High Fidelity Stillness

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Course Ideas

My unfolding as a being has undergone a few prompt jumps in self-expression.  In the 1990 time frame I went from viewing rock music as one of the influences most likely to lead to my destruction– in the same category as cigarettes, underage drinking, and not doing your homework– to buying Nirvana’s record Nevermind.  And feeling somehow holy about it.  It was auspicious.  The lightning I had anticipated failed to strike.  It takes all of thirty seconds to change everything, do an about face, become one of them.  One week later I was playing Nirvana’s prior album Bleach in the cassette player, and a good friend at the time asked if we could go back to Brown-Eyed Girl on the radio.

He was disturbed by my life choices.  Who are you???

My first concert, aside from being on the business end of a few My Country Tis of Thee’s at St. Richard’s Parish Elementary School, was a Dinosaur Jr. show.  They were on tour for the album Green Mind.  I was a shy and introverted freshman in high school, and this was one of my secrets still below ground.  I had devoted the better part of my free time during the preceding four years to learning how to kick a soccer ball with either foot, and making it go where I told it.  I had a goal in the back yard I had built out of downed pine trees dragged out of the woods, and some rope.  My altar.

These devotions resulted in my making the varsity soccer team, which meant I would be playing ball for Grady Cain.  He had coached the arch-rival club team from the other side of town that had always whooped our ass in the State Tournament during the developmental years so discussed, so this was going to be interesting.  He knew what I was made of, though, so that worked in my favor.  He was a plumber with a Trans Am that he required to be sand-blasted and repainted every year: two coats of tar black beneath two clear coats of pure shine.  He wore mirror sunglasses and listened to Suzy Q and smoked long brown cigarillos on the sideline while coaching up young men to be all they could be.

Grady was an unbelievable man, and I wish I’d had the perspective a few of the seniors had possessed– to just enjoy him.  But I was just trying to find a way through.  He was a fan of deep honesty at halftime, and calling it like it was while we chugged down our electrolytes.

“Michael– you suckin’ out there today, baby.  You look like a three day old wind.  You wanna’ tell me somethin’???”

No, sir.

“Pick your head up.  They eatin’ your lunch.”

Yessir.

Then he’d turn to the next person.  “Brandon.”  Long pause.  A trail of smoke from the cigarillo.  “You playin’ good ball, son.”

Yessir.

“You stick with that number twenty-seven.  He ain’t got nothin’ you don’t got two or three of.”

Yessir.

One night at the end of practice we were all sitting around, and one of the seniors intimated to his friends through a sudden flurry of high five’s that he would be attending a rock concert the subsequent evening.  A school night.  Well, guess what– so was I.  Maybe time to speak up, here.  Make some new friends.  Isn’t that what pre-season was for?

Me, too.  (kind of a croak)

“What?  …get outta’ town.  Who you goin’ to see???”

Well, now I’d stepped in it.  I bought the album, but that didn’t mean I was ready for anyone else to know about it.  I understood these guys drew the lines a little differently than I did, that this conversation could lead me rapidly to my demise.  They probably liked the kind of bands other people actually liked– not the ones esteemed by slackers and punks.  But there was no way out but through.  You sense that.  In every moment of difficulty, you know this.

Dinosaur Jr.

“What the–  Holy shit!  Right on, man.”  High five.  I think he wanted to make me his little brother.

Phew…

Brown-Eyed Girl is just lookin’ at me.  What the hell, man…  What in the world…

The thing about rock concerts, if you can get to the right ones, is you realize that what you’re accustomed to experiencing in the mini-van sound system is second hand.  There’s a raw power to a live performance– if you catch the band on the right night, and it’s the right crowd, and you engage with the entire auditorium.  You become the leaf in the hot water.

Smashing Pumpkins twenty years ago, on the right night, on tour for Siamese Dream, suggested a thing or two about the nature of all existence.  There was something holy about it.  Not something about cheating a school night, or getting high, or doing something just because you could, but something about feeling like a completely still stone in the midst of a reverberating ocean.  A quiet that could carry all the waves.

Later I’ve come to realize, I can hear the concert inside of the song while the radio is playing.  I can hear the concert through my headphones.  Anywhere.  Any genre.  You can hear what it would sound like live.  You can taste it.  The concerts themselves hardly cut it anymore, in some ways.  I’m already hearing too deeply on my own.  We have this part of ourselves that’s always in high fidelity mode, and once we awaken it, we can add depth and color to every experience.  Buying granola can be a peak experience.  We can hear the audacity inside of it, the way putting a bag of grain on the rubber belt and looking the cashier in the eye can be a way of blowing holes into a second hand world.

That feeling of watching Kurt Cobain’s hair being blown around from the fan he kept by the pedals, while he chord-shifted without looking and dispatched a rare, gravelly form of authenticity– that got me flowing in a direction.  Nudged me off of top dead center.  That was just a taste of this reality called holiness.  This high fidelity experience.  You learn to hear the concert inside of the moment.  To realize each encounter portends something raw and powerful.

This is what Love is.  A purity of knowing.  One hundred percent experience, maximum fidelity, but no objects.  Being a leaf in the water.  Being a stone in the ocean during a hurricane.  Being at peace while the world rages.  Being a whisper that can change everything.

* * * * *

40 Comments

  1. wonderfully rockin’ introspection, michael!
    those were the days
    coach puffin’ away, looking impressive.
    nudging the under-the surface changes,
    seems music offered a transformation route.
    my first concert
    Elvis, 1970.
    still got the program.
    lead me to the harder stuff happening back then,
    stones, lepplin, floyd,
    which one is pink?
    i should meditate on this 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

    • Ha! Yes. They may have been Blue Floyd, had they known the color existed…

      The Coach was definitely looking impressive. He was the type of coach who would have the eleven year olds running two and half miles before he even arrived to the practice field. And they did it. No questions asked. You just didn’t really want to question his instructions… But he had a heart of gold. Turns out we had the same teacher for theology class in that high school I mentioned. She was in her 90’s when I took the class. He spoke of her with affection probably forty or so years after taking her class also, and remembered her as the person who changed his life. He would tell us at practice not to give her any shit at school.

      My high fidelity inner speakers are loving the line-up you have offered here… Those would definitely have done the trick. And it is amazing how times change, too. I’m still trying to put my finger on exactly what it is. A good performance seems to have an element of being more than yourself, of letting something flow through…

      Michael

      Liked by 2 people

  2. This merits more than a like. So much of this resonated with me and so much stirred me. I love your expression: “We have this part of ourselves that’s always in high fidelity mode, and once we awaken it, we can add depth and colour to every experience.” Where’s the gold star button, I’m pressing it in my mind.

    Liked by 6 people

  3. Love this, Michael…brilliant. I loved going on this journey with you. It felt a little voyeuristic…like I was standing behind you with baited breath waiting for the reaction of your teammates when you disclosed what concert you were going to. I was like, “Ahhhhh…hope he didn’t just make a huge mistake!” My first concert: Marshall Tucker Band…Pittsburgh…1979…not because they were a favorite, but rather I was away from my very strict upbringing…”Rock bands are all hippies and they all do drugs!!…
    I fell in love instantly with “live” music and that incredible feeling of being connected with a stadium (or room) full of people singing with pleasure and joy!! Thanks for sharing, Michael 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, Lorrie. Nice! I don’t know much Marshall Tucker Band material, but it strikes me you enjoyed a perfectly great jam session. It is interesting learning about first concerts… The beauty of live performance is the genre doesn’t really matter. I think my musical preferences are as much a product of place and time as anything else. I go through phases, too. Can’t put an artist down for two weeks straight, then take five years off… 🙂

      Keep on rockin’!
      Michael

      Liked by 1 person

      • I so agree, Michael! I think it is all about place and time. And, like you, I do the same…can’t put an artist down for a time and then take off (maybe not quite) five years. My real problem is I treat food the same way!!! And most times the two weeks ON something may not be the healthiest of foods! 😉 Have a super weekend ❤

        Like

        • Love it, Lorrie! Five years may be a bit much I agree. But I could swear I open the play list on the iPod sometimes and realize I’ve forgotten all about something I once couldn’t put down. It’s like discovering a twenty dollar bill in the center console of your car… 🙂

          Hope you’re having a great weekend as well!
          Michael

          Liked by 1 person

          • I think if you explored the music and what was/is going on in your life at the time there just may be a message there 😉 Have a super Sunday, Michael ❤

            Like

            • Probably quite true, Lorrie. I’m feeling drawn to be in the savory experience of it, and let the messages come without words… 🙂

              Michael

              Liked by 1 person

    • Depends on who you ask, Hariod. 🙂

      Ahhh, your comment cracked me up. My head is hanging. My hand is sweeping down my face from forehead to chin. Some things are perhaps better left unsaid…

      Michael

      Liked by 1 person

        • Ain’t life amazing!? I have to say I was quite sober for the concerts in play here. Starkly present. But there was this other phase… a few years later… Ah, well– Physics class at 8 AM five days a week for the entire freshman year of college provided a certain dampening effect on that particular phase. If you have studied dynamics, you will understand what is meant by an over-damped system… That is not to say I didn’t blow through one or two eigenvalues en route to cruising speed. 🙂

          Michael

          Liked by 1 person

  4. ~meredith says

    well holy mackerel, michael. what a great read. and, i have to say… smashing pumpkins was the bane of my existence shepherding intense “performing artists” (of a teen-aged sort) through their own performances… unplugged from hormone overdoses.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, Meredith! I’m sorry to hear the Smashing Pumpkins were the bane of your existence, but I can appreciat the baning nature of chaperoning young rockers all over the countryside. Such a gift, however, to the peeps… Sounds like a love-hate, compassionate baning type of thing if I had to guess…
      🙂

      Michael

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Hi Michael,
    🙂 “But there was no way out but through. You sense that. In every moment of difficulty, you know this.” Yeah.
    Every now and then I revisit a little bit of Nirvana, too. I guess, you brought it up this time 😉
    Love, K

    Liked by 2 people

    • It’s good to revisit a little Nirvana from time to time, no? In whatever form it takes… Yes, that entire year involved some difficulty-plowing. Sheer terror accented by moments of amazement. You don’t realize what you have the first time you’re having it. When you come into it with that beginner’s mind, and it’s all new, it’s pretty amazing. Every year changes so much at that time in one’s life. There were four or five months like I’d never experience prior, and then people graduated, were gone. The summer hit. The past evaporated…

      Love,
      Michael

      Liked by 1 person

      • Hi Michael,

        Beginner’s mind arises more and more frequently for me these days, while somehow I still manage to contemplate the past. I track my movements and evaluate and measure them in relationship to where I am now. It definitely feels like different dimensions – not even the same bar-graph, or more appropriately, scatter plot.

        I had some friends who were into Dinosaur Jr. I was into Sonic Youth, “Sugar Cane,” Stone Temple Pilots, Pearl Jam. These were other identifying attributes of “who-i-was” in space and time: not the me that people also ask, “who are you?”

        I am a blip that shows up on a radar and then goes away – not intentionally disappearing, but more-so out of necessity. I’ve been thinking about how “leaving others behind,” or “being left behind,” is a phenomenon outside of my capacity to control. Everything changes more consistently than it stays the same.

        Love, K

        Like

        • Hi Ka,

          I have that Sonic Youth album. I like the song 100% a lot. (Listening to it right now!) And of course, Pearl Jam…

          I hear what you are saying about the movement in our lives. I was thinking something similar just the other day, about how intensely interwoven you can be with a group of people for a particular time or purpose, and then POOF! things move in various directions. I also so very much appreciate your sentiment that we are not entirely the attributes we acquire in our lives. I think it’s an interesting discussion– that one– however. We perhaps choose our styles and tastes at various times in our lives, and differentiate/define ourselves by them. As we seek to become less judgmental and more open to people of all walks, those propensities may (or may not) soften.

          But I think differentiation is part of what we’re up to here. The parents we had. The other children who showed up in our elementary school. The places that we found, and that found us. The difficulties we didn’t choose that propelled our lives along. We both are, and are not, informed by our trajectories. Clearly none of the events or the history are “who we are”, and yet I feel sometimes on another level, they were relevant pathways that led to deeper understanding of that nebulous, mysterious, timeless core.

          I guess maybe what I’m saying is that we can’t live the heart of who we are in pure abstraction. We have to pick up the paint brush, and paint something, recognizing ultimately perhaps that we are in our heart of hearts that which paints everything… We both affect and are affected by our relationships with everything we encounter…

          Love,
          Michael

          Liked by 1 person

  6. Awesome post, Michael. This SO made me want to go to a rock concert! I love concerts in general…the whole crowd tuning into something much larger, every single person and element a part of the experience. And I’ve always wanted to be in a band, too…what a high (hehe) that must be! Thanks 🙂 Aleya

    Liked by 1 person

    • Writing it was a pretty nice tour of past events, Aleya. You describe the beauty of it exactly. That feeling of being unique and swallowed whole at the same time. I wanted to be in a band for a little while. I think it can be tougher than it looks, especially if you have to go on tour all the time to make your living… It’s pretty tough not being able to take a sick day! I remember once I saw the Black Keys do a show where the drummer was sick with the flu or something, and it was just the two of them, and it was a small club of about one or two thousand people maybe. The drummer was incredible during the songs– I still remember this one sequence where he was literally playing the cymbals with a tambourine– and then he would just slump over on his stool in between them while the guitarist “tuned his guitar” for about five minutes… 🙂 I felt bad for him, but they were amazing that night!

      Michael

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Hey Mike,
    I came back because I wanted to say how much I enjoyed this type of post from you. I enjoyed learning a bit more of how you got to be who you are NOW. As much as I adore your poetry, I really dig excellent story telling. And this was truly excellent.

    I have kept almost all of the concert stubs from all the concerts I have attended. From the 1970s onward. I would say I was under the influence for 95% of them, but enjoyed them all regardless. I totally relate to your take on the live experience. For me it was a spiritual pilgrimage. As a deadhead, it took it to yet another level.
    While I enjoyed Kurt Kobain ( such a PIsces soul), most of my musical tastes in rock differ from yours. Atleast in my youth. Nowadays I have included jazz, some classical, reggae, and country to the mix.

    There is a stillness in the sound when it is soulful and tribal.

    Namaste,
    Linda

    PS What a long strange trip its been 🙂

    Like

    • Thank you, Linda. I appreciate that. I think I will mix in a little more back story from time to time going forward. I tend to eschew getting into the personal “story” too much, but as you say, it is part of what propels us along our journey. And the differentiation we achieve through living our uniqueness is part of the point of it all I think.

      I have come to enjoy a wide variety of music, myself. One of the best shows I ever saw was the Indigo Girls. And if I had the chance I would love to see Steve Reich perform. The one bug I’ve never quite caught is the jazz one, and that’s probably because I simply don’t quite know where to begin…

      Where do we begin??? Ha!

      Much Love
      Michael

      Liked by 1 person

      • I don’t know the music of Indigo Girls or Steve Reich but bless YouTube where all is possible. I can recommend a few jazz artists: Sonny Rollins, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, and Nina Simone are a few I really enjoy. I love the improvisation of jazz and the enchanting vocals of Nina Simone. I learned mostly by the suggestions of others or being captivated by some stylings on the radio. Nina I discovered while watching my beloved film Before Sunset.

        love,
        Linda

        Like

        • Thanks for the references, Linda. I’ve heard the names before. When time permits, will dig into some sonic novelties… 🙂

          Michael

          Liked by 1 person

  8. There is a moment etched upon first hearing Nirvana and feeling the energetic pull of something new, fresh to the ears, soul pulling. You bring me back to the feeling that my feet are dangling in the air – and the ride is about to take off; which now strikes me as a peek behind the veil. Feet on the ground, what a crock! (and more I come to see, the sharing of the personal, once a certain detachment is achieved, can be the connecting thread of no separateness at all:)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Marga,

      What a crock, indeed! There are those moments where we encounter something that revises our notions of the possible. They blow through habit and convention like a drunken monsoon. We end up washed up on the beach trying to remember where we once were. I appreciate your comment about the sharing of the personal. The personal can be where the universal gets a toe hold on the face of the cliff… I’m sure it will come of its own rhythm and timing…

      Michael

      Like

  9. We are living the Live Concert, in high fidelity, as you say. I love this, the vulnerability of a boy becoming a man, of the uncertainty becoming alllowance, the choice to build an acceptable persona, or take the jump and just Be. Fine choices my friend. I can see my own growing up mirrored here (by mirror boxes no less), the wrestling of being accepted versus being real, the funny alters we build ourselves so that we can figure ourselves out, the naughty music that calls to us, and turns out to be divine inspiration shrouded in the disguise of dark and risky and controversial. Then that glorious moment when we realize we ourselves are divine inspiration, and dark, and risky, and controversial, and sometimes we are all that and a little Brown Eyed Girl, just to play with it all. What a funny morning you are giving me, reading these posts. I think I shall have an interesting day.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well, I hope you had a lovely day, indeed. You have understood this one truly. The music that offers movement at least, a glimmer from around the corner, a new vantage point, and from there the discovery of an expanding array of possibilities. Then you run full circle into yourself stepping out of the mirror ball… 🙂

      Michael

      Like

  10. I hear the explosion of music Michael ….Wow ! So much Wow ….and the above comments could all be mine as well !….dancing into the sunshine here with my stereo turned on high …love xxxmeg

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Meg. So glad you found your way back here! And I’m glad the sunshine is returning for us to dance our way into!

      Much Love
      Michael

      Like

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