Telescope IV: Music and Me

I have been on a hiatus that I can only apologize for – sometimes you need to take some time away. Sometimes you need to disappear. I needed some space to breathe after some rather serious “creative combustion”. Instead of talking about that, though, I thought I would talk about music.

If you see me walk down the street, at my desk at work, or even standing in Hyde Park after my evening run, you will see someone plugged into headphones, in a world other than the one that you and I presently occupy. Likely looking up into the sky – either at the clouds or the moon or planes passing by. I have found a little nook in my mind that music seems to create. I can’t quite describe it. It’s like a space in which a random selection of notes, played in sequence don’t just create a melody, or a harmony, they create something more. They create magic. And that magic creates peace. One way or another, something is created.

Let me walk you through what I have been experiencing. I have been listening to this Punjabi song called Baliye/Laung Gawacha. I do not understand Punjabi and I do not have a clue about what the song means. I don’t want to because I have ascribed emotional meaning to this song and I’d rather keep it that way. You can find it here.

It starts off as a typical quote, unquote Rock song – frolicking in drums, harmonies, riffs, and inconsistent beats as Haroon Shahid sings his lungs out. It is energetic, it is frenetic, it is…desperate. It’s like standing out in the open and seeing that bolt of lightning in the cloudy sky at night when you know, you just know that a thunderstorm is on it’s way. The kind of thunderstorm that causes roads to flood, dirt to wash out, rats to drown. But it’s just lightning and by 3 minutes and 10 seconds into the song, you lose hope – the rain won’t come. As the reverb of the last guitar chord fades into the air, you feel as if the wind will carry the clouds away and with it, the rain.

And then…it begins, as all good things do, in silence. It is a moment that I have come to subconsciously associate with closing my eyes until that gentle thump of a beat. As soon as I feel that thump, my eyes open, as if for the first time. The next minute is magic.

A plucking of some guitar strings – electric and acoustic, some violins pulsing as if blood flowing through veins.

Thunder is born.

You hear a voice, a strong yet gentle voice beginning the classiest megh malhar (a sanskrit raga that was said to make it rain) you will ever hear. Quratulain Baloch plays off of this…thunder. She is you as you look at those clouds that teased you with the lightning. You look at them with every ounce of will that you have as you try to make it rain. But you do not fight it, you are one with it – just like her voice glides on the music rather than cuts against it. She isn’t pleading with the clouds to make it rain, she is merely seducing them. She knows it will rain.

At around 4 minutes and 19 seconds you see the bass guitar player twist and contort his body, slithering like a snake trying to stand as the music, the thunder, takes you over. You feel it in your bones, in the very marrow that makes you human.

And then…the drums. The rhythm quickens as the clouds begin to open up. It’s working. But its a drizzle, not a downpour, not yet. That requires more. The clouds demand more. The instrumentation gets more complex, but you keep going – her voice, your voice now in it’s own element within the frame that is the music. The harmony acting as the wind and carrying your demands, your desire, your voice. You don’t need to sing any more, you just need to be patient.

Finally, after the music, after the clouds themselves are in the position to create your reality,

Magic.

With the slightest of effort, the most eloquent of tongues, the most languid of glances,

Mera laung gawacha

The music now in full flow, the rain beginning to pour, rain that you have created through your will, through your intent, through your faith, through Iman. She is a part of the music now, they feed off of each other. You are one with what you have created, it isn’t hard, it just is, because you have willed it to be.

Creation is the single most combustive act you can partake in. Creativity requires energy, it requires effort, it requires action. Whether it is to write a blog post, to make music, to self publish a book, whatever it may be – creating is an exothermic expression of love that is fueled by faith.

I took that time away to find what it is that I wanted to create – did I want to write a book? Did I want to make a movie? Did I want I want to make a million dollars in revenue?

None of it.

I wanted to create me – myself, my world, my reality. And I will. I won’t settle for less than exactly what I want. Neither should you. All it takes is love and faith. All it takes is Iman.

Welcome to my world.

 

Microscope IIIc: Walking

Gravity is a funny thing. I’ve been listening to a lot of John Mayer recently. Particularly ‘Gravity’. The song itself is like butter – smooth, voluptuous, everything you want but not quite it. It’s not your lifelong treasure of destiny – not mine at least.

But what of gravity itself, not the song, but the concept. That unknown force that keeps us anchored to the ground. I hate gravity. To me, walking is the greatest act of defiance known to man – our ability to walk is our refusal to be weighed down to the ground. The ability to move forwards, backwards, left, and right is what precipitated running, what gave birth to flight. It is the essence of our humanity – to get up and walk.

As you can clearly see, the practice of walking is extremely personal to me – akin to prayer. If kneeling at church is to find your place in the universe, if standing at a temple is singing to the cosmos, then walking is to look for the answer. When you kneel, when you stand, you are a slave to gravity. When you walk, you’re a slave to nothing.

And today, I find myself walking far more than I ever have, probably more in the last 9 weeks than I have in the last 9 months. But do I feel any freer? Not really. I have never used walking to seek freedom, it has always been there.

I have used walking as a contemplative mechanism.

I have needed to find a lot of answers recently. Answers to questions I never thought I would have to ask. Questions about myself, my past, my present, my future. Sometimes, I have had to find the strength to go on, sometimes the quiet to stop my mind racing. None of it has been easy, walking has made it tolerable. One day, perhaps, I’ll get to tell you more about it.

So what are some of the more interesting walks I have been on recently? I could tell you about the time I walked back home from the temple from the last blog along the canals of Little Venice. I could tell you about the walk from my apartment on Wells Street to Regents Park, getting lost near the little waterfall, reminiscing about times past. And what about the numerous walks in Hyde Park? Getting lost in the trees, feeling so fragile in the open.

No.

Let me tell you about the simplest, strangest, and certainly calmest walk I take –

Every morning, after our daily team meeting, I take 15 minutes to walk from my office in America Square to the Starbucks down the street. It is not a glamorous walk, after all, the Tower of London is right around the corner. Perhaps it is the funnel created by the skyscrapers around me but there is a particular direction to the wind as I walk down the street – as if it cuts across me as opposed to into or behind me. I am usually halfway through Gravity at this point where the guitar gently takes over somehow making my head feel lighter. All the anxiety, all the worry, all the thinking from moments ago disappears as I enter the shop.

A friendly face at the counter, with an all too familiar name, welcomes me with a smile,

“Peach green tea lemonade, lite ice?” She asks me, knowingly.

I give her a half smile, a simple nod, and an empty look. I pay and walk to the corner.

I pick up my drink, I take a sip – paradoxically, the cool liquid envelops me like a warm hug. I take one step after another, out into the windy street, back to my office. I look up into the cloudy sky as Mayer croons, 

“Gravity, stay the Hell away from me.”

The thing is you can’t logic your way out of Iman. Gravity can push you down as much as it wants to but it is Iman that makes me look up into that cloudy sky and say,

One day at a time, one step at a time. You’ll get to where you want to go.

Not where I need to go, but where I want to go. Walking on a cloudy day to a Starbucks down the street is enough to remind me that I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul. Because I have Iman.