Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Enlightenment Wednesday

Tuesday nights are band practice nights (where "band practice" = "Mark and me playing extended jams to a click track, recording it on computer and attempting to meld a song out of it."), making Wednesday the day when I've got a couple of new mixes to listen to, ponder, and deconstruct while I'm sitting at work.

I don't know if it's this precise process (trying to criticize my own musical work) that made me aware of it, but somewhere along the line I realized that the workings of my brain are like a giant David Foster Wallace novel of which I am generally only dimly cognizant. It goes something like this:
  • Brain has thought
  • Thought is translated into English
  • Translation is compared to original thought, and possibly retranslated
  • Various other metaphors for original thought are constructed
  • This happens, like, 20 more times whilst at the same time, the footnoting and reanalyzing of the original thought begins
  • All of these thoughts must be translated, checked for translation accuracy, metaphorized, repeated, analyzed, footnoted, etc. etc.
  • Repeat ad infinitum
The other thing I realized is that this David Foster Wallace novel is extremely self-critical In the particular arena of mention above, the critical analysis has lately come to the conclusion that I can't play the guitar for shit. A typical exchange goes like this
  • Thought evoked by listening to a bit of one of the rough mixes of last night's practice
  • Translation: "I screwed up in that bit."
  • Query: "How bad a screw up was it?"
  • Analysis: "Your finger fell off the string and it killed the note right in the middle of the phrase."
  • Metaphor: "Your guitar playing here mirrors your inability to produce anything of artistic value ever. Every time you venture towards something good you try to get too fancy and you kill it."
  • Protestation: "But this is just a jam session. You're improvising here. Everyone makes mistakes in this context."
  • Critique: "That's not the point and you know it. Your mistakes should be beautiful things, too. But they're not. Your playing is utterly without spirit."
  • Rejoinder: "That's only because you're listening to yourself. All you can hear is the mechanics of it. You'll never be able to hear your own music as just music."
  • Critique: " It just sucks."
  • etc., etc.
Yes, my own internal monologue refers to me in the second person. I'm not saying it's not weird. Most of the time this goes by and I'm not really aware of it. Only when I'm paying attention to it is it that literal. Anyway, if I've read and understood the writings of the Buddhists and the Taoists, the state enlightenment, vis à vis what I've got going on now, should be something like this:
  • Thought
  • Other thought
  • A third thought
  • ...
What's always bugged me about that is that, well, it doesn't seem like enough. I mean, it would be great for my state of mental well-being if I could shed all of the meta-commentary that surrounds everything that goes through my head, but it doesn't seem like it would turn me into the Buddha. Somewhere in the music of this last Tuesday night, though, I had a little moment of Zen where I realized that, in fact, that is all there is to enlightenment. Being that it's the Tao and as soon as you put the Tao into words, it's not the Tao any longer, I can't really explain the insight. I think it's something about shutting off the commentary track and just enjoying the movie. Maybe, if I don't think about it for a little while, I'll come up with a better koan for it.

Next: The Sound of One Hand Clapping!

1 comment:

Tarn said...

Yes, I think there's something about Shedding that allows one to step further on the path to "enlightenment". Though I think it may be erroneous to believe one may experience it, be aware of it, make commentary on it and still be in it. I'm not even sure if I believe it's even possible to experience it as a necessarily conscious Experience.

And as one hand moves to clap and there is no receiver on the other end, it is the self that turns inward, unable receive its own commentary, be it untoward or other. That is indeed the sound of Shedding.