Category Archives: Music – About Time

George Harrison: All Things Must Pass

Everything changes; everything evolves, all is transitory. This may be the fundamental fact of life. Buddhist philosophy is particularly insightful on this point with its distinction between gross and subtle impermanence. In simple language, George Harrison set this idea to music.

“All Things Must Pass”

Sunrise doesn’t last all morning
A cloudburst doesn’t last all day
Seems my love is up and has left you with no warning
It’s not always going to be this grey
All things must pass
All things must pass away
Sunset doesn’t last all evening
A mind can blow those clouds away
After all this, my love is up and must be leaving
It’s not always going to be this grey
All things must pass
All things must pass away
All things must pass
None of life’s strings can last
So, I must be on my way
And face another day
Now the darkness only stays the night-time
In the morning it will fade away
Daylight is good at arriving at the right time
It’s not always going to be this grey
All things must pass
All things must pass away
All things must pass
All things must pass away

 

Grandchildren (Oh Very Young)

My two-year old granddaughter sees the world differently from most adults—the commonplace is extraordinary to her. Every tree, bush and rock, every ant, dog and butterfly are objects of fascination; every ball, stick, and swing immerse her in play. Being in her presence I find, that I too pause to find the ordinary … extraordinary.

But there is a darker side to being with her. I sometimes tell her about my mother or my father, and soon she will ask “where are they?” I could give a comforting answer, but I must tell her the truth—they are gone and will never come back. And when she asks, “what of you and grandma? Then I will have to tell her that we too will someday go and never come back. And the same with her mom and dad. And the same with her.

I now see why parents either deceive both themselves and their children—to protect them all from this sinister truth. But we shouldn’t deceive ourselves or lie to our children. We should tell them the horrible truth, face it courageously, and then do our best to change it. We should make death and suffering optional, which science and technology may well do in the very near future.  And then we won’t have to lie to our children anymore.

Children help us to see both what the world is … and what it could be. And for that, thanks little one. Oh, and here’s a song for you, my little granddaughter. I remember when I was young enough I thought this song was about me, and then it became a song for my children, and now its a song for you …

Closing Time

It has occurred to me that an individual post often may be my last statement on a given topic. I thought this when I finished my recent post on abortion, a subject I am unlikely to revisit since it bears little relationship with my main concerns—evolution, transhumanism, and the meaning of life. But how do I feel about the fact that I will never revisit a topic?

My first feeling is sadness. It is often sad when things come to an end. I will never read and think about some topic again, just like I may have heard a song on the radio for the last time or caught my last baseball. But for a thinker, to know that your thought time is up pierces heart. Why is there not enough time to find our answers? Second I feel inadequate. A lifetime is insufficient to probe the depth of some topics, and others will not be thought about at all. In the ocean of thoughts, our minds explore areas the size of atoms; from an infinite smorgasbord of ideas, we sample only a few.

So my visceral responses to endings and finitude are sadness and inadequacy. Yet the stirring words of Tennyson best capture the proper attitude:

I am a part of all that I have met;
Yet all experience is an arch wherethro’
Gleams that untravell’d world whose margin fades
For ever and forever when I move.
How dull it is to pause, to make an end,
To rust unburnish’d, not to shine in use!

I will probe the issue further in my next post with a discussion of Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being.

Nostalgia

I was talking with a friend today about nostalgia. He was not attracted to it; I admitted its pull. Here’s a definition: “pleasure and sadness that is caused by remembering something from the past and wishing that you could experience it again.”1 The definition seems appropriate. Thinking of a street and a neighborhood, of the trees and the people, of a certain moment in the solar systems long journey around the center of the Milky Way, fills me with joy; thinking of how it has all vanished, fills me with sadness.

Do I desire to go back? For a few hours maybe, to see that world from the outside, to see if my memory is accurate, to experience its beauty. But not to be in it, from the inside, as a ten or twenty year old. Who would want to actually be young again, to return permanently? Fools maybe, but no others. The wise love that the past was once home, that is molded them, but they no longer desire to live there. As Tennyson said:

I am a part of all that I have met;
Yet all experience is an arch wherethrough
Gleams that untravelled world, whose margin fades
For ever and for ever when I move.
How dull it is to pause, to make an end,
To rust unburnished, not to shine in use!

Would I live my life over again? Maybe, if the other option was oblivion and I could learn more the second time around. But not to live in Nietzsche’s eternal recurrence. 

I will continue to reminisce, but I reject traveling  back in time even for a moment. If I did I might be disappointed; the past might not be as good as I remember. And then I would have lost something special … good memories, however flawed.

1. http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/nostalgia

 

More Songs About Time

A recent post about the Passage of Time contained a few music videos on time’s passing. An astute reader sent me three more videos touching on the same subject. I was moved by them all. They reminded me that music  communicates something that prose cannot; it evokes different sentiments. Perhaps that is why Gabriel Marcel, the existential philosopher and concert pianist, thought that many great philosophical ideas couldn’t be put it into words but could be played on the piano. (For more see his : Music and Philosophy, trans. Maddox and Wood.)

The first one is a little known Sinatra tune, “100 Years From Today.” It’s philosophical argument is straightforward, live life now because in a hundred years you won’t be here.

The next one is from the group Fountains of Wayne and the song is titled: “All Kinds of Time.” It uses a football quarterback surveying the field in the last few moments of the game as a metaphor for the moments of our lives. For me  it evokes the sense of eternity in the moment, as well as the possibility of doing great things with a single act. But I’ll leave you to interpret it for yourself.

The final song is “Wheels of a Dream,” from the musical Ragtime. It conveys the hope that each new child will move us forward; and most importantly that the dream of a better world keeps us going.

I thank my reader for his contribution.