island universes and all that

So it may have taken months longer than initially intended, but I have finally emerged onto the world wide web with the much needed website, and am now taking my first steps out in the land of blog. ‘Island Universes’ was the name of a concert that we (we being The Griffyn Ensemble) put on in 2008 at the National Gallery of Australia, (and probably a defining moment for both myself and the Ensemble), where we performed predominately Australian music influenced by our closest neighbours in Melanesia. For some reason much of Australian culture seems to play hopscotch with world geography and somehow think that we are a part of Asia, forgetting of course that we are surrounded by Pacific nations and completely ignoring the fact that Papua New Guinea is a mere stones-throw away from our mainland. So that particular concert holds a special place inside me.

But the derivation of the phrase ‘Island Universe’ is much less betelnut and much more peyote. It comes from the words of Aldous Huxley who in 1954 wrote The Doors of Perception, kind of a philosophical socio-cultural journey whilst feeling the effects of the drug mescaline – the key ingredient in cactus peyote and used as an indigenous American hallucinogen. I’ve never tried mescaline, nor any other hallucinogen, however I have spent many hours mulling over Huxley’s following words:

We live together, we act on, and react to, one another; but always and in all circumstances we are by ourselves. The martyrs go hand in hand into the arena; they are crucified alone. Embraced, the lovers desperately try to fuse their insulated ecstasies into a single self-transcendence; in vain. By its very nature every embodied spirit is doomed to suffer and enjoy in solitude. Sensations, feelings, insights, fancies – all these are private and, except through symbols and at second hand, incommunicable. We can pool information about experiences, but never the experiences themselves. From family to nation, every human group is a society of island universes. (you can read the whole book here).

Despite the fact that I disagree with the conclusion Huxley arrives at – that we are destined for solitude, these words have held a somewhat spiritual significance for me through the way Huxley describes the human condition. Is it possible to transcend such personal isolation? Once I believed spirituality by its very nature built bridges between such island universes, and I continue to hope that this is true.
In any case, its food for thought, and perhaps I will soon discover whether any musings in a blog can bridge distant island universes. Hello Internet.

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