During our lives we connect repeatedly with people, and some of those connections become quite deep. Using music as a metaphor, we can think of the attraction that begins a relationship as the “melody,” the most apparent part of the music of connection. So, in a way, that is the “first music,” the music we hear most readily.
However there is a “second music” in our relationships, of which we may or may not be mindful. Again, using music as metaphor, think of this second music as the bass line and drumming in a pop song. A song that comes to mind for me is “Something,” George Harrison’s ballad from the Abbey Road album. The melody is sublime, and communicates clearly the feeling of passionate love that his lyrics express. But if you listen closely you can also hear a wonderful rhythm just beneath the melody, a rhythm defined by Paul McCartney’s skillful bass playing and Ringo Starr’s subtle drumming. If we heard this song without that “second music” we would have a lesser experience.
The same is true in our most intimate and important relationships. While it is the outward signs that attract us there is that second layer, something that is constant and rhythmic, that keeps us connected. As a therapist I recognize that the issue or story that my therapy client tells me is that first music, while the client’s history and emotions and world-view constitute that background and underlying second music.
My mother passed away very recently. She died after suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease for many years. The early loss we experienced was the first music, as her memory deteriorated; short-term memory at first, then gradually long-term memory. In the beginning of her illness she was still mom in character; the second music was still playing. But as long-term memory faded and was lost, so was the feeling of my mother; the underlying rhythm was gone as well.
What stimulated this line of thought in me was a poem, “The Second Music,” reprinted below, that was sent to me by a dear friend shortly after mom’s death:
The Second Music
Now I understand that there are two melodies playing,
one below the other, one easier to hear, the other
lower, steady, perhaps more faithful for being less heard
yet always present.
When all other things seem lively and real,
this one fades. Yet the notes of it
touch as gently as fingertips, as the sound
of the names laid over each child at birth.
I want to stay in that music without striving or cover.
If the truth of our lives is what it is playing,
the telling is so soft
that this mortal time, this irrevocable change,
becomes beautiful. I stop and stop again
to hear the second music.
I hear the children in the yard, a train, then birds.
All this is in it and will be gone. I set my ear to it as I would to a heart.
“The Second Music” by Annie Lighthart from Iron String
With this idea in mind, I will pay closer attention going forward to this second music in my relationships and in the world. I think sometimes we pay attention only to the most obvious parts of our friendships. With the gradual loss of my mother, I’ve come to appreciate how much that second music means. Perhaps the next time you’re with your friend, your spouse, your partner, you’ll notice that subtle rhythm that defines the longest-lasting part of the person you love.
Here is the video of the meditation today:
And here is today’s Audio: