“Don’t cry, it’s only music,”
someone’s voice is saying.
“No one you love is dying.”
It’s only music. And it was only spring,
the world’s unreasoning body
run amok, like a saint’s, with glory,
that overwhelmed a young girl
into unreasoning sadness.
“Crazy,” she told herself,
“I should be dancing with happiness.”
But it happened again. It happens
when we make bottomless love—
there follows a bottomless sadness
which is not despair
but its nameless opposite.
It has nothing to do with the passing of time.
It’s not about loss. It’s about
two seemingly parallel lines
suddenly coming together
inside us, in some place
that is still wilderness.
Joy, joy, the sopranos sing,
reaching for the shimmering notes
while our eyes fill with tears.
~ Lisel Mueller (from Alive Together)
Last night I had the pleasure of attending a classical Indian music and dance concert, featuring Japanese bansuri (bamboo flute) player Taro Terahara. The ensemble included a tabla player, and a sarode player, and a tampura player, and a kathak dancer who joined the musicians toward the end. Though they all were wonderful, it was the magical playing of Taro Terahara that, for me, made the evening truly special. The beauty of it quite literally brought me to tears; and at times altered my perception in a way that made it seem as though the entire room were filled with golden-white light.
Later, as I was reflecting upon the evening–and still very much feeling it in my body–this poem by Lisel Mueller came to mind. Why does aesthetic beauty make us cry–when crying is generally associated with sadness? I believe Ms. Mueller answers the question beautifully.
We say that we are “touched” by beauty, but what exactly does this mean? Perhaps something like how an ice cube floating in a bowl of warm water is touched by what both surrounds and slowly melts it? The body-mind melting into or becoming fully pervaded by its deeper Source, is touched in a way that includes the dissolution of all mental polarities. Tears of joy, of sadness, of relief, of surrender, of appreciation, of welcoming. The eyes and I alike being cleansed by and within and as the beauty.