As I See it: On the Purpose of Art, Music, and Poetry
I believe that all of the arts help us to understand ourselves, each other, and the diversity of life more fully, in each of our unique expressions of life and spirit.
“The human life is the most complex narrative of all; it has many layers of events which embrace outside behavior and actions, the inner stream of the mind, the underworld of the unconscious, the soul, fantasy, dream and imagination. There is no account of a life which can ever mirror or tell all of this. When telling her story, all a person can offer is a sample of this complexity. The best stories suggest what they cannot name or describe.”
John O’Donohue – “Beauty” – P.137
Experiencing diversity in my life is a deeper cultural narrative than just my surface communication or conversation. It is a rich complexity of my experience through the lens of my psyche, my perspective, and my life choices. That there is more than one way of understanding intelligence is put forth by Howard Gardner in Frames of Mind. According to him, we all possess within us multiple intelligences: verbal, visual, musical, and several others. The richness of experience comes to each of us differently. Thus, each of our lives is going to have a slightly different presentation with each individual and each cultural background. One very good example of cultural diversity for me is the Native American understanding of BEAUTY, particularly emphasized by the Navajo who believe that beauty is finding a balance between the natural world and the world of spirit. So, in the Navajo Night Chant they talk about “walking in beauty”.
This is an introductory preface to my book, “Contemplating the Miracle”, which is available on Amazon. You may go to my author’s page or read some of my poems by selecting the book image on the right.
I was walking along the Greenway near a street named Mira Vista, and there was this little girl about maybe three or four years old on a small pink bike with training wheels coming toward me. Her father was some distance back. She started picking up speed as she approached and shouted gleefully, “Look what I can do!”
Wow, this sentence stayed in my heart. Life is full of the expected and then the really unexpected. She was facing the challenge of riding a bike and feeling very proud of herself for doing it. She didn’t say to herself, “Well, I’m not that good yet. “or “I hope I don’t fail.” She was in the moment, lavishing the victory, and telling her dad and the world, “Look what I can do!”
Every time I don’t acknowledge myself and my actions in going toward what I love or I have one of these critical voice self-criticisms of my own actions, I will remember her and her joy, and say to myself, “Look what I can do!”
Pastel shades of blue
painted on the panorama ‘fore my eyes
Oh, Magenta, red, and aqua rainbows
fill the sky just like some rhyme –
Am I dreaming songs of love?
Am I always wondering why?
Is it truth or is it passion
that fills my heart and overflows my mind?
Open now and hope forever,
My heart is on the line:
a deeper shade of color,
and this dancer spinning to some unknown time –
I can be this heart within
and I do answer for my own time
as the poet lives within these wings
and this dancer with the mystery unwinds–
Sometimes these absences
of intimacy, of friendship,
burn in my Heart
like the flame of a candle.
And my soul reaches out
in reply, saying
“There is love.”
Be at Peace. Be Grateful.
“Often people’s identities, that wild inner complexity of soul and color of spirit, become shrunken into their work identities. They become prisoners of their roles. They limit and reduce their lives. They become seduced by the practice of self-absence”.
John O’Donohue – Anam Cara
Oh, this trembling uncertainty,
wanting a place
to voice my feelings
in this chaotic seeming world.
I follow my heart.
I follow my dream,
as the gibbon moon crosses
high in the sky –
I dream of beauty and love.
A voice out of somewhere asks:
What have you to give songsmith?
I reply that
I am finding my voice
and bringing you my harmonies
in this disharmony,
I am the song in the wind,
the sun on your face,
the love in your heart,
the rhythm in your dance,
the dream in your spirit,
To My Father
(Perhaps this poem is about seeing
the Fullness even in the Emptiness)
I stare now at this cup
half full and half empty
like a funny Zen poem
looking for the plenty.
I listened to the sermon:
“He’s in another place,
and won’t be here now with you.
Go to school and wash your face.”
Learned to learn real good,
to write, to run, to talk.
Feelings all tapped down
except on lonely walks.
But friends were there to play
Sing a song or play a game.
I managed the routines,
though my heart found other ways.
Though I learned well not to cry,
When I found you had to die.
My heart knows well the time
when your love was by my side.
It was a dark night. I was feeling detached and tired as I listened again to my still small voice within; it said,” Go in and sing with her”. I picked up my guitar and songbook, and went in and asked her if we could sing together. Her answer was an affirmative “yes”, though I knew she was shy and embarrassed about her own singing voice because in growing up her family had poked fun at her singing voice.
Nonetheless, I started with a rendition of “When the Saints Go Marching In”. She had shared that that song was the last song in a funeral orchestration that her best friend had put together for her own last rites. That song was heartily sung by everyone in the service, sending her friend rousingly into eternity. I was moved by that story recounted to me by her and her other friend when they returned from the service.
After that song I followed it with a song I had written specifically for Nancy called “Nancy’s Song”. She loved it and I sang a few more songs out of my songbook with her. All her agitation and moodiness (she has dementia) melted like butter with the music. After a few songs she began to talk about experiences with her family growing up, and I recounted experiences with my family, growing up in Detroit. It was heart to heart conversation. It was truly breakthrough in relationship at least for the moment.
This story and experience illustrates what music is to me. First it is a tool I use to free myself from my logical, left brain. Music can often free us emotionally and from stress. I believe that music is both an avenue from and to divine spirit or consciousness. I don’t limit this to one particular religion. Lastly, I believe music connects us to our own deeper self, to each other, and to Source or to God. This is what music is to me.
This is what I love, my passion. What is your passion?