Mostly there are the regular mornings. The days we wake to little human things; grab something for breakfast, take ten or fifteen minutes to read the paper, drive here and there, call a friend –and perhaps share a laugh before getting on to the next chore. And finally when the sun begins to set, sit down to dinner and soon after, head off to bed before it all begins again.
But there are also days like this one, days when all our habits, all our rote, ritualized, unnoticed behaviors are suddenly caught in the act, as it were; suddenly seen for all their normal-ness. And of course, noticing is itself a way of bringing one to a kind of attention that isn’t experienced on so-called normal days. This morning, as I sat buckled in my seat on an Alaska Airlines fight home from Seattle, I got a call from my wife. Since we’d only spoken an hour before and said our “goodbye, see you soons,” I already knew what she was going to tell me. Our friend had died.
Ida, a single mother, an internationally renowned violinist, a brilliant and strong-willed woman, had been treated for leukemia, put (miraculously, given the severity of her illness) into remission, and then only a month ago struck with a powerful and ultimately fatal recurrence. Her ten-year-old son, a precocious and singularly intelligent boy, is now officially an orphan. So, yes, the rhythm of this particular day is not normal, it is a rhythm seldom heard or felt, and now the small group of people that have received the sad news by email or text is already moving to the strange pulse of this new rhythm, their lives (as has mine) have been flung into a state of mind that is downright tragic – on account of the boy – and also, somehow revelatory.
As I sit on the plane and look around at the passengers; the two brothers, fourteen and ten from somewhere in the Midwest – laughing at a video game and drinking their cherry Cokes, the woman who boarded the flight with a cane and looks too young and too vital for one, the tall blonde flight attendant named Bethany who is so pretty and so sweet that one could be forgiven for thinking that flight 440 was being visited by an angel, I can’t help thinking about intention. Where am I going (home of course, but beyond that), what is my trajectory, my overarching purpose for being here? And the rhythm, that new one I’ve just referred to, is pushing me; I can feel it. It’s urging me toward those questions of intention.
Even as Ida’s body lies somewhere in Los Angeles, waiting to be put in the ground, waiting for prayers that can only be said after her interment, she creates this rhythm. She is a musician after all, and no stranger to creating pulse and momentum. Her music is alive and it’s rushing out in a whirl of time and tempos. And so, at five miles off the ground, I am hearing and feeling her music, hearing it still. It’s telling me to come quick. Telling me that the orchestra is onstage, that the audience is seated, that the conductor has raised his baton, and that he’s ready to perform the ferocious music of living.
Intention is not something we think about often. Most days it goes unheard. Intention is a rhythm that reverberates in waves of questions. Why are we here, what are we accomplishing with our short time, who are we serving? And on a day like today when the curtains are pulled back we deduce – or more correctly, we are reminded – that our intention is in fact, always clear, always simple. We can see it in its purity and innocence, as if we ourselves had died, and then looked down upon our lives and perhaps smiled a bit, as we saw our mortal selves through transcendent eyes. Our smile would be both sad and full of pity for how confused we make things.
Today, moving in this new way, to this new rhythm, intention is easy. ‘Heal all wounds’, it says. ‘Bring only hope, build many bridges, defend the weak… feed the poor; sow only light and never darkness.’
Today is Ida’s last performance; it is also her most beautiful. It is the one most full of rhythm, and light and purest intention.
Peter Himmelman is a Grammy and Emmy nominated rock and roll musician, visual artist, author, film composer, and speaker. Peter’s new book, Let Me Out (Unlock your creative mind and bring your ideas to life) is available here.