Curiosity has been my life-long partner. Even as a child, I was very curious about why some things were as they were, and why other things weren’t as they seemed.
Studying music was always about ‘What’s next?”. When I was learning a new piece from a music book, I would learn four measures or bars at a time. The rest of the piece was a mystery that would unfold as I learned.
Even after years of writing music for singers, films, TV shows and musicals, the question ‘What’s next?’ is very compelling to my heart, and it drives my imagination to discover the unfinished pieces.
Art of every form is most universal and most magnetic to the human mind and heart when it addresses big ideas and is based on a religious impulse. Leo Tolstoy stated this principle in his wonderful little book called, What Is Art?
So for me, both on a personal level and on a global level, asking ‘What’s next?’ has become even more important.
How can music and art inspire and empower the human race to solve our biggest problems? How can we inspire and empower a significant portion of humanity to demilitarize the world, solve climate change, balance the vast gap between rich and poor, overcome racial and religious prejudice, solve the growing dilemma between science and morality, and form a global government for a world that is increasingly interdependent and needs governance?
We can accomplish solutions to these seemingly intractable world problems though the power of art.
How will we accomplish this?
This is where the power of curiosity comes into play: the power of ‘What’s next?’, the power of human imagination.
If someone had told you in the middle of the 19th century that human beings would travel to the moon and to Mars, fly across the world in airplanes, communicate instantly on electronic devices that link almost every person in the world, have access via the Internet to all the knowledge ever discovered through humanity’s history, again on a device that you can hold in your hand, most people would have said, “Impossible!”.
Yet, here we are, living in a world that was seemingly impossible just 150 years ago.
So, what’s missing?
Where do ideas and imagination come from? I remember being 9 years old when I had my first extraordinary experience with the Unseen.
My bedroom was in the basement of our family home in Madison, Saskatchewan, a town that no longer really exists. I was lying on my bed one morning and I felt as if I was leaving my body. I could feel myself floating toward the ceiling and I could look down and see my physical self lying on the bed. I remember feeling exhilarated at the realization that there was so much more about existence than what I could see with my physical senses.
That feeling has never left me. I have seldom ever been able to feel that feeling completely again, but the closest I have come is through music. Music is like a ladder by which the soul of a human being can ascend and see a Supreme Horizon.
So, asking ‘What’s next?’ is also about our relationship to a world that we can’t see, but which exists beyond the senses and beyond this physical world we now inhabit. It’s a spiritual world where all souls may go after leaving this plane of existence.
It’s the biggest ‘What’s next?’ and I am fascinated and compelled to try to understand it, and to try to connect with the great souls who are already there. In my heart of hearts, these souls are the source of inspiration for the artists and the scientists in this world. Every human being at some point in their lives, feels that sudden rush of inspiration, no matter how big or small, that provides a solution to a seemingly intractable or unsolvable problem. For one of the great examples, please read about Albert Einstein’s inspiration for discovering his theory of relativity, and how it happened.
Two of my biggest questions are:
- Where do these souls go when they leave this world?
- And what is that world like?
One thing I know with certainty is that the unseen world is as different from this physical world as the womb-world of the unborn child is different from the world into which the child is born.
The analogy can be carried further if you will consider this. The world of the womb is relatively small and dark. And if the child was conscious and had language in the womb, why would he or she want to leave it? Everything is provided: comfort, nourishment, protection, seemingly everything a human being could want. And if he or she had a choice, would they want to leave that world for something uncertain?
Also, the child is growing organs and limbs that are of little use in that limited world of its mother’s womb. But when it is born into this world, it gradually realizes the use of these gifts. Perhaps there is a similarity to our stay here in this particular matrix, the physical world, or as my Dad used to call it, “boot-camp”, where we need to grow the senses and limbs that are needed in the next world, the spiritual world, or as some have called it, “heaven”.
This raises another important question. Because we have understood through history - from prophets, to philosophers, to heroic souls who sacrificed their lives for principles that we can’t see, but can only describe in abstract language - that it’s very challenging to describe what human beings are.
We are, obviously, a combination of our animal nature and our spiritual nature, as our thought is invisible and is capable of significant influence on our physical world.
So, a very big question is, how do we harmonize these two natures, the animal and the spiritual?
The Greek philosophers identified 125 human virtues which humans were (and still are) capable of developing. Among them are love, knowledge, mercy, patience, wisdom, kindness, humility, honesty, fairness, wonder, compassion, radiance, beauty, eloquence, purity of heart, steadfastness, perseverance, honour, grace and curiosity. These are important qualities that will serve us all well here, and especially in the next world. Perhaps these qualities are the organs, senses, and limbs for the next world.
So, it’s possible that the reality of a human being is one’s thought, not one’s material body. That would mean that thought is an expression of the soul, as we are the only creature on this planet (as far as we know) that is self-conscious (aware of its own thoughts).
Plato wrote that “Knowledge is the food of the soul” and I would add music to that nourishment. Marcus Aurelius wrote, as a meditation, that “The soul becomes dyed with the colour of its thoughts.”
So, if our reality as human beings is our thought, how do we use this considerable power for positive social and spiritual change?
There is an architecture for the progress of the soul…. how we build and maintain its powers and its usefulness. Not only is this architecture nourished by knowledge, its greatest nourishment is meditation and prayer.
Practicing meditation or praying opens the connection to the soul’s Creator. These practices build a ladder for the ascent of the soul and the increasing effectiveness of the mind. There is a tradition in religion that before all else, God created the mind; so, how do we use our minds for greater purposes?
Curiosity knows no bounds. All questions are relevant, and tools are needed to build the architecture of ascent. I’ve learned that we can’t do this alone. We all need encouragement and love. We all need our families, centers of unity, from which to build an effective and fulfilling life. We all need communities of support and shared vision.
Part of my curiosity is how we will tackle the great challenges before us if we are not unified in our vision. “Let your vision be world-embracing, not confined to your own self”. These are the words of a Persian nobleman, Baha’u’llah, who spent most of his life in prison or exiled from his country of origin, Iran. In 1891 Leo Tolstoy said of him, “We spend our lives trying to unlock the mystery of the universe. There is a Persian prisoner of the Turkish Empire in Akka, Palestine, who has the key”.
On a personal note, I have been lucky in my life to live in a family that encourages curiosity, and our family has been given the gift of a special needs child, Mercey-Anna Lenz, who cannot walk or talk. Through her illness, we have all learned to be more compassionate, more appreciative of diversity, and grateful for her contribution to our family. She helps me be even more curious about this life and the purpose of suffering, and she sparks so many questions about language and memory and what her internal life is like. I don’t know the answers yet, but I am confident that curiosity is always rewarded, if not in his world, then probably in the next.
I will keep asking, “What’s next?”.
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