The Songs Beneath The Noise
As a people, those in industrialized culture, we no longer know how to listen for the larger story going on all around us and within us; the story whose substance is what allows us to be here, that when translated back into its original language, sounds like the hum of the land and the song of the chickadees. Rather we listen to the stories of lack or the distraction stories of ‘doing’ or ‘victim’. We worry that we have not paid our taxes, that the car needs an oil change, that we are strangely ‘depressed’, don’t seem to be able to sustain meaningful relationships or haven’t really experienced this thing we call ‘happy’. And rather than have a relationship with these fundamental worries we forgo curiosity (because the process of ownership is likely too difficult) and we simply organize around solution. “How do I fix these problems?” we demand. “How do I get happy?!” as if it’s a commodity, an entitlement. And here we move, ever-further away from the very awareness, the very way of being that is the only solution to all of our ills. The cultivation of our awareness of the Life that exists in, around, beneath and above us at all times is of the most relevance to us here. In truth, there is nothing that is of more relevance to us. Not only are we designed to feel meaningful, to have purpose, to be of importance but of course, the final measure of our capacity to thrive is found right here. Of course we will figure out survival, as we already have to some degree; strip-mining what is most glorious about our human-ness to find the thing of least nourishment that will get the job done and perhaps even convince us we are living well, like fast food, prepared food: packaging it up as a great convenience, a delicious discovery. We sell and consume en masse until we find (though non of this is a conscious process) we have adjusted our baseline so that this strip-mined place is now the measure of a life on track, a life of merit. We will not fail to figure out human survival, at all costs. (Until, of course, we do fail.) Here, unlike many others, I do not worry about the ultimate prevailing of the vast and immutable expression that is Life. No matter how much we impress our wounding upon this extraordinary ecosystem – the Universe – we will not stop the imperative of Life. We will simply cease to be part of it in this form. I do not have judgement here. Just an immeasurable amount of rage and grief that we, endowed with so much, have failed so utterly to create lives of gratitude and generosity.
When it comes to our human expression, there is not an ounce of nobility in mere survival. To imagine the preeminent human expression to be mere survival is to fall to egregious levels of ignorance. Without judgement, the antelope perhaps cannot concern herself with more than survival, with only her amygdala and simple limbic networks. Though ironically she and her kind have more embodied wisdom than most humans at this point. But I do speak of her to offer an invitation. We, with the glorious, voracious and barely-tapped triumvirate brain, have been designed for something entirely different than simply survival. And the endowment of this design seems to me, to bring with it a profound responsibility. We have been designed to care, to delight, to breath with consciousness, with a heart, with an understanding of past, present and future. While we are no different than the antelope or the cancer cell in that we are beholding to the ultimate laws and fierce nature of this Universe, for better or worse we have been endowed with the capacity to see the vast and incomprehensible miracle of it all. We comprehend enough to see that we will never actually know how all this truly works. Or perhaps more disconcerting to our human-ness, why it all actually works. We grasp our dependence upon it, our intricate interdependence with it, while also comprehending its omnipotent power over us. For whatever reason, whether you experience this as a cruel joke or the most generous offering, we have been built to be the meaning-makers, to give a shit in the most impossible way, about the fact that living in us is the impulse and vulnerability of the antelope all the while we are asked to be the poets and songwriters of this glorious endeavor, the labelers and the quantifiers. Breeders and pallbearers. Foot soldiers and Life’s right hand stenographers; the ones who get to tell the story of all that is unfolding in and around us even as we are caught up in the heartbreaking catastrophe of the story itself.
There is no one else who will do this, be the soulful accountants and storytellers of this miracle. If this doesn’t get done, well, perhaps it’s no big deal that we go careening through life simply sucking, with greater and greater blindness and entitlement, whatever we feel we need in order to have our lives undeterred, our sports endeavors, our psychopharmacology, our fleeting tropical vacations, our fancy goat cheeses and fine wines, or even our welfare checks, our bus tokens and our canned soups, feeling ever-more that we have been gipped somehow, that no matter how unfortunate or fortunate we actually are, it’s just not enough. ‘When will I have enough?!’ ‘Why does he have so much more than I do?!’ becomes our living mantra.
Unless we are waking up giving a shit that the birds and squirrels outside our window have also woken up, unless we are listening for the song beyond the noise, or the harmony within the noise (because as repugnant as we imagine the sound of traffic, it’s simply enslaved matter of the most extraordinary sort), we will not feel fed, nor will we be employing ourselves in ways that matter. Unless we are stopped in our tracks and reminded of the vast and immeasurable glory and mystery of this experiment, unless we remember that we are the experiment – inextricably participating in and vital to – this mystery, until we are halted by the sight of the sunrise or moved to tears by the feel of the warm breath of a child, a lover or a four-legged companion, we, in our lost-ness, will be more dangerous than we are anything else. Many of us participate here as victims and yet we are all endowed with the power to write a new chapter in this global human wound story, right now.
There is only the gesture of awareness, of stopping, of coming present and experiencing all that is right here, to release us from the place of our ignorance and wound. The World is no doubt wondering what has occurred that we are physically here and yet not here at all, like the zombies and vampires which we find so fascinating, seemingly alive and yet....strangely....not. Voraciously hungry, ravenous, yet never filling up. Never done consuming. We, each of us, is as gruesome, as horrific, as small and as dangerous as we have the capacity to be glorious, brilliant, and devoutly beneficial. This is our endowment; there is balance in all things. This balance lives in each of us. Each of you know exactly what I’m speaking of here.
It’s time to come home. It’s time to wake up. Go outside, look up, look down, look straight out, and then look in. Return home. Take a deep breath. Stop the whirling of the stories which keep you from noticing what is actually happening here. Listen to the songs beneath the noise. They will not stop. And they sing, as they always have, for you.