Easwaran remembers his grandmother’s words: ‘Be true to yourself. Make sure that you don’t hurt anybody. But follow your own star…. Don’t be frightened.’ image from wikipedia.
Tom Allen, host of CBC’s Shift, played ‘Atayoskewin‘ by Malcolm Forsyth, commissioned by Shell to commemorate the opening of a tar sands refinery in 1984. Which made me wonder if: (a) In a century this music will be more important than the tar sands? (b) How much did past music depend on injustice too? (c) Does the music of today depend on corporations, or will music always be created, regardless of who’s paying the piper? (d) Is it blood-money if the piper controls the artist or can art actually, ironically, critique the piper? Is ‘Atayoskewin’ subversive critique or corporate décor or neither? Are the tar sands or ‘Atayoskewin’ hurting any one?
‘Atayoskewin’ means ‘sacred legend’ in Cree. A refinery seems hardly part of a sacred legend. The composer writes, ‘The inspiration behind this title is … this barren land where the tar sands are being developed. It’s a very forbidding land, but it has a kind of majesty which is unmistakable. It’s a very quiet place, and the people who have lived there for so many centuries are a very quiet people.’ Influential, yes, but will only the name remain, like a housing development called Cedar Grove where the first thing they do is bulldoze all the cedars? Maybe in two hundred years they’ll know the music, but so might they know poisoned land and water, disease, deaths, and extinctions. They might wonder of us, What were they thinking? Furthemore, the piece hardly seems fitting, for it’s not quiet but frenetic. image from museevirtuel-virtualmuseum.ca.
If you hit an obstacle, do you go left or right or just stop? Does it matter? I’m not just talking about music and tar sands, but how you approach every thing. For example, I’m in a homeless program that involves hundreds in many communities, many points of view, some left, some right, some neither. But all working together. It takes a whole village to raise a child, and beyond, from cradle to grave. Allen may have a different point of view about who pays for art, but he is still is my favourite announcer. Still, death is death. image from theblackcordelias.
The practice of meditation is the pursuit of social justice. Jesus, the Buddha, all the great spiritual leaders went within. ‘There is often a misunderstanding,’ says Easwaran, ‘that the spiritual life is a passive one, concerned only with one’s personal salvation or illumination. Nothing could be further from the truth because … your consciousness expands to embrace your family, your friends, acquaintances, strangers, and at last as Jesus put it even your enemies.’ image from hamline.edu.
Martin Luther King says to the world, ‘I have a dream.’ However, with the killings in Vietnam and the assassinations of the Kennedys and King it seems the dream is over. But with Easwaran returning to America, ‘we understood,’ says Tim Flinders, ‘that even that dream had been returned to us.’ image from wikipedia.
In the late Sixties, newly minted prof Michael Nagler discovers that the intellect can’t solve his problems, but something else can. Laurel Robertson, of Laurel’s Kitchen, comes to Berkeley dedicated to ending the Vietnam War but finds she must end the war in herself first. Angry, Nagler and Robertson (and many others) look to Easwaran. Easwaran looks to Gandhi. images of nagler from theopenacademy.com, of robertson (standing) in the 1970s from cookbkjj.com.
In the 1890s Gandhi uses non-violent civil disobedience to protest South African apartheid. ‘He found his mission, which is everybody’s mission,’ Easwaran says, ‘to live so that all around may benefit by one’s life.’ Gandhi inspires many, including Martin Luther King. image from wikipedia.
Seventy-five years later, many protest the Vietnam War. Berkeley, where Easwaran teaches, has troops on campus. And not just Vietnam. ‘We are living in a world that is rampant with violence,’ says Easwaran. A person might say, ‘What can we do against this rising tide of violence or this rising tide of selfishness? There is nothing we can do.’ What can meditation do against guns? However, says Easwaran, ‘there is everything we can do. Every one of us, by practising meditation, and by drawing upon this power generated in meditation, we can all make a contribution, every day, to turn hatred into love, or in the language of St. Francis of Assisi, to become instruments of peace.’ image from prairiefirenews.com.
To be continued….