Song Of Ions

I was listening to my favorite podcast, On Being, and the interview was of Alice Parker, “a composer, conductor, and teacher who’s been shaping the universe of chorale music for most of her 90 years.”

She said:

What we miss when we don’t have song is the means of creating a community, of creating a whole out of a group of people. And it doesn’t matter if it’s a group of people in an old folk’s home that can’t really sing anymore, or if it’s a kindergarten classroom, or a nursery school classroom, or a bunch of seventh-grade boys who can be fairly hard to get to function as a unit.

Wherever they are, if you get them on a song, you can establish a kind of group feeling that is really — well, it’s exemplified at its most marvelous after a perfectly wonderful concert when the last note is sound, and you get that silence in the room, which is a silence of completion, which is opposite from an anticipatory silence. But it just means that everyone — it’s as if all of our inner ions have been scheduled to be moving in the same direction at the same time.

I love that, the inner ions all moving in one direction. When I see our bodies as vibrations, as small kalapas[1] that blink on and off constantly, then I love to think of how music affects us. I see the waves of sound moving thought these tiny particles, jostling them around, massaging them. I remember once in deep meditation, I saw myself as these tiny particles and watched as the sound of the rain moved through me, shaking and shimmering these little pieces that made me up.

Maybe that’s what music is doing, pointing all of our particles in the same direction. It feels this way, when I’m playing shows like the ones this past weekend with Zepparella. Sweetwater Music Hall in Mill Valley is a small venue, about 300 capacity. It was built by musicians as a kind of musical jewel box that sounds so good. The ceiling is made of wooden beams and that is the best kind of ceiling in any venue. It lifts away any harsh high frequencies and rounds and warms the whole tone.

I felt the ions in the room, all the kalapas that made up the bodies vibrating together as the audience sang along with the songs. All the particles, all the sound waves, all the energy animating it all, that energy I call love. Not the emotion love, but the energy that lies beneath in a field of infinite awareness.

Maybe this is the beauty of music, that it fills us and reminds us of this infinite consciousness below our ego, our self. Maybe this is the beauty of music, that the waves that move through you then move through me, and they wrap us up and connect us on a sub-atomic level. It certainly feels this way when we are together, moved by a song. It certainly feels this way when we sing together, when we blend our voices.

I’ve been thinking that maybe all of the division and difficulty of the past years are here to spotlight these truths. To show that we are more connected than we believe. There is such power in raising our voices together. We vibrate as a whole, and our individual voices long to find a chorus of truth together. The communities that form of diverse people, connected by music only, remind us how deep our connection.

When I think of 300 people in a room, being connected by music and vibrating on a deep level together, I then think of how easily our bodies are affected by other energies too. The energy of thought, the energy of stress, of fear. How delicate our constitutions. How we are influenced by the frequencies of others. If those around me are in pain, how their pain must travel through me as well.

I guess this is my duty then, to generate as much positive frequency as possible. To be empathetic to the fear and pain of those around me, and to learn to release these things. To help us move together toward a new vibrational field, one in which all voices sing together in power, in joy, in truth and in justice. My path is to find a way to feel this pain and then to find a way to transform the pain into a truth. I want to contribute to the field around me with energy and power. I want to contribute to bringing us together, to helping release pain and to unite us.

If there is no “I”, if there is no “You”, and instead we raise our voices in one harmony, is this Truth? Can we believe that all our ions can be vibrating together? All of the issues we fight over seem to fall away when we are here, aware of this deep consciousness of love that overcomes all division. We can raise our voices together. We are being challenged to find this one song.

Perhaps the dark times we are living through are a kind of birth: a great movement from individualism to a deeper connected consciousness. Perhaps we are being called to move our ions in one direction, pointed toward the injustice that keeps us from peace and happiness, that keeps us from thriving. In one voice, we have all the power of change.

On a final note, a friend of mine passed into the infinite field this week, and in his passing he left so much wisdom. Shivananda, a stunningly beautiful black silky cat with big green eyes and a very wry sense of humor, left behind the knowledge that we are the bliss of a star, at our very core. Peace is with us now.


[1] In Theravada Buddhist phenomenology, Kalapas are defined as the smallest units of physical matter. Kalapas are described as tiny units of materiality, “tens of thousands of times smaller than a particle of dust,” coming into existence and disappearing in as little as a billionth of a second or a trillionth of the blink of an eye. Kalapas are understood by some Therevada thinkers as actual subatomic particles and the smallest units of materiality.



You can hear me read this post here:

4 thoughts on “Song Of Ions”

  1. Sorry for a somewhat distanced and theoretical comment of your deeply touching poetic post =)

    I’m currently reading “Moral Tribes : Emotion, reason and the gap between Us and Them’ by Joshua Greene. Greene suggests that ancient humans evolved as a groups of hunter-gatherers, (and I’d guess those groups were about the size of 300 individuals). Now, a co-operative group fares better than a group of highly egoistic hunter-gatherers, and so evolution has equipped us with a whole lot of innate ‘mechanism’ promoting in-group co-operation, all based on a shared sense of togetherness.

    But the trade-off is that those groups of hunter-gatherers probably were competing each other over resources. So, the exact same psychological tendencies which promote in-group co-operation tend to bolster distance, competition or hostility between different groups. ‘They are carrying a wrong color of flag! They worship a wrong god! They have wrong kind of moral standards! They sing the wrong songs!’ – yes, flags, gods, moral standards, songs etc. all are things which bind individuals together making them a group. But the long slow process of evolution didn’t quite equip us with bonding with those other groups who sing different songs.

    Well, but in the contemporary world we are no more small separated tribes roaming in the vast wilderness. We live together on this globe, and we have to get along despite our different tribal symbols, different moral views, different traditions etc. And there are two problems;

    1) Groups falling apart, egoistic individuals reaping most of the harvest for themselves, not willing to share for common good

    2) People grouping together to form something resembling ancient tribes of hunter-gatherers, to out-compete and to over-power other tribes who think differently.

    I think anyone who remembers the times of Cold War can feel the chills thinking of how phenomenon 2. has already taken us to the brink of annihilation, several times… And a lot of same kind of stuff going on with political parties etc – instead of seeking co-operation to promote common good, they turn into clans and tribes clashing each other. And no doubt, each spirited member of each clan can deeply feel their ions vibrating the same frequency, the common song of their tribe, their clan, their in-group competing the other groups.

    The challenge, I think (no, I don’t think. This one I feel, purely just feel) is to find a way to cross the gap between ‘us’ and ‘them’. To find such a frequency, such a tune, such a vibration, such a song that unifies them all. This is the time the humankind needs to get tuned-in, to start moving in same direction. To evolve past the ancient call of the ‘our tribe of 300 members’, to find that deeper unifying force you call Love.

    Dear Clem. Keep on rocking, singing, drumming and writing. Dear everybody, let’s keep singing. We can make this together.

    1. Oh, thank you soo much for this thoughtful post Erkka! Yes, I think what is happening is that we are coming into a new way of being, new for the species. When you think about it, it’s only been about 40 years that humanity has thought as “global community.” Not long at all! I think our delicate constitutions are having a difficult time with this birth, but I see the answer, as you say, in evolving past the ancient calls and stepping into a new consciousness of cooperation that will bring peace and harmony. It’s a difficult birth, but most are! With people like you on the other side of the globe thinking the same way, we stand a good chance that this idea is spreading. I get dark with the turmoil, but I think this is the challenge. Today, those of us in Group One are standing out more than ever, and the rest of us can move forward with or without them, but now we see clearly what should change. Peace and love to you, in your beautiful forest home! xo

      1. Oh it is so natural and human to feel (momentarily) darkened, unsure and weak in the face of all the turmoil. I so do remember when I first discovered Zepparella music; a friend of mine posted a link to the 2010 ‘When The Levee Breaks’. I remember watching Nila immerse deeper and deeper into the music, and I thought to myself ‘Oh My! This group of four, not only do they have that deep in-group connection, they seem to dive deeper to the depths where it is only the Song of Ions, where we all are connected’ (of course, I didn’t use the exact words ‘song of ions’ but my own version for the same idea beyond words).

        And as I’ve been following your latter musical adventures, solo projects, writings of past and current band members, I’ve felt a growing inspiration and empowerment. You all have greatly contributed towards my personal darkness giving way to the most ancient call – the call of Kalapas blinking and dancing =)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *