Tonight we had an amazing lecture at CIIS from Erik Larsen, the creator of the CymaScope – a research tool, analogous to the telescope and microscope, used to “make sound visible”. The science behind the effects of sound on human bodies and human consciousness is both ancient and in its infancy. In some ways the study of sound has been going on since the beginning of human civilization. Perhaps sound is what gave birth to the universe. But we still have only rudimentary models for understanding what we all know intuitively or through experience to be the powerful, holistic effects of sound on the human body as a system.

These and other mysteries are what bent our minds tonight as we watched astounding images of different sounds transduced through water and visualized in still photos and high-definition video. I felt like I was watching the embryonic, garage-stage development of a new industry. I pictured Hewlett and Packard in their Palo Alto garage building devices and spending time on things they thought were “cool” and showing them to anyone who would stick around to listen. Plenty of people probably thought they were crazy at the time, but that didn’t stop them. They kept going and happened to have their timing aligned with the universe so that they were alive to see their ideas “break through” into mainstream innovations, changing our lives forever.

I sat there watching the research and thinking, “We’re always changing forever, it’s just a matter of when we become aware of it.” At the end of the two-plus hour talk, which was filled with rigorous scientific thinking and an equal depth of insight into the mystical aspects of sound, we found out that Erik does all this research quite literally “in his garage”. He has formed companies and partnerships to fund the research, but it’s such a young field that he supports himself working as an engineer at a solar energy company (also doing very cool things). Apparently he doesn’t sleep.

I was struck the entire time that his own passion for this subject has really been the engine behind all this development. But he’s done it all without any mainstream support or sources of funding. Just pure faith and passion.

I thought of the difference between rats and people. Only a human being would dedicate himself in the way Erik has to the pursuit of cymatics, working day and night, with a small circle of support, to make the tiny steps required to advance this fledgling field. Erik is persistent. It took him two years before he produced his first picture of sound on the cymascope. The depth of knowledge he has, the detailed hand-tooling he has done in building each piece of equipment, and the philosophical framework within which he pursues the science really touched me. I realized simultaneously how not an engineer or scientist I am, but also how human it is to pursue scientific research in this way. Obviously he’s not in this for the money, the fame, or the prestige, because barely anyone has even heard of cymatics. Not yet.

But how do we give birth to anything new if we’re not willing to go through this phase of its development? Who do we rely on to do this hard work for us? And what are we missing if we never care deeply about something in our one short lifetime?

The difference between rats and people is that people create. More than just procreate, people create ideas, philosophies, frameworks, structures, and ways of understanding the experience of the world we live in. In exchange, we sometimes suffer. We sometimes sacrifice. We recognize that we don’t know. This causes us pain. Yet we continue to create because it is our nature.

The difference between rats and people is that people try. People have this capacity to try to alleviate our own pain, or the pain of others. People share their experiences and try to transform other’s awareness. The human tendency is to keep trying, even in the face of probable failure. This is our nature, and it’s what gives rise to our psychic pain, as well as our greatest sense of joy and connection to life. If we try to hide from this essential nature, we hide from life. If we try to protect ourselves from the pain, we insulate ourselves from the possibility of our greatest joy as well. With our higher awareness comes the responsibility to use that awareness for the balancing of our inner experiences – opening ourselves to possibility by creating, building our strength to handle the inevitable pain of that opening, and holding on to the faith that staying open will provide the container for receiving the joy of being alive.

“Every time your imagination awakens, you are in a place of holiness. Your imagination is the doorway to the eternal.” – John O’Donohue