“The acquisition of language is our entry into membership in the adult worldview… Language, with its awesome power of accumulated and consensual mean, is elicit in the formation of our egos, our roles, our values, our status, and the contents of our world… Words are the most powerful form of selective attention. With them we acquire language, our perception is solidified into the seeing of things- figures removed from, carved out of, isolated from their ground.” – Kathleen Dowling Singh, The Grace In Dying.
I find this quote both amazing and terrifying. I think of all the times that words have moved and inspired me. I mean, I’m using them right now. But at the same time words and language have caused so much miscommunication, separation, and outright cruelty. It’s difficult to clearly asses their role in our human condition.
Singh, a psychologist and long term hospice worker has witnessed the transcendent and revelatory experiences of nearly thousands of terminally ill people. She speaks of how we evolve throughout our entire lives to form an ego based upon concepts like language and identity, only to see them all melt away in the final stages of our lives, totally inadequate for the expression and relief of our suffering.
Singh speaks of a phenomenon where people, in the last stages of life, becoming totally present and enraptured with the simplest of things that are closest to them like a tree through a window or the presence of a loved one. One of the things that Singh found was that, consistently, people experienced great solace and connection in music and sounds in general. This makes perfect sense to me.
I think what I find so appealing about music is that even though one can choose what notes to play and what instrument to use, the sound that comes out is the same for everyone. Of course we may have different cultural biases that make a particular sound seem more appealing to us but the sound itself is totally pure and grounded.
Aldous Huxley is quoted as saying, “After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music.”
No one needs to study vocabulary in order to enjoy the language of music. For me it has always been my church. And I suspect that whenever the time comes it will help to deliver me, capeably, into my next incarnation.
Below is a playlist of songs that have resonated with me in the past month. I hope they bring more joy to your life. Thanks for listening, MMM
Included are songs by: The Blue Nile, The Dip, PJ Harvey, A Place To Bury Strangers, Habibi, Andrew Ryan, Hurray For The Riff Raif, Sonic Youth, Ibibio Sound Machine, Slave, Valarie June, Oren Ambarchi, Eddie Kendricks
(Subscribe to get a new playlist every 1st Monday of the month. Click on my user link or search: Major Matt’s 1st Monday on Spotify to cruise past playlists and discover more music.)