When music loses its relationship to dance,
it loses its sustaining and nurturing resonance with
the physical body, both of the individual performer
and, by implication, that of the Earth itself;
When music loses its relationship to poetry,
it loses its sustaining and nurturing resonance
with the human voice and, by implication,
the more subtle realms
of meaning and things spiritual
Just as it was necessary to liberate government from religion
in order for the rule of law to prevail, so it is now necessary
to separate ethics from religion in order for basic moral principles
to in a similar way become universal. The first essential feature
of both rule of law and universal moral principle is that they are
based not on belief, but on logic and reason, which in turn depend
not on any external authority but rather on civil discourse and
structured debate. The second essential feature—and this is
quite remarkable—is that both the rule of law and universal moral
principle self-generate and self-organize in a natural, cyclical way
the very social context and climate of stability necessary for their
own sustained flourishing.
Science begins with the willingness to drop a theory when it is contra-
dicted by fact.
Art begins with the willingness to tear down a museum or concert hall
and put up a new one when they no longer fit what we see as meaning-
ful or beautiful.
Religion begins when we are willing to drop rigid belief and claims to
absolute authority because we have seen that these are the very source
of the barriers that divide us.
Attempting to unite Science, Art and Religion in their present state of
disarray, however, would be certain folly. It would most surely result
in questionable hybrids, like a Mozart Mass pumped up with drums
and bass guitar, or a pseudo-science constructed consciously as a
smokescreen for the fundamentalist conditioning of the young.
And yet the fragmentation of Science, Art and Religion corrupts the
high-country springs of our collective creativity. Better to take down
the arbitrary blocks and dams that are the root cause of their present
division—one at a time and all at once—and let them flow together in
what for us now are wholly unknown ways .
In Politics, the most radical idea is simplicity;
In Art, the most difficult idea is simplicity;
In Science, the most necessary idea is simplicity;
In Religion, the most mysterious, arduous, complex
As the harmony between Nature and Culture, between Law and Con-
vention, collapses into contradiction, there will be a parallel loss of the
sensitivity of perception required to see the corruption. The result is a
devil’s loop of mutually reinforcing devolution and degeneration. This
is dangerous because, once the downward spiral begins, it becomes
increasingly difficult just to see it, let alone stop it. Witness in the pres-
ent era the loss of excellence in matters of musical culture. Here we
see clearly that the inability to sing or play in tune goes hand in hand
with the preference for louder and louder, and less and less subtle,
sounds. Perhaps it could be said that the penultimate phase of degen-
eration is when we sing out of tune and no longer hear it. The last, is
when we no longer care.
That which cannot be touched by force—Love, Intelligence,
Compassion—forms together the basic triangle at the center
of all learning. Because they cannot be achieved by force,
they are best approached negatively, by taking away the
blocks that are in the way.
The task is clear: perfectly tuned octaves, fourths and fifths
you leave alone; what you go after are the broken strings.
In an adverse cultural climate, with its perennial waste,
and war, and utterly mindless violence against the Earth,
mimic the alpine plants:—grow close to the ground, keep
a tight cushion of friends clustered around you, wear a coat
of densely woolly white hairs, and especially, send roots
through every crack and crevice down to deep, reliable
Where the climax of complexity comes we
can never know for sure, but natural movement
always begins and ends with simplicity.
Draw a circle which is not
surrounded by emptiness;
Speak a word which does not
emerge from and return
to nothing at all.
FREEDOM OF THOUGHT
If you find yourself censoring your own thoughts, cutting short
new ideas simply for fear of being attacked or ridiculed by
government or family or friends, then you are most likely no
longer living in a free and open society.
We shape the world and the world shapes us.
The Minotaur terrorizing the labyrinth of the Internet is
not so much the commercialization of Eros into mere
pornography, or the corruption of news into just more
entertainment. Nor is it the horror of the potential theft
of one’s identity, or even the threat of all-out cyberwar.
No. The beast at the heart of the Web—devouring whole
the minds of countless youths and maids as we speak—
is the endless directionless chain of clicked upon
Clearly, the thread which leads out of this maze is not
just more technology, or the imposition of more blocks and
controls. Clearly, it is something more like awareness,
or the cross-cultural, timeless practice of meditation.
Here, there is simply sustained, serious, observation
of the fact of distraction.
One simply looks both ways, both outwardly (what)
and inwardly (why), all at once, and one click at a time.
[Two thoughts here: First: There is something like an
ethics of webpage design. Personally, I think it
is wrong to have anything on a page which moves
or flashes to get attention. I find my self nowadays
reading the New York Times, avoiding and swatting
banner ads with flashy girls and colors like so many pesky
horseflies. What the long-term negative consequences
of this excess as formative movement—especially
on young, developing minds—in my view, should
be obvious. Second: the much touted epithet, Digital
Native, for kids who grow up thorougly immersed in
digital environments is in an essential way only partly
true. In my view, computers and the internet taken
together as a unity is simply an instrument, just like a
violin or piano, which must be learned, wich
must be practiced. In every musical tradition in the
world worth speaking about, this is a long, sensitive,
crucially important process of learning, which like
all learning, needs a free, open, and with emphasis
here, protected space. Not to do so is just laziness,
another place where we shirk our responsibility
as teachers of the young.]
FOR WANT OF A SINGLE VOTE
For want of a single vote, the election was lost.
For want of an election, the democracy was lost.
For want of a democracy, freedom was lost.
For want of freedom, the republic was lost.
For want of a republic, the idea of a constitution was lost.
And all for the want of a single vote.
[This is, of course, a riff on the famous anonymous
Horseshoe verse, “For want of a single nail,
the horseshoe was lost.”]