this week’s assignment: transcend

Take a look at this young man having a “transcendental” experience:

This is the drummer of the band Deerhoof that was here in Salt Lake on Saturday night. While I was watching them play, I couldn’t help but think that this gentleman, whom I met afterward and found to be mild-mannered and polite, was producing this music (“sound,” some might say) from deep inside himself, the pattern of the drumming guided by some secret inner rhythm that told him instinctively what to hit, how hard, with which limbs.

I just realized that Thoreau himself talks about drummers in Walden. Thanks to Google, I found the quote:

If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.

It’s funny because at this concert the other members of the band (his “companions”) were literally engaged in a constant struggle to “keep pace” as he went off on his transcendent flights of fancy.

Which brings me to your assignment for this week–and this goes for all of you blog lurkers, not just students checking out this site.

Here’s the assignment: Have a Transcendental experience.

If it helps you identify or try to facilitate such an experience, here’s a sort of a definition of Transcendentalism I’ve been working on for, oh , that last 20 years or so:

American Transcendentalism: A cultural movement emphasizing the search for truth as an inner, mental, or spiritual process, rather than a result of direct experience with the external world.

Yeah, I know. It’s clunky, the word “mental” looks, well, retarded, and the syntax is kind of kooky, which is a sure sign the thought itself is only half-baked. Oh well. I’m trying!

The goal for the week is to collect some sort of Transcendental experience. How can we make this happen? Well, for one, you could do what you normally do, but pay closer attention. Thoreau, in today’s reading, said (and I’m paraphrasing) that if you pay close enough attention to yourself and the world around you, you can become a “seer”: literally, one who “sees,” but also one who has hidden knowledge, even the powers of revelation, whatever that involves.

If simple, “increased attention” isn’t quite doing it for you, try assigning yourself a trial, or “penance” as Thoreau called it a few days ago. Decide to sit without moving or making a sound for 4 hours. Go a whole day without talking or looking at anybody. Chain yourself to a tree for the week. Give your neighbor’s cat Fluffy a bath. Take a bum out to eat at Metropolitan. Eat cake for breakfast, lunch, and dinner on odd-numbered Thursdays. Go a whole school day with your right hand tied to your left foot. Every time you hear someone say the word “and,” shout “Duck!” at the top of your lungs. Watch Oprah… Well, that’s going a little far, don’t you think? Anyway, the possibilities are endless. In fact, it doesn’t make any difference what you do, but rather, the attitude with which you do it. Focus on your inner experience and the wisdom about yourself and the world that the experience has to offer. Seek to move “up and out” of the regular world into a mystical fairyland of wonder and joy. At least,that’s how I picture it. Also, there are unicorns there. And pink tu-tued leprechauns. But we all have our own ideas. Whatever.

The goal for this week will be to experience some kind of transcendence and then write about it, so let’s get to work.



3 responses to “this week’s assignment: transcend

  1. So taking drugs and going crazy on the drums is a transcendent experience? Hey, I guess the shakers thought so. Except for the drugs part. Or did they do that too? Drugs is cheating. That’s what.

    Okay, Matt, you’re on. I’m gonna transcend like you’ve (and I’ve) never transcended before. And what’s more, I think your whole 4th period would be pretty intersted in watching me transcend your a__ in an arm wrestle. How you like that, drummer boy?

  2. You’re on, Le Samurai. Only, this arm wrestle is different. Transcendentalists don’t sully themselves with the earthy exertions of actual physical trials. What I’m saying is, I arm wrestle all right, but I do it with my brain. Can you handle that? Do you think the powers of your self-reflective thoughtfulness can force the submission of my powers of self-reflective thoughtfulness in a no-holds barred wrastle of the minds? Then, bring it, as they say.

  3. Also, I talked to the guy from Deerhoof before and after the show, since I was there alone and he was hanging around the crap table selling the band’s stuff. He did not appear to be in any way intoxicated or under the influence of anything other than a powerfully transcendent mind. Just sayin’.

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