Via Negativa

Posted by on Feb 24, 2011 in Sing15: Will's Year | No Comments

©2011 Will Hewett

Austin — David Whyte, in his book The Heart Aroused, speaks of a concept called “via negativa.” It’s a theological idea that Spirit is unknowable as an object, so humans can only get a sense of it by determining what is not it. Made more mundane, it can be thought of as a profound “no” that is in service of an eventual, true “yes.” I’ve thought of this in simple life decisions; the better one gets at saying no, the more clear the yeses will be when they show up.

It’s a useful concept inside Sing15 as well and tonight I play with it.

I sing a low bed of gravel, ambling and unspectacular, verging on atonal. As I do, I tune into my body and watch the impulses to venture out. I can feel some of them originating in my mind, even sensing their physical aspect in my head. These are about boredom or judgment. I watch these and let them pass, continuing to hover sonically close to the ground.

Other impulses feel like a reaction to sonic claustrophobia, the need to gasp the air of variety. These I let pass, too.

As I let these types of impulses by, I notice that bringing my focus back to the low rumble adds internal life to it and lessens the need to leave it.

At a few points, I feel a rising of song inside my belly and chest and it is these motions that I follow. Expecting them to be magnificent flourishes, I’m a bit surprised when they sound so-so to my internal judges. The verve, the purity of the impulse fades and I return to fallow until the next clear rising.

(Background sounds in audio clip courtesy of energetic puppy.)

feburary 24 sounds like this

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