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Senior Correspondent

Love is Harmony’s Handrail

Love is Harmony’s Handrail


I have always considered my myopia more blessing then malady. As a youngster it was not a matter of choice; when I took my glasses off, all the world more than 12 or 14 inches distant dissolved into an impressionistic haze — soft and gentle, like life lived within a cloud. At the same time the objects an inch or two in front of my face leapt into sharp relief. The small became all. Horton may have heard a Who, but I could see them. I have no doubt that the way I have always seen the world outside my head has had a significant impact upon the way I interpret the world from inside it.

For example, I quickly learned that, if I needed to go to the bathroom at night, rather than find my glasses, turn on a light and make my way down the hall it was far easier to keep my eyes shut, and trace the path — with my hand against the wall guiding me to my destination. And, once there ensconced I could, if I so desired, peruse the illustrations of House at Pooh Corner or Treasure Island in incredible detail. Those experiences, while decades removed in time, are conceptually snuggled up right next to my current assertion that love is Harmony's handrail. Come on along.

I do not know if the eagle-eyed among us use handrails. I assume they do, for in my youth when I had my glasses on, or later my contacts in, I would use handrails or their posh kin, banisters, to hurtle down stairwells or haul myself swiftly up the other way — they served me like poles serve a skier, all zoom and schuss! But in the dark, without light or lens, their existence became imperative. Without them I would be lost, scooting butt-by-board until I reached my destination. So, handrails are constructions that lead the way; they guide us to our destination. Which is what? A question with a singular answer: Harmony.

It follows then that if the first tenet of Distilled Harmony is to fosterHarmony, it only makes sense that we seek the meaning that arises from those times when we stumble upon that destiny; from those precious moments when Harmony rises unbidden from the mist, like Brigadoon. That is not to say that we should not consciously seek Harmony. We do that in a variety of ways. Some of us meditate, others work out, paint, play music, rock climb, hang glide, cook, pray, sing, play an instrument, work in the garden, hike the Appalachian trail. Whatever. To be human is to seek Harmony, and we should, and do, all explore our own paths to that ultimate goal.

Still it is quite amazing in those other, unplanned, special moments, to suddenly realize you are there. To discover that, without even trying, there you are, covered all over with Harmony. That's incredible. There is really nothing else in existence like it, or, perhaps more accurately, there is nothing else in existence but it — Harmony is existence. Still, we so rarely recognize that existential truth, we should consider how we might better, and hence more often, hail Harmony.

Some 20 years ago, when I started to write the book that would eventually become The God Chord, I decided to begin by recounting a variety of "stunning moments" in my life: a youthful night at the Vienna Opera House, magical moments along a mountain stream in Northern California, the birth of my first child, opera again, with both daughters and their mother in the mountains outside Santa Fe, an unexpected encounter with soft eyes across a cup of coffee. Those moments were, I now realize, moments when I spontaneously found myself "all covered in Harmony."  

Recently I have been trying to "cross-reference" those moments from my past with my current explorations in Harmony. I'm looking for correlations between those stunning Harmonic moments and other less ephemeral clues that Harmony may be slipping by unnoticed, something that nudges our shoulder and whispers, "Hey, pay attention! Something potentially very important may be going on here!" I, as we all should, do consciously try to recognize and acknowledge the harmonic moments around me everyday. Clouds, trees, birds in flight, these are the dependable old stand-bys. And I'm going to head out on the deck in an hour or so when the Perseid meteor shower is due to peak. Still, life in the 21st century usually seems a tad harried for the bucolic sensing of Harmony. So I put some time aside everyday to do some focused "Harmony hunting."

That time is, of course, my meditation time. Sometime between 11:00 PM and 1:00 AM I slip away from the "have to do" stuff and the "ought to do" stuff, even the other "want to do" stuff and take 30 or 45 minutes to do my "ritual" — a basic Reike routine combined with Pandora supplying the Bose-world-and-noise-cancelling-headphone-assisted music. An interesting pattern has begun to emerge. When selecting the music for the evening's ritual, the first and most basic decision is: vocal or instrumental?  If it has been a fairly mellow day, I go with instrumental. The purity of sound. I lean toward the symphonic, or "spa-ish" piano or violin pieces. Those take me to some very soothing places. However, if the day has been hectic, those unfocused strains can quickly fade to background music as I continue the day's debates in my head. On those more hectic days I opt for a vocal background. The stories in the songs, most of which I know word for word, blunt the dramas the day may have rained upon me.

Strange thing about those poems set to music — they are almost all love songs. Some are happy love songs, some sad love song, some "guy and gal" love songs, some "I love the mountains" love songs, I love the sea, the rain, the wind, some "wanna-be-but-don't-quite-understand-love" love songs; but almost all are some kind of love song. Here, I am coming to believe, lies a easier map to finding Harmony, a clue to when we are – for at least the moment — in tune with the harmonic sentience of the universe. When we are in love, we are in Harmony. Not all Harmony is love, but all love is Harmony. Thus, if we gently and steadfastly follow the handrail of love, it will eventually lead us to precious moments of Harmony.

Still, both love and Harmony wind us along an intricate path though existence. Sometimes, as in the musical Oliver it seems mysterious and unattainable: 

Where is love?
Does it fall from skies above?
Is it underneath the willow tree
That I've been dreaming of?

Other times we, like the Bard in sonnet 116, we think we have it nailed: 

Love "is an ever-fixèd mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark."

But perhaps the most callow definition comes closest to the mark: I may not be able to tell you what love is, but I know when I'm in it.  

Harmony, I think is much the same. The noun itself may be irrelevant. Wisdom, Transcendence, Nirvana, Salvation, Grace — call it what you like. I am coming to believe more and more firmly that those words all describe the same state of existence, one defined by our ability to hold the Harmony of existence — and by extension, love — within and before us at all times. A tall order to be sure, but, how did Browning put it? "A man's grasp should exceed his reach, or what's a heaven for?" 

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