2020-11-26 Between this life and the next

Case has been writing about the passage of time, and depression, and how one feels about the waves of life, and wonders about the final reckoning. It was a good post.

I don’t suffer from depression. There’s a strange melancholy in some of my days, and I guess many people share that, too. Perhaps there’s a simple biochemical explanation for it. Something about vitamin D and the sun, movement and exercise, alienation at work, but it’s hard to separate this from how I feel about it. The idea that the soul and the body are two separate things is a construction. The experience is that the two are one. When I hurt myself, I fear for myself. I am my body.

And so when my body lacks vitamin D or some other thing, it is I who is sad. There’s a physical explanation and yet there’s no psychological difference. Perhaps in that we are one with the world. I feel like there’s some sort of revelation hiding around some corner, here.

When I feel sad, I want to listen to music that goes to the same places as my heart. I used to listen a lot to Brahms’ Ein deutsches Requiem nach Worten der Heiligen Schrift, op. 45. I listened to it a lot while working. People are talking all around me and I put on my headphones and look at the leaves of a tree outside and feel wave after wave of sadness wash over me. “Denn alles Fleisch, es ist wie Gras” (“For all flesh is as grass”). I often say, if I ever turn religious, it will be because of the music.

The Latvian Radio Choir is singing Rachmaninov’s All-night Vigil, op. 37 “Vespers”. The best music for crying and programming, both at the same time. Here I am, tears streaming down my face, thinking about getting data into a Postgres database. And I keep thinking: this is the time we live in. Crying, chagrined, as the world slowly turns into a swamp. And yet. Music is going to turn me into a believer, yet. “For his mercy endureth for ever. Alleluia.” We are all in desperate need of it.

I’m playing Pärt’s Miserere and drifting through clouds of compute, fingers moving, only to have my soul blown to bits after five minutes. And then, back to the disorienting world of cyberspace, poorly reflected on the flat screen, poorly interacted with using that laptop keyboard, soulless flow of programming for money. What did just happen? What am I doing here? I just want to shout: “My house will be called a house of prayer, but you are making it a den of robbers!”

It’s Sunday, it’s grey outside. We call it Hochnebel: the high fog. It covers the earth beneath 1000m and is light as mist and yet it weighs down our souls like lead. And softly, I hear music playing from the kitchen: The Song of the Sibyl, Montserrat Figueras, La Capella Reial de Catalunya, Jordi Savall. I think I’m melting. 😭

My thoughts return to Brahms’ Requiem and I hear the voices sing: “Herr, lehre doch mich, / daß ein Ende mit mir haben muß. / und mein Leben ein Ziel hat, / und ich davon muß.” (“Lord, make me to know mine end, and the measure of my days, what it is: that I may know how frail I am.”)

In his post, Case asks: “Between this world and the next, do you think there’s a kind of accounting?” I find the eternal machine of the world fascinating and distracting, and I think I must like it the way it is, for I’m not sure there’s a next life to go to. There is no inherent meaning, and no supernatural voices are guiding me. And so, where as I used to be fascinated by Zen and aestheticism, now I think to dedicate my life to this while I can lead a fuller life, a life where I am one with the world, integrated with it – to ignore all that without knowing what comes next – that is something I don’t want to do. To live and to be alive is all there is. To feel joy while you do it is all there is. The sublime happiness of the virtuous life is all there is.

Here’s to hoping that we can all share in that happiness, that we can all keep our heads above the water.


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