Posted by: Harold Knight | 02/26/2011

. . .errors and uncertainties cascading through a chain of complex interactions. . .

This morning I woke up humming a piece I’m playing on the organ these days, “Melodia,” Op. 59, No. 9 by Max Reger (this YouTube performance is fine, but not the organ sound).

Trying to find a performance I liked of the “Melodia,” I stumbled upon a performance of Reger’s Fantasie über Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern (“How lovely shines the morning star”). I must not listen to it now. I have to listen, and I have to write. “Multi-tasking” is a myth. Being distracted may make one creative, but listening to Wie schön leuchtet while I write is impossible. And I must write. That is the given.

This YouTube performance is sublime. But I carry in my mind the performance of the work. It happened in an organ seminar attended only by graduate students in organ, undergraduate organ majors, and the organ faculty at the School of Music, University of Iowa. 1976. A doctoral student was preparing the work for a degree recital. This was her first public performance of it—she had been working on it for a year.

I cannot explain the effect her performance had on us. It was one of those performances that makes musicians keep trying. The technical perfection and brilliance was irrelevant. She communicated something so (I can’t say this without sounding maudlin or banal) “deep,” so perfect, so clear that all were stunned. My best friend and I, sitting together, wept. It was one of the three or four most memorable performances I have ever heard. Applause was unthinkable.

Why was I humming “Melodia” when I woke up? How did I come across Wie schön leuchtet and why (well this one is a no-brainer—it always happens when I hear the piece) did I immediately revert to 1976, Clapp Hall, School of Music, University of Iowa?

Walker Organ, Riga

Walker Organ, Riga

Still humming “Melodia” I opened my email hoping to find an answer to a message I sent last night. Yesterday I was conferencing with my reference librarian friend about her introduction for my students to library research. Their topic is, as it has been for a few semesters now, Body Modification (is it “grotesque” or not?). We fell into conversation about gender reassignment surgery (body modification), and I mentioned my female to male transgendered friend in Boston who mysteriously disappeared from my ken about ten years ago, whom I would like to find.

My librarian friend said she’d find him. It took about ten seconds for her to come up with an internet source that mentions him (I don’t know why my Google searches have never found it). We read it—I already knew the WGBH Boston TV program the article describes. And then, a library-unseemly whoop (even in a librarian’s office), and “My sister wrote this article!”

I have emailed her sister hoping she has contacts with the Transgendered community in Boston.

. . . a coincidence of events, a configuration of landscape, a tangible stream of energy bursting invisibly from the sky – each of them carrying a message. One wonders what complexity within us resonates with some calls over others. What allows us, among the infinite claims that claim us, to hear or not hear? And at what register do we tune in, engendering new modalities for being that are sometimes terrifying, and indeed, always strange? (1)

Melodia>Wie schön leuchtet>library>gender reassignment surgery>”You Don’t Know Dick”>article>sister>email>writing.

I’m not in the business of finding connections where there are none. It’s been a very long time since I noticed what is probably a coincidence among/between events in my daily life—even one that benefitted me greatly—and said, as many of my friends would, “It’s a God deal.” Across the street from a restaurant where I eat with some regularity is a shop named “Synchronicity.” I am in a push-pull relationship with it. Half of me wants to see what the owner believes to by synchronous, and the other half of me giggles every time I see the sign.

Synchronicity seems too much like determinism. Stuff happens because it can’t happen any other way. Everything is pre-determined. I don’t believe that for a second. I’m not sure what I believe about our freedom of will. I’m not a philosopher or psychologist. Sometimes I think everything I do is a choice; other times I think nothing is.

So, you might well ask, what’s this writing all about?

It’s simple. I have been excited for twenty-four hours now about “My sister wrote this article!” If Flannery O’Connor had used the moment in a short story, she would have declared it “possible” but not “probable,” one of those moments of “mystery” on the surface which would invite the reader (and the writer, too) to consider reality that is not apparent on the surface. But is God, the Clock-Maker, pulling strings and making weird things happen in order to make my life better/more interesting/complete—whatever? I doubt that.

However, I can easily see a world view

. . . descriptive of the web of life. . . an unbounded, uncompleted, changing, relational, vibrant, growing and mysterious world pregnant with possibilities for new and unexpected emergences and developments. The web of life is about life at all levels of living systems – organisms, social systems, and ecosystems – and their interconnection and interdependence (2).

The web of my own life is currently under attack, it seems. The generations of our family are shifting and changing. My friends, I am sure, are tired of my talking about growing old—but by my generation’s understanding, sixty-six is certainly no longer young. Nothing is certain. Perhaps the reason I woke up humming organ music is that I fell asleep thinking about how little time I have left to learn new music.

WGBH Boston

WGBH Boston

Right now, today (someone may remind me of this when I’m grieving or depressed in a day or two), I have great comfort in contemplating the

integrative interchange between both inanimate and animate substances and forms at all levels exemplifies the unity and interdependence of all things and events on the planet . . . whereby a butterfly disturbing the air here today could affect what weather occurs on the other side of the world in a month’s time through the amplifications of errors and uncertainties cascading through a chain of complex interactions (3).

If Michael should read this and contact me—or a mutual friend show it to him—I would not say the universe was looking out for me, but I would be once again amazed at the “errors and uncertainties cascading through a chain of complex interactions.”
(1) Rose, Mitch. “Pilgrims: an ethnography of sacredness.” cultural geographies 17.4 (April 2010): 507–524.
(2) Batzler, L. Richard. “Mystical Prayer and the Web of Life.” Journal of Religion & Psychical Research 21.4 (1998): 206.
(3) Ibid.


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