universality

Well it is after 4:00 am and I am munching on a box of froot loops. I decided to not bother with the milk and half the box is gone. I took a cab home tonight because I waited until almost 3:30 with one of the dancers while her irresponsible friend came to pick her up. She felt horrible, knowing that I walk home and that I was going to be that much later getting home now. I decided that getting home at 4:30 am was not what I wanted and so I called the cab.

Last night I watched the interview with Hans Ziimmer on the making of the music of the movie Gladiator. He said that the scene in the move where the caravan takes Maximus to Zucchabar, he wanted to get really gritty and tribal and ethnic with the music. Then he tells of a very ancient instrument called a Duduk, and how he always wanted to compose a piece of music for that instrument. He said that the only person he knew who could play it was this old man from (I forget what country) and that it was unlikely that he could get over to that far away place to meet the guy. But as luck would have it the guy was in L.A. for a short period and he met him and made some music for him. He said that the man didn’t know a bit of English but he wrote the music for him and he played it magnificently. Anyone who listens to the track The Road to Zucchabar can feel the haunting beauty of the duduk deep within the well of their being. The man’ name is Djivan Gasparyan.

Today, or rather, Monday afternoon, I was listening the soundtrack and sitting on my couch looking out the window when the Zucchabar track came on. I listened to the music with all the ear of a doting lover. What beauty, what spirit, what heartfelt aching. This got me to thinking… that this man played music on an ancient instrument, he was from another country, was very old and had a different life and circumstances in his upbringing than I. Yet the music that this man played was clear and unmistakable. We hear music of sorrow, from whatever culture or time and it is immediately noticed as such. As this universal aspect of emotion in music crossed my mind I was quick to recall studies in psychology that compared the facial expression of people all over the world, even in tribes before untouched by outside ‘modern’ man. What they found was that a happy face is a happy face everywhere, as is a sad face, an angry face, a face of disgust and surprise.

I put these thoughts into a mental basket, for I had to go to work and couldn’t dwell on them. Now it is 4:30 and I am late for bed (grin) but I wanted to get them down. The psychologist Carl Rogers said that “that which is most personal is most general”. Psychology tries to come up with general trends and predictions about human behavior and there are lots of room for degrees of difference. Yet in thinking along this line of thought I think to one of the Greek philosophers (I forget who, Plato, Aristotle, Socratese?) who wrote about laws and said that it was more important to incorporate a spirit of lawfulness than it was to incorporate laws because laws could never cover every possibilty. There would always be a situation where a law is allowed to be broken, because having completely solid laws which gave no flexibility was as bad as having no laws. He said that the happy medium was to be sought after between lawlessness and strict adherence to the law.

These thoughts run in my mind while I hear the hum of relativism. My argument of relativism has been that there was always a loophole. It was the danger of the overly strict society in the grips of unbending law, via the Greek philosopher. To counter my argument I’ve been told that there must be objective morality, otherwise there would be in essence no morality. This is along the lines of Ivan’s “everything is permitted” argument concerning atheism and morality in the book The Brothers Karamazov. The same arguments and ideas are still resounding today.

And yet while I listened to the music, thinking of the universality of facial expressions and the emotive qualities of music, the possibility of a crack in the wall of relativism appeared. The answer would likely entail natural selection, or evolution if you will, but still… the first real signs of something which gives me a moment’s pause to reconsider my relativist stance appears. To this I must continue reading, thinking, writing, and living. If I can refute this, then I’ll have learned more. If I can develop this and refute relativism, I will have learned more. If I bury my head in the sand and ignore, I should run for president of the U.S.

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