It is obvious that radio music is a marvellous escape. Next door, they kept the thing going all day long and far into the night. The father went off to his office fairly early. The mother and daughter worked in the house or in the garden; and when they worked in the garden the radio blared louder. Apparently the son also enjoyed the music and the commercials, for when he was at home the radio went on just the same.
By means of the radio one can listen endlessly to every kind of music, from the classical to the very latest; one can hear mystery plays, news, and all the things that are constantly being broadcast. There need be no conversation, no exchange of thought, for the radio does almost everything for you. The radio, they say, helps students to study; and there is more milk if at milking time the cows have music.
The odd part about all this is that the radio seems to alter so little the course of life. It may make some things a little more convenient; we may have global news more quickly and hear murders described most vividly; but information is not going to make us intelligent. The thin layer of information about the horrors of atomic bombing, about international alliances, research into chlorophyll, and so on does not seem to make any fundamental difference in our lives. We are as war-minded as ever, we hate some other group of people, we despise this political leader and support that, we are duped by organised religions, we are nationalistic, and our miseries continue; and we are intent on escapes, the more respectable and organised the better.
To escape collectively is the highest form of security. In facing ‘what is’, we can do something about it; but to take flight from ‘what is’ inevitably makes us stupid and dull, slaves to sensation and confusion.
Does not music offer us, in a very subtle way, a happy release from ‘what is’?
Good music takes us away from ourselves, from our daily sorrows, pettiness and anxieties, it makes us forget; or it gives us strength to face life, it inspires, invigorates and pacifies us. It becomes a necessity in either case, whether as a means of forgetting ourselves or as a source of inspiration.
Dependence on beauty and avoidance of the ugly is an escape which becomes a torturing issue when our escape is cut off. When beauty becomes necessary to our well-being, then experiencing ceases and sensation begins.
The moment of experiencing is totally different from the pursuit of sensation. In experiencing there is no awareness of the experiencer and his sensations. When experiencing comes to an end, then begin the sensations of the experiencer; and it is these sensations that the experiencer demands and pursues. When sensations become a necessity, then music, the river, the painting are only a means to further sensation. Sensations become all-dominant, and not experiencing. The longing to repeat an experience is the demand for sensation; and while sensations can be repeated, experiencing cannot.
It is the desire for sensation that makes us cling to music, possess beauty. Dependence on outward line and form only indicates the emptiness of our own being, which we fill with music, with art, with deliberate silence. It is because this unvarying emptiness is filled or covered over with sensations that there is the everlasting fear of ‘what is’, of what we are.
Sensations have a beginning and an end, they can be repeated and expanded; but experiencing is not within the limits of time. What is essential is experiencing, which is denied in the pursuit of sensation. Sensations are limited, personal, they cause conflict and misery; but experiencing, which is wholly different from the repetition of an experience, is without continuity. Only in experiencing is there renewal, transformation.
Excerpt from Commentaries on Living I