I have often pondered the meaning of the Hindu concept of Nirvana, feeling a certain resignation that I probably will never know what it is.
And then last night I had an absurdly clear flash of understanding (Nirvana?) in which I was blessed with a most comforting insight: Nirvana is not (a) a state reached through meditation and prayer (b) only possible in a hypnotic dream-like passivity (c) requiring spiritual ascendance attainable only by the few, and by the many only after death; but it is absolutely the most active and passionate experience of living life that exists in the human universe. It is a state reached in the stumbling upon and executing of a perceived great idea.
It was in a conversation where my friend Mark Green was trying to convey to me the euphoria of the closing moments of a 3-day think-tank he and 4 colleagues experienced in the creation of a new company, that this concept of Nirvana became crystal clear to me. Mark was expressing how after 3 days suddenly all the pieces fell in place, and he locked on to the images of what they had created with such a frenzy that on the way home, he had to pull over to the side of the road, as he felt too depleted and exhausted to even drive another moment.
I visualized his experience as a wide tube of light beam that was incredibly bright and shimmering with the unbridled energy it contained, yet that energy was focused, not all over the place, but staying within the tube. I saw the tube as a magnet that drew chips of information and insight out of the universe and brought them all into the tube, traveling along the light beam. Deviating out of the concept or idea would immediately destroy the beam. Putting aside the idea to be developed another day would be to lose the insight.
Often I have come up with what seemed brilliant ideas, in the middle of the night, and scribbled them on a piece of paper. In the morning they were just a garbled group of words that meant nothing. So it is not the words themselves that are the Nirvana, but the experiencing the flash of insight that accompanies them. Even verbalizing them doesn’t guarantee that a listener will have the slightest idea what you are raving on about. It is a totally personal experience that goes on in the Nirvanee’s mind during the creative process.
As a songwriter, I have spent hundreds of hours in the journeyman practice of assembling interesting combinations of words and pictures to tell stories. Words are my tradesman’s hammer and nails. And then sometimes, in the middle of it all, an idea will come through me, not to me but through me, and it will be on paper before I have any idea what it is. The getting of it will create a physical experience – a prickle on the back of my neck, a lightheadedness, a sucking away of my breathing air, almost a passing out sometimes. It will be totally centered and focused and selfish, allowing no deviation from its compelling draw.
It doesn’t even have to make sense to me. It doesn’t have to make sense to anybody else. It isn’t right or wrong. It isn’t perfect or elevated or brilliant. It is, for that moment or hour or timelessness, a connection to God and the Universe, and it is my birthright as a living breathing active passionate human being, it is Nirvana: active, not passive.