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René Magritte: The Empire of Light
René Magritte: The Empire of Light


Empire of LightI’ve always been thrilled by spots where waters merge:  streams to rivers, inlets, bays, fjords.   Confluence.   What emerges is new, different, often exciting.

In all the arts,  this is the moment:   When an ensemble joins as a group, be it jazz or dance or theater or video or any artistry, conceives of something that brings together disparate elements to create something new — something that opens the mind to possibility — what emerges is more than the sum of its parts.

Obviously not a goal that is easily achieved, but a worthy aim, all the same.



















Imbalanced Balance

In learning to play a musical instrument, I am constantly confronted with the degree to which my mind and body mutually struggle against rhythm.  I don’t find walking all that uncomplicated either.  It’s not just ‘cause I’m old;  I’ve always been clumsy my whole life, though usually causing me no more difficulty than knocking over beer bottles I’ve left in may own path.

So I admit may well err on the far side being of mentally and physically imbalanced,  but I think balance and imbalance are both essential aspects of life.

Science in general errs on the side of balance.  It aims to find order in chaos, not chaos in apparent order.  It wants to seek laws that “underlie” apparent randomness, apparent uniqueness.

To its discredit, the study of human psychology, in its pursuit of being dignified as a science, has primarily sought to reduce human existence to quantifiable, generalizable conclusions, and, in so doing, has sacrificed understanding ourselves as unique individuals.  Only for a brief blip in the middle of the previous century did “modern psychology” pay more than lip service to trying to understand the unique aspects of human experience.

There is an odd paradox here:  because human individual uniqueness is perhaps our most salient shared characteristic.

“Modern” psychology has devoted itself to pattern seeking through “objective” measurement.  This is why “mapping the genome” seems so unlikely to produce a better understanding of who we are as people.  It is like trying to understand a language solely by word-by-word translation.   Taking snippets of DNA may be akin to hearing snatches from a conversation and having no understanding of what the words mean in context.    Even if our strands of DNA were precisely alike, the moment the fertilized egg is formed, the moment the sperm and the ovum become the zygote, the world outside those cells is involved in every moment of our existence, and so no two beings have exactly the same DNA and the same world into which they are emerging.  Even with genetically identical twins and even before one leaves the womb before the other, the impact of their environment differs.

We hear a great deal about how this or that characteristic has had great survival value, yet we do not appreciate, it seems, that our individual uniqueness has proven to be the greatest survival advantage of all.

Music attempts to cross this gap, to merge yin and yang without sacrificing either.  To mix balance with imbalance, harmony with dissonance, theme with variation.   As humans, we imperfectly strive for perfection.   Sometimes the imperfection is a lot more obvious than the perfection, but that’s life, that’s who we are.

If you enjoyed this thought, check out Perfect Imperfect  or Theme and Variations.