6 june ’10, 8 -45 pm
It has been an amazing and of-a-piece day, but nothing that would seem out of the ordinary. But a day I need to record, to hold on to.So, a day worth writing about.
These struggles with mortality, the pull of the only-rational, that are always a part of me. The meaninglessness of everything if this life is all there is; the craziness of whatever must be if there’s more—‘intelligent design?: more like god-as-a-mad-scientist. The sheer, precise naturalness of terror, where each living thing depends on mercilessly killing something else, shark and spider equally murderous, and what else should any of us be? The idiot explanation that god didn’t create evil; he just let us do it for him. But then ‘nature’ is built on evil. Beneath the equal reality of the tranquil leaves blowing in the breeze, and literally beneath the soporifically beautiful waters of a still lake, creatures killing each other. Endlessly chasing around in my head. The baby, that unbelievably real miracle, the tiny fingernails, will grow into the 20 year old, the kids I love at the castle and even in classes here, then will, with luck, grow into old age and die, and be then as dead as if they never lived. Or maybe not, but we live too much in the body to grasp immortality, the brain can’t do it, any more than the brain can grasp the nothingness that death creates if we, if everything, are not immortal. I have always perceived the difference between mind and body. I have always believed the equation of mind with soul. If there is an ‘I’ at all, it isn’t in the body—when you go crazy you are indeed ‘out of your mind.’ The brain is the link, the body part through which mind links us to our bodies, and equally cages us in our bodies, unable to grasp more than what the body’s brain can process. I’m always amused when science comes up with a brain explanation of any larger mind understanding, and rationalists use that to discredit visions, the psychic, the ‘out-of-body’ experience. The body can experience only what the body’s structure allows—but sometimes the body expands in some way for however briefly to embrace something beyond itself, and how else would it do so except for the brain’s accommodation? Woefully inept in anything scientific, I have always understood that there had to be something in the physical brain to explain how the clinically ‘dead’ can see the light, the dead loved ones, the god one believes in. the dead person is ‘dead’ only because science hasn’t caught up to the subtle continuation of the patient’s life, or they’d never wake up to tell about it. however dead the person might appear, they’re not dead. And alive, they remain brain-locked, and can see only as much as the brain can encompass.
Philosophy 101, with smatterings of psychology 101 and new age 101 and even religion 101. and worse, off topic, which was my amazing day. But on topic as well, the back story of a day ordinary, even banal, and also I think transformative.
The morning, as I recall it, was pretty ordinary—sleep in, breakfast, email, nap, lunch. Then I left for the concert, a double bill of ‘carmina burana,’ which I have loved for years, though never more than today, and a shorter, contemporary piece I’d never heard of. Outside my door as I began to walk to the T, a familiar face—a castle kid from 2 years ago. Any time I see one of these kids is a blessing from whatever force doles out blessings while spilling oil in the gulf of Mexico and zapping people with AIDS or cancer or Parkinson’s. so we chatted awhile, and I went on my way happy. I had worn my raincoat but now stuffed it into my purse b/c it was muggy outside. I got off the T at Hines convention center to get the bus toward symphony hall, which I hate doing. I prefer to take the t on to government center-- takes longer, but fewer stairs to deal with—and waited for my bus, feeling at first nothing but mildly anxious about maybe being late anyway, too antsy to read as I waited. So I looked around at the random assortment of people walking past. And then was seeing them---really hard to explain, I’ll have to try it in a poem later, prose can’t begin to handle it----but anyway, seeing them very clearly and specifically, each separate person, very distinctly and at the same time the total unity of all of us into that big incomprehensible mass of all-being that we’re infinitesimal bits of and still totally separate. And the bus came and I got to the concert on time.
I had a great seat, 3rd row orchestra, aisle. The thought of carmina burana brought to mind a woman I met once, at a similar concert, a woman who was my colleague’s mother in law and who was in terrible pain from the cancer which would soon kill her. They had brought her there, wanting to give her something she loved, and she was in pain, too much pain my friend had told me at intermission, to remain sitting, and they were going to leave, sadly b/c she loved the music. The row I was in was nearly empty, and I suggested she could lie down across it, which she did, and got to experience the music. This was a year or more ago, and hedda died a few months later, and has remained in my version of prayers ever since. There are lots of people there.
As I was thinking about her I was aware of the feeling in my fingers. For some reason whenever anything ‘psychic’ happens to me, I feel it in my fingertips, a slight not-exactly-tingling. It’s there when I try to pick tarot cards for a specific question i’m asked to look at, and if I can’t feel the tingling the answer won’t make sense and if I can it usually does. And it happens when someone who is dead makes their presence clear to me. If that sounds like a bad scene from ‘ghost whisperer,’ well, that’s what it sounds like. Hedda was there, almost as though I was ‘channeling’ her---I can’t stop using those quotation marks; too aware of how this stuff sounds—and anyway it wasn’t really channeling as i’ve understood it, which suggests the disappearance or at least the diminution of the self who’s the channel. But my self was absolutely there; engrossed in the music, fascinated by the variety of percussion instruments being used, all that stuff. Even chatting with the nice man next to me, and totally enjoying the conversation.
The first piece was lovely, by a composer I later realized I had heard before and liked then. Dominick argento. It was short, a sort of curtain raiser for carmina burana. CB was brilliant, intense, and though it’s always sexy, this interpretation was way sexy; I remember long ago being told that one of Beethoven’s sonatas was a depiction of the female orgasm; I could never see that. But at least as this amazing soprano interpreted it, the woman’s ecstatic response to the man and to her own horniness really did sound like an orgasm. The whole performance radiated sexuality, even more than the others I’ve been to. And so I was in that space that incredible music or ballet can get you in. that kind of nearly stoned feeling. So there that was, on top of the presence of hedda, on top of the bus stop experience.
When I came out, I saw it had poured heavily while the performance was going, a sort of synergistic connection of its energy. And on the train, when it pulled into one of the stops a college age guy rushed to it, forcing the door to stay open as his 2 friends ran to it. As he walked passed me I grinned at him and said that was cool. Then one of his friends looked at me and gasped—‘Karen?’ another castle kid, from 3 years ago. So my day was framed with castle kids, in itself already a high.
When I got home I turned on the TV and channel surfed for something to watch while I heated and then ate my frozen dinner. Everything bored me, up to channel 200; I usually give up before then. And then the info said in 5 minutes would start one of my favorite movies, one which rarely turns up and is one of the few modern movies I like, let alone love. So cool, I’d watch it. then it struck me: the movie was ‘heart and souls,’ about 4 people killed in a bus crash at the moment a boy is being born, and they have some mysterious destiny with him that holds them there until that works itself out, years later. Great fantasy film, and totally right for the day, and I think my fingers were tingling.
So I haven’t worked out the whole being-nonbeing thing [sorry, Sartre, you wouldn’t approve of your phrase being used this way]. All the stuff I didn’t understand, I don’t understand. But I do understand that this day was a gift to me from whatever force giveth and taketh away. And from whatever part of my brain controls the gratitude impulse, i’m very grateful.