Life, in Death Valley

Finding A River

Exercised everyday this week and it’s the way to go. I have been struggling to find meaning in it lately. But then I read a book last night about a chess prodigy who later mastered Tai Chi as well. I find it interesting to translate physical insights into mental ideas, and vice versa. Of course, music is another form of translation — though audio is neither physical nor mental in my opinion. It is some kind of balance between silence and the void that it creates when the song is no longer playing. At least that is what a memorable song is doing.

Describing a void is very difficult because there is nothing there. So I’ve struggled to find music in meaning, or meaning in music — it always feels empty in the end — and so why bother disturbing silence, which is already empty as it is? (This hasn’t stopped me from continuously struggling to find more.)

What justifies creating another form of emptiness that replaces another form of emptiness? Perhaps it is only if we can find something even more silent than silence itself, a way of drowning out all things and silencing more than sounds and memories and landscapes and all that is inside and outside of us. But can it be done? And can I do it? Nobody knows for sure, and nobody has ever come back from there to tell us so.

There is a certain addiction we have for songs that sound good during its duration. After all, that is a common way of experiencing music. Oh it is great to feel lost in the moment. But there are some sounds that I have heard only once, and while that moment itself was a strong one, it pales in comparison to the accumulated echoing in my mind. Now we are talking about reconstructionist music. I’m making up that term, which has some religious connotation that I’m not too familiar with and will leave aside. But I am fascinated by this continual building that happens long after a song has died a brilliant death.

It’s hard to know whether reconstruction or deconstruction is the appropriate term, maybe it could be both. But it is about something that existed in one form, and then rearranged into another, over and over again.

Imagine a multi-story building crumbling down story by story, each snapshot along the way would evoke something different. When it is all a pile of dust, you may recognize the essence of the building, rather than the illusion of its structured stories. And then you might wonder: what else could have crumbled into this same pile of dust?

Maybe all things turn to dust, and only when we refuse to reverse time can we see all the illusions so beautifully there. That is the trap of forward-moving time. But once in a while, we can see a pile of dust and it feels more than the aggregate of all possible uncrumbled versions of things — whether deconstructed or reconstructed, forwards or backwards in time. That’s the echoing silence I want to hear because silence is never quite silent if you are really listening — it only becomes louder.

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