Birthday Thoughts

Saturday, 4 August 2012

This is what I’ve been listening to over the past few days. I’m actually listening to it now, as I write. I’ve always thought classical music had a secret code and language; something that cannot be taken apart and explained via composition, rhythm, or notes alone. It’s like a protective, self-enclosed membrane that moves it through history, unaltered. Our tastes and music genres may change, but it seemingly floats to us from a time we no longer recognise, with its integrity and structure intact. One of the things I’ve always wanted to be able to do is express what listening to a piece such as Debussy’s La Cathédrale Engloutie makes me feel, in words. And right now, all I can think of is water and membrane.

In Gail Jones’ Dreams of Speaking, Mr Sakamoto writes Alice an email:

Think of this: we are mostly water; we are two-thirds ocean. Because of our high water content the body can be exposed to a strong magnetic field and the molecules of our hydrogen atoms respond. When submitted to radio waves, the energy content of the nuclei changes and a resonance wave is emitted when the nuclei return to their previous state. Do you understand? Is this not the simplest of principles? Small differences in the oscillation of nuclei can be detected, so a three-dimensional image of the interior body can be built. The image shows the structure of the tissue, and reveals any pathology. Water, waves, magnetism, image: it is like a kind of poetry. A physical haiku. Entering an MRI is like entering a radio coil; the radio waves cause the nuclei of the body to quiver and respond. We are all thus collectors of waves, we are all creatures of hidden oceans. (pp. 166-7)

I’ve read Dreams of Speaking many times, but today, this is what I take from it: the feeling I have that responds so instinctively to classical music is to do with that symphony of hidden oceans and collections of waves. It makes my insides literally swim; it brings wetness to my eyes that’s neither sadness nor happiness, but simply an awareness of the body as a poem. I’ve heard people describe love as their heart ‘swelling’, expanding in their chest like a physical ache, pushing against the boundaries of the body. I’ve felt that with people. I also feel it when listening to this music. Maybe this is love too – a love of your own self and body as it reacts to something. It’s like the separating membranes of our bodies are in sensory conflict with the waves within. You can’t call this a sensation of pleasure or pain; it’s a sensation of being.

It’ll be my birthday on Tuesday. I’ll be twenty-nine years old. There’ll only be a single year left in my twenties, and I feel everyone around me pointing to the boundaries of my life, to the things that need to be done in order to succeed as an adult: children, marriage, a ‘stable’ job and career. I don’t deny these life experiences, but I resent having them thrust upon me as identity-defining expectations. I need to accommodate the less defined ocean within that cares very little about the protective membrane of adulthood. I can only think of one way of accommodating the waves, and that is by writing. Happy birthday to me, with all my oscillating interiors.


Jane Flanagan said...

I love this post so much - such beautiful expression. Embracing my mutable self has been the marker of my thirties. It's a constant thing, but I'm learn to let go those more rigid ideas and love my "oscillating interiors".

Happy birthday, lovely Hila! xx

Petra said...

happy birthday!!! it's scary how much you get pushed into a certain direction once you reach a certain age, isn't it. I have and still am experiencing the same thing. and it's actually gotten worse since I was 29.

there are plenty of people who find their identity in other ways, but generally we don't have many of them in our real lives. they're often just inspirational from far away. and the people who surround us want to push us down the same route they took, because everything else just questions and challenges their ideas of how life should be, something they must, deep down, question themselves, why else this often almost aggressive attempt to make you just like them.

I've been told it gets easier when you get into your 40s and 50s. but let me warn you, your 30s will be hell in that particular respect :)

Megan said...

Hila, Tuesday is my birthday and I'll be 29, too. Wishing you the happiest of days and simultaneously thanking you for writing this post, as I feel very similarly about many of the things you mentioned. "Happy birthday to me and all my oscillating interiors" is one of the most beautiful sentences I've read recently.

I hope 29 is everything you want it to be.

odessa said...

"we are all creatures of hidden oceans". this is so perfect. and believe it or not, i've been thinking about oceans and listening to classical music, especially Debussy, all week long. in fact, i just wrote about it on my blog. what a coincidence.

and happy birthday to you, dear Hila. i know what you mean about these expectations. at 32, i sometimes feel self-conscious during get-together with friends because i'm often the only single girl or when relatives would ask me why i'm not married with kids, i'd feel like i should explain myself, etc. i tell you though, it was actually worst when i was in my late 20s. now i've just learned to roll with it. :)

Natalie said...

I'm so sorry I cannot express myself as well as I want (English is not my mother tongue), because I could say many things related to your intimate thoughts. Beautiful post Hila, profound and touching as always.

I wish you a really happy birthday lady, with a such wonderfully receptive soul and mind!

rooth said...

Happy early birthday to you! I have the same trepidation about my birthday coming up as well. Ignore those boundaries, really do. They make me mad but then I realize how unproductive that is. Now I laugh in the face of them and move on

vegetablej said...

Age is really only important when you are about to run out of years. Other than that, do what you want when you want and tell other people to do the same.

Your life is the currency, so spend those years in the wisest and most vibratory choices for you. There's really no one to say what is best, and when you get older you may or may not regret other paths, but one can't do everything. And you won't likely regret what you DID do.

And Happy Birthday -- another year accomplished!

Denise | Chez Danisse said...

Happy birthday, Hila. Cheers to you always traveling your own path.

Xixia said...

OH my goodness, this was wonderful. I wish I could express as eloquently as you just how much I enjoyed this post, but alas, that is not my strength. However, I do hope the sincerity of which I write comes across to you.

I am forever saving that block of quote because it is perfection. I may write it down dozens of time, just to commit it to memory. I used to be completely immersed in the world of classical music, so this resonated ( heheh pun :P ) with me so well. Just playing it is a challenge, for everything is fluid, and you just have to try and capture that magic, all that unbridled energy of the notes and rhythms to make it your own music.

Finally, happy birthday Hila! Do not let any of those "identity" expectations make you feel like they're something you need to do. We are all liquid, able to change whenever, so it is up to us to define our own life and pace. :)

♥ xixia |

Sally said...

Just lovely...I like the idea of our reaction to sensory experiences as love for the self, for the body - makes the appreciation of life's little beauties that much more poignant.

Happy birthday, dear! (and I for one choose to think of 30 as the new 20, there are so many people in my life in their 30s who live according to their own dreams, not "age-appropriate" expectations, who will choose new life stages only when they're ready...and I think they're great role models. :)

Kate said...

Oscillate widly, ride the waves and have a very happy birthday.


Philip Glass has been on repeat all summer for me. I guess there is a shared sentiment at the moment being carried through the trade winds.

Many people ascribe these prerequisites of adulthood for different reasons. They are external, stemming from society; fomented within culture, history, and religion. It was what they were taught and expected of themselves at an early age. Now they have become the pedagogues, professing what they deem as the right way, the only way. "One must not deviate from this path." All of this regardless of what they actually may feel, yearn, and wish for their own lives. So let the finger pointers be damned! All but too afraid they are to judge themselves.

Through this, one must be mindful. For there is a strong division between what is considered 'adulthood,' contrasted and often wrongly paired with something much more significant, 'maturity.' It is maturity that should be held as the paradigm for each individual to strive and grow towards, most importantly, through his or her own standards. Although not mutually exclusive, adulthood and maturity must be considered separately and within their own context. So be careful as to not confuse and conflate the two.

Within oneself, I think the movements and undulations within the walls, or membranes of the body, are there to create space for growth, both personal and private. These internal echoes are what guide you. (Echoes, chi, the unconscious -- whatever nominal label one wishes to identify.) Guidance, not dictation is what leads one to happiness, to fulfillment, and ultimately, to maturity. Then one may be judged, but only by him or herself. Not by a coterie with a list of credentials, waiting to expel or worse, prevent you from entering the echelons of 'adulthood.'

For myself, when I am alone is when I best connect with and hear these echoes. Listening to those quiet, silent moments during the night; moments full of doubt, pregnant with possibility.

A youthful soul can never grow old, while a mature mind grows wiser with time.

Happy Birthday, Happy Echoes

Hila said...

Jane: Thank you Jane. I actually thought of you when writing this, with all the ocean references - water baby that you are.

Petra: oh goody, I have much to look forward to then :) I'm actually looking forward to my thirties though, from a personal perspective.

Megan: Right back at you! Happy birthday to you as well, and how wonderful that we both turned 29 on the same day.

Odessa: I'm not surprised by this coincidence. It's strange to be in a position of having to explain yourself for something that isn't anyone else's business. I also find it strange that we supposedly have all this 'choice', but are expected to conform to a rigid model of life. So yeah, I know what you mean. I'm becoming less defensive about it all though.

Natalie: Thank you, that's very kind. English isn't my native language either, so I understand.

Rooth: It's funny, because I have no trepidation about getting older, just about other people's expectations. Left to my own thinking, I'm perfectly fine with myself.

vegetablej: I agree, and thank you!

Denise: thanks, and same to you Denise.

Xixia: I'm glad this resonated with you.

Sally: exactly - I find it amazing what our bodies can do and feel, and this is a type of love.

kate: am most definitely riding the waves!

Andrew: You're the best, thank you. This blog is worth it to have 'met' people like you. And yes, adulthood and maturity can be two distinctly different things - I'm aiming for maturity.

Hila said...

P.S. Thanks for all the birthday messages everyone, I had a lovely day yesterday.

Olga Bennett said...

Happy birthday dear Hila!! Sorry to be late - I spent a few days offline.

What a beautiful post - I'll be thinking about your words in anticipation of my own birthday. :)


Hila said...

Olga: It's never too late to say happy birthday Olga! Thank you :)

Debie Grace said...

Very nicely written, Hila! I love how to pour so much feelings in writing this entry. I love reading it. Also, happy birthday!! :)

Maura said...

A very, very happy (belated) birthday to you, Hila! I hope it was wonderful. Beautiful post, as always.

Hila said...

Thank you both!

millie said...

This entire post - the quote, the music, your words, listening to the music while reading your words - was just perfect. I can't express how I felt reading it other than: thank you for such beautiful writing. It is exquisite.

Hila said...

Millie: Thank you, I poured my heart out into this post, so I'm happy to have it read and responded to so well.

Sera said...

Listening to this recording, and reading your words, it marries beautifully. I'm so glad that I get to play this kind of music every day! Hopefully I'll be able to make a job out of it come the end of my study ;)