Thursday, January 15, 2009

Fear of Rebirth.

I had a conversation with a very intelligent young woman recently, and I said that because so many people fear religious "born again" evangelicals (I know born again evangelicals who fear other supposed born again evangelicals), it almost feels like it's morphing into a larger cultural fear of talking about rebirth, renewal and, yes, feeling or being born again.

For the record, this blog is secular. If I have personal religious beliefs, I have found here in my hoary old age that it's better to just keep them to yourself. Once, when refusing to answer direct queries by a very intensely religious Christian about my beliefs, I finally said in exasperation, "If I ask you what kind of position you and your wife have sex in, would you consider that too personal?"

He sputtered, unbelieving I would even raise the subject.

"Well, that's how I feel when someone asks me about my relationship with God. It's like they're asking me what I do in bed."

He still didn't get what I was trying to say to him, but my point was that we can talk about issues usually associated with spirituality without necessarily having to get into theology.

(For those who still need to know my religious beliefs, buy "Creating Harmony, SFGMC's new limited edition CD containing New World Waking. Or find a production of TLS or The Big Voice. They won't answer you directly, either, but you'll be plenty entertained).

[Speaking of which, a mystery has arisen over the article written in the SF Bay Times about the Christmas Eve concert which supposedly depressed the writer of the article. Turns out said reviewer was probably not in attendance at all. Why? BECAUSE THE CHORUS DIDN'T SING THE FULL NEW WORLD WAKING THAT NIGHT. The review was a cut and paste from both the program and her earlier review of the Dec. 1st concert.

When I wrote New World Waking, I made it intentionally modular and scalable -- meaning you don't have to perform the entire 45 song cycle, and you don't need a big chorus of singers. I told Kathleen at the very beginning that the last section, called "The Awakening Suite," could be pulled from the overall piece and performed by itself.

Which is exactly what they did on Dec. 24th.

So, the reviewer reviewed a show she did not attend and made a negative comment about songs that were not sung.

And BTW, I still don't think that New World Waking is "inappropriate for the holidays" or, as was put in the banner headline "Has the SFGMC Gone Too Highbrow?" over the heads of most people in the audience.

I've been asking members of the chorus to tell me what they themselves observed as they performed the full piece in a series of concerts around the Bay Area for Christmas and holiday celebrations. The responses have completely blown me away. Not only did holiday audiences receive New World Waking well, they were cheering it. They were cheering sometimes in the MIDDLE of songs.

New World Waking seems to provoke a kind of catharsis for many, pulling up deeply held emotions, and then setting them free. And that's another thing.]

Also, to belabor the point just a bit, the writer of the article said that the finale was the "classic" song "My Rising Up."

"My Rising Up" is not a classic. It's brand new. It was written by Peter J. Carman and Steve Schalchlin for New World Waking. That it plays like a "classic" is great. (Googling NWW I discovered a blogger who said he or she loved "My Rising Up" and, apparently, mistakenly, maybe from reading about it, said she "hadn't heard" of this song but wanted to look it up.

Hey, Peter! We wrote a classic!)

(And yes, that was a several paragraphs long parenthetical statement with a bracketed inner thought.)

Fear of the language of rebirth. That's what I was discussing with this young lady.

Me, I think rebirth should be constant. For me, it is the essence of actually learning how to live. Morphing out the old and morphing in the new. That's how you keep your mind and everything else about you healthy and clear, especially if you do it on a continual basis.

Longtime readers of the old Bonus Round diary (a classic!) will remember that I used to retitle the new "books" of my life constantly. In one instance, one person actually objected to my starting a new book because he liked the old one and didn't want things to change. True story.

Me, I feel like I'm just getting started in life. But I feel a rebirth happening right now at this very moment. We were at sea -- "water is the symbol for birth" (line from The Big Voice) -- and we were looking at the Antarctic.

What I observed felt profound. I am still unable to put it into words, so reader, you'll have to bear with me as I dole out these feelings over the next few weeks.

But talk about rebirth. I saw rivers of ice -- the oldest ice on the planet -- pushing out towards the shore of the S. Shetland Islands. Through binoculars, I saw penguins in their mating season, lined up on a beach of the almost steaming caldera of Deception Island, by the tens of thousands, only to discover that all those white spots on the dull green plateaus and hills were tens of thousands more.

Birth. Rebirth. The oldest alongside the youngest.

It was as if I could see the planet's beginnings on one island, and its newest babies on the other.

Rivers of ice. Moving so slowly.

A planet constantly being reborn. Life constantly being reborn. My heart feeling the pangs of rebirth.

I have videos. I have pictures. I will share them soon.

But the pain that I bear, more than anything, is that no picture, no video, no words and no music will ever be able to recreate what came over me as Smith Island (S. Shetland Islands) came into view. It was 7am. Few guests were awake. No claxon rang. No warning light went off.

It just appeared off the port side. From horizon to horizon I saw a wonder that gripped my heart and stilled the waters. That morning was a glorious morning. The sun was out. One in 20 chance since this land is usually draped in icy, gray mists and dark low-hanging clouds.

I didn't even know it was coming. We couldn't know in advance what we'd see because the weather dares you defy her to even get there. (We actually went through a hurricane in Drake's Passage down below South American and saw the windows in three cabins shattered by a rogue wave, causing us a one day delay for repairs).

As the oldest ice on earth became reborn as new icebergs and then new water, I realized that birth is not always by fire. Sometimes birth is by ice.

Rivers of ice. Moving so slowly.

How do I know the pictures are inadequate? Because later, when I looked at them, with the memory of how they made me feel freshly imprinted upon my entire DNA, I felt like I was looking at grade-D backlot fake recreation, like the wave in the movie "Soapdish." In fact, the moment I looked at the videos, I shut them off. They degraded the experience so much, I stopped looking at them so that I wouldn't lose the wonder of the real thing.

Then, oddly, a week later, I looked at them again and thought, "Wow, these look great."

But that's only because the actuality of what it made me feel had finally faded enough that this tinkertoy version could stand on its own.

It reminded me of hearing Joseph Campbell talk about someone trying to describe a feeling of transcendence (which is exactly what I had just experienced). You cannot convey it because a listener only gets it third or fourth hand. Or:

1. Your experience.
2. Your memory of the experience.
3. Your description of your memory of the experience.
4. The listener's perception of your description of the memory of the experience.

Weak tea.

I cannot bring you there, reader. It absolutely tears away at my guts that I cannot describe for you what I've been through in the past few weeks. That's why my blog seems so totally silent.

I'm still recovering from awe.

Did you ever need to recover from being awed?

If I had a new years resolution, it would be to slow down even more. To remember that birth happens in ice just as much as it happens in fire or water.

I would step out of the rushing stream of news and commentary and analysis and judgment, just as I did on this cruise, and turn off the noise. Just shut it off. What we put into our brains, you know, also affects our bodies, and just because news runs 24/7 doesn't mean they are actually describing the world. This is a whole different blog, but I want to put that meme in your head.

Real life happen off-camera.

I have new music being born. Music that came as a result of seeing the wonders that I saw. Some of it is choral, but I'm also writing what appears to be just music, something I've rarely done in my life.

I will show you the pictures and the video. Soon.

You know what I learned in the Antarctic? That there are huge, massive portions of this planet that are not careening. They're taking their time to just be.

So, maybe I have been reborn -- as a river of ice. Moving so slowly. Moving so slow.

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New article in Arts & Understanding (with amazing photos)

http://aumag.org/2017/05/10/steve-schalchlin-advocate/