A Held Note

loweThere is no absolute time; it is relative to the observer. Meaning two people moving in opposing directions share even less of the same reality than two stationary people. So not only are our perceptions biased by past experiences and cultural values, but we are in constant motion and blinded by the sheer mesmerizing urgency of it all. Do we even see people for who they are, or they us?  Are we invisible to each other?  (Celebrities realize the truth acutely, as strangers approach them, acting as though they really know them. Result: the drugs and rehab merry-go-round.) I recently listened to a children’s audiobook whose blatantly obvious underlying message was 1) things which are ugly outside are also ugly inside and should be feared; and 2) self worth is achieved by beating the next kid to a goal. Result: kids are trained to be vain, insecure, and anxious. When I went on a bike ride the other day, another biker came around the bike path corner at high speed partly in my lane. “Who died?” I asked.  No answer.  He was wearing a racing jersey. A lot of bikers wear racing jerseys, I’ve noticed. I wonder if they ever notice the flowering palo verde trees, or the color of the sky, or lizards darting for safety as they pass, or the fact that there’s no race. Stephen Pinker in his book “How the Mind Works” says that while genes may have fashioned us to compete and to favor those who share our genes (with wives seen as property, and despotism, nepotism, and murder seen as effective tools of conquest), we, as humans, have evolved the ability to choose otherwise.  We have a choice that other animals do not. We can actually visualize the future, and say “no” to our genes. We alone can stop racing, look ahead, and see the ultimate finish line…which makes the journey itself what counts, and not how many toys we accumulate, or how many rivals we humiliate. Likewise, in serious music, there are competitions requiring phenomenal technical skills. Artists are often applauded loudest when they perform dazzling feats of virtuosity. There are many, many notes involved, struck in thundering chords like conquest. But if you take the artist aside, and ask them what moves them most, they will describe a held note. A single note upon which the whole unseen world revolves. It is a note that resonates in the soul, and seems to point to a moment in time that is absolutely real, like an anchor or exclamation point. This note is in no hurry to be resolved. It knows the reality. It is not in a race. It is alive now, for this moment, not some imagined future of the ego’s construction.  Secure, then, it is not in competition.  It is beyond competition or comparison.  It simply is.

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