Friday, January 8, 2010

Melanie, George Harrison & Songs of Yearning





There were songs I listened to over the years that expressed my emotions. Sometimes I would sit back and let the turntable speak for me. Bon Jovi's "Have a Nice Day" is such a song. Don Williams expresses very well the whole idea that a song can sometimes speak for us better than we can for ourselves in his song "Listen to the Radio", which pulls off the rare feat of conveying awkwardness with poetic eloquence.

The songs that map out where you are are an important part of music. Other songs raise your level of awareness. There was one line from Leonard Cohen's "Stories of the Street" which is one of my favourite song lines of all time.

"Where do all these highways go, now that we are free?"

I believe that there is a moment to be found in every day that can justify getting out of bed. Hearing that one line from Leonard Cohen's song was such a moment. A lot of Leonard Cohen's songs strike me as sparks of light amidst senselessness. But hey, my life is like that too. and sometimes the pieces fall into place with time.

Melanie did a song "Close to It All" that had a profound effect on me. I heard the song at a time in my life when I considered myself an atheist. The song seemed to speak of a oneness in potential and in flickering moments of actuality. It expressed a longing for oneness in the world. Her raspy voice and New York accent in the song gave it an immediacy that was transformative over time. In a very real sense, it was religious music for me, and perhaps still is. Some of the lyrics of her song are as follows


While walking through life I would never fall
If I could be close to it all and all,
If I could be close to it all.

If I had my dream it would not fall down
If I could live high on the ground,
The sound of high is a good one to many around
When they wanna be close to it all,
And I wanna be close to it all and all,
I wanna be close to it all.

The song concludes with the following words that convey the contagiousness of her vision

There`s just one more thing that I wanna say:
Everyone has got their own special way
That keeps them from getting too close to the day,
Accept and be part of it all and all;
Everyone tear down your own little wall
That keeps you from being a part of it all
`Cause you gotta be one with the one and all,
And everyone tear down your own little wall
That keeps you from being a part of it all
`Cause you gotta be one with the one and all,
You gotta be close to it all.





The Beatles did a song that was clearly influenced by their time in India called "The Inner Light". It reminds me of some things I learned within Jewish tradition. When you honestly try to describe the world as you see it , it will often resonate in other traditions. The lyrics are as follows.



Without going out of my door
I can know all things of earth
With out looking out of my window
I could know the ways of heaven

The farther one travels
The less one knows
The less one really knows

Without going out of your door
You can know all things of earth
With out looking out of your window
You could know the ways of heaven

The farther one travels
The less one knows
The less one really knows

Arrive without travelling
See all without looking
Do all without doing



The song reminds me of my awareness that I am governed by the same laws of matter and of psychology as other people and other creatures. By understanding myself, it is not withdrawing from the world but finding my path to an experience of oneness with it. Travelling, running around and frenetic activity can be flight from one's self. Conversely in participating in the world and experiencing it, one is experiencing the oneness of which one is a part.

What I don't find in the Beatles's song that I do find a hint of in the song by Melanie is the idea of Tikun Olam, of mending the world. According to this idea, G-d created the world a bit less than complete, a bit less than perfect, and it is our job to finish the creation by reaching for perfection, and by providing the animal, vegetable and mineral to serve the Creator through us.

Both of these songs have been tools of contemplation for me, not in the sense of being sacred, but in the sense of being songs of spiritual yearning. I consider myself fortunate that such songs exist, that can not only express awareness but expand it as well.




















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1 comment:

AuroraSkye said...

Very interesting post and I had forgotten that Melanie song - til I heard it again! I love how music can help us along the way spiritually. And I like the thoughts you present in your blog. :-)