Consider this: Does an empty battery weigh less than
a battery fully charged? Or is there a difference in weight
between the living human body, and the body’s weight
at death? Or consider that if we break apart a triangle
of sticks, or smash a computer, and then weigh the
resulting pile of parts, before seems to equal after in
each case. But what is lost then, if ‘it’ is evidently weight-
less? A pattern? A working together or harmony of parts?
A child might ask, “Where does the triangle go?” Does
it at the moment of break-up just cease to exist, like after
switching off the lights, colors cease to exist in a darkened
room? Or is it more like a handful of brightly colored sand
thrown at random on the skin of a large bass drum turned
on its side, brought into resonant movement by a singing
voice, or trumpet, or trombone? After all, instantly, there
is here pattern. Instantly, new figures of extraordinary
complexity emerge with each new change of pitch. (If you
actually see this first-hand, you’ll never forget it.) But once
the sound stops, the structure quickly loses its integrity.
You can weigh the sand, before and after, but again it will
show no difference. So again, to our current way of seeing
and measuring and thinking, before equals after. That is,
except for a loss of resonance. A loss of resonance, a mere
weightless nothing? Or just perhaps, very much closer to,
Imagine that we decide on a whim that we shall from
this day forward collect all the dead batteries of the world
and dump them at one convenient central location, say,
for instance, your house. You do use batteries, don’t you?
I don’t mean the big car-battery kind; Just the small ones,
like the ones used in flashlights. Think of it. Before the end
of the day, there would be a veritable Matterhorn in your
front yard, a toxic mountain of the used-up and unwanted.
As the pile grows, however, you might cleverly initiate an
action via the world-wide web. You decide, and encourage
others to follow your lead, that instead of sending the dead
batteries to your house, we’ll all join in together and send
them to his house, the White House. This would not only
be saying Yes We Can both to Civil Disobedience in the
spirit of Amos Bronson Alcott and Henry David Thoreau,
but also to an utterly deadbeat—when it comes to doing
anything fundamental about eliminating not just waste,
but the very idea of waste itself—Washington. Keep the
packages coming. From around the Nation. Now that
would be change!
Behind the light that every flashlight gives is a dark story.
We want to know nothing about it. It is a story of suffering,
of children forced to work in the mines of Africa and South
America. It is the story of Cadmium. Of Zinc, Of Lead. All
leaching unchecked as we speak at our leisure, you and I,
into the great and vast surface waters of the living Earth,
and into the mother’s milk of the still unborn. The story says:
You there, brother; You there, sister. What a sad way to
discover that the world is round!
Some things we can evidently know only by demonstration.
Visual inspection will not reveal to us which batteries are
‘alive,’ and which batteries are ‘dead.’ Just as mere cursory
auditory inspection will not reveal to us which performer of
a Bach solo sonata brings the music truly to life. They may
play exactly the same notes, in the same order, in the same
approximate measure and tempo. Yet, when magically the
inner energy or spirit of the music comes alive, begins to
breathe like a natural singing voice, we too begin to move
or resonate with it sympathetically. Like Aristotle said of the
gift of metaphor in poetry, this is perhaps the one thing in
music that cannot be taught. But how do you know when
this very subtle inner something is there? Be simple.
When the ‘lights’ come on!