Loneliness has been the reason behind the creation of many masterpieces of art and literature, but compared to the general picture of lonely people and their miseries, these are only exceptional cases. We have missed seeing this most important of human conditions as a talent, as an inward concentration to be used for, rather than against, a human's well-being.Those musings were written by Nader Khalili in 1983. Nader Khalili (1936-2008) was an Iranian-born American architect, writer, and humanitarian whose mission was to create low-cost, energy-efficient housing using traditional technologies. Laura Huxley, Aldous Huxley’s widow, described Khalili as a “practical visionary.” He published two books of translations of Mevlana Rumi's poetry. The artwork for American-Israeli oud virtuoso, educator and music therapist* Yuval Ron's CD Oud Prayers on the Road to St. Jacques seen above shows Khalili's Rumi Dome; this was built at Cal-Earth in California using his 'super-adobe' building process**.
We teach, from kindergarten through the universities, all sorts of useful lessons to children. Reading writing, arithmetic and hundreds of other subjects are taught in schools, to be used on small occasions in life, but no occasion occurs as often as the occasion for a person to be alone. And yet we haven't developed any teaching for it. If we teach our children what I call the "lone art," then human life, alone or in society, will be quite different at many levels and ages than what it is today. Every day a child should learn how to be comfortably, even happily, alone to better his "lone art" education, and once he has learned, not only will he not run away from being alone, but he may also enjoy creating something in that period.
If taught in a school, the "lone art" classes must be more typical of the spaces people use in daily life. Individual students attending a space alone will think, create or simply daydream, and then will write, tell, and share the experience with others. Students will have the choice of pursuing the "lone art," and like the arts of painting, writing and music, new masterpieces may be created for others to emulate. And as the child grows into youth and then moves into adulthood and finally old age, he will know what to do with his "lone art" ability just as he knows what to do with his reading or writing or walking ability.
As Nader Khalili tells us, loneliness was the reason behind the creation of many artistic masterpieces, and that includes many masterpieces of classical music from Schubert's Winterreise to Elliott Carter's First String Quartet. But the all-pervading influence of social media, which measures success by number of Facebook friends and Twitter followers, is replacing 'lone art' with 'crowd art'. In Which Lie Did I Tell? screenwriter William Goldman explained that the difference between art and entertainment is that entertainment tells us lies or comforting truisms that we know already, while art tells us uncomfortable truths that we don't want to hear. The comforting truisms of crowd art - which is entertainment by another name - breed social media approval, while the uncomfortable truths of lone art do the opposite. Most of the changes being imposed on classical music in the name of anti-elitism do no more than to reinvent it as crowd art. Sorry to repeat myself, but it is my thesis that this enforced transition of classical music from its raison d'être of lone art to the fiscal honeypot of crowd art explains many of its current problems.
*Yuval Ron's recently published Divine Attunement: Music as a Path to Wisdom, an exploration of how Jewish Kabbalists, Gnostic Christians, Sufi mystics use sound to heal the body, mind, and spirit, is recommended, but no review samples were used in this post.
** Interview with Nader Khalili at EarthLight Library is essential reading.
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