Sunday, August 28, 2011

Music and Memory, Part 24: Theft

My work-study job at the music library notwithstanding, as an undergraduate I was constantly broke.  I used to shoplift at the supermarket sometimes, and one one of these occasions I somehow managed to push a whole shopping-cartful of unpaid-for groceries through the automatic doors and to my apartment a few blocks away.  Unlike a certain friend of mine, however,  an artist who -- questioned by store security about the brick of cheese he'd stuck in his coat pocket while buying some expensive pots of jam -- asserted that he wouldn't pay for something the government gave away for free, I felt bad about these heists.  I even told Professor R., the piano teacher I id0lized, about them. "Oh, Pentimento!" said she, ever a worshipper at the church of aesthetics, throwing up her hands. "You need to feed your soul!  You need to go to concerts, galleries, museums!" She proceeded to tell me with her usual great enthusiasm about an original-instrument performance of some Mozart string quartets which she'd recently attended.  "They were just sawing at their instruments!" she said, at which I must have looked horrified, because she clarified: "It was wonderful!" My kindly German professor, on the other hand, understood how things were.  She used to leave brown paper bags of homemade bread and cookies outside my door.

I remembered all this today as I drifted into a not-unaccustomed reverie of my former life in a particularly obscure corner of one of New York's many hardscrabble bohemias.  I thought of two old friends from that time and place, dancers who'd moved to New York from Austin, where they had performed with Deborah Hay, a legendary postmodern choreographer who'd relocated from New York to Texas in the 1970s.  I found some videos of Hay's work on Youtube, along with this brief recent interview:

I was intrigued by what Hay said about not grasping at experience or phenomena; about, instead, being aware of each moment before it passes away and another arises to take its place. I wondered if my clutching at memories, at emotions, at images and sensations evoked by the music I hear and sing, was a symptom of the millennial materialism that she speaks of. Is it harder, I wonder, to mourn the beauty that has gone, or to accept the present moment in all its apparent emptiness?  And must emptiness be desolation?

I thought of the Gospel reading for today, in which Christ insists that anyone who wishes to follow Him must take up his own cross.  Might one man's cross, I wondered, be that everything beautiful he knows is relegated to the place of memory? Indeed, such a cross must be a rather common one.  And might another's cross be having to confront each moment as it is, free from what he thinks it ought to be, and to stand in the place where he finds himself, and even to bloom where he's been planted, be it ever so far from the time and place he has invested with the meaning of "home"?  Indeed, at Mass today, when the priest read Christ's words, it occurred to me that every gift bears the cross with it, and that perhaps the cross itself is the gift.

All this made me think of William Blake: 

He who binds to himself a joy 
Doth the winged life destroy; 
But he who kisses the joy as it flies 
Lives in eternity's sunrise.

(Above: frontispiece to the 1794 edition of Blake's Songs of Innocence and Experience)


marie therese 1 said...

There are moments like this one you are absolutely great and so timely in your inspirations. I know remembering is important to Christ even in the tiniest things. To me the point of our gift of memory is being aloud to participate in their redemption with Him which brings Him great glory and joy. This is also a form of reparation!
Every mother rejoices when her child finally ties his own shoes correctly...
In the Spanish love song the phrase is sigo atándome a ti which means to tie one's shoes. What I see is Christ embracing us, teaching us while we try again and again to 'tie the shoes' in which we will walk with Him...tied to Him.
Who we were and are does not go away but He is constantly the Potter reshaping the clay of our lives...past, present, future.

"In your weakness is My strength made perfect."

"I run because it gives Him pleasure." ~Chariots of Fire


Pentimento said...

I always love your illuminating comments, Marie Therese. Thank you.