Monday, August 24, 2009

We May Decide which is Right...but the Apple Falls from the Tree, Nonetheless

Breathe deep the gathering gloom,
Watch lights fade from every room...
Cold hearted orb that rules the night,
Removes the colours from our sight.
Red is grey and yellow white,
But we decide which is right
And which is an illusion.

Can you hear the orchestra swell? Of course you can. Late Lament was spoken by Graeme Edge on the 1967 album Days of Future Passed (the album that gave us Nights in White Satin) as the music swirled around him like mist from a rock concert fog machine. It was a little spooky but a little seductive, too.

My friends and I mocked such lyrics as pseudo-philosophical (we called them tief, the German word for deep, which shows you just how effete we were). A spoken poem and The Moody Blues' florid musical style and clean melodies felt a little out of the mainstream musically (after all, they included the London Festival Orchestra on their album), and frankly, because of that, I wasn't sure whether I should like them, which left me no choice, given my position on the consciousness learning curve at the time: I joined the group and mocked the lyrics. Secretly, of course, I had all The Moody Blues' albums, knew every word to every song, and, truth be told, was deeply, tief-ly touched by the sentiments they expressed.

I still am.

I'll start with the part about the gathering gloom. Have you ever sat at dusk with your mind prepared to experience the reality of twilight as it turns to darkness? You know how infinitely small the incremental changes are, and you know you cannot perceive them discretely. What your eyes tell you is that what once was red is now grey; what was yellow, white. Your brain consolidates everything for you with one big and rather crude information blast to describe a process that is as mysterious as anything in this universe: it was light; now it is dark.

I've always liked the neatness in the approach the ancient Egyptians came up with to explain things. The sun disk was drawn across the daytime sky in the sun boat by Ra, who nightly sailed into the the underworld to bring the prayers of the living to the dead. Every morning the cycle was renewed, thus repeating the moment of creation in the constant and closed circle of being that the Egyptians locked in place for thousands of years. Dusk in this worldview was the point at which the entire system had the potential for failure: Ra could decide from this day on I will no longer set sail. Priests and ritual guarded the night; songs of praise and gratitude flooded the early dawn.

There wasn't much room, officially, for thinking or doing otherwise, but who knows what a lowly villager thought about while pondering the night sky? Just because his musings weren't laid down in hieroglyphics doesn't mean they weren't interesting, and possibly heretical at that. No human being since time immemorial has been born immune to the call of the natural world, regardless of the canonical views of contemporary times. The divine is lodged there, and our spirits know this. We seek it and nothing can stop us from doing so. Doing so is an accident of our birth, just like breathing and breaking fingernails--and thinking big thoughts.

It is the human mind that conforms reality to ideas of the created universe, but as The Moody Blues hinted at above, there is a lot of wiggle room in this area, and interpretations rightfully vary.

But variations in interpretation--is it red now? or black?--do not alter the reality that undergirds the perception. Just as apples will fall from trees regardless of whether we believe in gravity, the divine lives in the world and in us without any need for help from our faith.

It is nearing time for apple harvest. It may be worth a drive to an orchard, not to see whether apples fall from their trees, but rather to breathe in the gathering light of spiritual incontrovertibility that will fill your soul and get you through another winter, and still be shining in your heart when spring comes again.

Photography: Seascape after Sunset, Rabc, Wikipedia 2008-02-01; Ra with Sun Boat, Wikipedia, public domain; Apple Trees at L'Hermitage, Paul Gauguin, 1879. Property of the Philadelphia Museum of Art; The Days of Future Passed album cover, The Moody Blues, 1967. Deram Records.

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