Sometimes the most inspirational epiphanies arrive from the most unexpected places. Recently I had the pleasure to experience one of those feelings.
For 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).
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 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.
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.
Among other equally important issues that evoke a relationship between the Other and the self, I choose first to concentrate on self interest. It is true that over the years these words have gained a strong negative connotation. It is usually considered to be an egocentric act of profit, and it always comes at the cost of other people’s welfare. Well, this is true, and usually you will not see self-interest treated in a self-help book, or if you do see it, it is usually discussed as a destructive aspect that, in order to find true happiness, must be avoided at any cost. To that I can only reply: hypocrisy. If the child of some guru needs a liver transplant and there is another child on the waiting list, how noble the actions of the great master will be in a situation in which he will have to choose?
In practice (as opposed to theoretical nobility), the preference is obvious. It will be hard to find a woman who will tell her father that because she cared so much about starvation in Somalia, now she cannot afford his heart surgery. Self-interest is one of the many gifts of nature; it is what distinguishes us from machines with no emotions or care (for good as well as for bad). Obviously, like anything on this planet, a person can decide to make a bad use of it, or to carry out selfish actions using it as an excuse, but you have to recognize its existence and not to try to hide it from others and from yourself. First, they are certainly doing the same, and second, it will drive you further from being one with yourself. That being said, we should be more attuned to our surroundings and help everyone wherever and whenever we can.
Moreover, by saying self-interest, it does not imply egoism and cannot be compared to it. Unfortunately, some self-help books and religious discourses confuse the two and use both without distinction, ending up speaking about the malevolence of self-interest. The principal difference is in the action of the person. Self-interest can certainly be a positive, progressive action that not only benefits the self but also its surroundings.
With egoism, though, the situation is different; where self-interest includes the surroundings as well as yourself, ego (“I” in Latin), is the I that is motivating the action. For example, if you would rather help a family member than a stranger, this is self-interest, but with egoism, family members are at the same category with strangers: they are not you. Also, in the stock market, it is in your own best interest if other investors feel optimistic and make a profit—that way, the stock market will rise and as a consequence you can make more profit as well. Egoism says that if you want to profit, others must loose. Concentration on the ego, the I, is concentrating on the individual All; this can never function because reality and life is not only that. Belittling or disregarding the universal All is to negate nature, and it will eventually draw you away from happiness. Self-interest recognizes that aspect, and if you use it properly, you can harmonize its interconnectivity with the universal All and achieve greater results both for you and for your environment.
Hence, I try not to forget, at times, if an egotistical urge rises in my belly, I go ahead and do it, but I don´t forget to balance it later (or while) with some good, old fashion common good. That way, I see how in an instant it transforms itself into some self interest sharing.