I am traveling the South Island of New Zealand in between concerts with the Auckland Philharmonia.
This is a spectacularly beautiful place. Rich in dramatic scenery and stark contrasts. Inhabited by some of the most geneorus and friendly people I’ve ever met. There is this closeness to nature here that seems to drive each person. Very immediate, and very unadulterated.
I just spent four days in Queenstown and Glenorchy. The land of The Lord of the Rings…. And countless other movies and commercials. Wherever you look there is a more breathtakingly beautiful view than the one before it… It is the most peaceful, gloriously disarming place I have ever seen. I’ve gone jet boating, horseback riding, taken my very first helicopter ride into the mountains and then been dropped off only to treck back a few hours to the car, which was still 45 minutes drive from civilization…
I’ve noticed, in small increments, how life in cities and in the career demands that we (I) armor up…. How, when you’re in the middle of it all, you kind of have to thicken your hide just a little. Not necessarily to survive it, but certainly to manage it with some sort of sanity intact. I am constantly struck by how quickly one has to be able to switch between managing the outer world of politics, negotiations and professional choices – and the relentless and uncompromising vulnerability necessary for doing any kind of musical offering justice. Music demands total presence, as does this spectacular nature.
I don’t know how to adequately express it, but there were moments over the past few days when I could practically feel my heart crack open. Like this welling out over the edges. But not with any kind of fear or discomfort – Just total peace and non-striving. Nowhere to get to, and nothing to do. Just being in the middle of it.
I think this is what we all want to feel in our lives ongoingly. Peace and contentment. Surrounded by the infinite power of nature and the balance that comes from the tests of time. Knowing that left to its own devices, nature will sort itself out. Restore balance. Create vast and inexplicable things of beauty.
I am reading the autobiography of Ariel Dorfman. I will be singing the title role of the opera version of his play “Death and the Maiden” next year. He tells of the incredibly tumultuous time in his life when he fled Chile after the military coup that put Pinochet in power. And he talks about language – about the struggle of belonging to two different languages, two different cultures…. Opposing, yet inextricably part of one and the same person.
And he speaks of his wife, the love of his life. About when he figured out that all other alliances and commitments paled in the face of the possibility of losing his wife. That all things would turn out to be bearable, as long as he could share them with her – and see them through the prism that was created when they met.
I think these are the intangibles that create a valuable life. The abstract, elusive and completely impractical ingredients that contradict our more systematical attempts at creating order and stability.
The truth is, there is no order, and there certainly is no stability. There is no certainty, and even less predictability. There is simply the art of non-attachment. The art of being present. The art of creating from nothing – no matter what happens, or how distant our goals may seem.