The Fundamentals of Education

A Socratic Perspective on
the Cultivation of Humanity

by Max Maxwell and Melete

Page 15

The Return from Exile

I experienced the Buddhist hands interpretation as my own exile into the republic of the primary. Having exiled myself and sowed the seeds of artistic novelty, the only way to reap the harvest was to come home again. I brought back a stranger to my familiar home. I gave hospitable welcome to an alien experience of the music that now must live with the rest of my academically learned musical sensibilities. Today, I can easily relate to the beauty of the cantabile theme at a greater range of tempos. I am no longer distracted by a conflict of interpretive preference when I try to perform the piece at slower speeds. More importantly, my sensitivity for expressively performing this beautiful music was greatly improved because my studied musical preferences learned to welcome the alien in exile, and to offer hospitality to the stranger in my home.

Steiner's imagined republic of the primary, in which all that dwells in the secondary city is banned and exiled, is not just an impracticality of social legislation. If Steiner's imagined separation is maintained as an absolute truth, it is also a violation of artistic integrity. I allowed the return from exile, so that the "primary" artistic and the "secondary" academic could learn to dance and sing together as one. Embracing the hospitality to open myself to an 'other' within myself worked to awaken me to another style of being in my experience of this music. My normal "piano self", who was steeped in my musical learning, was temporarily replaced by a radically different other. It was like an alien being emerged within myself who needed to be given the space to be free. My open and hospitable embrace of this "other" within myself has made the adagio cantabile more beautiful and meaningful to me. This experience was a lesson to me in how our own cognitive diversity gives us access to greater meaning and beauty in the arts and life. This truth applies to myself and to a great many people.

Of course, there are some musicians for whom this does not apply. Their native land is the republic of the primary and their artistic fertilities are instinct. They have no need for learning music theory or reading sheet music. All they require is their own ear, an instrument to lay hands upon, and there will be fine music. For those rare persons of such pure artistic instinct, no matter what medium of art they engage, the republic of the primary may be a worthy vision of a beautiful homeland. For the rest of us, full time residence in the republic of the primary is just as much a denigration of our experience of art as living fulltime in the secondary city. Most often, it is the chaotic and fertile dance of our own cognitive diversity that makes it possible for us to experience the deepest meaning and beauty of the arts.

This means that, for most of us, there is no great utopian cognitive homeland for the perfection of art. For the great majority of us, the only worthy available homeland for art is a home who's perfections are forged through the hospitable welcome of the strangers within us. Creating a variety of common grounds and shared spaces to walk with all the different others we encounter is a necessary experience. In order to cultivate the full depth of our experience of the arts, we will have to accept our nomadic status as part-time dwellers and wanderers in the secondary city, the republic of the primary, and a diverse array of other skylines and landscapes that remain undefined in Real Presences. If we want the greatest beauty and meaning of the arts to touch our experience, we must learn to be strangers in a foreign land as well as learn to embrace the alien in heart of our own dwelling. It is here, in the nexus of our own self-knowledge, that the encounter with the other provides the basis for the meaning of language and creative expression that Steiner seeks to explicate in Real Presences.