Lately I’ve found myself wondering about whether human consciousness is capable of evolving amidst the continually shifting realities of a worldwide pandemic, social and economic upheaval, and our dramatically changing environment. If you had shown me, even as recently as two years ago, a video summarizing the future world events of 2020, I might not have believed such a dystopia would be so soon upon us. I’d also wonder whether more was yet to come.
Dystopia or not, we often live our lives from within a quiet consensus that we are ultimately alone, insignificant, and separate from each other. And who could blame us? We are bombarded constantly with media messages that tell us so, and that above all, because we are in such apparent danger: whether from COVID, economic ruin, or extremist individuals, remaining afraid and compliant is a requirement for survival. We receive these messages from many directions and sources, often those we’ve trusted to be truthful with us. I wonder how we manage to reconcile the dissonance between what we feel obliged to believe and experience, versus what we actually do feel and experience.
Interestingly, the very same world events and messages that frighten and confuse us also validate the reality of our power, both individually and collectively. We have power to make choices, we have power to meditate, the power to love, the power to recognize our interdependence, and we have the power to help heal the suffering of ourselves and others. Just because we might turn away from the suffering of another sentient being, for example, does not mean it isn’t happening, nor does it mean we are completely unable to stop it from continuing. Yet rather than living our lives through the lens of accepting this awesome power and connectedness to each other, it seems we often choose to fight and deny it. We tacitly accept what inevitably accompanies this fight and denial: a vague, pervasive sadness and frustration of yearning to be seen, heard, and understood ourselves.
To my eyes and in my experience, art is the off-ramp from this unhappy place because of its ability to neutralize our experience of such isolation. Art transforms our headspace into one where focus on the individuated self, and the realities of our material existence temporarily recedes. We are afforded a wider field of vision in which the suffering that inevitably accompanies human experience can simultaneously be viewed as an experience we also happen to share. From this perspective, our separation comes into focus as the illusion it is, and our suffering also comes into view as but one part of a larger context of existence that includes shared joy, love, and a hope to experience freedom. Art thus facilitates a becoming into wholeness, and is nothing less than the arena for human healing. To me, it is not entertainment.
Music is the art form to which I have dedicated my life’s work, even as I continue my journey to make sense of its place. As a university teacher, I continue to strive to learn how to honour the gift of experiencing the trust of artists who have asked me to walk alongside their journey of discovering who they are. Indeed, teachers have an enormous responsibility to communicate these messages of connection and to stand as a compass for their students as they drift to and from centre, inevitably, amidst the chaos of the maturation process.
I’ve created this website to help summarize the facets of my work and approach. Perhaps you will find a home in these ideas. If you do, and would like to reach out, please do. Thanks for visiting.
Toronto, January 2021
Photo: Instrumental Society of Calgary