A Musing on Muses

The other day a friend of mine shared a link on one of the Facebook pages I follow that was both beautiful and inspiring. It was a short video of a woman singing to call a herd of cattle. Immediately, upon watching this video, I was struck by a notion: Is this how we first domesticated animals?

We have all, or most of us at least, heard the expression “music soothes the savage beast,” but where did such a concept come from? It has been my observation that most domesticated animals enjoy the sounds of music and song, and it does seem to have a calming effect on them. In ancient times, when animal husbandry was new or just beginning, humans would have needed a way to summon and placate their herds. I don’t know how many of you have ever worked with or around herd animals before, but they can be remarkably skittish and prone to wild, panicked outbursts. But a simple song can summon and soothe instinctively, making it the perfect tool for primitive human herders.

I wonder when we forgot about the power of song? When did we decide to use dogs, and prods, and whips or to simply keep our herds and flocks locked up in barns all day long? I think we know the answer to that, too. It happened a long time ago, when we as a species discovered that animals could carry material value as well as intrinsic value. When the concept of profit entered the equation we began to care more about the price in gold owed to us by other humans, and less about the price of beauty and respect that we owed to the beasts.

I have little talent for singing, myself, but I think it would not be so bad a thing if those who are able were to return to the practice of, (if you’ll forgive the pun), ‘singing for their supper.’ We have led a good many lambs, and other creatures, to the slaughter over the last eon, and we have given them so very, very little in return for their lives. Maestro, an A, please.

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I Miss The Darkness

I miss the Darkness. And I’m glad I took a few days to collect my thoughts before composing this post, because I read something today that added a new “flavor” to what that sentence means to me. 

The post I read, on a blog I had never heard of before, referred to the intrusive presence of social media in our lives as “a bunch of flashing lights.” (Not at all an inaccurate description if you’ve ever sat next to someone checking Facebook on their iPhone in the theater.) And when I say ‘I miss the Darkness’ one of the things I realized I meant by that was that I miss a world with fewer distractions. It’s not for nothing that most forms of meditation begin with closing one’s eyes: the world around us is full of distractions, now more so than ever. (And yes, I’m well aware of the irony of posting this on social media via an iPhone.)

But Darkness hides more than just the world’s distractions: it also hides our actions from the world. We all have secrets. We all have dreams. And for one reason or another we choose to keep those secrets and dreams hidden away in dark places. I miss the Darkness. I miss having that place that I could go, and things that I could do, that I would never dare show to the daylight world. It was a kind of power, and a kind of victory, to have those secrets and that freedom. And it was freeing to be able to go to that place, dissolve into it, and be carried away. At some point, Darkness becomes as much a practice as a place.

I miss the Darkness, and I miss the perspective that it gave me. In the corporeal world, one who stands in the light will have difficulty seeing into shadows, whereas one standing in shadows can see a lighted area with ease. Much the same is true of incorporeal matters. Recall the meditation example from above. When one seeks the Light, or Enlightenment, it is first necessary to recognize that one is standing in the Dark. We distract ourselves in this life with a lot of flashing lights and brightly colored things, but they dazzle our Eye in the search for Light. Soon we become dependent on those distractions; for as soon as they are gone all we see is the Dark and, out of fear, we find new bright and pleasing distractions to hide the Dark, because that is easier than seeking for the Light.

I have been walking in the daylight world of flashes and colors for too long now; telling mysel that I must be concerned with practical matters for the time being. Well, at long last, the practical matters have begun to fall into place, and it’s time to go back out into the Darkness and seek for true Light.

I miss you, Darkness. But don’t worry: I’m coming back.