Saturday, April 28, 2012

risky business

I find that the April 14th weekend seminar on the G.I. Gurdieff and J.G. Bennett Fourth Way teachings presented by Ben, Cindy, George and Ana Bennett - who, along with planning it from a distance, so generously flew out here all the way from Massachusetts - has left me with much to write. Where to begin?

One thing it made me reflect on is risk. The potential latent in risk, as well as hazard. I never personally met Mr. Bennett but imagine if I were him the temptation to rest on my laurels, with so many students looking on, would be high. But he never stopped pushing forward. He never stopped learning regardless of what he already knew or what status he had attained. This alone garners the greatest respect from me. It speaks of his commitment to life and all that is alive, to his humility and his humanity. That, though he may have had something to say about it, he never shunned even the weakest of us and never seemed to forget himself or his origins.

Accepting risk into one's life is accepting the challenge of the outside world and circumstances against your beliefs - also accepting that, as a consequence, you might have to revise them. The moment you drift away from this willingness to be challenged and be changed, to be found out, to be found wrong, you die. It may happen in increments as the decisions you make to avoid risk multiply, but it's death just the same. And it is observable. It is as instantaneous as it is slow because when it happens our world contracts. We are sometimes, as a result, made more comfortable for it. But this is akin to the blessing of a person who dies quietly in their sleep. If I am to die, I want to go kicking and screaming. It's not the death of the physical body I am referring to. That is quite apart.

Friday, April 13, 2012


I've been working on the Prelude to the Third Suite for Solo Cello on guitar in my "play" time. With Bach there are so many damn sixteenth notes. It's easy to want to jump over or hurry through those that are difficult or whose phrasing isn't your favorite.

A few nights ago my approach changed. Looking at the music the notes began to remind me of people. A crowd of little heads on sticks. What if they were people, embodying the same complex relationships to each other, the same depth and range of experience, of characteristics? What would I want to bring to them? How would I want this to go?

It sounds cheesy to write but, at that moment, I decided what I wanted most was to love each one individually, to give it it's due, to listen to what each had to tell me, rather than imposing my will on it or rushing through to the parts I find interesting or which express more closely what I want to say. Keeping this in mind, I began. The difference was immediate. A transformation had begun beneath my fingers. Rather than simply pecking out on the instrument what my eyes read from the page, they responded more and more to what was heard. 

There is an ocean between playing notes and playing music I am not sure it is possible for us to cross. At least, not without help. We endeavor to play music, but perhaps it is music that plays us. I was amazed to find that each note really did have a life of its own, a rich life at that - independent of any meaning I could give it. How many more dimensions this piece took on when approached, sincerely, in this way. It was the best kind of magic.