Saturday, May 15, 2010

It Always Comes To This

How am I to reach beyond my capacity? Any mastery, any at all may have something of that reach in it. I have turned away more than one time when I actually grasped the monumental size of the task. This is one circumstance where ignorance may genuinely be bliss, but it is bliss that cannot last. One becomes conscious at some point along the path toward mastery and then the shit hits the fan.

I have written several times of my turning away from music. It is frankly true that I left music behind in 1973 and did not return to it in any form until I discovered while keeping time to the radio in my car that I was anticipating rhythm of the jazz well enough to syncopate creatively to music I had never heard before and I have never trained to do that. This completely blew me away and still does. I don’t know where it came from but I guess it had something to do with getting sober and staying that way long enough. It had something to do with the healing involved in that. It also had something to do with no longer having anything to prove long enough. In other words, it may have had something to do with growing up. As well, there is the spiritual factor, that I am under a discipline of sorts, have been since 1967, and after decades it is actually working.

I would not have really returned to music without back up. I gave it a start, but it was not until my last lover entered my life and pulled me in that I really began the re-entry. She was capable of that pull, unlike anyone else in my life because she was in many respects a better trained musician than I am and my peer in so many other ways that I could not see her pressure as manipulation. It was obviously love, several kinds of love, and not least for music itself.

The point of writing about this is to look at the reason that I stopped back in 1973, why for some time before I was losing momentum rapidly and the heart had gone out of my love for playing music after six years of intense daily practice. I had reached a wall I couldn’t break through. I realized that not only was I going to have to learn a bunch of new stuff from the bottom up, the only way for me to do that was to unlearn much of what I had mastered. I was in a trap of my own devising by pushing forward as I had. I realized all the way down to my soul this was so. The task was just too big and too unfair after so much work. I knew I couldn’t do it. See what I mean about becoming conscious? That's what happened. I woke up and it wasn't pretty. My motivation had always been screwed up. I created my own failure in that way.

I knew I couldn’t do it, not what had to come next. No. I’ve always known I couldn’t do it. I lost heart for the dependability of the power flow from beyond that supports this kind of activity. I lost my trust in the benevolence of the universe for my work. Without that trust I could not believe. Without that faith I knew that I not only couldn’t do it, I no longer wanted to. I suffered terminal discouragement. I had worn my guitar out. The frets needed replacing. Instead of fixing my guitar, I put it in the closet. I quit singing. That was that.

I had no comforter.

Lack of trust: no one can master anything without it. If you have to jump an abyss farther than you can jump, then you must rely on the universe to supply and span the gap in power. What if it lies just a little bit beyond? Most mastery is like that, just a little beyond. The work is doable but the immensity is daunting. If you are too self centered about the work, it will fail because the necessary power is beyond self.

This is also the reason that alcoholics cannot sober up.

It Always Comes To This

You have given me
the reach, the yearning for sky
and hope and truth, dream
of a way beyond
the chasm of my longing life,
a short leap, you said,
though it looks wider
than my best running long jump.

I wish I had trust.

May 18, 2009 1:20 PM


  1. man, i got a lot to say :)
    first; i did some zen archery today.
    now i guess in archery the aim is to hit the bullseye, or is it?
    second; reading your predicament i suddenly saw the light in my own entanglement. Because i knew instantently what was missing (it is always easy to fix someone elses issues:)
    i wonder if you forgot about the enjoyment of it. As a Zen archer it is not about hitting the bulls eye, but to become One with the arrow, the bow, the target.
    For me, when i focus on being totally at Peace, i somehow miss the point.
    All this excites me so much, i had to step outside for a minute, and what did i see; a whisper in the sky, i felt totally happy in that moment when the arrow flies, in between two music notes...
    Thanks so much Christopher for this post.

  2. I find the idea of you losing your singing voice and your ability to play music way back in 1973 so sad, Christoper, but you have since found your writing voice and it sings to me. Thank you.

  3. Yes, Jozien, what I am trying to describe was a situation of awakening but the awakening was of a shortcoming so radical I had no recovery, not with who I was and what I had done. I was literally crippled in a self created fashion and that stole the heart out of the music.

    When I returned to music in a full hearted way in 2001 after a variety of resurgences in the nineties, that issue was healed. I no longer was pinning on music what did not belong to it.

    To be fair, I did not actually leave creativity behind. I replaced music with philosophy and psychology, with astrology and I Ching and writing and participating as a co-leader in group therapy work and hoping still for a breakout. In 1973 I met a partner in the work and invested in the hope that we would do something so profound and far reaching that it would honor my hope and transform my life as I had hoped music would do. This did not work either but it did lead to my college degree.

    What was still to come, getting sober was still to come, but that was still ten years away in 1973 and for the next six years I tried to make this other thing work too. In 1979 I had to admit that what I had hoped also would not happen, but that I could now complete my college degree. That work started in 1979 and finished in 1981. Two years later in 1983 I began the work of staying sober, and it has consumed me since.

  4. Yes, Elisabeth, each turn of my life has had a kind of forward momentum to it. As I lived through each change I had a sense of increase. I felt that leaving music behind was to make room for what came next. It was never true that I was forced to leave it behind in the larger context and I do feel a sense of loss about it all these years later, but I must acknowledge that my wrong turn was genuine and in its way inevitable, a manifestation more of disease than of willfulness.

    I call this symptomatic of a loss of trust and looking at the thing isolated that is a complete truth. However, in a larger context it is also ultimately false because it assumes there is only so much trust to go around, as if trustworthiness is not infinite and abundant.

    As is often the case in self created misery, one leads to the next, looking like a way out. And as is often the case, there are real accomplishments along the way, just not the ones I meant to accomplish.

  5. You have given me food for thought yet again Christopher. Perhaps that is where I am at right now....hmmmm


  6. This was an excellent post and poem, as they always seem to be. But I am struck with how your words have become as echos of thought or phrase to me. You say "reach beyond my capacity" and I hear your post about living smaller than your true heart. You say "the shit hit the fan" and I hear, open wider. Your words have shadows and they linger as you shed more light.

    You have taught me. You have moved me. You have opened and closed and been as VERB, active within me.

  7. And you, my friend, have left me speechless. It has taken me several hours to even say this much. :)


The chicken crossed the road. That's poultry in motion.

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