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  • Writer's picturerhapsodydmb


Updated: Jul 9

Thanks to my neighbor and friend Jeff Harris, President of the San Francisco Orchid Society,

for showing me this treasured Masdevallia heathii orchid from his amazing collection.

Since rediscovering music mid-2020 and starting piano lessons again, I've sometimes wondered how music is so magical? How does it do what it does: thrill, chill, inspire, or make one "Kind of Blue"?

I was prompted not long ago to clarify one of my answers to that question when a musical friend asked if "music is like some kind of drug?"

No - it's not!

It is - and acts - precisely the opposite - at least for me.

As a recovering alcoholic (now sober one day at a time since May 12, 1988), I know what a drug feels like and what it does to me. I also know from remembering way back in my late 20s and 30s what happened when I dropped acid four times, and smoked 420 and hashish a few times. (I even once tried cocaine but strangely enough, I had no response whatsoever - go figure that one!).

Drugs change me - and not for the better as the "Wiz" witches celebrate regarding the effect of their good friendship in the wonderful Broadway song, "For Good".

The feelings and experiences might initially have been nice, but they didn't end up that way. Drugs took me outside of myself to become another person who was not me. Sometimes I could retain a bit of who I was, but essentially, I could not. I don't mean that I lost my personal values and became an out-of-control or ugly public drunk; that was not my style. I was a "graceful" and private drunk. Most of the time I just disappeared alone to drink, dissolve, and waste myself. In those dismal days, music sometimes accompanied me in my descent, but neither music nor I were changed for the better.

When I went down, I essentially went into not me. Then one day (a story for another time), I decided I had had enough of the overall rotten feeling and waste of time and my life, and decided to quit drinking. A year later I figured out how to quit drinking and a year after that how to quit my legal job (quitting was harder to do for me than you might think, even after I admitted that I should quit both) - and so I quit and never looked back....ever.

And within about a year of sobriety as predicted by my AA friends and readings, I came back to myself.

These days music takes me into me. Yes, first out of the ego which true enough disappeared when I was addicted, and which also disappears even now when I listen to "my" music. (I define "my music" as "combinations of melodies and harmonies that resonate with and please me, and move forward").

But it is where I go when music takes me out of my ego, that differs from where I go when drugged, and that matters.

With music I don't go unmoored, despairing, lost, and floating endlessly into non-beingness and away from myself. With music I go more inside myself and am anchored there, closer to what Eckhardt Tolle*in "The Power of Now" calls my "joy of Being."

It changes me for the better.

Music becomes me, becomes me. It's an alchemy of sorts, a transfiguration, an inexorable blending with my essence and making me into something more, definitely more hopeful, calmer, and more peaceful, and more who I think I am.

My friend who first raised the question of today's blog to me, after some discussion between us, added that for him, "When I connect with a piece of music (and there are many), I become almost a kind of pure spirit. I exist in and through the music and yet, as you point out, do not lose my identity but rather bring it to greater fruition. I never forget the experience and can think back about it and relive it though not to the same degree of of intensity."

In that sense, music is not a drug. It is a way, a mechanism, a strategy, a happening, or a kind of grace that takes me into joy and what I would call "a state of bliss." It is without "wishing for the past or yearning for the future" as Tolle says.

My friend agrees that listening to music "could very well be one of the rare moments when we experience perfect bliss, outside of everyday time and space.  In such moments, one’s sense of time is not tied to the clock: a one minute piece by Chopin can move us into another dimension of time altogether that seems beyond our usual concept of time." (For an incredible collection of one to two-pages long stories exploring various imaginative and delightful concepts about time, read Alan Lightman's "Einstein's Dreams.")

From such joy I experience clarity ("If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to humankind as it is, infinite.", from poet William Blake's "The Marriage of Heaven and Hell").

From clarity I gain courage and know that I can move out into and better take on the challenges of the outer world. I can make something, I can be creative - and I can even write blogs and poetry!

After my recent initial perusal of Tolle's book, I am left with two main questions.

First, I’m unsure if I’m aware and perceiving at the time I listen to music, that I begin to let go of ego, move more inside myself, and meld with the music? Or do I realize that later?

Second, Tolle advises that we learn to be aware and just be still and calm, without past or future worries in our mind. But music does sometimes invoke past memories and feelings that go from bliss to melancholy to deep sadness or even to anger. Have I in those moments somehow missed finding and experiencing a greater joy in music if I can stay in the present?

Questions to ponder over time.

What do you think about how and what you experience when listening to or creating music?


*Understandably because we all have to monetize something in order to live if not thrive, or sadly and inevitably because we all are subject to the pressure of western society to over-value money and material goods, from 2003 onward Tolle became quite commercialized - despite saying that he had no intention of creating "a heavy commercial structure", nor of setting up an ashram or center. And yet he did. See Wikipedia.


SOME DAYS (from Volume I "Poetical Musings")

Some days are like this,

Full of words–or music

That has no words

Like feathers on a bird

Whose flight comes unbidden,

And song, yes! Heard!

Inspired by who knows who

(She knows but cannot say),

Or what, or when?

She cannot write the largest part

Lodged deep within and quiet;

No use, a pen,

So she retires, a quick retreat,

Sets pen aside in haste,

The answer there.

When words desert the feeble mind

And feeling all that’s left,

The piano’s there!


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Jul 06
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

Good perspective

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