Dharma in HD
I treated myself yesterday to the live HD feed of the Metropolitan Opera's Don Giovanni at my local movie theater. Although I sat four hours in a stale dark space on one of the most glorious HD blue sky days San Francisco has ever offered --with my iPhone turned off and my water in my lap because the woman to my right colonized the drink holder, I left giddily sunny from sheer joy. Driving home, I got even more ecstatic when it occurred to me that something created before electricity and jet propulsion --written during the gunfire of the Americans Revolution, something that old was very much alive and well in our high tech time of nanosecond obsolescence. Even more amazing: something more than 220 years old could astonish and enthrall me more than my sparkly new iPad.
The transporting joy of this period piece with breeches and capes, exquisite chamber music vocals and harpsichord embellishments, was a Dharma teaching. For one thing, two far apart and disparate eras had lovingly held hands, and their union-- the high tech, high definition transmission of the devilish antics of an 18th Century Don Juan--gave birth to that sublime happiness called joie de vivre. How lucky I was to live now when I didn't have to be an aristocrat in Vienna, or fly to Manhattan and spend $150 to participate in vocal and visual splendor. How dependent I was on the generosity of others who willingly donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to make my experience possible. How special to witness the union of the electrified and the electrifying. How magical that my mother who has been dead over 40 years could suddenly be so alive because it was she who bequeathed me love for music, beauty that widens my world by lifting me into heavenly possibility. A gigantic web of interdependence was supporting me.
The glory of Mozart's music was also a reminder that the arts exist as training for our senses, a way to help our consciousnesses make sense. Music shows us how to hear, painting how to see, cooking how to taste.... . Of course to make art, great art, or to appreciate it, requires absolute focus, absolute stability, absolute ruthlessness in avoid the extraneous, absolutely being right here right now in touch with life's essence. This is what the Buddha taught as the pathway to enlightenment.
These revelations were comforting enough, but the most comforting teaching was about the harsh consumer seduction by corporate come-ons as unrepentantly self-serving as Don Juan. It was a teaching for all the wannabes and aspirational buyers of our time who think that buying an expensive penthouse or Porsche or Prada handbag is going to catapult them to some stratosphere of power where they will be immune to the daily depredations of ordinary life. Mozart, the man who created a sublime, eternal work of art like Don Giovanni, Mozart who had written dozens of equally breathtaking and beloved compositions before he passed away at 35, died uncelebrated, and was buried anonymously in a pauper's grave. Ditto Herman Melville, who on this side of the Atlantic a century later, created the most profound portrait of America ever envisioned, the novel Moby Dick, and died in humiliating obscurity.
They didn't matter then. They were not the "indispensable people", as Charles deGaulle once snapped, cemeteries are full of. And yet these lonely, unheralded, dispensable beings were not forgotten once they were laid to rest because they have never been laid to rest. They are still very much alive, nourishing us.
In this time of obsessive getaway travel and private jetting, it's useful to remember that Picasso, who saw everything he needed to change the way we see, never left the ground. Neither did the Buddha. Or Galileo. The Serbian-American engineer Nicola Tesla so lionized by computer geeks today was not recognized during his own lifetime as the genius we understand him to be. The Moroccan cooking maven Paula Wolfert said at a book talk I sped to yesterday after Don Giovanni, "In Morocco for centuries cooking was cared for by women, anonymous 'housewives' and mothers who preserved the techniques and recipes that today fame the kitchens of celebrity male chefs."
So, we all need to examine what's really important. In all probability, the people, places and philosophies that will actually change our lives by changing our minds are not the "indispensable" celebrities now boomeranging around so profitably and cavalierly in the spin of our cyberkaya and its overwhelming media echo chamber. Anonymity, indispensability, and nonrecognition are, like everything else, temporary phenomenon in an ever changing universe. Mozart in HD can certainly teach us that.
~Sandy Garson"Wordsmithing to attest how the Dharma saved me from myself!"
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