The Tenor of Balance

I’ve had several comments from readers concerning the present series, all resonating with the ideas we’re kicking around. I was especially pleased to receive the following comment, from my friend David (hey, David!)

I don’t imagine you remember, but I played/sang a song on my guitar, called “The Head and the Heart”. You and Dar were there. I wouldn’t expect you to remember the lyrics, so here they are. More follows at the end.

“The Head and the Heart”

Let us talk no more, let us go to sleep,
Let the rain fall on the window pane,
And fill the castle keep, I am weary now, weary to my bones,
Weary from the travelling,
And the endless country roads, That brought us here tonight, for this weekend,
And a chance to work it out,
For we cannot live together, and we cannot live apart,
It’s the classical dilemma between the head and the heart;

She is sleeping now, softly in the night,
And in my heart of darkness she has been the only light,
I am lost in love, looking at her face,
And still I hear the voice of reason, Telling me to chase these dreams away,

Oh here we go again, we’re divided from the start,
For we cannot live together, and we cannot live apart,
It’s the classical dilemma between the head and the heart,
The head and the heart;

Now the dawn begins, and still I cannot sleep,
My head is spinning round but now the way is clear to me,
There is nothing left, nothing left to show,
The jury and the judge will see, it’s time to let her go,
Now hear the heart: I believe that time will show,
She will always be a part of my world, I don’t want to see her go;

So I plead my case to hear the heart,
And stay… It’s time to let her go – I don’t want to let her go… It’s time to let her go – I don’t want to let her go… It’s time to let her go…
And in this classical dilemma, I find for – the heart.

In reading ITC today I noticed something interesting. Anyone who hears me play this song seems to like it (or they are polite enough not to say they dislike it). Those who comment further do so with the same universal comment: They love that the heart won over the head. That in a situation that didn’t work, that was causing stress, pain, and difficulty, passion won over reason. It’s the whole point of the song.

Why? Why does everyone like that outcome? I think its because it is the outcome they so often choose. Hell, for years I thought it was what I was choosing – the heart over the head, to stay in a relationship. I came to realize that in choosing the head OVER the heart, the relationship can change, grow. That instead of doing the same crap over and over again, and then rationalizing it with passion, I could stop and look at my choices, make different ones…and NOT have to cover over frustration, because it stopped BEING THERE.

So why is everyone choosing the heart? Because it is what we always do. I still love playing that song, and I am tempted occasionally to change that last word to ‘head’. Just to start the discussion.

So I really connected with what you were writing today.

heartSeasons of the heart

Here’s Part 2 of the head and heart conversation.

I want to note that the thing that gets us into trouble is the idea that one mode of relating to that which is around us should be superior to another.

We, to quote David’s lyrics, “find for the heart.” Or whatever.

When this happens, instead of balance, there is an emphasis on one stream of data over the other.

To return to the 4-part harmony analogy, however, the thing only works when each voice balances and… well… harmonizes with the others.

As my friend notes in his comments, what was missing for him was the input of the head. As difficulties arose, his focus went more and more to his emotions, and I would suspect that the motivating factor was not love, but its opposite, fear.

We attempt to paint a rosy picture about the passion and “love” that causes us to fly blindly into the same storm, again and again, and all that is required is to see that there are other ways. Ways that simply include opening ourselves to more information.

Where contentedness is found is when head and heart (and intuition and groundedness) are in perfect harmony. From this place, music is made.

Most of my work in counselling, business consulting and here with Into the Centre is to get people to look at this issue and to take responsibility for finding balance.

Therapy can be subtractive or additive.

Subtractive therapy styles attempt to remove behaviours and patterns and thoughts that do not work. In the main, in my judgement, they’re not very effective. This, however, is what people tend to think they are going to therapy for.

For example, a person might regularly get agitated, angry, entitled, and bounce about the room blaming everyone else for their problems. They will come to therapy looking for ways to get the other people in their house to change, and will also be looking for a way to stop expressing their anger. They have spent years stuck in this pattern, stifling their feelings until they blow, and blaming others that the thing started in the first place.

The musical equivalent is blaming the composer for writing the song in the “wrong” key, as opposed to accepting that the key that doesn’t work for you.

I not so gently suggest that the way we are is the way we are. And the last thing I want to do is to take away the person’s primary method of expression. All that can lead to is illness.

Additive therapy styles suggest that the person doesn’t have an (in this illustration) anger problem or even an anger management problem. What the person lacks is additional resources and ways of being and behaving. Therapy, then, becomes an instruction designed to widen the repertoire of the person, not to try to take something away.

Imagine the how bad it would be if a quartet sang the same note, over and over. Or sang “100 Bottles of Beer on the Wall,” in unison, over and over. Sadly, many people, most people, live their lives in just such a narrowed state.

If I continually resort to the same behavior and way of understanding, if I exclusively deal with my emotions, passions, drives and direction in the same way, if I focus on one input channel and ignore the other three, if I draw into my life the same kinds of people and engage with them in the same predictable way, I shouldn’t be too surprised if nothing changes.

Having said that, you’d think most people would jump at the chance to gain additional resources – indeed to make seeking them a life-long project. Yet, most don’t, as it’s easier to stay stuck and miserable than to continually make better choices.

I hear, often, “Boy, what you’re suggesting is hard. It will take me a long time to change this. I’d have to pay attention all the time.” And then, the big sigh. Woe is me.

Reminds me of an old Pogo cartoon, where the characters are dressed as soldiers, and are following footprints around a tree. Finally, the front of the line catches the back of the line, and Pogo says, “We have found the enemy and they is us.”

Connected to this is the wish for a “magical cure.” Things should shift just because I want them to. Yet, it doesn’t work that way. Change happens through the hard work of changing the only thing you can — your behaviour.

A Little Story About Too Much Heart
and Not Enough Ear. Or Head

Back in my days in the Ministry, my last “posting” was to two small churches. The smaller had a choir directed by a very “stuck” lady.

All three of her adult children sang in the choir. I’ll leave aside her predilection for having the choir sing Country and Western Church songs. He cringes at the thought…

The very first week I was there, mama asked me to join the choir (as she knew I was a Tenor.)

The first rehearsal, I was told, “My youngest daughter, Bertha, is really the anchor of this choir. She’s a soprano and has perfect pitch.”

I thought, “Well, that’s handy. My pitch can be a little iffy at times, especially sight reading new music.” Nice to have an anchor.

Also, Bertha wasn’t bad looking, so I was “thrilled” to sign on and sing Tenor in the choir.

For you non-musical types, an SATB choir is a mixed choir, men and women, singing Soprano, Alto, Tenor and Base. In SATB, the melody is carried by the Soprano section.

That last part is important…

Out came the spiral bound country and western favourites. Can’t remember the song, but the verse hovered around middle C, a comfortable place for most folk. The Tenor part didn’t even require me to do a falsetto shift.

Then, we came to the chorus. The Director stopped and said, “I think Bertha should sing the first and fourth stanzas of the chorus solo, with the Choir chiming in on stanzas two and three.”

She played an intro on the organ. Bertha opened her mouth.

Her first line wasn’t too bad, although I noticed that she was going a bit sharp as the notes got higher. They were still in the mid-Soprano range, so sweat began to break out between my shoulder blades.

By the end of the third line, she was bleating out a grating sound, and making up for lack of quality by adding volume. (Hmm. Many people do this in their interpersonal relationships. But I digress…)

In came the choir, and things got back on track. But Bertha was getting sharper and sharper with the chorus’ on verses 2 and 3.

Several things happened in the chorus of verse four.

  1. Bertha decided to add “flare” by taking the plainly written notes up an octave. With volume. This is difficult for good Sopranos.
  2. The stained glass windows began to vibrate and crack.
  3. People began to bleed from their ears.
  4. Birds fell from the sky, dead, a mile away.
  5. Mom put in an Organ flourish, grinned and said, “Perfect! See! Perfect pitch!”

OK. I lied about 2, 3 and 4.

The problem here was that Bertha and mom had concocted a story about the daughter’s voice, which anyone with ears would know was untrue.

Bertha was an Alto. But Altos don’t sing the melody and seldom get solos.

They also had decided that higher and louder was better. Even scarier is that they had co-opted an entire choir into agreeing. No one was willing to challenge the beliefs.

Well, I did, and I was told to mind my own business.

We have to be willing to look to listen and to think about the results we are actually getting (usually this requires outside, non-involved guidance) as opposed to what we want.

As we discover the sticking points, new behaviours, new songs, will be required.

Next week: The Director (as a hint, we won’t be using Bertha’s mom as an illustration…)

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