When Was the Last Time You Listened to Real Music?!

Sometimes the most inspirational epiphanies arrive from the most unexpected places. Recently I had the pleasure to experience one of those feelings.

music069For some time now, I found myself less and less enjoying to simply listening to music. I still think it is inspirational at times, some music can, still, drive me to tears but I don´t find any pleasure in simply having it around me constantly (except specific moments). Well, to be honest, up until recently, I never actually stopped to seriously think why I feel this way, unattached by music. Then on a train ride where I finally got the chance to start the next book on my list, I came across this next phrase:

¿Os gusta la música?

Le mentí. Acostumbrado a los infinitos rumores de la mar, no concibo otra música que no sea la de las olas. Ade­más, la verdad, no estaba yo para muchas músicas. Y dila­tar la tarea para la que había sido llamado, me parecía, en verdad, un fraude. Pero como debe hacerse en tales ocasio­nes, disimulé y le contesté de esta manera:

-Mucho, señora. La música eleva los espíritus y consue­la de las aflicciones.” (from En el último azul, Carme Riera).

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Briefly, it says that after being asked if he likes music, the Captain felt he had to lie, saying that yes, the music lifts the spirits and sooth afflictions. However, his main and truer claim is that music seems to him as a fraud, for he was accustomed to the “infinite murmurs of the sea” where he could not conceive man made music but the one of the waves.

For so long I simply thought that people were right telling me (after realizing my stand about music, of course exaggeratively) that I was emotionless, unable to feel the intensity of a Leonard Cohen’s song, of a Rhapsody melody, or a shake with Shakira (I actually enjoy that part). “You are a robot! – some said – I feel bad for you.”

But no, I used to love music, listening to it all the time, as a teenager in high volume and later, while growing up, somewhat more constrained. I listened to all types of music having my periods of modern Greek style depressive songs, to Rock, and during other periods the Classics and New Age. I listened to music constantly, until my travels. And then, music began to fade, songs became a cultural experience, another form that construct one´s identity. Sounds and tones simply lost their power after experiencing the pleasure of listening to the jungle´s heartbeat. Music became a fraud, a mere imitation of howler-monkey-the true power of nature. I found my connection with nature through the eternal song of life, in the form of animals (what instrument can travel 3km inside a dense jungle like the cry of a howler monkey?); of a summer storm (what greater emotion can a drum give next to a series of thunders or even the break of a pacific 5m wave some footsteps away from you?). Music became a fraud, a simple man-made artifact to incite in us a safe imitation of those intense emotional states as they appear in nature.

It has been many years since the industrious mind of man’s imitations was clear to me. Lipstick for an aroused woman, high-heels for a better physical posture, tailored broad shouldered suit for a more distinguished male look. Perfumes are a billion dollar industry today, simply to imitate the smell of a young, fresh pheromone of a desired girl, or to enhance the masculinity of a village-born man with his wild nature. So much money is invested in finding a formula that will reproduce natural phenomenas, the mimetic existence we call real life.

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We worked so hard to run away from nature into comfort, great technology. But are we really that far away from it as some will say? It seems that the more we want to distinguish ourselves from nature, the more we look for it with artificial creation.

So, next time, a person next to you is not thrilled from the music around, from colored faces and Armani suits, don’t scorn his “inability” to feel the music but instead, we can appreciate the capability to simply be truthful to the origin, to the source, constantly and only overwhelmed by the eternal song of Gaia.

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My TEDx Paradox!

TED Talks is one of the innovative inventions in last twenty manage to enter the top entrepreneurial mission one can define as success. It is the essence of what good Internet use is all about. Briefly said, it is sharing good and creative ideas while inspiring and promoting the feeling of joy for the progress of men and women. That being said, no great invention can, and should, exist without some criticism. I personally heard comments that had implied the conferences as elitists, others that say it´s a waste of time of serious men and women, scientists and person of culture, and some speakers even complained about censuring their talks. Taking into account this criticism, one cannot argue with the hundreds of thousands of view for every recently-uploaded Talk or with the smile and awe most people immediately get when discussing the last TED Talk.

1656319_10205408741838721_1313697782321493374_nSo, to celebrate the release of my TEDx Talk video I thought of scribing some words about this memorable and wonderful experience. As it seems, about three months ago I had the chance to participate in a TEDx event. I was one of eight speakers, all of us excited and nervous, no matter what was our background and experiences we lived.

The title of my talk is Trip to Awareness and New Trispective about Life. In it I shared experiences, as well as wonderful, exuberance, life filling events that made my life rich and interesting. Many adventures, of the kind that for years were left unspoken, were revealed on this TEDx stage, mentioning some travels I did and the subsequent thoughts I had. As it seems, after many travels and adventures in different countries experiencing and learning about cultures, languages and some of the similar preoccupations we share, I might have managed to reach few exciting conclusions. The Talk was an exciting event, and although I was asked for more journey anecdotes as well as experiences I acquired, I think I succeeded inserting some of the mindful conclusions I had and the unique and pragmatic theory about life (some of which can be found in my books).

I did not say it during the Talk but without any doubt, it is inspired from a book I published in 2012 called Trispectivism (from which part of the title and this very blog are derived). In it I elaborate the method of thought process that I used to arrive to that theory and, as mentioned, was pondering about the wonderful experiences I had in the many countries I have traveled and lived.

When I think about this TEDx experience, one particular thought comes to mind: The TEDx Paradox. It is the constant effort to balance between what one might see as egocentric blabber and a necessary explanation about oneself. How does one choose wisely what to say about the things he or she did, what is great, what is mediocre and what is common and might seem as over-reacting self consumed person? As an academic, I participate in conferences regularly for the last 5 years but this experience is quite different. Presenting your work in front of experts in the matter that will judge your academic or professional ability turned out to be quite different from presenting yourself in front of a large variety of curious people with different backgrounds that will judge you according to how you present yourself in public.

“Just look above the audience”, was the first of few good advices I received and gladly assimilated. Another one was to engage with the audience, this one I failed to follow. Yet my learning experience was more than those advices and seeing my limitations but also about fear, responsibility and doubts before, and while, the Talk.

But maybe the important conclusion for me is that the Talk initiated one of the most significant contemplation I did in recent years and that is the realization that in spite of my amazing experiences, I began to acknowledge how little I have actually done to make the world a better place. This introspective reasoning rearranged my priorities and now, at the age of 36 it´s time to try and give back no matter how little we might think any contribution one can make.

And to end this, nothing better than the words of TED founder in person:

And to end this, nothing better than the words of TED founder in person:

The narrative of our life: road towards political consciousness

This week I was asked to speak in a conference with an interdisciplinary audience from the Humanities. For that occasion, I decided to transform one topic of my research into a generic perspective to which many would be able to relate. The thought I will discuss is the rise of the political consciousness in the baroque period by controversial narrative. The concept of Narrative hunts me for the past few months and certainly for any modern humanist can, and should, evoke large variety of connotations.

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Lope de Vega

Up until recently (50 years or so) Narrative was used predominantly in literary context describing books, stories and literary work of any sort. This changed in the 60’s and 70’s with the rise of the study of Identity with all its components. Narrative slowly transcended into Narrativity and since then is also being used to interpret cultural and social based sciences (political philosophy, psychology, cultural theory, anthropology, sociology…).

storiesToday, Narrative is more of conceptual term that refers to the reality behind the fiction. For some it is the missing link from representational form to ontological and epistemological thinking. Personally, I am dubious about the use of Narrativity without the important epistemological evidence of narration. To my opinion, it is relatively vague and unscientific to simply relate to one’s hypothetical life of ideas as a Narrative without any sort of physical expression of it. This expression can have multiple forms such as: writing, oral and physical expression, filmed or recorded etc.

As it seems, if we lack a sense or a form of communication, the misconstrued ideas that might be established or provoked are simply too great to be considered as any kind of science. With the help of recent studies in Reception Theory, we are aware of the difficulties with interpretation from written expressions of realities (other theorists as Eco or Sontag had long mentioned some of these reflexions in their work). Considering Narrativity is not necessarily the controversy between prescribing life experiences and describing them (as Kreiswirth and Strawson try to debate).

From this perspective I will probably try to define later this week the literary expressive baroque as an awakening for transmitting political consciousness to other straits of society. Probably the most successful interpretations of this kind of cultural transmission are in the form of political satire and theatrical plays. Even though those voices were first documented in the great Greek and, more predominately, Roman ancient civilizations, it is not until the end of the 16th century that we re-encounter this social intervention in politics in such a large scale.

Thus, we can thank Shakespeare, Lope de Vega, Balzac as well as many anonymous satires (anonymous for obvious reasons) to set the foundation for this recent view about income inequality:

What an hour in a museum can do to a person

The Ashmolean museum in Oxford offers daily free tours with different thematic concepts and contexts. This is, by far, a superb way to visit a museum on a course of some weeks. That is due probably because of the obvious reason that what is usually an interested curious walk amongst the eras suddenly becomes a learning experience about cultures and hence, about life.

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One thing that is constantly repeating while visiting a museum is the multiplicity of faiths and general dispositions of belief-based traditions and ceremonies that qualify and quantify the society.

Amun-Ra
Amun-Ra

In one of these visits I had the pleasure to walk through the Egyptian era. While listening to the explanation of the volunteering Egyptologist, I couldn´t help myself but take few notes I find to be extremely relevant to the way we perceive the interaction between older cultures and traditions and our own. Today, any curious person that is interested to know where and when her beliefs began can simply look at the vast and growing number of web pages (both official and amateurs) that delightfully narrate the passing of concepts and faith from one culture to the one that followed. This tour was no different, staring at Amun Ra’s human or ram´s face, one cannot not be awe striking by its majestic power. This divine Sun God usually appears holding in one hand a spear and in the other the Ankh, the key of life by the gods (still represented to this very day in various beliefs). As creator god, he is considered to be the father of kings, meaning the father of the great Pharaohs.

Ashmolean Egypt section

As even the great god cannot stay without the universal need of a feminine wisdom and natural connections, the belief in the Mother God (known as Mut) was also part of the divine. The Goddess was venerated as both Virgin and Mother and in many representations was depicted as a gyps (a vulture). The Pharaoh, on the other hand, was praised as an earthly god, as the son of both the creator god and the great wise goddess (though by parthenogenesis of course). He can no doubt create miracles and even holds the balance between Ka and Ba (concepts of the soul). The first being the sheut (close to the word ‘sheol’ in Hebrew which in general terms means ‘hell’), it is the shadow of the human soul. In direct opposition to Ka is Ba, depicted by a bird with a human head that flies to the field of Reeds (or Aaru, similar to the modern notion of paradise). No doubt, the assimilations and reconfiguration of cultures and symbols gave way for Ba to have a strong resemblance to the famous Al-Buraq that followed in the same region.

Al-Buraq
Al-Buraq

A museum, the great palace of knowledge, where a person not only journeys to the past but also to her own culture and origins. It is our universal, our extension to the farther realms that altogether are closer than we can imagine to our own perception. As pattern seeking mammals, it seems that there is a desire to create these magnificent artifacts of aesthetic emotional experience in order to give rise to reasons and explanations. Yet let us not forget (and any visit in a museum should reminds us), what was once sacred, today, is a mere curious piece of history and beauty.

Field of Reeds, the image of Paradise as a flourishing land was common at the time ('Paradise' comes from 'Pardes', plantation of trees)
Field of Reeds, the image of Paradise as a flourishing land was common at the time (‘Paradise’ comes from ‘Pardes’, plantation of trees). Hence, the idea of Paradise was no more than an oasis surrounded by the great hot desert.

And he was made to roam the earth… and grow!

The geographical journey that instigates and inspires the mental one will be the action that will carry us to distant and unknown regions of the intrinsic as well as the extrinsic world. A journey can be many things, but it is not a week’s vacation in a beach town, or a trip to a cosmopolitan city in a foreign country. A journey is always a trip of learning, differentiating itself from tourism (a short vacation) or traveling (a longer period of time).

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A journey has no time limit, but it involves diving into new cultures, into a unique path in an unfamiliar environment. A vacation, on the other hand, usually ends up with many “I’ve been there” photos and some nice stories to make friends and family jealous, while a journey consists of connecting to other cultures, learning about them, losing yourself to mother nature, whether alone or with a companion. The importance of the number of people who can join is crucial for the experience: one can never really contemplate nature or one’s surroundings when accompanied by a group of ten people. There will constantly be things to do and someone to talk to, and your attention will be more focused on the group itself than toward the new of the outside. In my personal opinion and experience, the solo journey is the most exhilarating and wholesome; followed by a journey of two friends, three if you really have to, and only after that comes a couple. Yes, two to three friends are better partners on a journey than your significant other, for as great as it is for couples to have these experiences, this bonding does not contribute the connection to the outside. In a couple’s journey, you do not change or evolve as a person but as a couple (a wonderful thing on its own).

Solo journeys of psychological and physical development are not rare in our world. The most commonplace, though, are found in literature, both fiction and biographies. In the Odyssey, for example, Homer’s Ulysses undergoes many tests, but the most important one, among the wars and quarrels with the gods, is the journey back to Ithaca. The journey is far from peaceful sailing along the Mediterranean shoreline—he faces hardships, death, and recognition in life. Many times he confronts the gods, good as well as evil, withstanding sacrifice and misery, through sorrow and, at times, joy and ecstasy. Many years pass before he can return to reign side by side with his dear wife.

What do you think would have happened if Ulysses had managed to get right back home after the war of Troy? It would not have been long until he would have found some other war to fight, or the next adventurous opportunity, always in a degenerating dissatisfaction. However, after the countless sights, fatigue, experiences, suffering, and death he survived, his perspective changed and he proved to himself that priorities change when they are viewed from a broader perspective.

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In the old world of the sage Greeks, with their idols and stories of heroism, there is a leitmotif—the long walk, the journey of many years. It is what every hero must undertake before being approved by the gods. Those years away from his confidence, far from the security of home, are the most important years of developing his character. Those are years in which the hero’s edification and his mode of action are shaped, and it is then when he becomes the person he is supposed to be, a savior and a hero of the gods. The weaker ones die on the way, but the survivors, the chosen ones, are strong—they are the ones who, with the right combination of strength and shrewdness, can overcome any obstacles and defeat the strongest of their enemy. Even Jesus, king of the Christians, is said to have traveled for many years before he started spreading the word. Moses had a revelation in the mountains before he could lead the children of Israel in the desert. The ancient Babylonian god Dagon disappeared at sea only to reappear years later in a hybrid form, half man, half fish, to lead his people to justice and greatness. Jacob fled his brother Esau and saw an angel descend a ladder from God to tell him the good news.

Dagon
Dagon

Muhammad, the prophet of Islam, learned from the many heroic stories of his predecessors; he went for years until that glorious moment when Allah called him to pass down to him the sacred word and distribute it among the lost, heterogeneous, scattered tribes throughout the Arab territory. He did his job so effectively that about two hundred years later the Muslims had become the most powerful union in that part of the world. Buddha is said to have journeyed for long years until he reached enlightenment and nirvana. Whether the Law of Moses or the New Testament, Islam, Buddhism, or other religions and beliefs (monotheistic, polytheistic, or animistic), almost every story of spiritual discovery unravels and begins with the story of the hero’s journey. In it, while facing the unknown, you need to re-examine your abilities every day as another reality, other problems that require new and creative solutions come about. You will spend many hours with yourself in constant introspection, sometimes conscious of the struggle inside and other times the enlightenment will arrive only in retrospect. A journey is one of the strongest examinations of the third division in trispectivism, the intercommunication, the interaction you, as an individual All, have to acknowledge in the face of the world, the universal All. Strengthening one aspect in the three divisions (whether the awareness of the individual, widening the perspectives of the universal, or simply improving the interaction) is also empowering and reinforces the other two.

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[This post is taken from Trispectivism, the section titled “Journeys” p. 183]