I first discovered Brian Eno’s music when I was a teenager, and his music has been a constant companion in my life ever since. I connected with both Eno’s music, which I found to be sublime, and his approach to making music, which was highly creative and experimental. I especially like the pastoral and meditative aspects of his composition Discreet Music.
Eno approached the composition of this music from a unique perspective: he entered simple melodies into a generative system, namely two tape recorders, a graphic equalizer, and an echo unit.
The resulting music unfolded with minimal input from Eno. As he writes in the liner notes of the album, “Since I have always preferred making plans to executing them, I have gravitated towards situations and systems that, once set into operation, could create music with little or no intervention on my part. That is to say, I tend towards the roles of the planner and programmer, and then become an audience to the results.”
This approach is decidedly humble, receptive, and curious. It creates the conditions and hopes for a worthy outcome. And it strikes me as being an interesting way to think about spiritual development and growth.
Can we create the conditions that generate a continual unfolding and deepening of our spiritual lives? I believe we can. From the physical space we inhabit to the practices we use to the attitudes we foster—all are conditions that generate outcomes. When we are more focused on the process of spiritual growth and less on its product, and when we carefully construct and tend these processes, we open ourselves to outcomes that may, in fact, be more powerful and surprising than the ones we initially conceived.
Significant components of spiritual growth are receptivity, curiosity and humility. As Eno did with Discreet Music, we can do with our spiritual practice and “program” actions, attitudes, and assumptions. And then we can surrender to the beautiful results.
Chris Marblo is the Executive Director of the Garrison Institute.
Image courtesy of Andy Miah