Friday, September 4, 2009

Tim Cohen: The Two Sides of Tim Cohen

I have been habitually hard on myself lately, and it has to do with a struggle with my own skepticism. I have come to regard this part of myself as essential to avoiding what Umberto Eco has called "turning metaphysics into mechanics." But in doing so, I am becoming a detective with all the clues but nothing to investigate. Sometimes I forget that the answer has been, and has always been for me, in music and literature. When art aches towards transcendence, (and if George Steiner is right, all art does,) it is the ache that absorbs all the doubts, the loneliness, the emptiness. Somewhere along the way I forgot how much spiritual power exists in the longing, in the question. In the novel Elizabeth Costello by J.M. Coetzee, the titular character has a wonderful sustained argument with herself about the stories of gods and mortals couplings. Why, she asks, would a god want to bed a human? What about being human is attractive to them, would stoke divine desire. (desire that often has to be hidden in another form, such as a swan or a bull lest the mortal be destroyed by the pure form of the deity). The answer, she alludes to, is that there is something so unique and wonderful about the human desire for transcendence. It is our longing for them that makes them desire us.

Tim Cohen's album The Two Sides of Tim Cohen is a perfect antidote to my crippling skepticism. There is an unabashed calling out to the heavens, not for perfect answers, but because that is how we claim our own humanity. We reach out and we become more connected to the divine, not because something reaches back (although sometimes it does) but because that we are, like the gods, desirous of each other.

The title of the album hearkens back to the seventies, and while there is a bit of that decade winding its way around the songs, the album is not derivative. These are simple songs made complex by harmony and rhythm, and they carve themselves right into you. There is some texturing, a tiny bit of noise, but these are mostly stripped bare of anything extraneous. Everything sounds like it was recorded outside, in the hollows of a cave or under the bow of trees. Sounds echo from the hills, as Cohen walks along some sacred grove; grooving, dreaming, looking up, looking around, but never forgetting to look straight ahead.

--Take Aim Goliath

1 comment:

Jim Lopez said...

Questions that might cause more confusion:

- Is it possible that there is indeed some form of a mechanical function that takes place during transcendence? (Particularly mechanical/body and chemical movements within the brain as they connect to the mind.) Is so, is it worth trying to locate this mechanics of transcendence?

- Is it possible to investigate aspects of thought that initiate and create a mechanical change within one's character or body? How does thought relate to action?

Though Eco's warning, to not turn mechanics into metaphysics, is a good template and safeguard against quackery, taken too stringently his warning may limit the boundaries of thought and the functions of mechanics and metaphysics.

-Are mechanics and metaphysics "necessarily" and mutually exclusive of one another? (yet never forgetting to use Eco's warning as a guide but not a maxim.)

-Is there a method that can be developed where one might investigate some connection between metaphysics and mechanics without reducing our investigations into the matter and phenomenon without falling into New Age dogmas? and if so, what would be the mechanism that would direct such an inquiry? (See William James' "Essays in Radical Empiricism.")

Descartes may have broached this realm

The auditory mechanical function (sounds that your ear hears and registers and relates to the brain and body) that is necessary for one to experience moments of transcendence (a metaphysical phenomenon) while listening to Tim Cohen "seems" to indicate that there is may indeed be some relation between mechanics and metaphysics, if we define moments of transcendence as a metaphysical phenomenon.