My favorite piece of music is the one we hear all the time if we are quiet.
— John Cage
Our eyes have betrayed us, things are not what they seem. It is time to listen! Time to open the ear to the real mysteries, the aural tradition, the moment-to-moment music of everything moving . . . the Unfinished Symphony playing on and on and on . . .
Our civilization is biased toward the eye. That is how we get most of our information and that is how we are deceived. “Seeing is believing” and “Read all about it!” It is an optical illusion. The truth is in the telling. Have you heard?
Love comes in through the ear. Good sounds. Love, kinship, friendship is all in dialogue, talking, listening. Whisper sweet nothings in my ear. Anythings. Sounds good.
The ear is open to the mysteries, the mystical, the musical. The subcultures and the tribal cultures transmit their wisdom orally. In America the Beat Generation heard the beat of the be-bop which came from African rhythm and chants which became rhythm and blues which became rock and roll all pulsing through the urban din to the ear of those who wanted to hear a different drummer. The written culture is linear, analytic, isolates experience. The sounds are immediate, sensual, unifying.
You can’t stop the music. Literally. The ear has no lids like the eye. You have to use your fingers to plug up your ears. They are always receiving. And there is always sound to be heard. Listen to the Sound Sage, John Cage, The Zen Concert Master of the New World Symphony . . . sshhh . . .
“Try as we may to make a silence, we cannot. For certain engineering purposes, it is desirable to have as silent a situation as possible. Such a room is called an anechoic chamber, its six walls made of special material, a room without echoes. I entered one at Harvard University several years ago and heard two sounds, one high and one low. When I described them to the engineer in charge, he informed me that the high one was my nervous system in operation, the low one my blood in circulation. Until I die there will be sounds. One need not fear about the future of music.”
Open the inner ear. The third ear. We can’t see our own heads, but we can always hear what’s inside them. Listen to the “mind tapes,” the chit-chat of the daily this and that, the mantras of worry and regret, the songs of desire. There’s a jukebox inside with all the hits. And so many different voices. There is Mom and Dad! How about you, reader, are you in there? You haven’t spoken yet. Maybe you chose to remain silent.
Sound Meditation. Listening without labels. Just the vibrations of the air hitting the drum of the ear. Become a detached listener. Noise is a judgment. There are no “off’ notes. Nobody’s singing flat, not even Joseph Goldstein. One dharma master says, “The ear teaches impermanence quicker than the eye. You can’t hold on to a sound.” In the Mahayana Sutra of Complete Enlightenment, the Buddha tells an assembly of monks that in this age it is easiest to attain enlightenment through the sense door of the ear. Friends, sangha, countrypeople; Lend me your ears! We are EAR-thlings! Be hear, and now! There is a cosmic harmony! Just listen!
It has been shocking mathematicians around the world. The Mertens conjecture has been proven wrong. A Japanese mathematician working with computers in Amsterdam has disproven the 100-year-old theory upon which many other theories are based. The only number which could reverse the new findings might occur at ten to the tenth to the seventieth power, which is a number larger than the number of atoms in the universe, and beyond the ability of any computer to calculate. This all goes to prove once again, that everything we know is wrong, or at least temporary. Maybe.
In the dialectic of history, Marx stood Hegel on his head. Now it is time to stand Marx on his head—and let him get into his body and relax a little. We need an enlightened people’s revolution: The speed of our civilization prevents us from becoming fully conscious. The next revolution is the big “Slow Down.”
In case you haven’t heard, there is a new school of Buddhism in America. In Asia there are two main branches of Buddhist thought; the Hinayana, which translates literally as the “lesser vehicle,” and the Mahayana, or “the greater vehicle.” Lately, however, some Western Buddhists have been feeling that neither of these two are appropriate for the dharma in America, which requires a unique new form. So these pioneers have now broken away from both the Hinayana and the Mahayana traditions to form their own school of Buddhism which they call the Hahayana, or literally, “the funny vehicle.” Hahayana Buddhism is also known as “the Edsel of the dharma.” (Estimated MPG is infinite.)
The principle tenet of Hahayana thought is the belief in the “comic oneness” of all phenomena. Hence the teachers in this school transmit wisdom mostly through the use of knock-knock jokes, bursting into laughter when the student asks, “Who’s there?” During meditation sessions, if somebody is sleepy or slumping in their sitting posture, the teachers go and tickle them until they become upright again.
Although the Hahayana canon is still being written, so far it consists of three main statements, The Sioux City Sutra, The Double-Breasted Sutra, and the How Does That Sutra. These sutras explain that the goal of Hahayana practice is ” . . . to transcend the inexplicable nonsense posed by this human incarnation. “This is done by contemplating “the joke” until you “get it.” Then at last you can experience the bliss of the big Buddha Belly-Laugh. Hahayana.