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28 May

Holy Aloneness

In Essays by poeticinterconnections / May 28, 2011 / 16 Comments

 

 

This month’s poetic interconnection is a personal one.

I’ve spent my last six months sharing a loft in an urban setting. The apartment is spacious but, being a loft, it’s one unbroken space. There is no privacy. The area is hip but, being downtown, it’s bustling. There is no quiet.

A challenging experience for a creative artist: a lack of privacy and quiet within which to create. All composition, analysis, experimentation, evolution, frustration, elation, and repetition occurring within direct eyeshot and earshot of a housemate, and always accompanied by the roar of traffic and the chatter of passersby.

I’ve answered this challenge by pressing pause on myself, my creative flow held back and pooling inside as I’ve grown more and more hungry for time alone, crisp air, and trees nearby.

Ancient Kabbalists wrote about our often unrecognized need for hitbodedut—’holy aloneness’. We live our days surrounded by other people and the bustle of commerce, our time given to practical tasks. Our spiritual need becomes easily neglected. To answer this need, Rabbis suggested retiring into nature at dusk, after our day’s work. There, alone, we can approach God, unhampered by inhibition or obligation. Our prayer can be intimate, spontaneous, and uncensored. It can be raw. We can catch the divine flow, the source of creative inspiration. We can perceive our potential—press play, roll tape, and jam.

 

 

There’s a scientific analogue here. Did you know that at quantum scales our universe behaves differently when it’s observed than when it’s left alone? When observed, subatomic entities act like classical particles, tightly packed balls of energy moving discretely from place to place. But between measurements, unobserved, quanta leave evidence of behaving more like waves. Particles loosen, smearing out into streams of potential energy. The streams stretch out infinitely across our universe.

Only when they’re left alone do subatomic particles relax and express their full potential, languid and boundless. Apparently, even our physical universe needs hitbodedut.

I’m well overdue for some.

A creative person spits out their internal experience as art. This blog post is a hard-won work: a confession, and a cry for help. Something’s gotta give.

Can you relate?

Comments welcome.

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14 Apr

Mystery of Metamorphosis

In Essays by poeticinterconnections / April 14, 2011 / 8 Comments

 

The Mystery of Metamorphosis

 

Last month my friends at Chelsea Green Publishing sent me a fascinating new book by Frank Ryan called The Mystery of Metamorphosis; A Scientific Detective Story. I whipped through it in a couple evenings, rapt. Tonight I finally found time to blog about it.

In the book’s prologue, the author defines metamorphosis as "…the dramatic transformation of one being into another." The classic example of this phenomenon is a caterpillar’s conversion into a butterfly. The process is threefold. First, the caterpillar builds its cocoon. Then, inside, it liquifies, losing any recognizable form. Finally, from this organic soup, a wholly new creature emerges: the butterfly.

It’s miraculous. The caterpillar dies and is born again—more beautiful, and able to fly.

Poetic interconnections abound… Our spiritual traditions describe a similar process of withdrawl, breakdown, and renewal. The most widely known, of course, is the Christian myth of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. Christ walks the earth mortal, dies for three days, and rises out of his tomb, divine. He transforms, transfigures. His story is one of metamorphosis.

In Buddhism, Siddhartha Guatama wanders the countryside seeking wisdom, falls into meditative trance sitting under the Bo tree, and awakens enlightened. Once a seeker of truth, he becomes its embodiment—the Buddha. His story is also akin to a metamorphosis.

The creation myth in Kabbalah, Jewish mysticism, describes a threefold metamorphic process. It begins with tsimtsum, which literally translates as ‘withdrawl.’ Here, God withdraws His infinite self to allow a space for our world to exist. Next comes shevirah—’shattering.’ Inside the space cleared for the world, the machinery of creation is overwhelmed by God’s energy and breaks into pieces, losing its previous form. Finally comes tikkun—repair. This occurs when the broken pieces are recognized, redeemed, and reformed. The divinity of the world is restored.

Again, this is metamorphosis—transformation from one thing into something higher.

Almost ten years ago now I experienced my own metamorphosis, which led directly to the existence of this blog. I left my life as a professional musician in Los Angeles, packed my possessions into storage, and withdrew into three years of solitude introspecting and studying mysticisms and science. I reemerged happier, healthier, and more expansive. I often feel as though I transformed from one being into another.

Have you experienced a metamorphosis in your life?

Comments welcome.

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19 Mar

Radio Interview with Kevin Barrett

In News by poeticinterconnections / March 19, 2011 / 36 Comments

 

Yesterday I had the great pleasure of being interviewed by scholar and "truth activist" Kevin Barrett for his show Truth Jihad on American Freedom Radio. Kevin and I spoke an hour about the intersection of spirituality, science, and society, discussing quantum effects in the brain, deep definitions of faith, and evolving a more spiritual politics.

Though we were plagued by a couple moments of technical difficulty—a commercial break hijacked by an unending Cat Stevens song, and a phone dropout near the end of our hour (which resolved just in time for some final words)—our conversation was, in every other way, easy and enlightening.

Kevin archives his radio shows online, so for those of you interested in the interview, please click here to download an mp3:

http://www.americanfreedomradio.com/archive/Truth-Jihad-32k-031811.mp3

I come on the second half of the show, so feel free to forward to the hour mark in your iTunes, etc.

And for those of you interested in listening to more of Kevin’s shows, his complete archive is available here:

http://www.americanfreedomradio.com/Barrett_11.html

I was connected to Kevin by Dorion Sagan, a great friend of Poetic Interconnections. His books Into the Cool: Energy Flow, Thermodynamics and Life and Death & Sex have inspired blog posts here. Can’t thank Dorion enough for his ongoing support.

I’d love to hear any of your thoughts about topics Kevin and I discussed! As always, please feel free to leave comments at the blog.

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19 Feb

The Singularity

In Essays by poeticinterconnections / February 19, 2011 / 8 Comments

 

 

Last night I stumbled upon a recent Time magazine cover story called 2045: The Year Man Becomes Immortal. The article is about an event some scientists believe is upcoming, and quickly: the Singularity.

The Singularity is the point in history at which our technology—particularly computing power—becomes so advanced it changes the functional, physical nature of humanity.

Our technology is evolving faster and faster. My first desktop computer, an Apple IIe, had 64KB of memory and took up my entire desktop. My post-college laptop had 2GB of hard drive space and weighed five pounds. My iPhone stores 32GB of data and nestles in the palm of my hand. Soon enough, the exponential growth in the speed, storage capacity, and miniaturization of our computers will lead to machines that rival and then surpass the information processing ability of the human brain.

That’s when things get interesting.

Some computer scientists anticipate a time when humans could choose to upload our personalities into computers! Our thoughts and feelings, memories and hopes, would be decoupled from our organic bodies, becoming packets of digital data. Even more interesting, our consciousnesses might then be freed to network, virtually, in ways our bodies currently limit. We’d become both immortal and fully interconnected.

Imagine your Facebook page not just containing information about you, but actually being you.

Imagine not just having sex with your lover, but downloading him or her fully into you.

The implications are deep, hot, profound, literally awesome… and thus saturated with spiritual significance. Mystics throughout history, after all, have sought with great passion to overcome the duality of soul and body. Buddhist meditation, Hindu tantra, Hasidic Jewish ecstatic prayer, Christian asceticism, and Sufi Sema whirling—all these are attempts to transcend the body and actualize spirit. We seek to become complete, unbound, and wholly unified with God, the cosmos, and each other.

So what would a mystic say about a human consciousness disembodied and uploaded to a computer server, distinct yet downloadable? Is this equivalent to enlightenment? Moreover, what if someday we succeed in our current attempts to harness the power of quantum particles, turning atoms into computers? Then we could transfer the files comprising our souls into the very substance of the universe! The Hindu Brihadaranyaka Upanishad says, "The universe confuses those who regard it as separate from the self." This would literally become true.

They say the Singularity is coming.

Are you ready?

Comments welcome.

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11 Dec

Spirituality, Science, and the Creative Process 2011

In News by poeticinterconnections / December 11, 2010 / 2 Comments

 

Spirituality, Science, and the Creative Process

 

Season’s greetings! Mid-December, my endless summer of rest and renewal is finally drawing to a close… My sincere thanks to all of you who’ve kept in touch during my time away. Fully re-energized, I’m thrilled to share with you that in February 2011 I’ll be back teaching Spirituality, Science, and the Creative Process at Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles, CA. The course is presented by their Continuing Education program, so enrollment is open to EVERYONE!

For those of you looking for unique gift ideas this holiday season, the class might make a fantastic Christmas (or belated Chanukah) present!

Here’s a course description, new and improved since its maiden voyage last year:

Great ideas inspire enduring art. This course explores grand themes shared by spiritual philosophy and cutting-edge science, using them as source material for artistic creativity. Examining energy, duality, infinity, chaos, evolution, and actualization, students will consider how these and other spiritual and scientific themes are mirrored in their own creative process, inspiring resonant artwork in any medium. Voluntary creative prompts will challenge student artists to depict entanglement, emergence, and higher and fractal dimensions. And in-class journaling assignments will require students to reflect on their own creativity, encouraging mastery of process as well as practice.

The course runs 10 weeks, Saturday mornings, and will include and expand upon all your favorite poetic interconnections among spirituality, science, and creativity. My students last year produced amazing artwork—visual, musical, and literary—based on class sessions. And as their teacher, I was equally inspired, their comments and reflections becoming part of this year’s curriculum (an evolution happily in progress).

So… Here’s a link to enroll in the class:

http://www.otis.edu/ce,course.php?crs=539&sem=28

I’m looking forward to seeing you there! And meantime, happiest of holidays to you and yours.

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01 Oct

Endless Summer

In Essays by poeticinterconnections / October 1, 2010 / 0 Comments

For the first time since starting this blog, I’ve taken time off from writing. Summer vacation! I’ve closed my beloved books on spirituality and science, left any poetic interconnections cooking in my head to simmer and reduce, and rested.

Finally…

This post is a postcard to you, my readers and fellow wayfarers. I hope your summer brought you recreation and renewal. Mine’s not over yet, and I’m not sure when it will be! I’ll be teaching Spirituality, Science, and the Creative Process again in February at Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles, CA, so I know my sabbatical won’t last forever… I’m excited to get back to work this winter, and I’ll post details about the class when enrollment opens.

Between now and then, I wish you peace and thrills, calm and creativity. Sending love from my endless summer.

 

 

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29 Jun

Cookies and Chaos

In Essays by poeticinterconnections / June 29, 2010 / 0 Comments

My teaching gigs have ended until fall so I’ve been busying myself composing and songwriting-for-hire. After months of obeying a firm academic schedule, setting my own hours again has been making me feel a bit random and chaotic. Which, of course, has been making me consider chaos theory…

Chaologists have discovered a cool thing: seemingly random motions—turbulence in the air, water spiralling down a drain, etc.—are actually highly patterned. Processes that look unpredictable can thus be forcast, to an extent. It’s a comforting revelation. Look deeply enough into chaos and order emerges. There’s structure there. And when this kind of ordered chaos is plotted on a graph, it yields a beautiful shape called a Strange Attractor, which looks like this:

 

Strange Attractor

 

This graphic illustrates how chaotic systems behave: They loop again and again around a given point, never exactly repeating their route, but always staying bounded in orbit. Then, suddenly, they jump to another orbit around a different point! Ultimately, chaotic systems bounce between these two "attractors," looping around them in an infinite dance between yin and yang. Every cycle is different (hence, randomness) but bounded within a pattern (hence, order).

In my professional life, music and spirituality/science are my two attractors—the points around which I orbit. And sometimes I need a break from both. Vacation! Even just one evening’s pit stop in the rat race around my Strange Attractor can set me right again.

Last night I decided to take an at-home vacation. I turned off the phone, disconnected from the internet, and rummaged through the pantry in search of cookies. And in the very back of the cabinet I found… Palmiers.

Unbelievable.

Palmiers are pieces of puff pastry folded over themselves a bunch of times, sprinkled with sugar, and baked until golden. They look like this:

 

Palmier

 

They’re Strange Attractors!

And so my vacation ended prematurely, as I felt compelled to write this blog. Resistance is futile?! May as well enjoy the loopy ride.

So now I’m back to work and wondering… What are your attractors—around which points do you orbit?

Comments welcome.

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23 May

Thin Places

In Essays by poeticinterconnections / May 23, 2010 / 13 Comments

Last week I was touring the East Coast playing music—my career when I’m not writing Poetic Interconnections. One of my shows was at a church in Dover, DE. The chapel was beautiful: stained glass, vaulted ceilings, dark wood pews. And the acoustics in the space were ideal; the natural reverb was lush and gorgeous.

Down the center aisle was a Steinway full grand piano, perfectly tuned and balanced. I sat and played an hour before my gig, reveling in the vibrations, resonant and lovely. During my set, I sang Leonard Cohen’s "Hallelujah" in that ambient sanctuary and I literally felt God. It may have been my most sublime artistic moment.

 

Wesley

 

Since that evening, I’ve been thinking a lot about sacred spaces. Churches, temples, and shrines all seem to have the same effect on me: as soon as I step inside I feel reverent, humble, and inspired.

What is it about these places that moves me this way? What residue lingers in the air after years of prayer and devotion, hallowing a physical space, making it what Celtic Christians used to call a "thin place," an area where the barrier between the secular and sacred becomes permeable?

What makes a place tangibly holy, and could there even be a scientific explanation for it?

Turns out, there may be.

Some quantum physicists believe we move in a field of subtle energy, much like fish swim in water. This energy sea underlies our physical universe; it’s so fundamental we can only perceive it indirectly. The implications are intriguing… Imagine a ship on the ocean; it leaves waves behind as it travels. For as long as these waves churn before they dissipate, the surface of the sea becomes a recording of the ship’s presence and motion. Analyzing the wave patterns we can tell where the ship was, what direction it was moving, and possibly even how massive it is.

The energy sea in which we live is like an ocean, except unlike water, physicists theorize it’s superfluid. This means it’s a medium with no viscosity, no friction, so waves moving within it never dissipate! The field of energy in which we live may thus be a permanent recording of universal events. The cosmos may literally have a memory.

So what does this have to do with thin places? Like any activity, religious ritual surely makes waves in the energy field underlying a sacred sight. Maybe years of repeated reverence cause more and more waves to layer and interweave into a thick tapestry of spiritually-inspired quantum energy. And maybe this energy, when repitition makes it grow sufficiently dense, becomes physically perceivable, if only subtly.

If this is true, I wonder if repeated events in any location cause it to become full with energetic memories. Perhaps thin places don’t have to be only spiritual. They could also be secular: childhood bedrooms, beloved gardens, concert stages, etc.

Do you have a thin place—somewhere you feel timeless, connected to powers greater than yourself?

Comments welcome.

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17 Apr

Art, Faith, and Discovery

In Essays by poeticinterconnections / April 17, 2010 / 8 Comments

I recently found this quote by Albert Camus, author of the literary classic The Stranger: "A man’s work is nothing but this slow trek to rediscover, through the detours of art, those two or three great and simple images in whose presence his heart first opened."

Camus’ sentiment is lovely, describing the creative process as a journey back to the feeling of aesthetic awakening. The idea reminds me of one of my favorite passages written by Jewish mystic Abraham Joshua Heschel, redefining faith:

In every man’s life there are moments when there is a lifting of the veil at the horizon of the known, opening a sight of the eternal… The remembrance of that experience and the loyalty to the response of that moment are the forces that sustain our faith. In this sense, faith is faithfulness, loyalty to an event, loyalty to our response.

Every world religion describes a state of original bliss from which we’ve fallen, and each promises a path to reclaim that feeling. It seems to me that Camus and Heschel are both riffing on this theme. Camus’ trek is the pursuit of art; Heschel’s path is the practice of memory.

Science offers its own variation on this theme. The Large Hadron Collider at CERN was built to crash beams of subatomic particles together at near light speeds, attempting to recreate the energy levels exhibited by our universe just after the Big Bang. At these energy levels, the four fundamental forces—gravity, electromagnetism, and the strong and weak nuclear forces—may have been fused into a single, symmetric "superforce." Physicists think it was only as our universe cooled that this force’s symmetry broke, allowing the distinct forces we’ve since discovered to separate and clarify.

The symmetric state in which our universe’s forces were unified is an interesting analogue to Camus’ heart-opening images and Heschel’s "lifting of the veil". Our cosmos was newborn, energetic, and rich with potential. It’s no wonder physicists are driven to recreate the situation; the possibilities for discovery are thrilling!

 

Large Hadron Collider at CERN

 

We all have perennial experiences that shake us awake, stir us with grandeur, and change us forever. We become seekers the rest of our lives, always trying to get back to the perfection of those first revelations.

Mine was musical: "The Warmth of the Sun" by The Beach Boys. Brian Wilson’s falsetto floating above his family’s rich harmonies has influenced everything I’ve created since. I’m always trying to reproduce the lush beauty of that recording and how it made me feel, whether I’m recording music, writing prose, or designing visual art.

What was your first revelation?

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20 Mar

From Zero to Infinity

In News by poeticinterconnections / March 20, 2010 / 30 Comments

Last week I was honored and thrilled to introduce my Spirituality, Science, and the Creative Process students to two stellar visual artists from Los Angeles, CA: Victor Raphael and Clayton Spada.

Generously donating their time, Victor and Clayton came to class to show and discuss their ongoing collaborative series, "From Zero to Infinity". All these artworks juxtapose spiritual and scientific images in a beautiful, resonant way. To me, they’re poetic interconnections rendered visually.

I’m an unabashed fan.

My students were also excited by the series, encouraging me to introduce you to "From Zero to Infinity". Here are a few of the artworks:

 

Genesis

This piece is called Genesis. The scripture is from the first chapter of the Torah, detailing God’s creation of the physical world. The lines and swirls interlaced with the Hebrew text are bubble chamber tracks: images of elementary particles being created in high-speed collisions. To me, the artwork is a meditation on creation at its most fundamental, unitive level.

 

Odyssey

This piece is called Odyssey. It layers images of ancient cave paintings with equations handwritten by Albert Einstein, commenting on the evolving ways humans have communicated their conceptions about the nature of their world throughout the ages.

 

Emanations

Finally, this piece is called Emanations. It features the Japanese Goddess Quanwon, whose energy field is thought to bring health and happiness to her worshippers. Juxtaposed is an artistic depiction of the Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation—the sea of energy pervading our universe, left over from the Big Bang.

"From Zero to Infinity" was on display at USC’s Doheny Memorial Library this past fall. To see more prints from the series, please visit Victor’s website and/or the USC Libraries webpage for the exhibit.

And if these artworks enchant you as they’ve enchanted me, please spread the word about them! Forward this blog post to anyone you know who might be equally captivated.

My sincere thanks to Victor Raphael and Clayton Spada for their time, their art, and their vision.

Comments, of course, welcome…

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