I saw this mesmerizingly-superb movie, “The Music of Strangers”, when my household cable carrier gave me a gratuitous peek at HBO.
I borrowed a two-CD set of Asian music at the library years and years ago and have been hooked ever since.
The YouTube channel is linked below so you can sample the music in-depth at your leisure.
There is a lot of focus in the movie on Yo-Yo Ma (why not, since he’s a well-known name and entity) but the stars of the movie are the other people, especially the story of the founder pictured here, and — of course — the very nature of music itself.
“… I have a friend, Charlie Lehman, who teaches 6‐year‐olds design technology and he says he has these 6‐year‐olds come into class every morning and they sit down and they center together and he says to them, to these kids, he says, “Children, if you learn what to pay attention to and what to focus on, you can be anything you want in life.” And so that’s what we’re practicing here. We’re practicing choosing what we pay attention to.”
“A person’s identity,” Amin Maalouf wrote as he contemplated what he so poetically called the genes of the soul, “is like a pattern drawn on a tightly stretched parchment. Touch just one part of it, just one allegiance, and the whole person will react, the whole drum will sound.”
It was 42 years ago this week when I drove down out of the country district where I held down my first full-time post-college job to a university educational conference/retreat center in a small town near where they start the Boston Marathon. I’d written and produced a college student’s final project in video production for a degree in mass communications in which I enlisted the help of friends, co-workers, and others and spliced together a 30-minute narrative about what a top-quality EMS system was supposed to look like.
It was the era of Vietnam in which Army surgeons received patients who’d suffered severe injury burped out of Medevac choppers in which they’d been intubated, given IV access for drug and fluid and plasma push, and perhaps even placed in inflatable rubber shorts for anti-shock treatment.
In the States — where I’d stayed, having been first introduced to entry-level training as a soldier with hand-to-hand combat skills, some survival training, rudimentary firearms training using an M-1 and blanks, and lots and lots of backwoods through-the-brush-and-swamps marching and bivouacking — I was a probationary firefighter during one of those periods in which I’d dropped out of college, having been dismayed by the quality and nature of teaching, having been told by the dean of the pre-med program that I lacked sufficient excellence in the sciences to even entertain admission let alone complete a program.
As a full-time paid probationary firefighter in a town where there were rarely any fires, I was given an advanced 40-hour course that was a precursor of the curriculum developed and approved by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons which became THE standard of care for that decade. I could not become a paramedic; there were no paramedic programs nor even medical acceptance of their value; first I had to build the system, and find the physicians and others who did.
I was on the cutting edge of the social engineering scalpel that turned an uncoordinated approach that offered virtually no applied skills to one that was eminently capable of saving someone’s life across a wide swath of accident and illness. I flunked ladders but excelled at the space-time response parameters in ambulance work. And now I was going to spend a week in this conference center to become part of the state’s second wave of approved instructors for the mandatory 81-hour course for emergency medical technicians.
I had already become one of the state’s first EMT’s and worked for the premiere private ambulance company in the Western half of the state; every other day, in a 24-on/24-off cycle, I was the operational commander of a fleet of 14 ambulances serving an area that extended from Palmer to Westfield, from Longmeadow to Goshen and Hatfield.
On an evening that featured a soft snowfall, I parked my 1974 white Fiat X1/9 and walked into the reception area on a Sunday night to meet the faculty and students with whom I would spend a week. I was three-quarters of the way through my first assignment in establishing a local council, assisting towns in the acquisition of new ambulances, organizing EMT associations, winning consensus on memorandum of agreements, etc. We would hold our first disaster drill later that spring. But here was an adventure, an opportunity to learn and to meet new people.
As student EMT instructors, we were expected to have already mastered the skills and passed the exams (both paper and skills-based stations where you performed under the watch of stern evaluators). Our instructors were experts in training. And as a student instructor, you were expected to teach a short section of topical material of their choice. There were probably 35 other students enrolled; some of them were nurses.
By Tuesday, we were becoming more at ease with the process and with the instructors. The chief instructor would eventually become my boss when I was cycled into the state office to help him write the state’s first responder regulations and training guidelines and where I helped his boss write the first statewide EMS plan. But on Tuesday we were focused on finding and building confidence in our ability to present ourselves as knowledgeable experts to a room filled with firefighters needing to learn about the emergent presentation of heart attack, diabetic crises, or people who’d fallen off their roof, or who had had a severe car accident. We were called upon to critique our co-students. After class, we were free to go out and find a bar and grille just as long as we were back in time for lights out.
On Wednesday, I got put in a group of folks for a second round of student teaching practice assignments; I had a good deal of confidence. I worked my way through college, having returned with some focus, by working for a private embulance company. My first call brought me to a car accident, two blocks from HQ and six blocks from the hospital, in which the young woman driver suffered a penetrating skull impalement; the quarter vent window pillar had been driven up through the cheek behind the eyeball, the wound oozing grey matter, the pillar de-impaled on recoil. Luckily my task was bandaging, not neurosurgery. Teaching with a set of pre-approved high-quality slides, a curriculum synched to bright orange textbooks, and equipment paid for by major foundations and the state government was, relatively speaking, going to be a piece of cake. The worst thing that could happen was that a student could ask a question I couldn’t answer in a situation in which I could say ‘I’ll have the answer for you next time we meet’.
One student, however, was obviously nervous about public speaking, despite an even greater level experience. She represented the individual on the team who was the recipient of patients wheeled in on stretchers by brash young firefighter types who grabbed clean sheets and went on their way; she became the organizer and first level of hospital-based care, assessing, calming, overseeing her own team. This nurse that day had drawn the long straw and had to present on the complexities of diabetic emergencies like insulin shock and diabetic coma. Her nerves stemmed not from her lack of command of the material but from the typical and human fears of public speaking.
I passed her a note that said she needn’t be nervous .. most students would be focused on her beauty.
The rest, as they say, is history.
We went out together for the first time the next night and parted knowing that “we were an item” that Friday, February 14th, a date we celebrate as our “anniversary”.
The tenth chapter of the e-book Summon The Magic: How To Use Your Mind… is actually one of my two most favorite chapters. (Those two speak to me, and they ended up being assigned the letter E and the letter J. Funny thing how those things work out, huh?)
It’s entitled The Spirit of the Game and, while it is laden with concepts of spirituality, it doesn’t attempt to proselytize. Parker Palmer (Footnote 111 on page 55) gives as good a defintion of spiritual as I could find.
There are references from within religion’s expressions, but spirit includes them all, allows you to parse and understand them if you desire to do so, and ultimately it transcends them.
The Spirit of the Game ranges across the topics of prayer, intention, attention, life alignment, love, mastery, presence, soul, music, movement, ex-stase, awe, connectedness, the sweet spot in time, gnosis, peak experience, yoga, samadhi, behavior, discipline, intent, will, performance, creativity, energy and grace.
There’s a quote in there from the fellow whose insights were the key that unlocked the door to the creation of this e-book.
It was in the middle of the explosion of the decades of research into the brain through the use of functional MRI studies and Roland Perlmutter, M.D. (neuroradiologist, Duke University Medical Center) is the individual quoted from within the book On The Sweet Spot: Stalking the Effortless Present.
It’s not that quote (footnote #24) that quickened me.
The one that made we sit upright, that confirmed my interest, my work, the value of these concepts beyond sports, and the value of sharing this material shows up near the end of my e-book.
But here’s a better expression of all of that from an old blog of mine (circa August 21st, 2013). I’d been reading a Sports Illustrated in a medical waiting room and encountered a letter to the editor that was “surely of interest to the father of a professional fast-pitch softball player whose hand was broken by [Jennie] Finch when she stepped on it during a pick-off attempt at first. Was Finch mad at her because she not only did not strike out but managed to draw couple of walks against her and made one of them stand up for a win? The bone was broken above the knuckles, making it impossible to hold or swing a bat, but a visualization process I designed on the basis of my readings [actually, it was an audio tape from Lydia Ievleva; see this] and which she implemented which came to fruition in front of the orthopod ten days later and got her a clearance to return when the doctor said said “I’ve never seen a bone heal so quickly”. The bone and the body that it belonged to went on to earn a Second Team All-American slot in the ASA Majors division.”
Back then in 2013, I referenced the book On The Sweet Spot and my own e-book Summon The Magic and the applicability of what I have come to understand about the human mind/body/spirit as an antidote to the oppressive wars, narcissistic psychopathology of leadership, and the failure of the average human being — especially the dormant American ones — to wake up and effect some change.
From the description found at the Amazon link (but the emphases are mine):
“… as Richard Keefe, the director of the sport psychology program at Duke University, looked deeper into the nature of his experience, he found profound links to the spirit, the brain, perhaps even the soul.
Keefe recognized that the feeling golfers and other athletes have of “being in the zone” is basically the same as a meditative state. And as a researcher with experience in brain chemistry, he went one step further: If we can figure out what’s happening in the brain at such times, he reasons, we can learn how to get into that “zone” instead of just waiting for it to happen. This is the Holy Grail of sport psychology — teaching the mind to get out of the way so the body can do the things it’s capable of doing. Keefe calls it the “effortless present,” when the body is acting of its own accord while the brain has little to do but watch.
All religions describe some kind of heightened awareness in their disciplines; Keefe explores whether such mystical experience is a fundamental aspect of our evolution, an integral part of what makes us human and keeps us from despair. And he brings the discussion back to the applications of such knowledge, reflecting on our ability to use these alternate planes to achieve better relationships, better lives, better moments. Keefe’s true subject is extraordinary experience — being in the zone, in the realm of effortless action. On the Sweet Spot builds from the physical and neurological to the mystical and philosophical, then adds a crucial layer of the practical (how we can capture or recapture these wondrous states)…..”
That’s what summoning the magic is all about.
If a mind can heal its own fractured hand, why can’t many minds heal a fractured world?”
And, oh look, that calligraphic expression I mentioned back in healing a sick world shows up on page 75.
(So that’s where I put it..!)
Even Caitlyn Jenner makes an appearance in a potent retrospective.
But speaking of sports (and there are plenty of sporting references in The Spirit of the Game), last Monday’s news had an example (and there are plenty of them every day) of attempts to “psych out” an opponent — to take them off their game. My exact reference is to the US/Australia women’s 2015 Women’s World Cup opening match in soccer and the re-surrection or re-mindfulness of the US keeper’s legal difficulties. I take no position on the keeper or her history. In fact, I raise the point because, in all my research and other encounters, I have never met a performance psychologist who embraced or helped someone else “hone” the art of dissing.
You see a lot of it in pro sports. Larry Bird and some others have shown that, if you’re going to get into “trash talk”, you’d better be able to back it up.
The entire discipline of sports/performance psychology would suggest that you expend your energy focusing on your own game, that your attention to your opponent’s game in an attempt to create an advantage more often backfires than not. There’s a book listed in my bibliography that comes so dangerously close to taking the wrong approach that I won’t even identify it for you.
Refefence has already been made to bringing the best you can bring to the exchange as an ideal way to respect both the game and one’s opponent. Pre-game, in-game and post-game “trash talk” is trash and doesn’t fall within The Spirit of the Game.
Julia Cameron would understand. On Monday, her book “The Well of Creativity” got packaged with two of her earliest books, The Artist’s Way and The Vein of Gold, and shipped off to a friend. I had thought “The Well of Creativity” was the one actually I received today (more dementia, or lack of focus) but the recipient is a close friend so it’ll all come out in the wash.
Arriving today wasSupplies, which Cameron describes as good, plain water for those thirsty aspiring or working people who are busy making things — “books, musicals, movies, plays. board games, computer programs, sculptures, watercolors, greeting cards, effective aprons, better lives”.
The second page reminds us all of an “extremely effective technique” a lot of us have forgotten, or dismissed, or turned our noses up at beause it seemes so juvenile.
Several more pages in, and I had to put the book down; I was hooked. It’s serious shee-it. (I’ll report back on it in good time, but it’s a workbook and I’ve got to do the work.)