Sunday, 19 August 2018

Attending to inner struggles

It's about accepting instead of fighting the conflicts within ourselves. There's a meditation text embedded in it.

You might find it helpful/useful

Goodbye and thank you Aretha

Perfomers I've admired all my life keep pegging out on me. I guess that's what happens as you get older - if you're lucky enough to stick around long enough. Oldies like me, we all have our own individual lists, I'm sure. But...

Goddammit, she was good. 
OK, some of the comparative statements in tributes are ludicrous. "The greatest singer ever.." "Maria Callas and her..." Really, what's the point? She was herself.
Someone put his finger right on it. She carried forward in her voice the power of Afro-American suffering and hope, as it was realised in southern church music. Like Ray Charles, her voice brought gospel and blues together. Some churchgoers disapproved of soul music for that very reason - they felt that sort of yearning passion was only for church. 
Soul music, the great secularizer of religious passion. No wonder she brought Obama to tears.
Soul music of her time can sound simple and repetitive in its sturctures and riffs. A lot of modern pop/rock music is much more varied and sophisticated. And that's part of the point. Simplicity. For me, it's the voice. She is singing directly and only to each of us - a quality only really great performers have. Ella Fitzgerald, say, or Miles Davis middle period.

And my, doesn't Aretha build it and take it on out? Listen, if you will, to the studio recording of "Respect" - such a powerful arrangement, great musicians, great backing singers. Then watch this 1967 live recording. The sound is really poor, the spirit triumphant. She's preaching. The audience are gone. Me too.



Tuesday, 7 August 2018

A sacred connection via Stuart A Kauffman

I think I am beginning to find what I’m looking for, though it won’t stay still when I find it. That’s because I’m not a thing that stays still - none of us are, we just look as though we are, or wish we were, staying still. Since we are processes in time, then, whatever we’re looking for will change as we do. We create meanings, and they change with us.

So what am I engaged in? I think it resembles what very many people are engaged in.

I’m looking for a profound connection, a sense of the sacred that I can live with for the rest of my days, that will make me feel part of more than “getting and spending.”

Maybe I’m looking for a Way to Sacredness. (I’ll get back another time to what “sacred” might mean in this context, but I don’t simply mean discovering or re-discovering the beliefs needed to follow a single codified religion.)

And I’m grappling with a book that seems to me very important to anyone who needs to know what life itself is, how it evolved: “Re-inventing The Sacred,” by Stuart A. Kauffman. 

I do wish he’d called it “Re-discovering the Sacred,” because I don’t think any of us can invent the sacred. It’s there all the time, ready for us. But never mind.

Kauffman is a scientist, a cellular biologist of real distinction. The book is based on scientific thought and discovery, and that is why I’m finding it so valuable. It looks as though Kauffman is going to take care of that end of my search - to find a sense of the sacred that can be reconcilable with scientific discovery, and with the rational mindset that most of us are brought up in.

I know lots of people don’t need any help with overcoming my “either/or” hangup about science and spirituality, they can be scientists and yet have some spiritual faith or other. e.g. Einstein himself. But I do need some help, and I’m hugely grateful to Kauffman, and to an old and special friend of mine who put me on to him, a friend who first dropped into my awareness the phrase “the emergent properties of complex systems.” 

If you want to know how I felt at that moment, and in further discussions with J., and when I read Kauffman -  see Keats’ sonnet “On First Reading Chapman’s Homer.” Me, I’m stout Cortes.

I've found Kauffman’s book to be alternately very clear, and then pretty tough for a non-scientist, and then clear to me again. I’m going to try to write out my view of some of the most important things, for me, that I’m finding out from him. Extreme folly I’m sure, and I might ask friend J to put me right as I stumble along my Way.

So: more on Kauffman another time.