Sunday, February 2, 2020

beyond the reach

I lost whatever ability I still had to distinguish subject from object, 

tell apart what remained of me and what was Bach’s music.
 Instead of Emerson’s transparent eyeball, egoless and one with all it beheld,
 I became a transparent ear, indistinguishable from the stream of sound
 that flooded my consciousness until there was nothing else in it,
 not even a dry tiny corner in which to plant an I and observe. Opened to the music,
 I became first the strings, could feel on my skin the exquisite friction
of the horsehair rubbing over me, and then the breeze of sound flowing past
 as it crossed the lips of the instrument and went out to meet the world,
 beginning its lonely transit of the universe. Then I passed down into the resonant
 black well of space inside the cello, the vibrating envelope of air formed 
by the curves of its spruce roof and maple walls. The instrument’s wooden 
interior formed a mouth capable of unparalleled eloquence —
 indeed, of articulating everything a human could conceive.
 But the cello’s interior also formed a room to write in and a skull in which to think
 and I was now it, with no remainder.

So I became the cello and mourned with it for the twenty or so minutes it took

 for that piece to, well, change everything. Or so it seemed; now, its vibrations subsiding,
 I’m less certain. But for the duration of those exquisite moments, Bach’s cello
 suite had had the unmistakable effect of reconciling me to death… Having let go
 of the rope of self and slipped into the warm waters of this worldly beauty —
 Bach’s sublime music, I mean, and Yo-Yo Ma’s bow caressing those four strings 
suspended over that envelope of air — I felt as though I’d passed 
beyond the reach of suffering and regret.

~ Michael Pollan 
from How to Change Your Mind: 
What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness,
 Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence
 with thanks to brainpickings