artistic unknowns by Chris Matarazzoreligion & philosophy

“The stories I tell”: Sharing one’s self with the universe

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“And I wasn’t looking for heaven or Hell

Just someone to listen to stories I tell.” 

~ Glen Phillips (Toad the Wet Sprocket)

My wife meditates and she does Yoga. I think it is pretty interesting stuff, but I haven’t tried either activity for myself. She is always telling me how good it feels to meditate and to have meditated. I believe it. But I think I already do that, with music. I wonder if artists of every kind aren’t doing their own kind of meditation, after all.

My understanding is that the goal of meditation is to sort of leave the body and conscious mind behind — to wipe thoughts away and, at the highest level, to lose one’s self in the rest of the universe and become one with everything — to dissipate, yet remain whole. It is a process that requires solitude, silence, concentration and release. This sounds a lot like composition, as I know it — or any other creative process, really.

The most striking thing, to me, is the desire most of us artists have to sort of “hand out” pieces of ourselves to an audience. Artists seem to be driven to share their innermost selves with the world. This doesn’t just apply to autobiographical work. Anything, regardless of the content, that comes out of the mind and soul of the artist is, by default, deeply personal. Even if a straight female Earthling writes a novel about gay Martian dude, she still reveals her deepest thoughts and perceptions — sometimes on purpose; sometimes by accident. The fact is, creating and then sharing the resulting product is like baking a pie and passing the slices around table. We’re giving ourselves away. (The only difference s that the soul never runs out of slices. I hope.)

With fame, the dessert table becomes a world.

It is no secret that the goal of many artists is to become well-known or even famous. At that stage, an artist’s work lives a remote life in the ears, eyes or brains of innumerable people. If I write a song about remembering long-lost friends, my sincere feelings become part of the listeners. If those listeners are moved by the song, the ideas and feelings in the tune become embedded in their consciousnesses, possibly forever. If I become famous (quit laughing), those sincere feelings become parts of people I have never seen and am never likely to see. My true self gets dispersed throughout the world, the more famous I get. I dissipate, yet I remain whole.

Am I reaching for — at least symbolically — the transcendental state that is the goal of those who meditate? Is anyone who picks up a brush, sits at a keyboard or sweats under the stage lights reaching for the same thing?

At any rate, we are driven, we artists, to send radio signals into space, as it were. Our process is one of silence, isolation and focus and it leads to becoming, emotionally and intellectually, one with the people (world) around us — at least those who will listen, watch or read.

Every blogger, graffiti artist or You Tube video maker is attempting the same thing: to connect with everyone around him or her.

The other night, I played a song on the piano and sang it to my sons. It was a song that my father wrote for my sister when she was a little girl. It is a beautiful piece, rich with my father’s unique sense of harmonic direction. After I played it for the boys, I was putting my seven-year-old to bed and he began to tell me that he really liked the song, so he didn’t know why it made him so sad. (An age-old question, eh?) The tears welled, and then he began to cry out loud. I smiled and told him this reaction came because he has music here (I pointed to his heart), just like his dad and his grandfather. He asked why he felt sad and I told him that, maybe, also like his dad and grandpop, he just needs to get the music out —  to share it with others. 

He wants piano lessons, now. Meditate on, little man.

Chris Matarazzo’s ARTISTIC UNKNOWNS appears every Tuesday.

Chris Matarazzo is a writer, composer, musician and teacher of literature and writing on the college and high school levels. His music can be heard on his recent release, Hats and Rabbits, which is currently available. Chris is also the composer of the score to the off-beat independent film Surrender Dorothy and he performs in the Philadelphia area with the King Richard Band. He's also a relatively prolific novelist, even if no one seems to care yet. His blog, also called Hats and Rabbits, is nice, too, if you get a chance...
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2 Responses to ““The stories I tell”: Sharing one’s self with the universe”

  1. :)

  2. Agreed, Chris!! There really is nothing else like stringing together individual words into something greater than when you began or better still watching someone as they read something you’ve written. Hearing their laughter or witnessing their tears (or even having them come back to you later and tell you that you touched them in a way they never anticipated). It’s a heady sharing for sure. Oh & PS… I have an AWESOME and very REASONABLE piano teacher if he’s really interested. Just let me know.

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