Uncomfortably numb ~ David Gilmour and I can’t put our finger on it

I’m going to tell you a story about someone who became a part of my life in a way few other people ever experience. Well, I wonder about that. I wonder how many other people go about their day-to-day lives only vaguely aware that there’s something unusual going on in their life, but just can’t put their finger on it.

When I was a child
I caught a fleeting glimpse
Out of the corner of my eye
I turned to look but it was gone
I cannot put my finger on it now
The child is grown,
The dream is gone.
I have become comfortably numb.
~ David Gilmour
Comfortably Numb

That verse, from Pink Floyd‘s album, The Wall, rose into my awareness like blinking neon lights in center frame. A bit ironic, given the nature of its meaning. But it acknowledged a vague sense of mine. It seemed to me I was often catching a glimpse of something, out of the corner of my mind’s eye, but it would cloud itself in a misty withdrawal whenever my mind would turn to it. And I could go back to being comfortably numb. Or, rather, uncomfortably numb. Had it been comfortable, I wouldn’t be writing this now. This is a story about how I did put my finger on it, and how music and a book played a part in the journey.
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Letting go, moving on, going forward ~ Camel and Ice

Camel’s lilting, melancholic and epic instrumental, Ice is among my favourite pieces of music. Discovered on a late-night college radio station in 1979 in Rochester, New York, it stands out on the album I Can See Your House From Here (despite the DJ’s touting of Remote Romance as, “Best on the album”)

I suppose its weepy, wailing guitar and minor chord ridden keys make it a natural mood setter for angst in all its varieties, but for me it’s become a song in three acts: Letting go; moving on; going forward. A long time ago I even scripted, shot and edited in my mind a short, dialogueless film telling that story. It goes something like this:
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Trundling across Terra Incognita ~ Gondwanaland

In 1994 I criss-crossed Australia, much of it across the expansive aridity of the so-called Red Centre, and all of that was sharing a ’79 Holden Gemini with my travel partner. A Gemini is a sub-compact sedan. This one had no air-con, and so we trundled across the expanse with the windows rolled down, and music blasting from the stereo at just below distortion levels. We wanted to bring a twist from the traditional way of music and we learned the art of how to play conga drums. Of all the music we played, Midnight Oil, Gary Numan, The Cars, Genesis, Men at Work, nothing seemed to capture the heat, the rolling, parched terrain, the roadkill littering the shoulders in quite the way Gondwanaland’s song Drought did. It’s not due solely to the presence of Charlie McMahon’s didjeridu. It’s the hollow, weepy, melancholy straining of the guitar, too. And that cicada-like buzzing of the synthesizer. There’s a weary death underlying an intermittently hopeful melody. Every now and again the guitar rises to it, yearning, only to fall back into the incessant rhythmic presence of the didge. So much like the terrain we crossed, hour upon hour.
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Tumare Darshan ~ The essence of Noosa

OK… something to end this very loooong, but very productive day. A song that I will always associate with a beautiful beach in a faraway land and a short strip of magical bistros and restaurants barely more than a stone’s throw from the beach. There were sacred sunrises, and uncanny encounters, bliss and sorrow, beauty and heat, surf, sand and sun. Some very special people entered my life there, sharing food, fun and laughter, and profound spiritual experiences.

For a week, this song and the pertinently titled album on which it appears were, in fact, “The Essence” of the moment, as I walked with a dancer’s sway and swagger through the world, through the preternaturally divine realm of Noosa, Australia, beginning each day perched atop a hill, waking in time to cycle to the beach and its splendid sunrise, serenading it into the sky with a didjeridu. Sacred moments spent in a sacred place.
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Explore Within ~ Chances are Sheryl Crow can take you there

Aside from being among the most beautiful songs in Sheryl Crow’s very large catalogue of extraordinary, Chances Are lyrically reaches deep down inside and churns about, exploring within. The lyrics seem to be about trying to make a difficult relationship work, but I enjoy reading it as a light on the pathway of spiritual living, especially the refrain.

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Before and After ~ Stephen Mitchell’s Second Book of the Dao

The Second Book of the Tao, Stephen Mitchell (trans)I was digging into Stephen Mitchell’s The Second Book of the Dao one day back in January (over a lovely Red Snapper Soup @ Granville Island) when a passage in the second chapter inspired the following poem.
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Matches and the eternal sunshine of the spotless soul ~ Lawrence of Arabia

Metaphor. I love metaphor.

Matches. I just posted one about matches. Matches and pain.

This one isn’t about pain. Not at all. It’s about perfection. This one is about the fire that burns inside each of us. Well, maybe there’s a little pain. It’s the pain you feel in your eyes as the sun rises beyond the horizon, growing brighter and brighter. But it’s a good pain, a pain I need to learn to feel. Not endure. Feel. It’s a pain like the ice cube’s first touch on overheated flesh, which is a funny pain to be talking about when the object of your metaphor is a match.
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Dog & Butterfly ~ The beauty and bliss of reaching higher than you can grasp

Heart’s Dog & Butterfly has been on my mind and in my ears a lot the last few days, both the album and the title song from it. I love the song for the mirthful image of a dog futilely leaping after a fluttering butterfly, and for its wisdom in directing us in our moments of hardship toward an appreciation of something as simple and beautiful as a fragile, graceful butterfly confounding an ever-so-agile and intent pooch. Still, I sensed there was something more, as there often is with songs that stay in my mind for more than a few hours, and especially the songs written by talents such as Ann and Nancy Wilson. A little googling turned up the answer with a passage repeated by many sources.
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The trick … is not minding that it hurts ~ Lawrence of Arabia

I’ve always loved this scene introducing Peter O’Toole in David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia. In a film rife with extraordinary storytelling and wisdom, it remains my favourite. In hindsight perhaps it’s the spiritual undertone of Lawrence’s statement that’s always intrigued me most because, of course, Lawrence isn’t only talking about physical pain here. There’s plenty of that in store for him, and he endures it with savage grace and gritty dignity. But the pain he later suffers with some dismay is emotional, even spiritual. For example, after he is forced to execute a man Lawrence falls into a crisis of identity, and experiences devestating self-doubt, when he realises to his own horror that he enjoyed killing him.

Life hurts. Life is suffering, the Buddha told us. Lawrence of Arabia tells us the trick is … not minding that it hurts. Lawrence navigated through the variety of physical tortures and the self-denial both desert and life sometimes require of us with remarkable grace. The wounds to his self-identification, however, almost undid him. Read more »

Beginning again with Sacred ~ Lotus Feet & Shakti

I haven’t been living the sacred enough lately. Sometimes I forget how sacred life is, become caught up in the mundane, the day-to-day of existing in a corporeal world, in the meanness that can be everyday life. I stop, for a while, living a life that is sacred.

I’m often aware that I’m doing it. Sometimes it takes a while to gather myself up again, find the energy to re-energise, re-discover the alignments in my daily practices that connect me with the beauties and perfections I can find even in the most mundane-seeming events of the day. Something as simple as a neat and tidy home, a smile on a friend’s face, the way the wind ruffles the leaves of the quaking aspen in the front yard and the soothing sound of that ruffling.

When I’m living a life that is sacred, there is beauty in almost everything I see, touch, smell, experience. Not just the most mundane, but even those elements I might usually see as dark, or negative — ugly.
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