Thursday, March 26, 2009


I have been all over the world, as a musician, but haven't until last week stepped foot on the continent of Africa. I read anthropology and all manner of disciplines, and it is said that Africa was the birthplace of mankind.

But it was hearsay and I am a skeptic. Then I came to south Africa, and as I stepped off the plane and my feet found the ground I KNEW. The impressions have been SO deep that I spent the first entire week weeping at the brotherhood of Man. Here, as opposed to the United states where I live and where I have called New york City my home for 50 years, I came in contact with a different reality. I cannot describe the impressions except to say that I am irrevocably changed. I have been eating such rich food of these impressions that I am staggered by the depth of them, and the new understandings that they have given me. My compassion has been increased twenty fold, and I now say (striking my chest), "I Man", (Striking gently the chest of another man black or white) and saying "You Man", and I then say "Human" as I pass my arm across the horizon, to suggest that we are ALL on the same level.

The time is different here also. Now does not mean the now of New York. There are three nows here. "Right Now" is the closest to the "now" of NY, but not quite, because the "Now" of NY is an hour ago. "Now-Now" is "shortly" and "Just Now" means anytime in the future, but it will be done. A little like Jamaica, where "soon come-little while" means what "Just now" means here, but not quite. There is an irrepressible natural buoyant joy here, both in the blacks and in the whites, many of who feel a deep guilt from Apartheid, but it is SO much more respectful than the racial issues which exist in the US. The shame many whites feel here is nothing like the resentful false crap of the rainbow political farce that exists in America.

Another man said to me that this is the home of rhythm, and it is true beyond experience. When I told him that I felt the natural joy in even those with nothing he said that the best music was born of oppression, and I said instead, the music is in SPITE of oppression. Unlike mathematics, where a negative number times a negative number equals a positive number; a negative emotion does not negate another negative but multiplies the negative.

I have come to see that negative against negative is like a knot in a rope; pulling on the ends of the rope in the attempt to undo the knot seems to make it smaller, but only tightens it and makes it harder to untie, where the action required is to push the ends together and take the small fingers of the child inside the knot and loosen it. Then and only then can it really be undone. We cannot add anything in the Work, only remove the filth and untie the knots.

In Yoga there are three Granthis (knots) which bind the sense of identity (Ahamkara) to the worldly figure, and these three knots need to be undone before freedom can be achieved. The first Granthi is with the physical body; the second with the E-motional body, and the third with the Mental body.

When these identifications are cut or untied; there arises a natural freedom -- the lesser and greater freedom. The bodies do not die but then live not as slaves but as free men -- the "Three Brothers" Mr. Gurdjieff wrote about and then burned in 1934, when he had a bonfire built and burned all of his papers -- to the tears of Olgivana deHartmann and Madame deSalzmann. Oh, what we may have lost. The library at Alexandria perhaps?

All I know is that I am in Africa, and spend my time in two places, two worlds...outer and inner richness I cannot explain or describe. And there are two places in the studio building where I am working right next to each other -- the studio where we are making music, and next to it, an anechoic room where it is silent and dark so that it makes no difference whether your eyes are open or closed. I have spent much time there alone, and like Napoleon after he slept in the great Pyramid at Giza, and came out white as a ghost and never told what he experienced till his dying day, when he was asked, "Now that you are dying, would you like to tell us about your experience in the Pyramid?" and he began to say "Yes... but oh never mind, you would not believe me", and then he died...

Something has died in me, and I do not miss it one iota.

1 comment:

Fast Film said...

I know not whether you write these to get feedback, but offer mine. I too have been to Africa, to Kenya, and understand its sway. Despite being as different a culture as one can be, something about Kenya just felt...right. home. fathomable. I went to see the animals and came back impressed with the people.