a little something extra

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Sabbath 21

Muller titles this chapter "Sensuality and Delight," and in it he discusses the physical, sensory pathways into Sabbath rest.

As part of that, Muller touches on sex. I'm not going to, as this is far too public a venue. C'est tout.

In his usual anecdotal style, Muller tells a couple of other peoples' stories to illuminate his points about the give-and-take between sense input and Sabbath rest. The first is a story of a woman who re-encountered the traditions of Jewish sabbath when visiting her sister, and because of the sensory impressions of wholesome food, soft music, inviting light and the sound of prayers, was overcome by a sense of belonging -- and by grief over what she had been missing in her life. I also found that that story reminded me how a re-encounter can mean much more than one's initial encounter with the same experience did. When we miss something and long for it, being reunited with it is more meaningful. And when we don't realize that that experience's absence is making us poorer, the surprising power of reunion with it can overcome us, as it did the woman in Muller's story.

The second anecdote I want to pull out appears near the end of the chapter, when he describes a woman who cradled and rocked her hyperactive son whenever he started to spin out of control. The phrase he quotes from her said that she did this "until he could remember who he was." I believe that's a key to Sabbath rest, too. When we dash around accomplishing things, our attention is on the things we're accomplishing, or the obstacles that keep us from accomplishing. When we worry about money or the future, our attention is outside ourselves. Part of Sabbath rest seems to be the experience often phrased non-religiously as "centering ourselves," bringing our attention to rest in our own hearts. In my opinion, this does not reach the self-indulgence of navel-gazing; it just provides a chance to touch base and gently gather our strength for the next push outward.

My last comment about this chapter should be read in the context of a gentle grin at Muller for his focus on the feet. My astrological sign is Pisces, and Pisces is said to be the ruler of the feet. So when Muller brings up images of walking barefoot outside, and of the tradition of foot washing in the Christian churches, I am simultaneously connected to what he's saying, and amused by it. As far as walking barefoot outside goes -- I'm a committed environmentalist, conscious consumer of "green" products, and religious recycler -- but I'm not particularly interested in direct contact with Nature. I live two blocks from the beach, and I am never drawn to go there unless I have visitors I need to entertain. I'm simply an indoor person -- though, it's worth noting, I typically go barefoot at home!

So when Muller brings up outdoor barefootedness as this week's exercise I say to him, as I so frequently do, "You go do that, if it works for you!" But I must salute Cristopher for trying it out. Tripp's post is up now too.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Sabbath 20

Annnnnd... we're back.

This week's chapter is called "The Tyranny of Choice." In it, Muller discusses how the proliferation of choices in contemporary life have made that life more exhausting, and yet, how fiercely people defend their right to that degree of choice.

The most substantial part of Muller's message begins with this: "we chafe at any restriction on our capacity to generate options, and we revolt against any concept of prohibition... Who do those ancient sages think they are anyway, always telling us what we are not allowed to do?"

On the one hand, I find that I'm happier when I decline to deal with certain choices. For example, see my recent post about not having broadcast TV in my home. I spend almost no energy now deciding what to watch on TV -- I have a maximum of three options at any time, since that's the number of DVDs on my Netflix subscription. Most of the time I don't think of watching TV at all, especially during this busy season in my professional year.

But on the other hand, it's extremely important to me that reducing the number of options in my life be my choice -- not a curtailment of options visited on me by presumptuous persons -- who in my cultural and religious tradition are overwhelmingly statistically male.

Muller seems unaware of, or unconcerned about, the gender implications of his reliance on ancient religious traditions, which are statistically overwhelmingly oppressive of women.

He also lapses into his bad habit of generalizing from his own emotional experience and making statements as though those emotional experiences were the only ones that anyone could have under analogous circumstances. Which is lame and lazy thinking if it's what he actually thinks, and is a disrespectful and transparent attempt to manipulate his readers if it's not.

Muller concludes the chapter with an anecdote about a convent that supported itself in part by raising and caring for cattle. When the convent changed its grazing practice to limit the pasture to a small part of the available land, and moving the fence to another small patch of land frequently, they later found that vegetation grew much more richly in the fallow land. This is a nice illustration of the fact that certain things will simply not happen if you're constantly churning up the figurative soil of your life -- but periods of rest and calm will create the conditions in which those things have a chance to happen. (Not guaranteed that they will happen, but at least they'll have a chance.)

His recommended exercise this week is a moment of creativity to either calm or rev up your soul, whichever it needs. Since I'm creative full-time, this would further tire rather than refresh me. I'm skipping it.

Cristopher's post comes at this chapter from a completely different direction, which I think is one of the true joys of a grupenreading experiment like this one. Tripp's post appeared this morning.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Tripp thinks I'm weird

My dear friend Tripp tagged me with a meme.

And what, some of my dear readers may ask, is a meme? Well, here's Wikipedia's article that describes it generally. And here's a description of the term meme as used in the blogosphere; scroll down about halfway and you'll find the section.

Essentially, a blogger asks a question (like, "Name five things you own") and links to other bloggers' blogs, thus asking them to answer the meme. You answer the meme on your blog, and link to still other blogs, who answer the meme and pass it on. Basically it's a form of chain letter.

I never ever participate in chain letters, including ones passed on by email. But I don't mind memes. Those of you who may be looking for consistency in this statement should consult Walt Whitman. :-)

So! Without further ado, here are Six Weird Things About Me:

1. Everybody thinks I'm organized. They are so fooled!!
Actually, everybody thinks I'm naturally organized. That's where the error lies. I'm naturally entropic. But if I want to keep a roof over my head and food on the table, now and in the future, I have to manage things left-brainedly. There's a corollary here that states, Everybody thinks I'm logical. In fact, I only use logic to explain or convince everybody else of what I already know intuitively.

2. I like my color-changing hair.
There isn't enough yet to really show whether it's white, silver or gray, but it's coming in, and I like it. I don't intend ever to color it -- just keep cutting it shorter and shorter as it gets lighter and lighter. Of course, if I change my mind about the color option at some point, again I will refer you to Walt.

3. I'm enjoying life without broadcast TV.
When I moved last July, I decided not to subscribe to cable TV for a while, for economic reasons. Then I discovered that I couldn't get any reception of the supposedly free airwaves either. So for the past... what... nine months now? It's been Netflix or nothing. And it's been nice.

4. I'm an agnostic who regularly attends church.
Walt again. 'Nuff said.

5. I'm an INFJ.
Go here to discover what that means. Apparently, it's rare.

6. You should feel free to fill in the last one.
Use the Comments! (I borrowed this from Tripp.)

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

and speaking of music:

Yesterday's L.A. Times had a front-page story on the baton pass from Esa-Pekka Salonen to Gustavo Dudamel, effective in 2009. Not the front page of the arts section. The Front Page.

Dudamel's first conducting gig with the Phil caused quite a positive stir. Salonen wants to spend more time composing, though he will still conduct (of course). So, there you go.

This leads me to wonder whether the Pacific Chorale's relationship was with the L.A. Phil, or with Salonen. If the former, we'll probably still be the go-to chorus for anything Dudamel winds up programming that requires choral forces. If the latter, then maybe the upcoming performance of Alexander Nevsky will be my only shot at the Disney Hall stage.

Either way, it looks like the players are happy.

Monday, April 09, 2007

half kicked out

Blogging suffered while I was opening the second of my two overlapping shows this spring -- today was the day for savage reviews to come in. I'm not providing links. Feh upon them.

But the title of this posting doesn't refer to my professional life. Instead, it's connected to a recent choice about Pacific Chorale. We're preparing for a two-part concert: Vaughan Williams' A Sea Symphony and Golijov's Oceana.

Last Monday night's rehearsal was an unmitigated disaster. The conductor told us he was going to call an extra rehearsal for this Wednesday night (unfortunately, a night I could not attend because I have to work late).

Then tonight when I arrived at rehearsal, one of the other singers told me that the artistic director had decided to have the Golijov be performed by a smaller choir from within our ranks. Those singers had already received emails asking them to do the piece. I received no such email.

I don't know whether I wasn't invited to sing the piece because I wasn't doing well enough in rehearsal, or because my rehearsal conflict with Wednesday night was already known. Either way, it works out the same -- I'm only singing the Sea Symphony.

Now, I really hope that Sea Symphony is first on the program.