This is Something

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You know when you're in a situation that is somewhat unremarkable, but then there's a really heady, rich, awake moment? Where you were just kind of rolling along, half-aware, and something changes to make you go goddamn, this IS something! Where all of a sudden your eyes and ears come into electric focus and everything seems 10x sharper, slower, richer? Where you feel a deep, earthy connection to living that makes you think "my God, am I just walking through my life asleep most of the time?"

I had one such moment recently at a lovely party which included listening to tracks from various LPs selected by party guests. The somewhat inebriated group gathered for the "serious listening" part of the evening, and selection after selection delighted the little audience. Classic pop and rock mostly, including some obscure tracks that were particularly well-received. Throughout, I was impressed by the level of attention the crowd held. Chatter continued at a minimum, the occasional chorus was sung along to, and a couple of drinks were spilled (ok, that was me, whatever...), but overall, for a group of intoxicated 30- to 60-year-olds who were in the middle of a party, it was quite impressive to see such a high level of focus for the simple activity of music listening.

But then there was a real "holy shit I'm alive and this is amazing" moment.

A musician friend got up to introduce his selection. (To really set the scene, I think this followed something by Madonna.) He proudly and without apology or sarcasm announced his choice: Henryk Szeryng playing the fugue from Bach's Sonata No. 1 in G minor. He gave the largely non-musician (and, again, inebriated) crowd simple guidance for listening that empowered them to have an exceptional musical experience. After a brief introduction, he said "you'll only hear one person playing, but there will be three voices - three musical lines - to follow. Try to follow all three as you're listening." 

Well I'll be damned if everyone in that room didn't sit in enraptured silence for the entire piece. It was electric. It was truly, joyfully surreal. Impressed, shocked, satisfied slow claps followed and crescendoed to a rowdy round of applause for the selection. My musician husband and I looked at each other like "holy fuck, something just happened here." 

So what happened? What can we take away? 

  1. For artists: Respect your field enough to bring it to non-professionals whenever you can. Invite them into the realm of wonder that you already know about. They will thank you for it, and no, it won't be weird (or it will be weird, but like, the great kind of weird.)

  2. For other arts professionals: Never talk down to your audience, but do set them up to have really meaningful interactions with art. Give them simple pieces of information that will move their experience from passive to active.

  3. For EVERYONE: These brief moments of exquisite "awakeness" are like lightbulbs illuminating the road to more mindful experience all the time. Savour this feeling, knowing you've "been there before," then chase it everywhere.

And that's it, my friends. Keep an eye out in your own life for your next "unusually rich" moment. Chances are, once you see a couple, you'll find them everywhere.