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Excerpt from an interview with David Sylvian (2009)

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Mar. 9th, 2013 | 08:34 am

I had reposted this excerpt earlier, but I ran into problems with the text formatting. It is an excerpt from the end of an interview with David Sylvian by Marcus Boon, conducted after the release of his 2009 album, Manafon, one of his austere projects involving improvising musicians (improvisers of "free jazz" and other difficult-to-categorize styles). Here is the opening track from the album, "Small Metal Gods," which I believe I have also posted before:


Here is the excerpt from the interview:

"MB:
To me something that resonates in the record is an odd sense of disillusionment with spiritual paths. I'm not sure whether disillusion is the right sense for it, but just skepticism about the community, the motives, the shiny images of deities that I know were made in a sweat-shop in Mumbai… to the point where I wonder what's left aside from something transcendental, that I have very strong feelings for and a deep attraction to, but which I've now subtracted all human links to, because I can't believe in the links any more. In a way, the "path" becomes truly open, but often I don't see any path at all. So maybe the whole universe becomes “improv” at that point?

DS: This is an interesting development though isn't it? I've read, as I'm sure you have, that some teachers have recommended a thorough detox in professional analysis before ever approaching a path or discipline. I'm not sure that's a cure all but it's pretty difficult for us to see past our own deficiencies, our neuroses, and so see what clearly motivates us in our search. No doubt there something primal in us that sets us on one journey or another but that's coloured or tempered by all manner of other needs and desires and it's here that we possibly come undone, use a distorting lens to enable us to see what it is we wish to see?

It does become increasingly difficult to believe in the testimony of others… the links and lineage… there's so much self delusion, politics, power grabbing and maintenance etc. Once you've been through the wringer a few times, more than a few times, you begin to only believe in the voice inside yourself which rings true. Personal experience before you've time to (re)interpret it… epiphanies, unanticipated, sustaining.

I find the whole process fraught with difficulty but fascinating. Letting go of ambition seems to be part of the process too. Ambition for personal progress. Yes, improv or winging it. I like the state of hopelessness. Hope really does tend to get in the way. It takes you out of the present towards an ideal. To live without hope but without a loss of love for life… that's a great starting place it seems to me."

As I scrolled through old journal entries the other day I noted several themes among the entries that I have preserved (which go back to Dec 2008). The entry that contained this excerpt from this interview stood out because of its clarity and continuing relevance. Yes, there may be experiences of release and of breakthrough at certain points within a group-centered spiritual path, particularly at the beginning. But there can also be an accumulation of dead weight that increases fairly rapidly, especially if one begins to hedge or to renege on one's prior commitments, only to find that those prior commitments provided a necessary grounding and a kind of ballast that allowed one to continue moving forward through one's life.

I also noted the mention of hopelessness at the end of the interview. This is a topic that caused some friction between me and the hypnotherapist that I saw in 2005-6. "Optimistic," New Age therapists don't like to hear clients talk about things like that. Perhaps they think it's bad for business. Perhaps they think it sounds too much like the bad old values of Old World pessimism, existentialism, suicidal ideation. But what if it's necessary to let go of striving after happiness or "peace" or whatever, at least temporarily, in order to let oneself recharge and restore naturally? This therapist actually came from the UK herself. Perhaps her head was too filled with fantasies of American liberation, freedom, and happiness for her to be able to discover any common sense. It seemed as if she spent all of her time (and perhaps money as well) on hypnotherapy training modules (even though hypnotherapy is not officially licensed as therapy in my state), and on couples therapy in her efforts to keep her relationship with her partner patched together. I remember saying to her at one point, "If I talk with spiritual seekers about my concerns, their answer to everything is more spiritual practice. If I talk with therapists, their answer for everything is more therapy. Why can't anyone simply listen to what I'm saying? Why is that so difficult?"

Even though there were intimations of my eventual future direction in the aftermath of the dissolution of my friendship with X (in 2005), it would take time for me to adopt a more philosophical--and, ultimately, more Euro-centric--approach to my healing process, following various personal and professional frustrations and disappointments and increasingly frequent encounters with illness, aging, and death, both at work and among family and friends. Indeed, it was really in the work of writers like Peter Wilberg, R. D. Laing, and David Smail that I began to find alternative approaches to the idea (if not the actual practice) of therapy that made more sense to me.

To be continued ...


Peace,

kh

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