Four-Part Harmony

I do won­der where my ideas come from. The oth­er day I was hav­ing trou­ble sleep­ing — it was ear­ly morn­ing, and all of a sud­den I was think­ing about Elmhurst Col­lege and the Glee Club. Yes, sports fans, I sang in a Glee Club, and we were actu­al­ly pret­ty good. The Direc­tor was David Austen — a very cool guy near­ing retire­ment when I knew him. We called him “Coach.”

I’d sung solos in Church grow­ing up — my mom had an excel­lent sopra­no voice and I grew into a mid­dling Tenor. I sang in the Choir, and always had trou­ble stay­ing on track with my part of the melody. I decid­ed that a cou­ple of my friends were in Glee Club, and that I’d join up and learn to sing four-part harmony. 

Let me tell ya, it’s not an easy thing. I have pret­ty good pitch when I’m on my own, but toss in those oth­er parts, and things would begin to dis­in­te­grate and quick­ly. I did learn, though. Part­ly by lis­ten­ing to my Sec­tion Leader (actu­al­ly, stand­ing next to him with my ear 6 inch­es from his mouth,) part­ly by force of will, and most­ly by com­plete­ly trust­ing “Coach.”

So, are you guessing where I’m going with this? 

Back to me, abed. I start­ed imag­in­ing that a per­son is also a four-part har­mo­ny with a Coach. Let me repeat: I do won­der where my ideas come from. The weird­est part is that this actu­al­ly makes a bit of sense. Here’s how it goes.

The Bass is the anchor in four-part har­mo­ny. The Bari­tone adds deep colour. The 2nd tenor car­ries the melody and the Top Tenor (me!) adds the inter­pre­tive colour — the “over the top” part. And all of this is “kept under con­trol” by none oth­er than the Coach.

OK. Now, if you mash in Car­olyn Myss’ Chakra the­o­ry, a bit of Body­work and our Watch­er Book­let, what you get is yet anoth­er “sys­tem” of under­stand­ing re. how life plays out.

And here’s the last piece: you also have to throw in “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” and specif­i­cal­ly “too hot, too cold, and just right.” Get­ting here whilst abed, I forced myself to a stand­ing pos­ture and gave myself a shake. No good. The thoughts stuck. 

You’ll know, if you’ve been read­ing Into the Cen­tre for a while, that we like metaphors. So, if we say that ground­ed­ness is locat­ed in the legs and pelvis, you under­stand, don’t you, that we’re speak­ing metaphor­i­cal­ly, and also that this metaphor match­es the­o­ries in Chi­nese and Indi­an med­i­cine, which are also metaphors. What fol­lows, then, is a metaphor­ic divi­sion into four parts plus a Coach. In prac­tice, the 4 things described are parts of all of us, and the metaphor is a convenience. 

Pic­ture, if you will, the body. 

  • The legs and pelvis make up Zone 1 — the ground­ing and pas­sion Zone, and is rep­re­sent­ed by The Bass. 
  • The bel­ly from the navel to the ster­num is Zone 2 — the sense of self and self-esteem Zone, and is rep­re­sent­ed by the Baritone. 
  • The chest and neck is Zone 3 — the seat of emo­tions, pur­pose and expres­sion — and is one of the Tenors. 
  • The head is Zone 4 — the intel­lect, rea­son, and also those “pain in the ass” voic­es in your head — and is the oth­er Tenor. 
  • The Coach is a con­struct — Freud’s super­ego, The Phoenix Cen­tre’s “Watch­er.” This might also be thought of as con­science and that which pro­vides Spir­i­tu­al Direction.

Now, think about it. We have the fol­low­ing char­ac­ter­is­tics rep­re­sent­ed: bal­ance and ground­ed­ness, pas­sion for life, sex­u­al ener­gy (pas­sion for pas­sion’s sake), self-know­ing and self-esteem, moti­va­tion, emo­tion­al expres­sion, and our thought process­es and inter­pre­ta­tions, all kept in per­fect har­mo­ny under the watch­ful eye and ear of the Coach. Hmm. Inter­est­ing metaphor.

And per­haps every sys­tem of thought, in its own way, has been say­ing that the goal of the wise soul is liv­ing life in bal­ance and har­mo­ny, and that this bal­ance and har­mo­ny is an inter­nal process. As we’ve said end­less­ly in Into the Cen­tre, there is no out­side. Out­side is inter­pret­ed and act­ed “against” from inside. We can’t change what’s “out there.” We can end­less­ly play with what’s “in here.”

Just as a good Glee Club needs a vari­ety of music, it also needs to be able to sing at dif­fer­ent vol­umes and with dif­fer­ent empha­sis. This is the “too hot, too cold, just right” part. As I view the peo­ple I work with, and soci­ety in gen­er­al, what I see is “peo­ple run­ning hot and cold.” Over the top or dead flat. Fight­ing or apa­thy. Hyper or bored. What’s miss­ing is bal­ance, with the empha­sis on “just right.”

If you lis­ten to music, in gen­er­al there is a ton of “just right,” with ele­ments of “too hot” and “too cold.” Unless the piece is meant to wring emo­tions out of us. Think of the choral end­ing to Beethoven’s 9th. This is a “hot” piece, and is emo­tion­al­ly drain­ing and phys­i­cal­ly exhaust­ing. On the oth­er hand, Debussy’s “Claire de Lune” is a “cool” piece throughout.

Per­haps “just right” might be thought of not as a mid­dle state between to polar oppo­sites, but rather as a state of “appro­pri­ate­ness.” There are, as we see in Proverbs, “times and sea­sons for every­thing.” Rather than being stuck in over­drive or per­pet­u­al­ly plant­ed in the ground, immo­bile, there is the free range of expres­sion. There is bal­ance, and in bal­ance, harmony.

So, for the next few weeks, we’re going to be explor­ing the parts, the blend, the har­mo­ny and the Direc­tion. Oh. You may have noticed up above that I did­n’t locate Top and 2nd tenor in the body. A quick note as to why. 

Remem­ber, 2nd Tenor is the “lead” and car­ries the melody. My present think­ing is that, unlike a Glee Club, the lead “in life” may switch between the heart and the head.

I’m work­ing this one out as I go along. I think that I think that the head leads and the heart pro­vides the coun­ter­point and the colour, and I sus­pect that’s where I’ll stay, but as they say, the jury is out on this one.

Let’s get to it, then, and let’s get grounded!! 
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