Walking Cross-Town. With an unsorted heap.

Hampl is not far from this mind. Hampl was there on my train ride to the city on Thursday and there with me as I walked across Manhattan to the office. And Hampl’s here with me today, early Saturday morning, as I sit in darkness, in silence, but for the tapping of keys, with birdsong easing through the open window bringing in the dawn.

Life is not a story, a settled version. It’s an unsorted heap of images we keep going through, the familiar snaps taken up and regarded, then tossed back until, unbidden, they rise again, images that float to the surface of the mind, rise, fall, drift—and return only to drift away again in shadow. Call them vignettes, these things we finger and drop again into their shoebox.

He shifted his legs as I took the empty seat across from him. Early 30’s. Two to three day beard. He smiled offering me “Good morning.” I’m settling in. How startling it is to be greeted with a ‘good morning’, a smile, a greeting on a morning commute. 

She was on the right side of 50. Anxious. She had to go. I mean really Go. She paced in front of the toilet. It was occupied. She knocked on the door. She knocked again. She stepped back and stood in the vestibule, waiting. She lifted her right foot, and then her left, and quickly repeated the sequence. She then grabbed her mid section and grimaced. She walked back to the toilet and knocked on the door again. [Read more…]

Think of somebody who you adore, who’s no longer here.

I’m listening (half listening) to this NPR podcast titled How Art Changes Us and half surfing.

I pause when I hear a familiar voice.  It’s Benjamin Zander, the conductor of the Boston Philharmonic.

For the next 10 minutes, he has my full attention.

So here’s the instructions:

  1. Listen to 10 minutes (from 40:22 to 50:40) of this podcast How Art Changes Us and then,
  2. For the next 4 minutes (from 12:35 to 16:45), watch this Ted Talk: “The Transformative Power of Classic Music“.

Or if you don’t have 14 minutes, jump Step 1 and move to Step 2.


And here’s a few excerpts that lead into the punch line:

Q: When can you remember a time when you played music for somebody and it had a profound change on what was going on around them?

Benjamin Zander: It’s hard for me to remember a time when I played music when it didn’t have that effect on people because that’s the given. I consider music to be a transformational experience. Mendelssohn said that music is a much more precise language than words. And when you think how easily we misunderstand words, and God knows there is enough evidence of that at this time. Music speaks directly to the heart. It speaks through the molecules. It is irresistible…

All the emotions that human beings are capable of feeling can be represented in music. It’s the music that generates the emotion that releases the human experience. It doesn’t go through the brain. It goes through the molecules…

It’s one thing to hear it in your earphones alone. It is quite another to hear it in a concert hall with 2000 other people who are all experiencing it together, and whose reaction and spontaneous enthusiasm at the end is part of the experience…

And on a tour, when you go from one town to another, you have the sense that people come out of the concerts with a different feeling about life, with a different perspective and with a different sense of being. And that’s why we do it and keep doing it and keep doing it. And as I approach my 80th birthday I have no intention to stop doing it at any point. It’s my life blood. That’s where I get my joy from. It’s the sense that people’s lives are really transformed.

Q: You play this piece by Chopin, but first you ask everyone to do something.

Zander: Yes. “Would you think of somebody who you adore, who’s no longer there. A beloved grandmother. A lover. Somebody in your life who you love with all your heart. But that person is no longer with you. Bring that person into your mind and at the same time follow that long line from B to E and you’ll hear everything that Chopin had to say.

(Now for the next 4 minutes from 12:35 to 16:45, watch this Ted Talk: “The Transformative Power of Classic Music“)


Photo of Benjamin Zander

And what was so beautifully . . . what is the word? . . “comforting” about what happened every day

Now she is 63. What I want to know is: What does 63 know that 44 didn’t? She pauses for a long time. “In your 40s, you’re coming into it, you’re intellectualizing things, and you kind of know it and you feel it,” she says. “But there is a deepening and a broadening and quickening of the knowing that happens in your 50s. Maya Angelou used to say to me, ‘The 50s are everything you’ve been meaning to be.’ She looks at me over the top of the nerd-chic glasses she favors these days. “You’d been meaning to be that person.” She laughs. “By the time you hit 60, there are just no . . . damn . . . apologies. And certainly not at 63. And the weight thing that was always such a physical, spiritual, emotional burden for me—no apologies for that either.”

Interviewing people who interview people for a living presents a special challenge: They know what you’re up to. You feel as if you’re being quietly judged. Not with Oprah. Once she’s committed, once she’s present, there is a kind of flow and trust that develops on the spot. Oprah, by her count, has interviewed more than 37,000 people during her 25 years of doing the The Oprah Winfrey Show in Chicago. When I ask her if there is one big takeaway, she says, “Absolutely. There’s not a human being alive who doesn’t want—in any conversation, encounter, experience with another human being—to feel like they matter. And you can resolve any issue if you could just get to what it is that they want—they want to be heard. And they want to know that what they said to you meant something. Most people go their entire lives and nobody ever really wants the answer to ‘How are you? Tell me about yourself.’ And what was so beautifully . . . what is the word? . . comforting about what happened every day on the Oprah show is that people would dress up like they were going to church. Sometimes I would notice somebody and I would say, ‘Oh, wow, that’s a really pretty green dress.’ And she would go: ‘I wore it for you! I knew you would notice me!’ People just want to be seen; they want to be validated.”

~ Jonathan Van Meter, from Oprah Winfrey Is On a Roll (Again) in Vogue, August 15, 2017


Portrait of Oprah by Annie Leibovitz, Vogue, September 2017 titled: “Like a Prayer.” “I have no angst, no regret, no fear,” Oprah says.

I am always wondering if there’s something holy between people, a formless thing, something that can’t be bruised

Monique Passion, Secret

I keep wondering what, in me, might be constant. I catch myself looking for that remainder, retracing my steps as if in search of lost keys. I am always wondering if there’s something holy between people, a formless thing, something that can’t be bruised… But maybe I really did sense something vague and holy in others’ eyes, something sacred in crowds, in a bus of people staring out their windows, watching life. There should be a middle ground between believing in a certain god and believing that some mysterious third substance was between people. Like churches, I thought, there should be a place for people who just weren’t sure. There should be a place for people who see something but won’t dare say what it is. Maybe there’s something, something between people that is more than air and empty space, something holy in that nothing between one face and another.

~ Catherine Lacey, from “The Answers: A Novel” (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, June 6, 2017)


Art: Monique Passicot, “Whispers“, 1991, colored pencil / graphite, 10x7in (via Hidden Sanctuary)

She suggests a minimum of one hour of sustained gaze (Right! Errata, 1 min?)

“Try not to blink,” says the performance artist Marina Abramovic. “The more you blink, the more you think.” In the spring of 2010, Abramovic spent over 700 hours looking into the eyes of more than 1,500 visitors to the Museum of Modern Art. Many wept openly. Sometimes Abramovic cried, too. To really experience the power of eye contact, she suggests a minimum of one hour of sustained gaze.

Place two chairs three and a half feet apart, and sit facing someone. Do not talk or touch. Focus your eyes between that person’s brows, so that you can see both pupils simultaneously. Don’t look away. Eye contact elicits avoidance behavior in many species, but humans are exquisitely attuned to it. Even newborns will look longer at people staring straight at them than they will at those with averted eyes…

To really see — and feel connected to — someone, you need to be still in mind and body. Start by slowing your breath until it is “almost unnoticeable,” Abramovic says. You’ll undergo all manner of discomfort during your encounter, including sore muscles, dry eyes and niggling thoughts. Don’t dwell on them.

Abramovic thinks a scarcity of eye contact is crippling modern culture. While we need to look at our loved ones more, she says that gazing into the eyes of strangers is potentially more transformative, what she calls “one of the most powerful experiences you can have.”…

Prepare for a rush of emotion. Abramovic felt surges of profound tenderness during the months she spent locking eyes with anyone who wanted to sit across from her. “I felt their loneliness and pain,” she says. “My heart was bursting.”

~ Malia Wollan, from How to Make Soulful Eye Contact (NY Times, April 28, 2017)


Notes:

It’s a Hard Time to Be Human

Parker J. Palmer, from It’s a Hard Time to Be Human: When I ran across this Ellen Bass poem recently, I was immediately drawn to the line, “It’s a hard time to be human.” I’m sure there’s never been a time when it wasn’t hard to be human. But this is our time, and our world seems to be spinning off course. And yet, as the poem’s title says, “The World Has Need of You.” It’s hard to credit that our little lives, words, and actions can make a difference, but they do. The “proof” is in the last three lines of this poem, which I’ll let you read for yourself…
[Read more…]

Walking Cross-Town. With Labels.

love-has-no-bias

Morning. This morning.

I’m walking. Cross Town. Down 47th street, three blocks from the office.

For some inexplicable reason, the head is yanked left to a billboard across the street.

Two skeletons, holding hands.

Same bones, different color.

“love has no labels”

What’s this?

I get to the office. Google it.

And then I take the quiz.

Hmmmmmmm.

Take the Quiz


Related Posts: Commuting Series

Walking. What are hands for?

hands

It’s 2 pm.

There’s phone chatter on the floor, fingers tapping on keyboards, a high speed printer spitting out copies, and the hum of florescent ceiling lights providing percussion.

The Modern Manufacturing Plant. And my Home away from Home.

I’ve been anchored to my seat since 5:30 am – an 8-hour shift and the meter continues to run.

I shift uncomfortably left, then right. The lower back groans.  My step counter reports 1,704 steps, 8,296 steps short of the daily target. But it’s not enough, not nearly enough to get me up and around and moving.  This soul’s chained to the wheel, with Kyo Maclear’s “pessimistic disposition, a perfectionist quality mixed with a sense of inadequacy…striving leading to suffering.”  My rocket fuel. Sucking on its straw, tanks strapped on tight, wired for production, banged up, leading Lombardi’s sweep, 4 yards in a cloud of dust.

I’m finishing up a telephone conversation and the phone cuts out. [Read more…]

Dinner! Let’s eat together…

Stick with this to the finish…


Thank you Susan

Oh, of course we are.

above-average


Source: The New York Times Magazine

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