I’ve been playing a good bit of Philip Glass in my classes recently. If you’re familiar with Glass’ music, it can be downright tedious at times…foreboding in others. Quite frankly, I’m not sure most people would think it belongs in a yoga class. But I’m not most people. What I’ve long loved about his pieces is the way he layers something light and melodic on top of something angst producing and how his compositions seemingly change course in a beat. But this is neither a review nor critique of Philip Glass’ music.
I was first introduced to the sound and style of Philip Glass when I was in college. I was taking a communications class and at some point we watched Koyaaisquatsi…the 1982 time lapse photography film directed by Godfrey Reggio set to music composed by Glass. The imagery…sped up at times…slowed down at others…is all beautifully dancing to the frenetic (and sometimes not so much) nature of Glass’ music. While it’s a bit of time commitment, I encourage you to look at the film…again…as the case may be. I’ve embedded it below for ease and apologies for the commercial interruptions courtesy of Hulu.
Watching the movie again I, of course, marveled at the choreography of the images and music, and, despite being over 30 years old, the relevance of the film’s message. As I watched, I couldn’t help but think about the era the film was made…there was no facebook (given Zuckerberg was born in 1984…), twitter, instagram, and the like. The idea of immediate and constant access and sharing wasn’t in our realm of comprehension. So, I believe Reggio’s question remains…have we learned anything along the way as our lives become faster and faster paced.
I don’t recall, when I first saw the film, whether or not I felt my life was out of balance. I don’t even recall if that idea was even a part of my (our) vocabulary then. Did I forget? Do WE forget? The film has a very clear perspective of the early 1980’s, but I wonder if there was a similar message for people 30 years earlier in 1954 when the TV Dinner was invented? How about in 1926 when the first “drive through” was created? Or still in 1890 when the tabulating machine was invented. And, for all that, did the cavemen communicate in some way,”Whoa! We need to slow the fuck down!” when they discovered fire?
Now…30+ years after this film was released, I find myself helping people put balance (back) into their life and I wonder if this movie and its messages have become obscured by the current rapid pace of life? How many different ways and times do we need to hear this message before it sinks in or will the constant noise drown out the message we all need to hear?
Admittedly, I’m not immune to the pace. I can sometimes find myself moving at such a pace that I look back recognizing that I haven’t tuned in to what’s really important…our connection with others…and ourselves. It’s at those moments I step back and ask whether I’m watching life speed by…or am I part of life. As in our meditation practice, we learn that we have the option to be dragged along by our thoughts. We can also recognize that the world is moving at a rapid pace, but we don’t need to get dragged along. At the end of the film, the makers further define the Hopi word Koyaanisqatsi as “crazy life,” “life in turmoil,” “life disintegrating,” and “a state of life that calls for another way of living.” Heavy stuff…and a wake-up alarm, for sure.
If I don’t have the honor to be with you in one my classes, perhaps Alena Hall’s “8 Ancient Beliefs Now Backed By Modern Science” will offer some guidance on bringing some balance into your life. Or better yet, why not simply step away from the computer, take a deep breath in and a full breath out, and then another…and slow down to take time out to question what and why you’re doing what you do. Oh…and if you check out the film…do share your insights.