Last weekend I led a day at the London Buddhist Centre, with Maitreyabandhu, on Tristan and Isolde, Wagner’s revolutionary masterpiece. In preparing for the day, I re-read Bryan Magee’s wonderful ‘Wagner and Philosophy‘, and came across this, on Hegel:
“Reality is not a state of affairs but a process: it is something going on. This is true of every part of reality, and of every facet of our personal lives and experience. Even a material object is a process.”
Anyone with even a minor acquaintance with Buddhism will be familiar with this view. Magee goes on to summarise Hegel’s dialectical worldview in which “any positive state of affairs… [will] call into being contrary and incompatible states of affairs… which destablize it and cause it to change into something new.”
Anglo-Saxon politics can be described very well in this way: as a series of unstable swings between the Democrats and the Republicans, between, in short, a party that (ostensibly, at least) promotes freedom and the individual, and one that supposedly supports more centralised planning and collective action, as I explored here.
El Sistema (“the system”) of Venezuela was, no doubt, an inspiration. This publicly financed voluntary sector music education program, originally called Social Action for Music, “has 31 symphony orchestras. But its greatest achievement are the 250,000 children who attend its music schools around the country, 90 percent of them from poor socio-economic backgrounds.’ (Wikipedia) The extraordinary Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela, which appeared at the UK’s Proms again last year, is one of the products of El Sistema – what better advertisement for the program?
The leftist administration of Hugo Chávez has been the most generous patron of El Sistema, ‘footing almost its entire annual operating budget as well as additional capital projects.’ (Wikipedia) Will the UK Government invest so wholeheartedly? Not if this week’s Huffington Post is anything to go by: Labour MP David Blunkett has indicated that funding for musical education is actually decreasing, with cuts of 12.5% in the past year.
Despite this, I still feel positive about ‘our sistema’. After all, music – like the Dharma – can help us completely transcend all oppositional dialectics and rancour. Both music and the Dharma can help us see beyond our narrow self-clinging and contact a sphere of reliable value, meaning and positive transformation. Anything that supports this process – particularly in our young people – is to be encouraged. As José Antonio Abreu, the founder of El Sistema, said, on receiving the TED Prize in 2009, ‘only art and religion can give proper answers to humanity, to mankind’s deepest aspirations, and to the historic demands of our times.‘ Let’s hope our leaders fully embrace the transcendental and moral values that music and the spiritual life can embody. Only then can we become the ideal society that an orchestra, in full flow, represents. Share