The Songs Beneath The Noise

Posted on 16. Jan, 2015 by in Blog

Pink Winter SunriseAs a people, those in industrialized culture, we no longer know how to listen for the larger story going on all around us and within us; the story whose substance is what allows us to be here, that when translated back into its original language, sounds like the hum of the land and the song of the chickadees. Rather we listen to the stories of lack or the distraction stories of ‘doing’ or ‘victim’. We worry that we have not paid our taxes, that the car needs an oil change, that we are strangely ‘depressed’, don’t seem to be able to sustain meaningful relationships or haven’t really experienced this thing we call ‘happy’. And rather than have a relationship with these fundamental worries we forgo curiosity (because the process of ownership is likely too difficult) and we simply organize around solution. “How do I fix these problems?” we demand. “How do I get happy?!” as if it’s a commodity, an entitlement. And here we move, ever-further away from the very awareness, the very way of being that is the only solution to all of our ills.

The cultivation of our awareness of the Life that exists in, around, beneath and above us at all times is of the most relevance to us here. In truth, there is nothing that is of more relevance to us. Not only are we designed to feel meaningful, to have purpose, to be of importance but of course, the final measure of our capacity to thrive is found right here. Of course we will figure out survival, as we already have to some degree; strip-mining what is most glorious about our human-ness to find the thing of least nourishment that will get the job done and perhaps even convince us we are living well, like fast food, prepared food: packaging it up as a great convenience, a delicious discovery. We sell and consume en masse until we find (though non of this is a conscious process) we have adjusted our baseline so that this strip-mined place is now the measure of a life on track, a life of merit. We will not fail to figure out human survival, at all costs. (Until, of course, we do fail.) Here, unlike many others, I do not worry about the ultimate prevailing of the vast and immutable expression that is Life. No matter how much we impress our wounding upon this extraordinary ecosystem – the Universe – we will not stop the imperative of Life. We will simply cease to be part of it in this form. I do not have judgement here. Just an immeasurable amount of rage and grief that we, endowed with so much, have failed so utterly to create lives of gratitude and generosity.

When it comes to our human expression, there is not an ounce of nobility in mere survival. To imagine the preeminent human CodaPawApples expression to be mere survival is to fall to egregious levels of ignorance. Without judgement, the antelope perhaps cannot concern herself with more than survival, with only her amygdala and simple limbic networks. Though ironically she and her kind have more embodied wisdom than most humans at this point. But I do speak of her to offer an invitation. We, with the glorious, voracious and barely-tapped triumvirate brain, have been designed for something entirely different than simply survival. And the endowment of this design seems to me, to bring with it a profound responsibility. We have been designed to care, to delight, to breath with consciousness, with a heart, with an understanding of past, present and future. While we are no different than the antelope or the cancer cell in that we are beholding to the ultimate laws and fierce nature of this Universe, for better or worse we have been endowed with the capacity to see the vast and incomprehensible miracle of it all. We comprehend enough to see that we will never actually know how all this truly works. Or perhaps more disconcerting to our human-ness, why it all actually works. We grasp our dependence upon it, our intricate interdependence with it, while also comprehending its omnipotent power over us. For whatever reason, whether you experience this as a cruel joke or the most generous offering, we have been built to be the meaning-makers, to give a shit in the most impossible way, about the fact that living in us is the impulse and vulnerability of the antelope all the while we are asked to be the poets and songwriters of this glorious endeavor, the labelers and the quantifiers. Breeders and pallbearers. Foot soldiers and Life’s right hand stenographers; the ones who get to tell the story of all that is unfolding in and around us even as we are caught up in the heartbreaking catastrophe of the story itself.

There is no one else who will do this, be the soulful accountants and storytellers of this miracle. If this doesn’t get done, well, perhaps it’s no big deal that we go careening through life simply sucking, with greater and greater blindness and entitlement, whatever we feel we need in order to have our lives undeterred, our sports endeavors, our psychopharmacology, our fleeting tropical vacations, our fancy goat cheeses and fine wines, or even our welfare checks, our bus tokens and our canned soups, feeling ever-more that we have been gipped somehow, that no matter how unfortunate or fortunate we actually are, it’s just not enough. ‘When will I have enough?!’ ‘Why does he have so much more than I do?!’ becomes our living mantra.

Unless we are waking up giving a shit that the birds and squirrels outside our window have also woken up, unless we are listening for the song beyond the noise, or the harmony within the noise (because as repugnant as we imagine the sound of traffic, it’s simply RoseHipsFrostenslaved matter of the most extraordinary sort), we will not feel fed, nor will we be employing ourselves in ways that matter. Unless we are stopped in our tracks and reminded of the vast and immeasurable glory and mystery of this experiment, unless we remember that we are the experiment – inextricably participating in and vital to – this mystery, until we are halted by the sight of the sunrise or moved to tears by the feel of the warm breath of a child, a lover or a four-legged companion, we, in our lost-ness, will be more dangerous than we are anything else. Many of us participate here as victims and yet we are all endowed with the power to write a new chapter in this global human wound story, right now.

There is only the gesture of awareness, of stopping, of coming present and experiencing all that is right here, to release us from the place of our ignorance and wound. The World is no doubt wondering what has occurred that we are physically here and yet not here at all, like the zombies and vampires which we find so fascinating, seemingly alive and yet….strangely….not. Voraciously hungry, ravenous, yet never filling up. Never done consuming. We, each of us, is as gruesome, as horrific, as small and as dangerous as we have the capacity to be glorious, brilliant, and devoutly beneficial. This is our endowment; there is balance in all things. This balance lives in each of us. Each of you know exactly what I’m speaking of here.

It’s time to come home. It’s time to wake up. Go outside, look up, look down, look straight out, and then look in. Return home. Take a deep breath. Stop the whirling of the stories which keep you from noticing what is actually happening here. Listen to the songs beneath the noise. They will not stop. And they sing, as they always have, for you.

ThistleSunriseHDR

8 Responses to “The Songs Beneath The Noise”

  1. Yasmin 16 January 2015 at 9:33 am #

    You hit home, deep in this well of my being. Presence and awareness of the unfolding before us is writing the story of way home. I love this. Thank you.

  2. Suzanne Duarte 16 January 2015 at 6:00 pm #

    Wow! Well done, Christiane! As I read through this beautiful assessment of the challenge of being a human in this culture at this time on this planet, your images reminded me of a few things that I have picked up while wrestling with the same questions and themes about which you write so accurately and eloquently. For example, this very apt description of modern humans ~ “the zombies and vampires which we find so fascinating, seemingly alive and yet….strangely….not. Voraciously hungry, ravenous, yet never filling up. Never done consuming. We, each of us, is as gruesome, as horrific, as small and as dangerous as we have the capacity to be glorious, brilliant, and devoutly beneficial” ~ reminded me of the “hungry ghost” realm of existence described in the ancient Buddhist tradition:

    “Hungry Ghosts have huge, empty stomachs, but their thin necks don’t allow nourishment to pass. Food turns to fire and ash in their mouths. Hungry Ghosts (Pretas) are pitable things. They are wasted creatures with huge, empty stomachs. Their necks are too thin to allow food to pass. So, they are constantly hungry. Greed and jealousy lead to rebirth as a Hungry Ghost. The Hungry Ghost Realm often, but not always, is depicted between the Asura [jealous god] Realm and the Hell Realm. It is thought the karma of their lives was not quite bad enough for a rebirth in the Hell Realm but not good enough for the Asura Realm. Psychologically, Hungry Ghosts are associated with addictions, compulsions and obsessions. People who have everything but always want more may be Hungry Ghosts.” http://buddhism.about.com/od/tibetandeities/ig/Wheel-of-Life-Gallery/Hungry-Ghosts-Realm.htm

    I do not think human beings have always and everywhere been such hungry ghosts. But there is a strange repetition in our time, among “modern humans,” of what early humans did when they came to North America across the Bering Strait, according to paleo-anthropologists. The early human inhabitants of North America wiped out the ‘megafauna,’ the enormous sabre-toothed tigers, the gigantic bears, the gigantic wooly mammoths, etc. Now maybe the humans really were starving after traversing the icy wastes of the arctic, and were motivated to go on a killing spree that changed the ecology of the continent.

    But modern humans don’t have that excuse, and now we are doing it to the entire planet. We seem to be obsessed with excess, with going beyond reasonable limits and doing everything in excess. Due to our success in industrial agriculture, humans have over-bred and exceeded the carrying capacity of the planet, and the prevailing patriarchal response is and has been to cling to an idiotic obsession with economic growth, which is causing the “sixth great extinction event” on Planet Earth ~ this one completely “anthropogentic.” That is, entirely caused by humans. The carefully and responsibly researched 1972 book, “The Limits to Growth” (updated in 2004), was viciously reviled by the “growthists” but its predictions have proved to be amazingly accurate ~ and it still is accurate as well as reviled by those who can see only dollar signs!

    The cosmologist, Brian Swimme has pointed out that modern humans live within the smallest psycho-spiritual space that has ever been inhabited by our species. We have allowed ourselves to be convinced (by economic and religious ideologues) that humans matter more than any other species and also more than the health of the biosphere. Thus we have lost the collective ability to read the signs and respond appropriately. We have become a narcissistic species, thinking we can do whatever we want with the resources of the Earth, and mine them however we want without regard for consequences ~ without any recognition that we are losing the Earth’s ability to support us. This is a grave mistake.

    So my agreement with what you say here is qualified: “No matter how much we impress our wounding upon this extraordinary ecosystem – the Universe – we will not stop the imperative of Life. We will simply cease to be part of it in this form. I do not have judgement here. Just an immeasurable amount of rage and grief that we, endowed with so much, have failed so utterly to create lives of gratitude and generosity.”

    For at least 30 years, grief and rage have characterized how I feel about what is happening on the planet. Because I follow the news of the damage being done by humans to Earth’s ecosystems, I agree that it is likely that we will cease to be part of Life on Earth in this form. The form we will take in future decades and centuries will likely be unrecognizable because our species is changing the conditions for the evolution of life on Earth. And human evolution cannot be isolated from the evolution of the rest of life. Climate scientists are now casting doubt on whether plant and animal life as we know it will be able to survive the rising temperatures that they expect through the rest of this century and beyond.

    And then there’s the nuclear nightmare of Fukushima that will wreak havoc with the genetic patterns that we have come to regard as normal. There is no way to bring the Fukushima reactors under control, and some say that Fukushima may be spewing radioactivity into the air and the ocean for thousands of years. We humans seem to have created unprecedented dangers to Life on Earth, and we will simply have to live with the consequences for lifetimes ahead ~ to whatever extent that is possible. Survival? Who knows?

    But, Christiane, I completely agree that “creating lives of gratitude and generosity” towards all sentient beings (especially the nonhumans, for me) is the most appropriate way to respond to this dire moment. For myself, tears of rage and grief are frequent and not easy to stop, so painful is the knowledge that gorgeous, intelligent, unrepeatable species may become extinct during my lifetime, and I’m already 70 yrs old! For me, the likelihood that African elephants and rhinos, Asian tigers and American grey wolves (in the United States) could become extinct is so painful that wailing in grief is the only way to express it. My tears defy my will, so I have to keep tissues handy at all times.

    Thanks for provoking me and giving me the space to express myself. I post a lot about these issues on Facebook, but don’t express myself as fully there.

  3. Brenda Moore 17 January 2015 at 7:41 am #

    Christiane – Thank you. Those songs: A buffalo with her nose in my face, a wounded hen trying to conserve heat, a warm wind in the middle of winter, ripples on the water in the stock tank; you reminded me and I like you for it – many thanks

  4. Ohela Muzikant 18 January 2015 at 9:53 am #

    What a gloriius writing, and so sadly true! THhank you dear sister.

  5. John Wolfstone 22 January 2015 at 1:20 pm #

    Beautiful words Christiane. I’ve been long delving into understanding why humans create meaning. At a basic physiological level, meaning gives us energy – and can also calm – but it too often becomes a trap.
    I remember when I was yoga teacher trained in the Middle East (a land overloaded with meaning), our lead instructor took us on a beautiful hike overlooking a valley that contained the separation wall between Israel and Palestine and he told us, “look at all this – none of this means anything.”
    It was hard to grasp at the moment; my mind was flooded with words, ideas, histories and personal stories, but then he said it again but this time with a question, “none of this means anything, what’s behind the supposed meaning?”
    Then it hit me. Everything that means something does so because of the meaning I place on it. A tree isn’t a “tree” for “tree” is merely a word – that’s the work of the human mind – there is an innate quality of “tree” beyond the human meaning, and that’s what this teacher wanted us to connect to.
    Now, I’m a storyteller – my job is to craft meaning out of people’s work/passion/lives – so I am not advocating to disregard the amazing capacity we have for meaning. Rather, my own journey led me to realize that my highest potential for connection lay in becoming a master of meaning, where I can consciously choose when to adopt meaning (to give me energy, or calm) and when to completely let it go, what another great writer influence of mine, Mark Manson, states as “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck.”
    Words are tricky, sticky, and I find best used with ambivalence (which as oppose to a general interpretation of “disinterest” at its root (from latin) actually means “many tendencies” or the capacity to entertain a diversity of ways/interpretations). Thus, I am only subjective in what I think you mean Chrstiane, but when you write of “being halted by the sight of a sunrise” or in general connecting to “the mystery” I think more of a connection to life which underlies meaning, but is not meaning itself. Meaning is a powerful tool that points to us what is important, most vital, most alive – but eventually I have found realms where I have transcended meaning. Whether in throws of sexual ecstasy, on the dance floor, or witnessing a wild animal, these states leave my mind blank but my being alive.
    Meaning is what makes us human, but we are also much more primordial and transcendent than our ideas and our anthropocentric connections to life, which is what I think you are really mean, by meaning. 🙂

  6. Charley Cropley 18 March 2015 at 5:54 pm #

    Christiane,
    I am moved by your post. I admire your clear grasp of our disempowerment, our potential and our ever present power to empower ourselves by investigating, inviting, surrendering ourselves to the Life emerging right now in us, as us. To befriend ourselves and others and everything in a manner consistent with our innate passion for friendship, love, community.
    I look forward to speaking with you and meeting you.

  7. Dana 20 July 2015 at 11:17 am #

    I left Kirkland, WA recently and relocated to Port Townsend, WA so I could come home to the song beneath the noise. To reconnect, to see, hear, feel the song in my blood, in my spirit, in my soul… to heal. Thank you so much for your eloquent words of wisdom. You always touch me deeply. Blessing and so much Love! ~Dana

  8. Dr. Leonard 24 July 2015 at 5:13 am #

    Dear Christiane…It’s a blessing that the alternative to being caught up in the world is just a breath away…a little shift in perspective…a drawing back of a thin curtain that’s always there for the unpeeling.

    Not that it’s always easy. But the truth is always there.

    Thanks for such a thoughtful piece!


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