Claude Debussy said, “Music is the space between notes.”
Do not read this story: Listen to it. The words will echo in your head, and as they dissolve into the paintings of your mind’s eye, I hope the world you see inside will release your sleeping soul from the bondages of our modern conventions.
The young minds of today have been reformed, crafted into red-hot machines, combusting at speeds unfathomable a century ago. At one-hundred and forty beats-per-minute, and with the necessary supplement of alcohol, energy drinks and amphetamines, the anthems of this newest generation ignite an insatiable adrenaline in our factory-house children. They send hot lithium through our bones; they synchronize with the machine-pulse. This, is how we choose to lose ourselves in these brave, new times; by pumping our bodies with synthetics, to experience a maximized performance of endorphins, serotonins, and the other chemical codes our calculative 21st century minds have made us believe we are in totality. What we are doing, is flooding the temple.
Abandon our apprehensive, scientific attitude, treating our existence like a cold, indifferent code. The young, modern, ‘educated’ American takes it as given that we are occurrences made up of systematic building blocks; that our divinity was a mirage from an older, ignorant world. We take existence as something like secret machinery, which can be exploited for our performance, for our pleasures and our stimulations, to be ‘plugged’ in again and again.
I couldn’t have told you about this passion inside me until I went to one of these gatherings typical to our time. At that time, I understood rationally that these large parties, full of child-men and child-women, learning to work in the modern economy, had their potential for joy and ecstasy. If you couldn’t find the ecstasy within you, it was readily and eagerly sold in one of the rooms of this house.
These parties full of orgy-porgy, soma, and centrifugal Bumble-puppy had never felt quite right to me in the past, but should I succumb to isolation? Surely, it is better to engage, socialize and build my network: ‘If they shall be lost, then I will not be so pious, and I will be as lost in the pleasure as the rest of the children in the basement, wearing their face paint and animal masks and dancing in the erratic lights.’
My chemical craving was for psychedelic drugs. I arrived at the party, and found two tabs of LSD within three minutes. It would take some time to affect me, and I couldn’t simply sit idle and wait. I found other drugs, and with them, I found acquaintances with a large glass beaker, filled with stale beer to filter the marijuana.
Vaguely familiar faces and persons extended themselves to me and fellows in my circles. We traded facial gestures, and to my lubricated surprise, every tick and motion in every person’s body became an express and sincere communication. Their eyes, though cloudy and near impossible to focus, revealed a beauty only found in the most distinct, singular events. A beauty which dies and renews, and holds you captive in the precious breathe of the moment: My senses were fully extended, like a flower reaching for the sun’s warmth, and then I knew. These acquaintances were humans to be loved, and while we danced in our masks, there was a true sense of communion brewing in that underground.
I understood how we all felt: Of course we needed to lose ourselves in this ritual! Somewhere deep within, we knew we were not the raw, American academics we were told to be: We were primal human beings, who needed to escape into an emotional state of communion. There and then, we could dance, we could love erratically and ecstatically. We could release rage, and we could release all the anxieties we carried over being who we were expected to be. Rituals require us to remember.
Bathing in the warmth all around that I had been too cold to feel, I lost myself. The haze of fog from the machines, the prisms of swinging light: they were no longer solid things, but instead, they were all part of the ocean. In my heart, I felt a correspondence with a larger heart, which pulsed and called out to me. I felt the ecstasy of knowing that the ecstasy had always been there, just in the corner of my eye previously, now at full attention.
What a thing in existence as a party! How powerful in magnitude. How life-filled, as if a great, ineffable heart pumped through everyone present. What ecstasy!
The experience does not (and never does) end there. It continues with the intervention of the authority.
A large fellow dressed in a suit for the occasion blocked the door leading out of the basement. The DJ’s beat was shut down. A few scattered but assertive voices began to cry: “Shut up!” They bellowed, “Everybody, shut your pipes!”
I found this fascinating. People from within the basement, participants in the ritual just moments ago, called for the cessation of celebration. The manic, frenzied banter was hard to subdue, and I felt confusion and anxiety seep from many hearts in the underground, and hang heavily around the ceiling. The command was given several times, again and again for silence. There was mention of police, and so general reason established, but this was the interesting part of the experiment: It relied solely on each person, in this room full of chemical-crazed children, to cease talking, to let go of the heartbeat which fueled them and kept their body-buzz going. What a sight that would’ve been: a complete shift, like watching a flower bud blossom to its potential, and at that pivotal moment, immediately begin to whither into nothingness, of its own volition.
Ultimately, we could not achieve this energetic silence, and the police knocked on the door, and the heart was expelled.
Like the moment itself, the heart was not finished: The pulsing current was still with us, far more at ease than it was in the underground. Emerging truly for the first time, what a marvelous illusion was taking place: the fog machines that enwrapped us underground gave way to wet, heavy fog that fell from the heavens and rested all around us. The police sirens flickered like the party lights below, and as the masses of people poured out into the road like blood from the heart, I truly felt that I was being released.
The house of the party had been down a country road, far away from the main street in town. We walked back through the dreaminess of the night, veiled in fog, with lights that glowed above and hung omnipotent. On this walk back, I contemplated my release further. The ecstasy we children-bred-for-slavery had manufactured together filled every vein and crevasse with the tingling of activity, and turning this wheel of fire together, we communed in a primal way that cannot be taught, only learned. Now that I am aware of it, it will never leave me, and to this moment, I feel all things around me, and all people.
How distracted we are! Our minds are plastered and posted-over with products, images, sounds, videos, and all through a medium of detachment, deceivingly disguised as connection. Being so fully there, walking among the trees that had lived longer than all the people, the people who had busied themselves with themselves, I began to remember the trees. They had been speaking to me from the beginning, and I had always been speaking with them, because I could never draw the breath to speak without them. I took in the air they gave me, and I felt an abundance of that which had always pulsed in me, and had been awakened on this night: Love.
Then, I listened to silence, absence, emptiness, and I became it; for there is no greater state of being than to be empty, wherein the whole is open, and all is welcomed to you. Music is the space between notes.
When I arrived back at my dormitory, I plugged in my ear buds, and thought of a piece of music I had discovered some year ago, one which called to the empty canvass of my passion: “Estampes,1 – Pagodes” by Claude Debussy.
I knew then, and now more than ever, that I am not a creature of science. I am not a computer, and I am not a machine. I am not an indifferent and cold calculation of quantum mechanics. I am a soul: I am a raindrop falling, I am a river flowing, I am a fire burning. Listening to Debussy’s expressions, I see the most beautiful birds springing up from cold, steel ground, spiraling upward, painting the clouded sky in colors that swell, intensify, fade, and pulse with the most instinctive and natural motion, such that its movements could be nothing but inexplicable, divine.
There is a precious flower: a beautiful heart within me and us all, and today, it is far too hard to hear. We are plugged in, ingesting irreverent symbolism, and crude stimulant that numbs our passions, and most importantly, our precious capacity for suffering. We listen to sound bites, we listen to ‘mini-sized’, easy-to-digest rhetoric, purposefully meaningless humor, and regurgitated human constructs. We listen to computers that aggressively fuel us on performance-enhanced sound waves. We are filled with ideas from a sick, mad world. We are dressed in its fancies, taught of its laws/lies, and made to believe we are something we are not.
We must remember who we truly are. How? Listen. Listen carefully. Empty yourself of what has been poured into you. Listen to the world around you, and listen to your heart when it responds to the world. Listen, so you may remember what love is in this world, and so you may welcome the world to you, as it truly is.