I hope this finds you well. I'm continuing this quarter with the themes of discernment and care. Please let me know any thoughts you have! I enjoy hearing from you.
Our capacity for discernment is dependent on our ability to accurately sense base reality.
I'm sure many of you are experiencing the challenge of discernment around the upcoming holiday season. Are you gathering or not? What precautions are you taking? How do you navigate different attitudes within your family? Are you wearing masks? Hugging? Gathering only outdoors?
How many of you feel like you actually understand the dynamics of Covid-19 and the risks tied to specific behaviors? And if you do, how confident are you in your ability to communicate this understanding with others in a way where they come to see it how you do?
A large part of why there is so much range and ambiguity here is because we have a fragmented and low signal-to-noise information commons.
There aren't easy solutions to this, but something I am optimistic about is the Consilience Project. It is the best source I've found for rigorous and earnest inquiry into the causes and conditions of our damaged information commons and how we might address it.
"The Consilience Project is a digital media initiative that goes beyond and behind the news to provide consequential information about the world, and equips people with the evolving skills necessary to understand it. Our goal isn’t just to provide better information, but to help people to improve their own information processing so they can better detect bias and disinformation."
You can learn more, and donate to the project here: https://www.civilizationresearchinstitute.org/
Wherever you are in your discernment around the holidays, I hope you have a safe, restorative, and joyful break.
The purpose of art is not the release of a momentary ejection of adrenaline but rather the gradual, lifelong construction of a state of wonder and serenity.
- Glenn Gould
I'd like to share one of my favorite pieces of music with you. It is the Aria from J.S. Bach's Goldberg Variations, specifically Glenn Gould's 1981 recording of it. To appreciate it, create an inner stillness before listening.
Goldberg Variations, BWV 988: Aria - J.S Bach, Glenn Gould
For me it is a doorway into a state of wonder and serenity. At the risk of being dramatic: this recording is proof that life is a fully-saturated sponge overflowing with meaning that can't be wrung out. I find it more enamoring with each encounter, like there is something that I've yet to discover about it.
This is an example of a more general phenomena: If we care about something, we can gradually discover more about it that causes our care to deepen.
It's like the development of an ever-more finely tuned instrument. Like comparing a picture taken on a 1st generation flip phone with one taken on the latest iPhone model. The increased resolution allows you to notice much finer detail in the scene being captured.
As I spend more time playing piano and listening to great pianists, new layers of beauty and meaningfulness are revealed to me.
The "gradual, lifelong construction of a state of wonder and serenity" that Gould mentions above, is a result of this increased sensitivity. The beauty that surrounds us is inexhaustible if we train our senses to notice it.
I expect for most of you, on first listening to the song you will not hear it the way I hear it now, hundreds of listens into it. Just as I do not taste what the sommelier tastes when she inspects a bottle of Bordeaux.
However, if there is some amount of care evoked as you listen, I assure you that it will compound and ripen with time.
This is a kind of infinite game, in which there is no conclusion to the depth of care we can feel. Speak to any master of an art and they'll tell you they're just beginning to understand their craft.
As Rilke observes, "What is extraordinary and eternal does not want to be bent by us."
Music, art, nature, human relationships. These are not things that we can dominate. We can study them, practice with them and cultivate technical mastery, but in the end if we are seeing clearly, we stand in awe of them.
The phrase "youth is wasted on the young" is pointing to the increased sensitivity that can come with age, where the nuances and subtleties of life reveal themselves to us, allowing us to appreciate experience in ways we could not when we were younger. Further, the arrogance of youth transforms into the humility of experience, which allows us to enter into a proper relationship with beauty.
What evokes care in you today?
Waking up next to your spouse? The way your pet looks at you? The spark of a morning cup of coffee? Leaves breathing in the wind?
As you attune to what you care about, your depth of care will expand. As your care expands, life becomes increasingly meaningful and enjoyable.