A part of us is always there, regardless of our choices and circumstances. Call it awareness, presence, witness, observer, soul, spirit, truth etc. It’s the undefinable absence of concrete categories. A constant self flows beneath language and symbolic identity.
I often wonder what gives a piece of music its identity. Why is one piece not another? It sounds like a silly question. But I find it hard to answer. Is it the melody? Its title? The instruments? Maybe music is defined by its layers, tempo, tone, or how it’s played. Perhaps it’s a particular recording or performance. The “sound”?
A piece of music is often recognisable, even when elements are missing or changed.
This resonates with the image of our constant self. The thing that allows you to know who you are even when the metaphorical instruments, arrangement, and lyrics change on the surface.
Severance and The Constant Self
The TV show Severance is set in a world where you can get a procedure to divide your brain in two. So you can separate your Work Self and Non-Work Self. In other words, when someone goes to work, they have no memory or understanding of what they do outside work, and when they go home, they have no idea what they do AT work.
But even though they have no access to the other self’s thoughts, beliefs, and desires, there are consistencies beyond physical appearance. There is a flow of constant self from one to the other, evident not in their choices but in something more challenging to define.
A True Self?
People often talk about ‘finding your true self’. But that’s a project of language and structured thought. It can lead us in circles.
Likewise, you don’t find music’s “truth” or essence by talking about, analysing, and deconstructing it. If you strip it for parts, you might be able to reverse engineer the component aspects, but you won’t find its essence. By the time you finish, there will be nothing left.
And perhaps that’s part of the point. What makes us who we are and not someone else, what makes a piece of music, not another piece, is in the betweenness, the spaces, the emptiness around the edges.
Playing The Constant Self
Our understanding of the world is built on thoughts, constructs, and the drive to understand. But humans are more than the sum of those things.
We might come to this music question with a desperation to figure it out. But I’m not sure any answer will be adequate or enough. It’s a question that ultimately confronts us with an unanswerable mystery.
You find the truth in music when you allow it to play. You “get” it when you don’t try to understand it. But this sense of understanding is a glancing blow, a disturbance, a wave.
I’ve been playing with this question in my creative exploration this year. For example, I produced a piece of ambient instrumental music alongside a podcast episode about the characteristics of strength.
Loops, Patterns, and New Familiarity
I built the music on a series of loops (all different lengths), which dance and weave over the seventeen minutes. The sound changes and new ideas bleed in and out, but there’s a constant underpinning. A sea of sound that absorbs and reflects the dance as it hits the surface.
I recently heard someone say that a compelling book is both alien (providing new insights and challenging ideas) and a return home (a resonance with something we have been waiting to put into words).
Music is like that. When a piece of music resonates, it pulls us out of our comfortable space. As a result, it can feel alien and strange. But at the same time, it is like a call home. It gives us something we didn’t know we were waiting for but which, once heard, we cannot imagine having been without.
In music, we are surrounded by the ghosts of what has been and the dream of what could come. But this is the ocean beneath the surface. Impossible to describe.
Life is the same. We are always moving forwards, but the past lingers. We change, grow, and evolve, and yet something remains.
The Constant Self ripples in response to disturbances and resonances. This oceanic depth reflects the shimmers of light, casting it in a thousand directions into the world around it. The light refracts through the water, absorbed within the constant self.
This place holds life and keeps going. It’s the ever-present consciousness—the witness in between, everywhere and nowhere.
Outside of rigid certainty is the site of creativity. It’s where life grows, changes, and evolves, and from which we become who we appear to be.
Looking For More Creative Flow?
I’d love to help you make space and time for more creative flow experiences. If you want to do more of that this year but are overwhelmed and confused about where to start, a conversation is often a great way to unblock what’s stopping you. Learn more and book a chat with me here: https://www.andymort.com/slow-coaching/