It has been a long year for me, friends. I last wrote to you in the halcyon days of 2001, from the monastery were I spent 6 of the best of years of my life in quiet meditation. My days were spent in peace and tranquility as I wandered the grounds, contemplating the nature of the universe, the principals of Zen, and the fine, purple hairs and gooey crystal resin of the world’s finest marijuana buds.
However all of that has come to an end…
After an unfortunate incident involving a local villager and a large field of premium cannabis, I was abruptly asked to leave my home and possessions by the new Master, a gruff man with nose and ear-hair that could have choked a horse. But I am not bitter, as I have been expunged from a womb of serenity and born into a world of glorious madness and divine chaos.
Now I am able to contemplate the universe as it is, not as I would like it to be. Of course, it was not always this way. My first months after leaving the monastery were spent in a haze of confusion and a cloud of thick, pleasing, tasty smoke. In those days I reached for pleasures both carnal and base, until I was able to find a small spot of peace among the madness. As a buddhist it is very important for me to seek purity of vision and peace of mind, and thanks to my new horticultural friends here in Northern California, I am able to find both.
As a buddhist I also reject the material world. Music and Plants are gifts from the earth and from the mind, and are as free as they are necessary. There is a Koan which reads:
“The great path has no gates,
Thousands of roads enter it.
When one passes through this gateless gate
He walks freely between heaven and earth.”
To me this is the essence of music. And there has been a certain CD which has been making so many frequent appearances in my discman that I must relate its pleasures to you in this space.
Nice System’s Impractical Guide to the Opposite Sex is a record that can bring peace, solace, and a funky quiver beneath your voluminous orange robe. Just yesterday I bid good day to my neighbor after he had graced me with a gift of several exquisite buds. Being so full of crystals they were almost white, and in the sunlight they were infinite in their interplay of green, white, and orange-red colors. I was reminded that
The flag does not move
The Wind does not move
It is the Mind that moves
From inside my robe I produced a packet of large Rizla papier and a small pouch of tobacco and proceeded to move my mind. My headphones already in place, I pressed play and drifted into the world of Nice System. Soothing pop strums mixed with vocal harmonies that could only come from Scandinavia filled my mind with rolling waves of nothingness. The album is a daydream of interspersed conversations between people who love music and indeed life altogether. There is a lazy fascination with soothing sounds and melodies that promise great things and deliver something even more sublime– ambiguity. This record washes through you as does smoke through the mind, wind across a flag, and years across a life. It is as essential as water is to a pail, which is to say not at all except for when it is. And for me, right now, it is.
The tenuousness of the interplay between the percussion, keyboards, vocals, and strings means you silently wonder if everything will hold together. But this wonder is tempered by the overall feeling of playful calm. A boat may tip in the wind, but it is always supported by water. Nice System rocks and pitches, but often reaches a safe harbor in the form of a listless, vaguely melancholy instrumental tracks supported only by a whistle or a “ba-ba” such as “A Day at Christoffer’s Bedroom.” Balancing jazzy underpinnings, winsome western and that peculiar Northern talent for creating new songs you instantly can sing along with, Nice System has managed to write the soundtrack to my afternoons in the sun.
As dusk gathers around me I draw closer into my robe and roll another one. My circumstances have changed but music continues to float through the air just as it did in Japan. I am reminded of Basho:
“when you have a staff, I will give it to you.
If you have no staff I will take it from you.”
You can purchase and find out more information about this record, including audio samples, at the Radio Khartoum homepage. LINK.