Wednesday, April 6, 2011

sounds of silence

Last year I had a day in silence. I don't do it often. I was with a small group of people in an unfamiliar house. From time to time, when I got bored with my self, or tired of deep sea swimming, I would drift across the room and leaf through a book. This is one of the things I learnt that day: the Indonesian Gamelan tradition believes music takes place as a continuous, sacred expression which is out of our hearing. When the Gamelan orchestra plays, it accesses and channels that music. In other words, the instruments create a conduit to the spiritual world, and while that is open, and they are playing, we are able to listen in. And so, for a time-bound period, celestial music (my term) is in my hearing. This description is simple, and doubtless carries my own cultural warp, but something of the central idea has caught my imagination, my spirit. The music is playing, whether I hear it or not.

Last year, on a noisier occasion, I visited St Martin in the Fields in the heart of London, treated myself to one of their free weekly lunch-time concerts, then visited the crypt next door, where a shop sold quasi-religious items (of the anglican ilk). Tucked among the teatowels, posters and so on, were an array of plaques. The one that took my eye and caught my heart carried a quote from Erasmus: "Bidden or unbidden, god is present". I later read that this quote was inscribed above the door at Carl Jung's home, and he asked that it be carved into the tomb where he is now buried. This quote keeps returning, and delighting me. While god for me now is small gee, and I'm exploring new metaphors for the divine, still I resound with faith in that other 'I am'. I settle with an assurance that bidden or unbidden, sung or unsung, there is presence.