Living with opposites
At times, I can’t help but feel like I’m being ripped apart between poles. I’m a grad student and academic, but I’m also in the arts. I’m a composer (something requiring a degree of extroversion), but I’m also an “urban monastic,” (the contemplative life requiring a degree of introversion.) I’m a gamer geek who buys into Adorno’s ideas of high art, and I’m a practicing Catholic dating a guy who’s mostly Buddhist/pagan. Needless to say, I like the Benedictine ideal of balance in all things.
This blog article got me thinking about living with dichotomy and contradiction. When I realized I wanted to go into composition, my piano teacher (in college) recommended that I “seek help,” since it was egotistical (according to her) to want to express myself musically. Granted, her advice was more than a little unbalanced itself, but at the time it stung horribly.
It’s articles like Kosman’s, which keep me honest. In composing, there is a need for some sort of expression (whether or not it’s a self-expression is another post for another time.) But unbridled self-expression, unchecked by one’s relation to others, is the danger of egotism, veering into megalomania. Or put more eloquently by John Rahn: “The megalomaniac egomaniac composer creates a world out of himself, complete with others, but the others are the compositions that are his own creation…” Egomania is as much pride as self-abasement (yeah yeah I know).
The other set of polar opposites I wrestle with involves public and private space. On the one hand, I’m a composer–I share my things with other people. I blog. I’m pretty open about a lot of things in my life to those who know me in the analog realm, and if I’m awake, I’m on various instant messenger protocols. On the other hand, I’m a contemplative and need to be somewhat hidden. I have a journal that doesn’t get shared with others, and I have a whole routine which requires significant alone-time. I can’t imagine publishing my journals, nor could I let others into the contemplative’s realm. Yet, for me, each act of composition is some sort of act of contemplation.
Either my life is one big cosmic joke, or it’s a koan of sorts. Maybe the conflict only exists in my perception of it. As a friend, a former Benedictine monk, puts it, a contemplative’s life is one of witness, a kind of sacred attention to the other. Perhaps being a composer isn’t that different.