OK! I am celebrating people!
For once, my typical creative-person angst has chosen to subside and right now I am deep in the throws of a total anti-crisis. I’m sure my life-long torrential pursuit of purpose and meaning will re-surface in its usual incarnation of self-doubt and ennui, but in this moment, I feel like I may actually have some idea about who I am after all, whatever on earth that means.
So here’s the deal:
Lately I’ve been asking myself some of those existential questions that at some point in my life I could take for granted as self-evident, only to later realize I didn’t have words to clearly articulate their answers.
1. What is my ikigai/raison d’etre?
2. What would I like to be when I grow up/ Who would I like to be in this lifetime?
3. What would I like to do with this lifetime?
4. What’s the point of my art?
5. Why music?
When I went to reeeeeaaalllllly focused in on trying to discover answers for these questions, the words “to awaken compassion” kept popping up… but the light didn’t really start to fade in until today while I was shamelessly reveling in my love of music.
Now I love music. Have I mentioned that before? I love music so earnestly, so deeply, that it’s actually kind of embarrassing. I’m like a teenager who has a crush so all they know how to talk about is object of said crush. “Music this, music that…Did music call today? I wonder if music likes me back…I bet music is gonna go find a prettier girl, etc.” I’m a one trick pony, a broken record, a hopeless obsessive.
I used to assume that the love of music was enough reason to pursue it. I used to say the one good thing about my relationship with music was that at least it left no ambiguity regarding what I would be doing with my life. (Boy did I miss the mark on that one.) Recently, let’s say intermittently over the last 3-4 years, I’ve been going through a season where that basic precept has been in question. Pouring my very best love and intentions into the music I’ve made had yielded only marginal external validation. Knowing this was not an unusual circumstance for people living alternative lifestyles of the creative persuasion, I was left wondering why the validation factor mattered to me, and if it mattered so much to me, why even bother trying to make art? Better I should just get a little office job, and quietly humble myself into I life without passion.
After a while, it became clear that passion or not, music was not going to “go quietly into that good night.” No matter how uncertain I felt creatively, music just kept showing up. For example, the whole time I was recording “Out From Yonder,” my most successful (and incidentally, my most self-representative) recording to date, making music was as essentially “uninspired” as going to the toilet. A fundamental function of my being, but certainly nothing to write home about.
Well life threw me a few curve balls last year, and these days, I’m just so thankful for all of the love in my life that this particular line of questioning and self doubt has essentially has been rendered irrelevant. Simply put, I am in love with making music, and though we can’t ever really predict who or what we fall in love with, we sometimes get glimpses into why our love feels so penetrating.
Well folks, today I caught just such a glimpse out of the corner of my eye. It flickered in the light a little, and when I turned my head to face it dead on something rang out as both focused and true. What was it about music that hit so close to home for me? I’m still figuring out what this means, but it suddenly became clear that it is music’s unique and immediate ability to awaken compassion that was my hook!
Well that’s all well and good you might say. A lot of people would agree that music has some mysterious ability to access emotion, or that it’s fundamentally a social modality. There’s certainly plenty of research being done on why that may be, indeed how music may have been an integral part of our evolution. But my question was why would music’s ability to “awaken compassion” be such a hook for me in particular?
I quickly realized that as far as I can tell, my soul/heart/mind/being/higher self’s clearest motivation has always been to awaken compassion. Sounds a bit lofty and somewhat self-important I know, but this theme is present in nearly every conversation I’ve ever had, certainly every conversation I can remember. I seem to always be trying to find pathways to awakening other people’s compassion, primarily for themselves, although I sometimes enter the rocky terrain of trying build bridges towards compassion for others. Now this fundamental motivation, my home key if you will, can go all over the map when it starts modulating. It can manifest as naïve, self-righteous, tedious even. But it is the most persistent presence in my life in fact… and when I follow this feeling down its windy little rabbit hole, it goes straight to the center of what I know how to experience as being-ness itself. It goes to that space and FILLS IT COMPLETELY.
This feeling can and does distort itself into an intense yearning or desire, but it too has a steady nature that lies beneath its more emotive manifestations. It appears to remain constant, despite my relentless efforts to assess it, judge it, subjugate it, question it, devalue it or entirely dismiss it based on my ego based orientation to it. I will admit that because this fundamental vibration could care less what I think of it, I do take a little comfort in knowing that it at least appears to point at something that is “basically good.” With my luck, I could have been born with a fundamental playing in the key of serial killer.
The interesting thing is, my egoic self seems to have a tendency to want to direct this intention/vibration inward and apply language like “awaken compassion in myself, awaken myself to compassion, awaken to my own compassion” etc., but the fundamental actively asserts itself “against” this language demanding that I (ego) try to understand that while those things may very well be involved in helping it accomplish its goal, they are by no means the “point” as it were. It goes on to assert that it is not necessary for me to “wait” to be fully awakened to compassion in order to go about the work of awakening compassion in others…it says I shouldn’t delude myself into thinking I need it any less than others do, but that in this lifetime, it is others that matter. it won’t tell me why and it says, quite frankly, it doesn’t have to.
All of this is a lot of words that boil down to the following:
1. What is my ikigai?
To love my family and to use music to awaken compassion.
2. What would I like to be when I grow up/Who would i like to be in this lifetime?
a vessel for awakening compassion
3. What would I like to do with my lifetime?
To use music to awaken compassion in others in order to help alleviate the suffering of suffering
4. What’s the point of my art?
to awaken compassion
5. Why music?
Because of its unique ability to awaken compassion
That’s it. That’s me in a nutshell. If i look back, those answers have been true for as long as I can remember, but they’ve been too close to my nose for me to see. Maybe they’ll shift into something else later, but for this moment now, I think I know who I am.