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Sound and Silence

when necessary, use words

Month

November 2006

A Worthy Worship 2 – Worth

And Paul Simon sang in “The Coast”,

That’s worth something
When you think about it
That is worth some money.

It illustrates the knee jerk reaction of our age –  monetarisation. Everything is measured against a financial tag. Now if I see a habit, especially one as pervasive as this, that’s an invitation to deconstruct.

The question is not so much “What is it worth”, as it is “What is worth”? Why do we find ourselves ascribing worth to things, especially monetary worth.

OK, so I have a pound sterling, a rand, a dollar, a Zimbabwe dollar, whatever. A piece of paper, or a coin. What does this token mean? A lot apparently, people will kill other people to have some of it.

A unit of currency means (I’ve never tried this, but stay with me) that a central bank is obliged to give you the equivalent in gold, to pay the bearer. You get your gold, or gold dust, what upholds that? I say it is the Crown, more modernly the government, it is power. What does power entitle? Land, a place to have dominion over. What do we slave over? Our mortgage, so we can have dominion over our piece of land and get the Bank out of the equation.

What does this land, this domain, represent? I say freedom, independence and identity.
Why do we want independence and identity? That’s not so easy to say, because we are leaving the material and the quantifiable behind as we get into the murky areas of meaning and the soul.

Sorry to let you down before we came up with an answer to the Universe, but all this is about looking at the goal, the end. We all vaguely struggle towards it, but isn’t it vital to know where we are headed?

So if worth can be reduced to the end goal of meaning, surely we need to spend a lot of our efforts exploring this meaning. What is the ultimate prize, and how can we order our lives so as to shortcut all the bullshit? To live our dreams now, don’t wait until retirement, or some vague utopian future.

By now you’re wondering what on earth has this to do with Worship. It is this –

worship = worth-ship.

The art of uncovering what is ultimately worthy. The ritual of defining and validating our value system.

All humans (and all of creation, including the famous crying rocks) are worshippers. The only question is what is the object of their Worship? Paul Tillich described “religion” as “ultimate concern”. I have always liked that. You may not call yourself religious, but you will be able to tell me what your intimate concern is. Security, wealth, being liked, fame, intellectual or artistic achievement, offspring, having fun, being appreciated, having power. That, then will be your god and the object of your sweat and devotion.

For now, lets not define who or what our god might be. Let’s take our time to do this, so that we can move toward to more worthy sense of what it is to worship. Lets re-envision worship as the ascribing of worth, and worth as the goal and object of worship.

Now comes a platitude – ooh I love using them –
If it’s worth doing, its worth doing well.
If its worth having, its worth having now.
If its worth being, we should be becoming it urgently.

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Unsung Virtues 2 – The dangers of orthodoxy.

The Da Vinci CodeFiction and Truth in the the Da Vinci Code by Michael GreenOK so I read a bestseller, does that make me a sellout? I thoroughly enjoyed the Da Vinci Code for its sheer balshy sideswipes against religion, and for its pace and intrigue.

But I went one further – I read Dr. Michael Greens evangelical response, “The Books the Church suppressed : Fiction and Truth in the the Da Vinci Code.”

The first third I was somewhat annoyed at his criticism of a great page turner, the second third I sat back and acknowledged that Green was a far better scholar that Brown, and then just when I was about to award him the prize for believability, Green went and put his foot in it. I’m now going to let both these men stew in their own juices.

So Dan Brown is a hypocrite, big deal. He doesn’t want to be accountable to history. Let it be known you can put it off, but history WILL judge you, your own words will be played back to you, one day. Dan Brown is a rich man, and he has chosen to have his reward now rather than later, enough about him.

So why was I affronted by The Books the Church Suppressed? Essentially for its cold, hard, unbending orthodox position. I want to respond now, and what follows is a summary of my newly defined heterodox positioning.

What I am more concerned with is the hypocrisy of “defining” truth. Attempt to define truth and it’s not long before you are in error yourself.

The word orthodoxy, from the Greek ortho (‘right’, ‘correct’) and doxa (‘thought’, ‘teaching’), is typically used to refer to the correct theological or doctrinal observance of religion, as determined by some overseeing body.

Let’s start off by seeing some strengths of this approach.

– Historical correlation. It is important align ones beliefs with history, inner truth and experience need to have a fair degree of correlation.
– A place for tradition. Tradition is not all bad, there are fine, mellowed traditions and smelly, stinky ones.
– Learning from history. Presumably those creating orthodox positions have reflected a good deal on the past, in their construction of their position.
– The “Jesus event” was special and needs to be given a sacred space; orthodoxy helps to create this. OK you might not feel strongly about the short life of a carpenter at the start of the Common Era, suffice to say, the life of Jesus warrants a lot of attention
– Orthodoxy is valid and can be helpful, if it remains subject to life.

And that is where we need to start becoming a little critical.

– Orthodoxy does not honor nor create a framework for imagination and creativity. These qualities are about becoming, unfolding, and the ongoing act of creation. Orthodoxy, focusing on the past, says “It is finished. Think no further.” A more creative, future oriented approach says “It is not finished and we co-labor with G-d to complete it.”
 
– Orthodoxy  can easily be infected by ideology, and various unexamined elements like the urban suspicion of the rural (in its condemnation of Paganism) or the fear of the feminine (in its condemnation of the feminine divine). It can be easily confused with a cultural consensus, including the current 21st century one and that of the 1-2 Century. No culture is absolute but Orthodoxy attempts to make it such.

– Orthodoxy is an attempt to define a finite framework for truth which is obviously infinite… An inappropriate wineskin, to use the New Testament metaphor.

– Orthodoxy can address history and attempt to evaluate the Jesus event, but can say nothing about metaphysics and spiritual life. It can address the Logos (reason, written truth), but not Eros (truth as sensual, intimate and creative) or Rhema (spoken oral truth). It is a science and a tool, and needs to operate like any other tool at the service of revealed truth.

– Orthodoxy must be subject to life, not visa versa.

And so in conclusion, I would like to evaluate the effect of Orthodoxy such as that of Michael Green’s, on the Unsung Virtues.

Curiosity / Awe – Orthodoxy undermines awe, or at least prescribes what should be considered awesome.

Imagination – Orthodoxy is against that which is imaginative, often branding it heresy.

Generosity – Orthodoxy closes down and shuts out, is anti-generous.
Humor – Orthodoxy tends to honor sincerity over humor.
Paradox – Orthodoxy stands baldly against this.
Subversion – Orthodoxy silences subversive voices and disposes of subversives.

Sustainability – Orthodoxy may add to this by helping us understand what has been sustainable in the past. However to the degree that Orthodoxy has been infected by the industrial status quo which believes in fallacies of endless economic growth, it will militate against this.
Curiosity – Orthodoxy will stifle this.
Play – Orthodoxy gives a framework, but not enough freedom to sustain this virtue.

Score? Heterodoxy 8, Orthodoxy 1.
Fweep. Penalty to Orthodoxy; Heterodoxy is being ungenerous and somewhat dogmatic, subtract one point for hypocrisy.
Final Adjusted Score Heterodoxy 7, Orthodoxy 2.

A Worthy Worship 1 – Eternity.

How am I going to spend Eternity?
Why does this question plague me so?
Is it because there IS no life after death, so the question is non-sensical?
Is it because I fear damnation, so it’s going to be a pretty unpleasant experience?
Is it because I lack faith, and cannot imagine endless eons?
No, no and no.
I believe in an afterlife, in fact I believe more accurately in a prelife, because this material mortal coil is but a prelude to a more real life which will be revealed.
I have no fear of “hell”, because G-d’s Grace is all conquering.
I can imagine, “through a glass, darkly”, living in Light for age upon age.

So WHY does the question vex you so much?
This is why – I FEAR BOREDOM.
I fear being boxed into orthodoxy for ever. I fear the rehashing of the known, the perpetuity of the passé. I fear the monotony of the predictable. I fear the dishonoring of the Great Creative Spirit, cast in stone. I fear the droning on of mediocrity, and the eventual drowning in cliché. I fear that we will for ever only use less than 10% of our brain, that we will only ever love a little, give a little and live a little.

I fear Vivaldi in the elevator shaft, being blessed by George Bush, Reverent Lovejoy acknowledging the reality of 1 billion Hindus by saying “That’s super”, E minor guitar chords, having “a nice day”, the pink soma fed to the proletariat in Orwell’s 1984, I fear being rooted to the spot in a pew, I fear being locked in a church away from the soil, the wind, the sky.

Mother, I am filled with fear.

I fear an eternity without passion, without imagination, without generosity, caring, or the joy of the privilege of co-creating with G-d. I fear that I will have to worship for ever in the way I have worshipped during this lifetime.

This fear then is the starting point for a journey to discover a worship worthy of the Creator G-d.

Seal said, “We’ll never survive, unless we get a little crazy, unless we get a little big.”

The unsung virtues

How should we measure spiritual progress and depth? What concepts and words do we have to describe qualities of spirit? The biblical tradition (as in Galatians 5:22) suggests that the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  Some may dispute this, I suppose, but on the whole most people would see these qualities as good.

But the problem as always comes with overuse – words losing their meaning. As they become clichéd the potential to experience G-d diminishes. Besides, G-d must be definition be much larger than 9 words.  So, let double that – here are 9 more, largely unsung virtues which I would hope will expand our vision of who G-d could be in and through us. 

1. CuriosityThe key to knowing and learning, and something we tend to loose as we settle into adult safety. 

2. Imagination and creativityI have felt for some time now that faith and imagination are converging into the same thing. Imagination expands, it generates, and it is key to anyone’s being a co-creator with G-d. 

3. GenerosityNot so much to do with giving, but with giving room, opening to those dissimilar to ourselves, and acknowledging that we need each other, and that no one POV has a monopoly. Think Bishop Tutu, Leonard Cohen. 

4. HumorNot just a trivial nice-to-have but a core element of healthy spirituality. 

5. ParadoxAppreciation for mystery, ambivalence is a key to understanding the spirit, whose ways are mysterious and who will never be defined by a single point of reference. 

6. SubversionThe active and ongoing deconstruction of that which inhibits the spirit, this takes the familiar and twists it forcing rethinking and reevaluation. 

7. PlayThe mode of being which is freed from goal-orientedness and often resulting in humor and happy accident.  To the musician, play is work. 

8. SustainabilityThis applies not only to economics – long(er) term planetary growth, justice – sharing of resources, but also to righteousness – in right relationship with all that is – a model of spirit which holds true in the short medium and long term. 

9. Enthusiasm / PassionThe Key to all creative Human endeavor. Nothing is ever achieved without enthusiasm. The basis for love and compassion, which is a force combining will, awareness, truth, everything. 

So go forth, and be ye Curious.

30 seconds of quality silence is greater than 60 minutes of sound.

In the context of producing my 2nd album, I was reflecting on the power of silence, and the ubiquitous nature of noise and sound. Soulmate RuZl has always used the term “gritty” in talking about productions which really stand out, and he feels very strongly about reducing ideas to their bare “gritty” minimum. I have never disagreed, but in practice I find it really hard to par down the large wadge of ideas which come my way.  

As a result of the awareness that less is more, I am constantly thinking, perhaps even with some anxiety, about the value of silence. And what I realise is that in music where silence is observed and allowed, I remember that music for the space it created. Even 30 seconds of low level sound on 60 minutes of music leaves me with the impression of a spatial album, such is the currency of quietude. 

What is musical space? It is not a simple as saying, where the decibel levels are lower, i.e. where the volume is down or off. It can also be created by simpler harmonic structures, production which uses contrast, loud and soft, low and high, uses horizontal space in stereo or surround, and also by repetition. There is something that lets you have your attention back, lets you relax, if the music kicks into groove – this practice, ladies and gents, is known as “Dancing”.

Notable spatial music includes Biosphere, Bill Evans, Brian Eno (Ambient Music etc), John Michael Talbot (well he would wouldn’t he having taken the vows), Paul Simon, Nick Drake, and parts of Peter Gabriel.

pianissimo, now: 1, 2, 1234

Music – For me, there has always been music. Music as a cultural badge, I am because I am a fan. Music to dance to. Music saying what could otherwise not be expressed. Music as the bearer of words. Music to be played, made, collected, criticised, hated and loved.
Soul – Thought, emotion, perception, pain, imagination … our life. Everything which lies inside and beyond this material body, this “maya/flesh”, everything worth tending and caring for.
Spirit – The realm of the eternal, now obscured by cloud, but due for revelation.
Journey – the will to live, to grow. Curiosity, forgiveness, engagement, courage, dialectic. Compose, deconstruct, improvise, craft, remix, mashup.

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