Hidden Lake, October first snow, the High Wallowas, [ click photo for next . . . ]
Eagle Cap Wilderness . . .
THE WAY OF FORCE / THE WAY OF NON-FORCE
I'm presently working on a new collection of texts
and poems with a working title of, WITNESS TREE.
One of my main themes has become what I see as the
deeper, more subtle implications of non-violence.
As always, I'm struggling to find the right words and
expressions. For more than 20 years, I've been saying
to myself that Nature knows no conflict, no contradiction,
no waste. And then I go on to say that, therefore, the
religious or spiritual life—for me they are one and
the same—begins first with the central intention of
ending conflict, contradiction and waste in one's life.
In all their overt and explicit, and not so overt and
Many of my close naturalist friends say, "Wait a minute
Cliff. I get the part that there's no waste in Nature.
Yes. But conflict? Conflict is everywhere!"
Well, that depends on how carefully we define 'conflict.'
I do not mean a wolf pack taking down an elk. I mean
specifically the idea of violence amplified by orders
of magnitude in what I call the thought patterns of
the human brutish brain. Something like a hundred-year
war. Or like the current Palestine/Israeli conflict.
This kind of sustained violence is unique to our species.
Why? Because the rest of Nature simply cannot afford to
waste such unimaginable amounts of energy on utterly
rigid and dogmatic and meaningless destruction. Such
destruction can only be sustained for a relatively
brief periods of time by taking down vast swathes of
the natural world with it.
So I'm calling this way of the brutish brain, once it
is stuck in violence, the way of force. Now the remarkable
thing is, that when looked at from the widest possible
perspective, the way of force, of power, of control,
is the key featured of Western culture. It is in my
view everywhere. It permeates not just the power
politics of American Empire, which is obvious to any
one not living in the US. No. It is also the defining
feature of our relationship with the Earth itself. It
conditions our approach to agriculture, to forestry, to
animal husbandry, to so-called "water management," to
so-called "weed control." And then, and perhaps even more
tragically, it conditions our approach to teaching, education
and the young. And the Arts are in no way exempt, either.
I shall have much to say about this. But force in, say,
Music. What could I mean? Oh, it is everywhere. Especially
in the amplification of the 'me,' of ego-energy in the
West. Adding 20 first violins to a part. It is the
controlling formative metaphor of the 120 db electric
guitar. Making the virtuoso contortions of the soloist
the center of attention, instead of some other more
important spiritual content. And finally there is
the force ofcommercialization itself, or when Music becomes
a mere means to some financial end.
In stark contrast to the way of force, is the way of flow.
This is the way of the Compassionate mind. It is the way
of not forcing movement of Yoga. It is the way of no
unnecessary tension of Alexander Technique. (Just these
two principles lead straight to a radically new way of
thinking about and doing music.) It is the way the sees
militant non-violence as the first ethical principle in
all relationship. And finally, it is the way of following
the Sun, of turning our back forever on the Dark Age of
fossil fuels, and, again as an ethical 'must' or imperative,
committing ourselves wholly to natural, non-destructive,
renewable and sustainable sources of energy.
It is starkly simple, this way of thinking. I like that.
Much like mountain granite itself.
This false way of force I also call the Trinity Path, after
that tragic instant of the very first nuclear bomb test,
July the 16th 1945.
And the way of non-force I sometimes call the Earthrise Path,
after the famous Apollo mission photograph.
Crystal clear, the difference, it seems to me.
Something a child would instantly understand.
To one, I say no. To the other I say yes. Regardless
of the consequences. Not seeking any other reward
But simply because it is, in my view, in every way,
the right and necessary thing to do.
On the road in the American Northwest.
CENTER OF LEARNING
That which cannot be touched by force—Love, Intelligence,
Compassion—forms together the basic triangle at the center
of all learning . . .
Because they cannot be achieved by force,
they are best approached negatively, by taking away the
blocks that are in the way.
The task is clear: perfectly tuned octaves, fourths and fifths
you leave alone; what you go after are the broken strings.
We shape the world and the world shapes us.
See the electronic keyboard—the synthesizer—with its brittle octaves
made of wired concrete, and its complete lack of sympathetic reso-
nance. I say to you, when similar sounds no longer spontaneously
vibrate together, when like sounds no longer reflect one another, no
longer mirror each other’s energies, upon which instrument shall we
play our songs of love? Upon which instrument shall we teach our
children the principles of Nature’s watercourse way?
LOVE IS ROUND
Love wants to come round.
The performer who must sing.
who must play,
in a space without echoes
THE LITTLE CLAVIER please preview 150 of 631 pages
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