One of my favorite observations about life comes from Moshe Feldenkrais. He points out that at birth, the origin of seeing is in the eye, so if you destroy the eye you destroy seeing. But later in life you don’t necessarily destroy the function of seeing if you destroy the eye. Seeing has become something we do with our body and their mind, even if we have lost our visual sense.
As I’ve meditated on this strange observation, I’ve found it true again and again in other places. I thought I’d list a few.
When you’re first learning music, it’s in the notes on the page. Destroy the pieces that a student is studying, and you destroy the music. Once a student has been studying a while, you can destroy their pieces but the music they play lives on in them, even if it is not played.
Here’s another one: When you’re a kid, religion is about saying your prayers. The words to those prayers are very important. Without the prayers, there’s no religion for the kids. But older people are not dependent on standardized prayers to observe their religion. If they’ve fully absorbed their faith, and they still believe in it, there’s no prayer you can eliminate that will keep them from feeling close to it.
Even more interesting: A marriage. Obviously, in a marriage, if you destroy one aspect of the partnership, like sex or conversation, you can destroy the marriage. But when a couple has been in a good marriage for a long time, even the death of one of the partners cannot destroy the marriage. The two have such a shared history, have become so much a part of one another, that their union remains in whomever survives.
I would consider this just philosophical play if it wasn’t for the original idea Feldenkrais has about the eye. These examples are not just thought-exercises. There’s something biologically true about all of these things.
It’s the nature of maturity, that we integrate those things we experience into ourselves. We are changed by the people we love, and the things that we experience. We are changed so much that the people we love, and the things we experience, cannot be easily taken from us.
Maybe this is a comfort to you. Maybe it's something you never thought of. Maybe it's just pointless cogitation.
But for me, it means that I don't have to be afraid of losing the ones I love, my talents, my identity, by the cruel and unexpected intervention of fate. I don't need a record collection or a million books anymore to have poetry in my life. I've read the books and listened to the records, and they're a part of me now.
Would it be devastating if I lost my wife, my children? Yes. But it wouldn't destroy our relationship, at least not in terms of my sense of closeness to them.
***News from a Jazz Musician Who Writes Books
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Adam Cole is a Jazz Musician Who Writes Books. Fantasy author, music educator and performer, Adam chats weekly on the subject of listening, creativity and living your best life. To get a free book on marketing tips for passing out fliers, getting on your own radio show, and writing a blog people will read, please go to www.mymusicfriend.net and subscribe.