. Perhaps some distraction is in order, something to take her mind off those events which sent her running into the night alone.

She looks out. She looks around. And she waits passively for passersby. Who is that on the edge of the shadows? How can this be. Him? Truly? At first she does not understand why he is there, or how he came into her presence at this critical crossroads.

More alert now, her mind shifts into overdrive as synapses permit neurons to fire in rapid frequency as she seeks an assessment. One of the artifacts of spending so much time alone inside one’s head is that a person becomes an expert processor, engaged in an obsessive need to analyze situations from multiple angles. It’s a useful skill, but a skill which used to excess is not entirely healthy. The cost of this habit is a deficiency of  the ability  necessary to fix and embrace goals. It is the mental equivalent of a dog chasing it’s tail. Intensive thinking creates details which break down into a million bits of minutiae. Every one of those bits holds profound import. One begins to hyper-focus on each bit. A mind become lost and confused in the sheer volume of its creation.

From such thinking, surely, madness comes.

So she breaks free long enough to risk conversation. Acutely vulnerable and exposed, she experiences the tsunami of affirmations, and flattery wash over and pull her further from the dark places despite her resolve. Still over-thinking, she weighs her options.

She has an absurd conference in her mind wherein the Rational and the Empirical and the Existential and the Pragmatic all compete for dominance.

Not having sorted herself out, she risks all by taking the hand she sees reaching toward her. She finds in that immense hand kindness. She feels love. She is surprised by the intense passion, the cumulative suppression of which has been revealed in this confluence. What is this? Can it be real? She knows she cannot evade him even if she wanted to because he knows her game.

The light is blinding. It is as painful as the darkness. As much as she wants to acclimate to this new place, she finds herself battling mightily against fears and uncertainties. She remembers a time long ago when she lived in this brightness and flourished. She recalls exactly when and why she retreated into herself after the fog rolled in on her. She knows that in the dark, she cannot be seen. In the dark, she feels safe from potential harm imposed on her. In the dark she is comfortably numb.

That warm hand…It is attached to realities she has desired, and intense experiences she has sought all her life. But his hand is attached to complications seemingly impossible to resolve. The hand proffered is conditional, and in the end will likely choose to retreat to it’s familiar place in it’s own dismal darkness.

To hope against hope is yet another path to madness.

She measures her resources and finds herself  too fragile to juggle this place of suspended animation and potential. If it was contingent on waiting, on riding it out, then perhaps…yes!  She could do that. But she knows better.  Maybe it’s not that she knows better as much as it is about her inability to handle further loss. She chews over parables and metaphors and cultural wisdoms:  if a thing is too good to be true, then it likely isn’t;  nothing ventured, nothing gained;  that which is worth having is worth waiting for.

She is too old and cynical for such bullshit.

She flees back to her dark fortress. A place of familiarity with its own wisdom: pain alone is better than pain shared.

(c)GoshGusMusic(ascap)2010

October 31, 2010

Pace e Tranquillità

My Homeland
~~~The Lake of Beauty~~~
Let your mind be quiet, realising the beauty of the world,
and the immense, the boundless treasures that it holds in store.
All that you have within you, all that your heart desires,
all that your Nature so specially fits you for – that or the
counterpart of it waits embedded in the great Whole, for you.
It will surely come to you.

Yet equally surely not one moment before its appointed time
will it come. All your crying and fever and reaching out of hands will make no difference.
Therefore do not begin that game at all.
Do not recklessly spill the waters of your mind
in this direction and in that,
lest you become like a spring lost and
dissipated in the desert.

But draw them together into a little compass, and hold them still, so still;
And let them become clear, so clear – so limpid, so mirror-like;
at last the mountains and the sky shall glass themselves in
peaceful beauty,
and the antelope shall descend to drink and to gaze at her reflected image, and the lion to quench his thirst,
and Love himself shall come and bend over and catch his own likeness in you.

From the liturgy for midday Prayer, New Zealand Prayer Book

October 21, 2010

Ascolta Tutti

Our resident guest columnist, professional astronomer  Claude Plymate of NSO at Kitt Peak takes up more Big Questions.  This week : Life in the Universe, Part I ~ Are We Martians?

One of the foremost questions in science as well as theology has always been “are we alone in the cosmos?” For the first time we are actually making real headway into answering this fundamental question. Recent results in biology have shown that life is far more tenacious than we ever could have imagined. At the same time, astronomers are demonstrating that planets are rather common companions to stars. Current estimates are that between 30 – 60% of stars include planetary systems. That would indicate that there are something like 30 to 60 billion planetary systems in our galaxy alone! That’s 5 – 10 planetary systems for each individual living on Earth. And if you assume our solar system is somewhat typical, each planetary system likely includes several planets. These overwhelmingly huge numbers makes it very easy to assume that Earth cannot be so special as to be the only place in our Universe where life has taken hold.

Observations of Mars from telescopes atop Mauna Kea, Hawaii have found evidence of methane in its thin atmosphere. This methane could be the result of geologic processes but could just as well be a side effect of life – living, farting organisms! What would if mean for the commonality of life throughout the Universe if we were to find it growing right now on our next door planet? Well, it depends. If it was found that life had spontaneously and independently sprang into existence on at least two distinct planets in our solar system, the implication would be that life is easy to get started and that life is likely to be found just about anywhere that the proper conditions exist. If however there is or ever was life on Mars, it is highly likely that it is directly related to life here on Earth and that its origin was not independent.

It is well known that throughout the history of our solar system a significant amount of asteroidal material has been flung back-and-forth between the Earth & Mars. The Martian meteorite ALH84001 made quite a media splash back in the 1996 when a team of NASA researches announced that structures imbedded in the rock appeared to show fossilized evidence of microbes. The controversy continues about the origin and meaning of these structures but it does clearly show that material from Mars occasionally does make the trek to Earth. Presumably, although not nearly as common, rocks that have been blasted off of the Earth by asteroid impacts should also occasionally find their way to Mars. (Mars’ weaker gravity and thinner atmosphere makes it easier to eject material off that planet than from the Earth. At the same time, more meteors will get pulled into Earth’s deeper gravity well.) It’s been shown that many types of microbes can easily survive inside a rock catapulted off of a planet and in the harsh conditions of interplanetary space for the time required for travel between Mars and Earth. This cross-contamination between the two planets would seem to make it highly likely that any life there is directly related to life here. The concept of life on a planet being seeded by life from elsewhere goes by the name panspermia. Panspermia makes it quite possible that we are all Martians!

As cool as it may seem to think that we might have or had microbial relatives living on Mars, it would tell us nothing about how likely or how often life gets started in the first place. Mars, however, is far from our last possible place to look for extraterrestrial life inside our solar system. Several of the moons around Jupiter and Saturn are believed to have liquid water oceans below frozen ice mantles. Any of these sub-surface oceans might make comfortable ecospheres for extraterrestrial critters. And it is rather unlikely that Earth or Martian bugs could have made the journey that far out in the solar system. Any life out there is quite unlikely to be related to us. If any other life that is truly unrelated to life here on Earth is found within our solar system, the odds are overwhelming that life must be pervasive throughout the Universe.

This leaves us at this the moment without knowing how easy it is for life to get itself started. What is clear is that once life does get going, it quickly adapts to a very wide range of conditions; I think the quote from Jurassic Park was “life finds a way.” Even if we find that life is difficult and takes a long time to get started, there are so many planets that have been around for such a very long time that the odds seem good that life – at least microbial life – is common across the galaxy.
Claude Plymate
Engineering Physicist
National Solar Observatory ry
http://www.noao.edu/noao/staff/plymate

(c)GoshGusMusic(ascap)2010

July 27, 2010

Luce del giorno: Cinquain VI and VII

(c)cjarc
Cinquain VI

First light
Eyelids clenched tight
“You are not here if I don’t look”
Child says.

Defy
The itch to peek
Beyond paralysis
To ascertain if there is need
Knocking

Embrace
Hope monsters flee
Replaced by gentle sun
Blessed by all warm love around me
Goodness.

Cinquain VII

Compline
Comes round. Think hard.
Take measure of my life
What has been done or left undone?
We’re asked.

Useful
Perhaps useless
Charity matters most
Above all choices one can choose
To love.

Loving
When most challenged
Scrubs away at the dross
Which entombs the beauty within
Brightly.

(c)GoshGusMusic(ascap)2010/photo (c)cjarc/Grace Cathedral

July 12, 2010

Scherzo Tutti: Symmetry Violation

Our resident physicist & occasional guest columnist Claude Plymate offers something for our lazy summer brains to consider.

Symmetry Violation

There is something very strange about the universe we live in and the evidence is quite literally all around us. Go ahead, look around. What do you see? Stuff. Everywhere, stuff. Now that might not seem all that profound at first until you think about the conditions in the very early universe. In the smallest fraction of a second after the Big Bang, the entire Universe was compacted into a tiny volume. All the energy in the Universe was contained it this minuscule space. The temperature was so extreme that matter couldn’t yet even exist! The immense energy density would cause material to spontaneously pop in and out of existence. As the Universe expanded, energy was spread over a greater volume and the temperature dropped. Matter & antimatter began to condense out but would pair up and annihilate almost immediately.

Now we were taught that matter & antimatter are exactly symmetric differing only in the sign of some of their parameters, such as charge and spin. It would seem, therefore, that they should have been produced in equal quantities. But obviously this was not the case. After all the matter & antimatter paired up and converted back to energy, there was a small residual amount of matter left over – all the stuff you see around you! All matter we see today is a result of this minor excess in production of matter over antimatter. Apparently, our Universe has a slight proclivity for stuff versus anti-stuff. The fact that more matter was originally produced is what is known as a symmetry violation. (Specifically CP-violation. “C” for charge conjugate and “P” for parity meaning the particles are mirror images of each other.)

Why there is a preference for stuff over anti-stuff isn’t really understood. As a physicist, it would be more satisfying to have a nice simple symmetric universe but without this complication, the Universe would be a very bland place without any matter to look at, or for that matter, no “you” to look at it. It seems quite profound how perfectly CP-violation is tuned to allow a universe so well suited for things like us to exist. Many might see this as an example of intelligent design by some omnipotent deity. It is all too easy to come to such a conclusion. But, must such remarkable-seeming coincidences require invoking the supernatural? Some might argue “what else could it be?” Not at all if you assume ours is not the only Universe, only one amongst an unimaginably huge and diverse multiverse. It doesn’t matter how unlikely the combination of parameters are, if you try enough examples, you’ll eventually hit upon the ideal magical seeming mix. And of course, we find ourselves in one of the extraordinarily rare universes that is ideally fine-tuned to allow us to exist. If it weren’t, there wouldn’t be any stuff and wouldn’t be any you to look at it.

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Claude Plymate, Engineering Physicist

National Solar Observatory
http://www.noao.edu/noao/staff/plymate
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(c)GoshGusMusic(ascap)2010

January 15, 2010

La Sonnambula: Grief and the Liminal Place

I keep bumping into a word. It’s a familiar experience. One day, you hear a word with which you are mildly acquainted, but haven’t heard all that much. Then for no apparent reason, it appears, sprinkled into conversations or text with noticeable frequency. It’s both annoying and intriguing. Right? But collecting words enriches our experience. And as German language speakers well know it can be a hoot. Let’s stick to English.

For several years, a regular feature on the inside back page of the Atlantic Monthly was Word Fugitives. Readers would send in clever notes, such as the following from the July/August 2004 edition. Lots of fun to read the creative suggestions that made the column.

The second fugitive sought in March was “a term that describes the momentary confusion experienced by everyone in the vicinity when a cell phone rings and no one is sure if it is his/hers.” Paul Holman, of Austin, Texas, suggested conphonesion; Pam Blanco, of Warwick, Rhode Island, phonundrum; Alan Tobey, of Berkeley, California, ringchronicity; Jim Hutt, of Blue Mountain Lake, New York, ringmarole; William A. Browne Jr., of Indianapolis,ringxiety; and Gordon Wilkinson, of Mill Bay, British Columbia, fauxcellarm.

Taking top honors is Michael W. Pajak, of Portland, Maine, for being the first of many readers to suggest the apt coinage pandephonium.” (http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200407/wallraff)

You get the idea. Every once in a while I’ll catch onto one of these and play with it. Of course we can play with language. How dull would it all be without this delicious pleasure? Sometimes it’s  a thoughtful word, a word that strikes a  tune in your thinking. And in your aural experience.

My new ear worm is the word  liminal. Unless you have spent time studying psychology or philosophy or some other “ology”, it’s a word you’re unlikely to toss about in everyday conversation. But here it is, and it won’t leave me alone. I know exactly why I am obsessed with this one.

In the past two weeks since my friend died, I have been plagued with a common grief reaction:  I awaken with a hard smack most mornings. I am dreaming about whatever, and in the passage from sleep to full consciousness my peace is abruptly disturbed when I remember what a crap time this is, and how  much I dread getting on with my day with this heaviness of heart. I wander off, underlining the hours until I can return to soothing linens of an indulgent thread count, a down duvet, and the half-dozen pillows I like to burrow under. It is indeed comforting under the comforter.

Sleep does not come easily because although my body is relieved by the cozy set-up, my thoughts are amplified as my brain betrays me, and I’m stuck with a familiar rat chasing these eternal rotations of my mental wheel. Insomnia is a bitch which has taken root in the past few years and is situationally exacerbated.  Usually I find sleep by means of an iPod with comfy headphones. Music is so often the cure in my life. Thank God for such a wonder.

The space in time between these two states is the liminal place. It is betwixt and between, and serves as a transitional period for our emotional states, our brain function, as well a means by which our bodies are nudged into activity, or from activity into peaceful slumber.  The early twentieth century anthropologist Victor Turner described the liminal state as the passage between childhood and manhood in certain African tribal cultures which practiced coming of age rituals. In fact, one can find examples of these practices in most non-Western cultures. (http://www.liminality.org/about)

The etymology of the word derives from the Latin “limen” (nominative case)  and liminis (noun,genitive case, third declension…I live in a house where both sons were required to study Latin, which means mom had to learn a bit as well.  I salute Ms. Firth in her persistence.)  But my sources concur that the English translation is “threshold.”

The very word used to describe this void in which change unfolds, is grudgingly recognized by the Oxford English Dictionary-2 (1989) only as an adjective, and not at all in it’s noun, liminality. (http://csmt.uchicago.edu/glossary2004/liminal.htm) OED-3, began a major overhaul in 1993, and to date is not yet one-third complete. Words such as liminal and liminality, though not truly within common usage, are expected to be added  due to their increased inclusion in scholarly applications. (Ibid)   OED-2 gets picked on for it’s snootiness and perceived bias, but at 221,000 entries, it retains it’s place as the most authoritative English dictionary. (www.oed.com/newsupdate/revision0712)

Language is, or should be, elastic enough to accommodate  evolving usage.  I could get into a discussion here about email and social networking shorthand, which some see as the demise of English language, (and I don’t),  but that will have to wait for another day.

Back on track.  So we have this space between two places of consciousness. It’s a place where we process and integrate. It can’t be codified into a specific length of time. The liminal time seems to be fluid and mutable. It may be seconds or minutes.

My thinking is that when we experience significant disturbances in our daily lives, we do not spend the necessary  time in the liminal. We awaken with a spurt of catecholamines and don’t experience the liminal transition which is intended to ease us into or away from conscious function. There is something about the import of liminality which makes it essential for well-being.

I’ve managed to sleep a requisite number of hours. My dreams, as I can recall, are benign if not pleasant or interesting.  Yet when I slam into wakefulness, I am tired.  Not forever. Just right now. Another part of  my current situation. The full liminal meal will return, but apparently I need the shock of adrenaline to get me moving these days.  It just doesn’t feel right.

(c)GoshGusMusic/ascap

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