Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Do overs, awakenings, and fresh whallomps

It's happened a few times in the past week.  Been plonked down into a fresh look at things, musical style.

The other evening, walking out of a restaurant, hearing The Beatles "The End," right as the "...and in the end..." began.  This morning, hearing Bach "Air" Orchestral Suite #3.

I cried.  Both times.

At this point, what you might like to know about me is whether or not I am a weeper.  Of people who know me, the answer would vary.  Some know me as a rather emotional sort (what was someone said...a "raw nerve"?)  Others think of me as the ultimate Stay Calm and Carry On sort (what did someone else say..."all head, no heart"?)  The truth encompasses both.  But this is not about my personal truth.

Because this isn't about whether or not I'm an emotional nutcase, or the descendent of that guy who fainted when he heard the first chord of "Rite of Spring."  (Is that the story?  Somebody remind me what I'm thinking of.)  What this is about is the astounding power of the human mind to find itself looking at something familiar, familiar to the point of having background noise, a cliche, dismissed, even...and discovering that for some reason, it still has the power to whammy.

When it comes to music, I find this power can be experienced three ways:

1) It's as if I never heard it before, and am back to something raw and primary;
2) It's as if I never heard it this way before, that somehow the life I've lived since first being introduced has circled me around to some sort of fresh yet now full of depth of understanding "a-ha";
3) I am sitting inside a collection of musicians playing a piece and the literal physical experience of the music (oh, those thrumming vibrations, ohhh, those harmonics, oh, the way we're playing together and the way this line is coming together) turns into an emotional/psychological reverberation that is raw, primary, and ahhhh aha all at once.

There are other arts, other life experiences that can be familiar and yet gob-smackingly profound.  To Kill a Mockingbird.  The opening to Wings of Desire, or the scene in Murnau's Sunrise where the husband realizes he really does love his wife.  One human quietly reaching for another's hand, no eye contact required.  The smell of lilacs in the spring. Feeling the breeze across the lake on your bare skin. Calvin & Hobbes.  Toast.

This phenomenon I am trying to grasp is not to be confused with the concept of a do-over, which anybody who has spent time in playground games or sandlot sports well knows.  Something goes awry, and the gathered throng has a sort of collective ruling that, yes, somehow Universal Force was unjust or somebody acted against an unwritten but understood rule or the neighbor's dog grabbing the ball and running back home justifies something that is neither an erasure nor an elision of time,  but a second attempt, with the first being struck from the record.  A la "the jury will disregard those remarks."

Nor is this to be confused with an awakening, where you feel like for the first time you are fully able to apply your senses and understand something, realizing you never really got it before.  Granted, there is a kinship between an awakening and the second of my conditions, wherein you have a fresh and fuller or different view/experience.  But in an awakening, you realize you never got it before.  In a fresh whallomp, you realize you are getting it again--perhaps with a new angle--but still with that knowledge that you have been in that spot before.  And that you have been given the gift of the whallomp without taking away the gift of your past.

Fresh whallomps require the simultaneous knowledge of prior and current, even as the current seems entirely new.

In perfume parlance, my recent happy dance with Mitsouko was an awakening.  My relationship with Chamade or Bois Blond or No. 19 involves fresh whallomps.

I love being whallomped.  Okay, so maybe not always right as it is occurring, seeing I prefer being reserved when in the company of strangers, and having tears descend out of the blue in what might seem to be an inexplicable and alarmingly precipitous way makes me at least as uncomfortable as any casual observer might be.  But I love that humans have this gift, this gift to both have a past and a powerful present that all at once suggests the ability to relish beauty and the opportunity for renewal, to adjust and/or amend our understandings.

Which I've obviously been tracing as a principle in my perfume journey.  But is best recognized as a theme in my general journey.  I hope that you have it in yours.

I'm still trying to come up with a good word for what I am trying to describe here. Rounded up and being held in the corral for consideration are gems and commoners such as gobsmacked, surprised, astonished, ambushed, thunderstruck, overwhelmed, awed.  Thunderstruck and gobsmacked keep rising to the top, but how to get in the sense of wonder and awe?  It's a "fresh whallomp" for posting purposes, but if you have ideas, please share.  Along with steering me toward the dude who fainted at the beauty of a single chord.


Ines said...

I have no idea who is the dude who fainted but I understand what you're saying.

Especially as I'm always regarded as the cool, composed (without heart even) one. Which is just plain stupid (I'm really frustrated by the no heart idea) as I don't have to yell my emotions to the world in order to have them.
So I'm sure you can imagine that I'm not comfortable with situations when tears spring and I have no control in stopping them. Doesn't happen often but it happens.
And those are mostly tears of joy. My realization in that moment, that something (event, a person, a thing, it can be anything) can invoke in me the moment of perfect joy, which can only have one outlet and those are tears. Yes, they are tears of joy and I usually laugh through them but I can't stop them, as my conscious brain has no control of them.
I do wish we all had more moments in our lives in which we comprehend the joy this world can bring us.

Anonymous said...

Are you going for "epiphany" (Eureka! revelation) or "hierophany" (Wiki "manifestation of the sacred" to contrast with the usual/profane)?

Would either suffice for your "whallomped" sense?

Anna in Edinburgh

ScentScelf said...


The joy...the joy can just be incredibly beautiful, no?

ScentScelf said...


I suppose the truth is that "epiphany" goes more toward the fresh revelations iteration, whereas "hierophany" can go across the board, whether it is a seemingly fresh experience of something known before, or an experience formed by a new layer of depth.

Of course "epiphany" goes more toward a mental formation, whereas "hierophany" involves a physical manifestation, which may or may not be a part of this moment of whalloping beauty/happiness/what have you.

I like where you took I'm thinking again...

Musette said...

We live in a world that loves to pigeonhole. Average people are dismayed and discomfited by hierophany in those they expect to be stoic. There seems to be little room for nuance these days (you may be an artist or an accountant. You may not be both :-) I have learned to keep much of my delight under wraps, as so many people find it disconcerting and challenging. Keeping my delight a bit more private hasn't lessened the joy - but it has lessened the joyousness, if that makes any sense.

SScelf, this is a beautiful post and I so appreciate your taking the time to write it! Beauty is everywhere, in the weirdest, most banal things, and it's wonderful to know there are others out there who revel in the joys!

xo A

Tommasina said...

My Deah - I so get what you're writing about here. Yes, indeed, beauty and wonder are in the goshdarndest things, sometimes - and all the more beautiful and wonderful for it, sometimes.

Btw, the bloke who apocryphally fainted was the Belgian composer Guillaume Lekeu, and it was supposedly when hearing for the first time the fourth chord of Wagner's Tristan. The daft bugger - uh - sorry, poor appreciator of beauty - had to be carried away on a stretcher. Luca T makes mention of it in his review of Sarrasins.

Btw, my word verification thingy is, perhaps Significantly, "mistt". I could make a lot of that, but don't worry, I shan't.

ScentScelf said...


HIM!! Yes, and now that you say it, of course I remember LT mentioning it in a review--Sarrasins, however, I would not have remembered without your assistance. Thank you!

Beauty and writing about a staged adaptation of Orlando that I saw a week ago. Seems to keep on coming back. Thank goodness. :)

I shan't comment on you not making a lot of that Significantly, she responded not portentously. ;)