Richard Rohr, a contemporary Christian writer and teacher, says that the Spiritual Path is a race between 'Enlightenment' and dementia. Too true! And sometimes the music box is a race between my own 'clarity' and the submission deadline! So with your indulgence I'd like to clarify a point I was trying make badly last week…
Who can dispute that the scientific method has been one of the greatest tools added to humanity's cognitive toolbox? Meanwhile, the philosophy (religion?) of Scientific Materialism asserts that the scientific method is the ONLY valid tool in humanity's cognitive tool box (a position which cannot be proven using the scientific method I might add, and thus must be taken on faith).
A kissing cousin of Scientific Materialism is 'Post Modernism', which argues (amongst other things) that everything we do is 'merely social conditioning'. So if you object to a (so-called) work of Art in which a crucifix is immersed in a beaker of urine — well, that's just your 'social conditioning' (according to the post-modernists). Consequently post-modernist authors invent their own languages in which to write their novels — incomprehensible to anyone but themselves. (News flash — none of those novels have made it onto the New York Times best seller list.) Ditto for music composers and other art forms.
Call me narrow-minded, but I personally prefer novels, music, etc. that are comprehensible. (What a concept!) And 'comprehensibility' is more than just the 'arbitrary rules' in which I was reared. In terms of musc, what 'works' has to do with the way human beings are wired. The 'major chord' (a cornerstone of Western music if not globally) has a lot of physical acoustics going on, but now we are also beginning to neuro-acoustically understand how our ears are physiologically wired to recognize 'harmony'. In college I sat in composition classes where they asserted that 'harmony' is nothing but social conditioning, but now, thanks to the scientific method, we know better on multiple levels.
So what I was trying to say last week is that it's not just our 'ears' on the level of 'harmony', but that our brains on a higher level are wired to respond to 'stories'. My 4-year-old granddaughter just can't get enough stories — who 'socially conditioned' her for that? So I was suggesting that part of what makes last week's Beethoven sonata work for us is that he targets the 'I like stories' part of our brains. Instead of 'um-er, Beethoven's sonata is just social conditioning', how about 'thank you for delightfully speaking my story-susceptible language.'
So here's a concept: I say that great Art speaks our human language in marvelously imaginative ways. Post-modernism in essence asserts that 'speaking human' is 'arbitrary'. Well, last I checked I'm a human being, with all the greatness and profound limitations which go with that, and I 'get' Beethoven but I don't get the 'post-modernist' composers at all. As for the so-called Art in which a crucifix is submerged in urine: can you be a living human being in which absolutely nothing is 'sacred' to you? Your spouse? Your child? Your own life? In my view it's impossible to believe that ABSOLUTELY NOTHING is sacred — and draw your next breath. If you're a doctor, 'human life' is sacred. If you're a judge, 'justice' is sacred.
I'm tired of apologizing for being a human being. I'm tired of the notion that we're all `meat machines'.