The Music Muse claimed me at a young age. When asked if my parents made me practice piano, “no, they had to make me stop!” Not even Academia (B.F.A. California Institute of the Arts) could quench my ’freak fire’.
And like Persephone, catastrophic personal tragedy dragged me kicking and screaming into the Underworld as a teenager. My teen years and twenties were crushed by overwhelming darkness and despair. Friends at a local Evangelical church said “Come join us, we have answers!” Great, I need them! But I didn’t find their answers very helpful, kept pressing, and one day the pastor said in exasperation: “If you would just learn Greek, you could read the New Testament in the original and answer your questions yourself.” I! CAN! DO! THAT!
So at Biola University I squeezed in 2.5 years of Greek in 1.5 years (99% or better on all my exams). Then, because when just reading it’s too easy to glaze over the hard passages, I decided to do my own translation — as a massive devotional exercise. (I had no idea I was unknowingly doing Lectio Divina — an ancient spiritual practice).
That massive translation exercise turned out to be a mystical experience (small-‘m’ mystical). While translating the Gospels, which took over a year or so as I was able to make time in the evenings, I constantly had a sense of a Loving Presence as I was working through the Text. It never felt like “Hey, this is Jesus!” or anyone else — if anything it felt Feminine. And if that Presence had said: “Go to Antarctica and preach to the penguins,” I would have! Instead, it felt more like “Go live life. Keep following your nose. You’ll be OK.”
So eventually I translated the entire New Testament. That exercise probably created more questions than it answered, but at least they were much better questions! Also, some in The Church (various denominations) were sympathetic to my experience, some outright dismissive or hostile, but I never did find substantive guidance. Some things you have to work out for yourself, I suppose. So over the years since I’ve studied world religions, Western philosophy, psychology (Jung and Campbell especially), mythology, history of mysticism, physics, mathematics, and more self-help books than I can count.
Reading about swimming is one thing, but throwing oneself into the ocean is quite another! So, I threw myself into the World in search of my Grail, achieving some small modicum of worldly ‘success’ in the process. My Quest and the vicissitudes of life took me to many realms: entrepreneur, musician, corporate America (including technical writer at IBM and programmer at Microsoft on the C++ team), harpsichord maker, college mathematics instructor, martial arts instructor (Kenpo) — and although each has their beauty (and shadow), none of them was Home. And in my wanderings I was enchanted by the glass armonica — a musical instrument invented by Benjamin Franklin, which I have played professionally including performances at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. and at the Hollywood Bowl with the Blue Man Group. And husband, father and grandfather — including the agony and joy that accompany those roles.
In short, a whole lot of wandering as an alien and stranger upon the earth, struggling to make sense of all I had experienced. In hindsight I can see the deep truth of “Not all who wander are lost”, and “Be seeking and you will find.”
When one has visited the Underworld and returned, all of a sudden one sees fellow survivors of Sorrow everywhere. Perhaps you’re one of them. Perhaps some of the music or meditations on this site will be helpful to you on your own Quest.