Let us try to see beauty in this enforced stillness
In Buddhism 'monkey mind' refers to the restless, agitated, incessant chatter and movement of the untrained mind. This restlessness leads to the confusion and dissatisfaction of dukkha, and the aim of meditation is to silence this incessant chatter. In recent decades the 'monkey mind' has morphed into the 'monkey lifestyle'' where incessant virtual and physical chatter and movement have been made possible by new mobile technologies and easy geographic mobility. Now, with geographic mobility curtailed by global lockdowns, the 'monkey lifestyle' has become even more frantic in the virtual world. We are no longer comfortable in our own skin. Instead we seek shelter and approval under a synthetic skin woven from social networks. One example is in classical music where the pandemic has triggered a deluge of live streaming as the lockdown generation compete for fifteen minutes of coronaviral fame.
Regular readers will know I have an affinity with the people and landscape of Morocco. So I was struck by an article about the lockdown on a Moroccan website written by a Swedish/American living in Morocco. This proposes that:
Although it is scary, unpredictable, and even difficult to understand the chaos that has taken hold of the world in this time, let us try to see the beauty in this time of stillness and appreciate all the simple things that life has to offer us, meanwhile cheering on those that are out there fighting this virus for us every single day.'Let us try to see the beauty in this time of stillness.....' What a contrast to the current obsessive and often ugly expressions of the monkey lifestyle on social media. During the current chaos I have rediscovered consoling beauty and stillness away from all this virtual chatter in great music. Of course there is Bach. But there is also less celebrated soul food such as Valentin Silvestov's Requiem for Larissa. Another musical meditation that stills my restless and troubled mind is Morton Feldman's Rothko Chapel; for a copyright-legal videoed performance follow this link. In these dark times should we do Mahler's resurrection from home, or should we listen to a quality recorded performance of Rothko Chapel? For me there's no contest,
* There are a number of references to the monkey analogy in Buddhist scriptures. For instance Samyutta Nikaya 12.61 says: “Just as a monkey, swinging through a forest wilderness, grabs a branch. Letting go of it, it grabs another branch. Letting go of that, it grabs another one. Letting go of that, it grabs another one. In the same way, what’s called ‘mind,’ ‘intellect,’ or ‘consciousness’ by day and by night arises as one thing and ceases as another.”
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