A group of friends broke into lungful song yesterday. As one song led to another, each was preceded by some form of negotiation: let's sing the one about..., let her sing her song... The piano was unlocked, and as my friend began to play, a secret of life seemed to reside in his touch on those keys. Even if a song has been played a thousand times before, if it has been known through such repetition, liberties can then be taken with it. Like the Tomb of King Aretas IV, Petra, picking up the themes of ancient Greece and Egypt in such a unique way; like Native American storytelling, that change with each telling; like Method Acting, each beat of familiar dialogue corresponding to a private, emotional memory - as if for the first time, but in fact for the millionth time - tailoring what has been learned to the specifics of a place and time.
I have written before how learning is literally handed down. Once one the older forms are mastered, they can be transformed to convey the singer's mortality - through the combination of the words, the melancholic or energetic chords.
In some singing traditions, one speaks of "tailoring" a text to the melody: the melody is so fixed in one's mind, that one can fit the words of different texts within this form. A fixed model for every occasion.
If life is like a series of exercise drills, what are we exercising? Yes, we make mistakes, say the wrong things, get all muddy - but when we brush ourselves off, what is our refrain? Which melody do we seek? Which forms do we return to, like touchstones, smoothing with our hands, until they become rocks so soft we could sleep on them?
To become a tailor of life. There is the tumult of shearing the sheep; the repetitive twists of spinning; the mastery of putting each twist in its place, in the larger fabric of society. We do not get to be masters the whole time. We may even feel ourselves to be the sheep sometimes, stripped of our protective layers, bleating instead of speaking. But can we see that confusion as the black mark on the canvas which serves to underline the glow of the other vivid tones?
Though trapped within our own temporality, we are also gifted with the vision that through reflection can sew for us a bigger picture - the tension that creates the space for song and painted canvas to filter in. The back and forth movement from abstraction and specific particulars, mediated and calmed by learned forms, is the realm of the most fruitful creativity. Otherwise, the reflection becomes fantasy (the satyr play is to serve as an appendix to the tragedy), and otherwise, the particulars drown in their own reflection, narcissistically. The intervening, learned forms are what save us from ourselves - the medium releasing us from existential tension.

Elements: font: blackout; knit texture: pugly pixel; needlework: minitoko.

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