Sunday, July 21, 2019

Our soul abhors a vacuum


Even though it was written in 1905 the Swedish author Hjalmar Söderberg's novel Doktor Glas precisely identifies the mechanism that drives social media addiction:
We want to be loved; failing that, admired; failing that, feared; failing that, hated and despised. At all costs we want to stir up some sort of feeling in others. Our soul abhors a vacuum. At all costs it longs for contact.
My accompanying photos were taken this weekend not in Kyoto or Sri Lanka, but at the Japanese Nipponzan Myohoji Buddhist Temple and Peace Pagoda in Willen Park, Milton Keynes, England. Buddhism's key text the Dhammapada forewarns of the dangers of the hubris and short attention spans of our selfie culture:
The mind, hard to control,
Flighty-alighting where it wishes-
One does well to tame.
The disciplined mind brings happiness.*
Anglo-Indian composer and London Philharmonic violinist Jonathan Mayer's 1976 suite Dhammarpada fills the vacuum that our soul abhors with divine music instead of Instagram moments. The first movement opens with Buddhist temple bells before seguing into a jazz-rock middle section and closing with the sound of more temple bells. Despite frantic ticking of the diversity boxes by the classical music industry, fringe figures such as Jonathan Mayer are still woefully overlooked. Sadly, others would almost certainly join this writer's lone voice championing him if I had a Twitter account and if Jonathan Mayer was female. More on him in my post In search of the lost symphony.


* This is verse 35 of the Dhammapada in Gil Fronsdal's exquisite translation.

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1 comment:

Jenny Woolf said...

I would not have guessed this was in Milton Keynes.