Friday, March 27, 2020

Or it could mean nothing...

The first verse of "Close to the Edge" alludes to the mundane punctuated by transcendent moments, the life each of us actually lives. "The time between the notes relates the color to the scenes." The "notes" are the instances of insight and understanding, but they are flanked before and after by mundane "time," the daily grind of our lives. Yet how else could such moments stand out as profound? This is the genius of life itself, long intervals of the mundane followed by moments of rapture and insight, immanence and transcendence. This movement is mirrored in CTTE: strong, ecstatic "notes" that jump out, sometimes astonishingly, from varying tempos of melody. Only with such variation can the song paint the beautiful picture it does, as it "relates the color to scenes." What emerges is an authentic reproduction of the spiritual tempo of life itself  "A constant vogue of triumphs dislocate man so it seems." What a resonating line! If life were a series of triumphant moments, rather than the interweaving of happiness and sadness, insight and confusion, confidence and insecurity ("I get up, I get down . . ."), we would be "dislocated" from what is meaningful and important, caught up in false, worldly values or whatever is in "vogue."

"And space between the focus shape ascend knowledge of love." A powerful vision of what love is, what function it serves. We go through life searching for meaning, trying to get things in focus, but, again, those moments of insight are few and far between. It is when we’re in confusion, unclear about what it all means, that we truly understand and experience the importance of love, of compassion. When we are weak, confused, depressed, uncertain, vulnerable — that's when the love of others means more to us than anything. And it goes both ways: by giving love to others in their time of need, we experience spiritual meaning even during times of uncertainty and darkness. Love makes the "space between the focus shape" not only endurable but profoundly meaningful and important.

"As song and chance develop time loss social temperance rules above." This is a wide-eyed, sober view of the social oppression true artists and dreams must expect in this life. The pursuit of meaning through the course of the mundane puts the dreamer/artist at odds with social expectations. From society’s viewpoint, art is a waste of time, and the artist is a threat to the social order. This line makes me think of a disturbing passage in Plato’s "Republic," where Socrates himself disavows the role of the artist in the well-ordered republic, the awareness that the path of truth and beauty is one that attracts society’s wrath. It is the way of the cross ("I crucified my hate and held the word within my hand/ There's you, the time, the logic or the reasons we don’t understand").

The next few lines are more straightforward: "Then according to the man who showed his outstretched arm to space/ He turned around and pointed, revealing all the human race/ I shook my head and smiled a whisper, knowing all about the place." Every sage arrives at the same destination. Anderson humbly acknowledges that he has discovered the same thing. That "outstretched arm to space" again reminds me of the crucifixion. And the whole lyric here reminds me of a poem by Emily Dickinson: "Better than music, for I who heard it," about the ecstatic vision, which she analogizes to the most exquisite music. She ends her poem: "Let me not spill its smallest cadence/ Humming, for promise, when alone/ Humming, until my faint rehearsal/ Drop into tune around the throne."

Then the final ascendant verse: "On a hill, we viewed the silence of the valley/ Called to witness cycles only of the past/ And we reach all this with movements in between the said remark." What a powerful summing-up of the description of the spiritual journey that came before! The ultimate revelation is simply making final sense of life’s entire journey, pitfalls and all. All that has come before is revealed as a prelude for where it all leads, where we all end up. And, again, there’s the mystic’s speechlessness, the paradox of “the said remark” — the song lyrics themselves — as having been arrived at through “movements” through silence, "the time between the notes," etc. Incredible insight here. Again I think of Dickinson: "It is the ultimate of talk/ The impotence to tell."

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