Sunday, May 04, 2008


Last night Majida and I went to a concert by the North East Pennsylvania Philharmonic. Since we are used to the extremely high level of performance in New York City concerts, I admit to being a bit wary. I should not have been concerned. The orchestra was crisp and exciting and fun to listen to. It is small, only about half the size of the NY Philharmonic but then the stage would not have accommodated the NY Philharmonic anyway.

What was truly exciting though was the music. For the first time ever I heard Beethoven's Fifth live. Everyone knows the opening four notes and many have heard recordings but how many of us have heard it performed live? It is such an exciting piece of music, full of surprises and drama. Majida remarked that there is a reason that Beethoven has lasted and this was part of the reason.

As I listened to the music I could not help but reflect that there are large parts of humanity that restricts itself severely to musical styles and by extension to thinking that is very limited. I suppose we do this because it is safe. So the next question then is how much of what us more intellectual types think and do is for safety's sake?

It is all too common for the intellectual to look down upon all others who are not clever enough or educated enough to understand the complexities that we revel in. What I have noticed however is that these complexities tend to become frozen. Normal enough I suppose, we really do need safe, even when the safety is gleaned from a momentary flash of brave exploration.

What the mystics advise is to approach each instant in time anew. It is probably unavoidable that we bring our assumptions and opinions and experiences to each new moment, however, we can also step back a bit and enter into each new instant with an attitude of newness. It is a discipline that must be learned but it can be done. Granted that is a place of danger since you are deliberately abandoning what you know to work, to be safe. I admit to being able to do this very rarely but I do attempt it from time to time. I am very often guilty of judging a person or a situation based on my prejudices. Never the less, I do work on stepping around them and looking afresh. It does not always work but very occasionally it does.

So, I sat in the concert hall, great seats by the way, and simply enjoyed the music. I let myself sink into the moment and enjoyed. I found myself with a big smile, bouncing to the rhythm and joy of one of the great symphonies.

I can remember a person, myself in the past, who would have been very stern and concerned mostly with his image to others. He would have been very afraid that someone would find out that he did not really understand classical music and he would have been determined to present a knowledgeable front, but terrified of his lack of actual knowledge. How silly is that? Thank God that we are allowed to transcend such silliness, should we so choose.

Love & Blessings, Musawwir


Sarala said...

Dear Musawwir,
So glad you are enjoying your new home - sounds like it has alot to offer.
What you say about approaching each instant new made me think about the work I'm doing, and also about gardening.
In the Energy Kinesiology, we must begin and carry thru each session with no pre-conceived ideas of how it will progress - each step is determined by the muscle monitoring. This can be quite a challenge for someone (gee, could that be me?) who has always valued intellect and deductive reasoning.
Gardening - there's a newness to planning and planting and watching it grow - every year, year after year - and even every DAY in the garden. I always did like Candide.

Anonymous said...

Dear Musawwir,

As usual you’re blog entry gave me many things to think about but in this response I’ll try to focus on just one or two points.

At your suggestion I recently read HIK’s lectures on “The Struggle of Life” where his opening words explain…

“No one can deny the fact that life in the world is one continual struggle. The one who does not know the struggle of life is either an immature soul, or a soul who has risen above the life of this world. The object of a human being in this world is to attain to the perfection of humanity, and therefore it is necessary that man should go through what we call the struggle of life.”

Knowing this, why do we constantly search for the comfortable way or the easy way instead of taking on the challenges life often throws before us, especially when we know that sitting back in our safe and secure surroundings is not going to achieve our goal?

You suggest that we “approach each instant in time anew.” I liked this idea the moment I read it. Granted, as you wrote this takes some practice getting used to and it could be a bit frightening, stepping away from the familiar. But with some effort THIS could become the norm instead of the exception. It is just a matter of redefining what works.

Since you mentioned dealing with prejudices in your article, I’ll try to offer an example related to this concept. When I first began spending extended periods of time overseas I realized how quickly I judged the people around me - their behaviors and their culture - based on my life growing up in the US. Nothing was as good as in America and I found fault with everything and everybody.

Well I soon understood that I was wrong to do so. I realized that there are reasons why people do what they do and live the way they live. Often it was the way they learned to survive or to find the comfort they sought, just as you or I would. It just so happens that the way they learned to make the best of their lives was a bit different from the way I learned. Thus the judgments of right and wrong, good and bad, didn’t apply. Things simply were.

So have I gotten rid of all those ugly prejudices I was carrying around? I wish I could say yes, but I’m afraid I haven’t. However, I am much more aware of what’s going on in my head and how I behave as a result and I try to face these prejudices whenever possible. I have even found that “stepping around” my prejudices as you suggest and getting to know people who are definitely out of my safety zone have broadened my world greatly and it is often these people I get the greatest pleasure out of knowing and being with, perhaps because they ARE so different from the comfortable little world I grew up in. And maybe that is one reason why I enjoy traveling and living abroad so much.

But getting back to the idea of life as a struggle…HIK said…

“In order to understand this struggle one must see that there are three sides to it: struggle with oneself, struggle with others, and struggle with circumstances.

And now the question is: where should one begin and where should one end? Generally one starts by struggling with others, and then one struggles all through life, and never finishes. The one who is somewhat wiser struggles with conditions, and perhaps he accomplishes things a little better. But the one who struggles with himself first is the wisest, for once he has struggled with himself, which is the most difficult struggle, the other struggles will become easy for him. .... In the beginning, outwardly, it might seem that it is cruel to have to struggle with oneself, especially when one is in the right. But the one who has penetrated deeper into life will find that the struggle with oneself is the most profitable in the end.”

So, it’s not about struggling with life as so many of us believe and do on a daily basis. It’s actually about the internal struggle with ourselves. And that’s the struggle we must engage in. Certainly, most of us have the desire to stay in this place of safety you mentioned, but we can’t. We cannot allow our fears and our prejudices to stop us from striving to reach our highest ideal.

Love, J