I cannot send you this letter in the usual way. But I can write it in my usual style. And you know we creatives have to create, particularly in response to emotional content — and many of us have to create publicly. Themes of our Discontinuities project are at work.
You’ve taught me more about strange loops than I taught you. Do you know how delighted I felt upon opening the program to the VSO Centennial, knowing that they had commissioned a piece from you, to find that your original contribution was named “Strange Loop”? I cannot remember the music as such, but it has reverberated in me ever since.
In some of our last communications, you alluded to there being a dark side to strange loops. Well, last night, I was “betroffenheited” by dark news about yourself. Otto had warned us he had bad news to deliver. But I could not have imagined it (and still cannot). I exclaimed “Oh my god!”, which I’ve said to myself over a dozen times since.
By some seemingly mystical coincidence, the first piece on the program last night was Linda Catlin Smith’s Nuages (its Canadian Premiere). It was such a fitting, beautiful piece; it bathed me.
You would recall that a few years ago I wrote sections about art and grief for the Discontinuities book. I wrote you at the time saying “I have been playing Halcyon, the individual piece, on repeat (for hours) last couple of days, as inspiration for a document on art and grief.” I don’t want to revisit the text now. But I am reflecting on the process of grief. The purpose of grief like all emotions is to try to foster good relationships. Evolution has designed brains not to take for granted that what appears lost is truly lost. Evolution also implicitly “wants” us to learn to nurture and protect our other current relationships, and future ones. Thus, a common emotion that people left behind have which I certainly experience is more or less vague guilt, “what could I have done better?”
You know, my health glitches of late 2018 persisted and eventually forced me to put Discontinuities and some of my academic projects on the back burner. Not entirely on ice, but significantly “reniced” in favor of Hookmark. After several false hypotheses and false hopes, I finally resolved them in 2022, getting 90% of the way there, and in Feb-March of this year, I basically had it all under control. It was a surprisingly epic journey of progressive problem-solving — given how simple and common the problems were. Oh well. The book’s delay is why I never pestered you for pointers to the specific sheet music you committed to the book nor for further commentary from you about the music. But I planned to. And, of course, we continued to talk about the core concept of strange loops. I will need to find a knowledgeable musician to help select some bars from your Strange Loop and build the conceptual bridge — preferably someone who knew you. No small task.
You asked me, “would it be good to share something weird, or something more normal/obsessive?” and we settled on the latter. Barring disasters, I expect the book project to resume in the third quarter.
BTW, I noticed your disappearance from social media a while back, well before the Musk-related exodus. You had told me you meant to. And certainly, the pandemic made social media worse.
Last month, upon an “Icarus Landing”, I was mauled by the/a “black dog” — for the first time since my 30s. I am fortunate that, in my case, the source of negative affect is always exogenous. I’m grateful that I emerged from my 30s determined and well-equipped to deal with life’s setbacks. So, I used the cognitive shuffle to take control of my sleep. I increased my already high level of exercise. I called upon my network. I addressed the exogenous issue. I focused on four pillars of “happiness” from Timothy J. Wilson’s Redirect: finding meaning in life; understanding life’s setbacks; having hope and optimism; and having a sense of purpose. (For instance, I am trying to help someone in my close network who is dealing with a psychosocial setback. I also did a bit of sleep coaching recently. Helping like this is a vector of purpose and meaning; and it also leads to understanding setbacks.) In sum, I pulled out all the “stops” and put the dog down.
I shake my head while thinking of another irony of writing this letter. For, as I mentioned to you previously, I took up your favorite Kundera book, L’immortalité. I think you said it was your favorite book of all time. This sad irony is compounded by the knowledge that you are one of the few who would understand the irony.
Another coincidence [and please forgive me for pointing out the obvious fact that it’s another strange loop] rattling in my head is that earlier this week, I picked up Richard Wright’s The Weekend Man, from which I learned many years ago about thundering ironies of life. I even took a picture of it along with other books.
Schubert’s no. 8 is one of my favorites. It used to bother me that it was unfinished. But now, it stands to me as an emblem of reality. It’s through celebrating limitation that we can transcend it. I’m sure George Kelley would have approved of this construal.
Regarding Earthfall, the piece that I first contacted you about years ago … you later wrote:
Victoria Symphony have made a video of it that they’re planning to post at some point in the near future too, they just emailed me yesterday.
And it is here:
I hope the classical music community pulls together and creates a compilation of your unpublished music in that one.
In departing, you have primed the themes of the Discontinuities project: mental perturbance, grief, epistolary communication, strange loops, love, art, mind, great minds (yours!), and so much more that I would like to continue discussing with you. I wouldn’t know precisely where to start, though grief is the most salient theme now. But this is not the place for further communication. You once told me
For me it [creating] is sort of like talking to myself, and also communicating with a collection of other beings who may or may not exist.)”
And so I will continue to discuss ideas with you — in my head.
- Jocelyn Morlock passed away on March 27.
- Discontinuities: Love, Art, Mind blurb on Leanpub.
- photo. Photo taken 2018-08-02 in Vancouver. Jocelyn gave me permission at the time to publish it.
Note from the author, Luc.
2023-08-07. I first published the “letter” below as a blog post Apr 1, 2023. I deleted the blog in June as I descended into an uncharacteristic darkness, ironically triggered by severe multi-week acute insomnia for which sleep hygiene and the cognitive shuffle were no match, and perhaps akin to the “black dog” (as Winston Churchill called such states) that Jocelyn experienced. With the help of some black magic (medications & more) I recovered my zest; but I now have a contingency plan for acute insomnia, and I am in the process of revising the somnolent information processing theory. Ask me about that if you like.
This letter will appear in some form in the Discontinuities: Love, Art, Mind book. A theme of that book is fictional epistolary communication. Including this.