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A Lesson From The Inaudible Sound Of The Invisible Sun


The Inaudible Sound of the Invisible Sun. I sure learned a lot from that guy.

“That . . . guy?” you ask.

Yep- that what he’s called. By some, anyway. Rakalam (which somehow translates into “the inaudible sound of the invisible sun”) is a moniker that was given to legendary drummer, Bob Moses, by his spiritual guide. Although (or maybe, because) my lesson with him partly felt as though I were inside of a lost chapter from an old Carlos Castaneda book, Rakalam altered my musical and non-musical life.

I took much, musically and otherwise, from that encounter. One of the biggies is something I’ve certainly written about before, but deserves needs repeating. If not for anyone else, at least for myself to hear again.

A few years ago, I had the honor of spending three hours alone with Moses, in a classroom at Boston’s New England Conservatory. After I perform a short requested drumset solo for him, he leans toward me, closes his eyes, processes what he just heard . . . and then slow raises his eyelids.

“You . . . have lots of great ideas. But . . . you didn’t commit to a single one of them.”

Damn. Ouch.

But he wasn’t done. Oh, no. He went on, venturing to guess that, outside of music making, that lack of commitment was most likely reflected in nearly every other area of my life. “Great ideas. No commitment.” Double damn.

But these words were not spoken to break me down. Quite the opposite. Bob explained that the ideas, the heart, the potential, the desire, the nucleus, those were all there. What I needed, and sorely lacked, were commitment . . . and intent. (Crap, I am in a Casteneda book.) If I were to grow and succeed, I had to find a way to fully commit to an idea. One tiny little idea. Rather than bouncing back and forth between a hundred of them. Commit to that one little idea, develop it, develop it some more, and then develop it some more. He made it very clear that an entire drum solo could be derived from nothing but one tiny idea. A miniscule motif that, if fully committed to and developed, will gradually and organically grow into something bigger, more engaging and more powerful than anything your [limited] ears and brain would ever have created. Commit to an idea. Succumb to it. And simply be the vehicle that allows it to reach others.

Wow- how that applies to life, huh?!

How many times have you come up with that simple, yet incredible, idea that was going to knock everyone’s socks off? Or had that little epiphany that was going to change everything forever? And how many times did you make a note or two on the topic, but eventually ended up sidetracked by other ideas? Newer, fresher, incredible ideas. Maybe you tried that first idea for a bit but, as it was taking a while to show any yield, you jumped on to another. Then another. And another. Finally, your schedule got too packed, and you had to give that first idea up altogether, to make time for others.

Now imagine what you might have done, created, written, built, initiated, discovered, solved- had you only stuck with that first “brilliant” concept. What if you had followed through, from inception to completion and realization?

—–

Now, don’t think for even a second that I’m preaching some “holier-than-thou” mumbo jumbo here. “You people should be doing this, then you could be like me.” Oh no, no, no . . . like I mentioned above, this post is written to myself perhaps moreso than anyone else. God knows I’ve certainly got my own commitment issues. I claim that I’m going to accomplish a pretty ridiculous list of things this year. But I’m already behind on several of them. Could it be time to pick just one small goal and kick some serious butt on it? And any former girlfriend reading this is chomping at the bit, dying to jump all over me in the comments about having no right whatsoever to talk about this “commitment” thing. I know, I know. Throw me a bone here . . . this is me workin’ on it.

And, Bob? Thank you.

—–

Thoughts? Do you suck at committing to, and developing, one small idea at a time? Do you rock at it? If so, what’s your secret? Share in the comments below!

(photo by The Cleveland Kid)

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21 Comments
  1. One of the things that most “type A” people have to face!

    • So, you’re tellin’ me to get used to it, suck it up and deal? Dang it, Don . . . why do you have to be right all the time? :)

  2. This might be your best post so far Mark. Really impressed. Good work son.

    • Joel! You know I’m really a fan of you and your writing, so I seriously appreciate the kind words. Means a lot coming from you.

      And a bit of serendipity today: Just after I finished pounding this out (yes, a last-minute rush deal) and hitting the Publish button, I saw your latest [and, I feel, quite complementary] post in my inbox.

      *** The unadvertised bonus to anyone reading this far down on the page:
      Joel Runyon’s The Bleeding Edge Of Sustainability, from The Blog of Impossible Things!

  3. You had me at “Carlos Castaneda”. I remember reading him back in college. Talk about a blast from the past.

    I do kind of suck at rocking one idea at a time. I’ve got a million projects going on at once, and they all proceed very slowly due to my having “too many irons in the fire” as my dad used to say. Definitely something to be said for picking an awesome project and totally rocking it before you move onto something else…

    • Yeah, I haven’t read Castaneda in quite some time.

      If the work and projects I’ve been seeing from you recently are what you would call “proceeding slowly,” I’m not sure I’d want to see what “totally rocking” anything would be! Feeling as though I have a bit of an inside scoop on some of your doings, I can only say that you are a madman. And something tells me that the endeavors I know about are only the tip of the iceberg!

      Keep up the inspiring work, dude . . . I’m just trying to stay afloat and ride a few of the waves you’re making right now. :)

  4. Nice!! Just what I needed to hear today Mark. For the past year my idea has been to take a 1 year sabbatical. On Tuesday of this week you sent me a message on Twitter that included the line “You’ve got a serious passion” and that really made me realize that I do have a serious passion for seeing this thing through and that I’ve made that commitment to it, to follow through and change my life. Maybe the secret to committing to and developing one small idea is to have total passion for that thing.

    And maybe that’s been my problem in the past, not having the passion for all my crazy ideas. I’m hoping that by committing to this one idea it will blossom into many more ideas into the future. Great post!

    • Hey, Matt- super cool that you read & commented! I think you just may have unveiled the secret there: have total passion for that thing. Or, perhaps there’s simply a natural ‘weeding’ process in existence . . . the ideas that we aren’t passionate enough about just eventually drift away, disappear and are forgotten. Thanks again for dropping by, man!

  5. Hi Mark … Great post .. and I want to come back a little later to post a few more thoughts, but I had an initial question … Is “the inaudible sound of the Invisible Sun” some kind of metaphor?

    Thanks! Ellie

    • Thanks for the visit, Ellie! I think you may very well be correct about the name being a metaphor. I’ll let you know if I find out more about the story behind it. Look forward to your additional thoughts!

  6. I think my big problem is a combination of slow movement and lack of follow-through. Which is a form of commitment, in the end – getting to the point of implementing and then sitting on it for so long it becomes moot.

    Really interesting post with a lot of food for thought! Thanks, Mark.

    • Follow-through . . . that can be a biggie for me, too. Staying with an idea until it’s complete can be extremely difficult when things get rough, or you don’t see continual progress, or other busy [and seemingly urgent] activities begin to fill your calendar. Thanks for reading, Kaari!

  7. Great post. Amazing what you can learn in such a short time from somebody at the top of their game.

    As for overcommitment, I have to work to stay focused on the ideas (note the plural) I’m already developing. When a grand new idea comes along, it’s a struggle not to pursue it, but one I usually win. Why? Because I know what happens when I overcommitment.

    If an idea is worth pursuing, it’s worth committing to (at the expense of other fresh and exciting ideas).

    • Thanks, Seth! I agree 100% with that (“if an idea is worth pursuing, it’s worth committing to”) and wish I had your level of clarity, control and commitment. I really appreciate the comment, dude!

      • You overestimate my level of control :) This weekend I had one fun editing project to work on but spend the day doing sloppy multi-track recordings.

        But maybe that’s what weekends are for.

  8. Heh… I have a lot to say on this particular topic. :)

    I think the challenge for any multipotentialite is balancing the need to explore new interests with the desire to pursue the old. I do NOT believe, however, that you need to pick one project and commit your entire life to it. Sounds like your teacher might not be a scanner himself. It’s hard for specialists to understand that there are other ways to be fulfilled besides choosing one path and that you CAN do it all. You just need to be clever about your strategy.

    • Interesting view, Emilie. Multipotentialites like you and I (can I put myself under that banner?) definitely lean toward having a variety of influences, desires and endeavors. But I also, on a regular basis, find uber-focused (some might say, single-minded) people that blow my mind with their abilities and accomplishments. I do believe that there’s something to be said for knowing precisely what you want to do/be/accomplish. That commitment, or specialization, can manifest great things! That said, I think that that approach just may not be me. You might say I’m a jack of all trades, master of none. I would agree. And think I may prefer it that way!

      Thank you, thank you for the read and comment!

  9. Thanks to my scanner-type personality I have commitment issues all the time. I have too many projects and hobbies. I end up spending a little time here, then switching to something else, then switching to another thing. It’s hard keeping up with everything. I find myself having to stop and prioritize my projects all the time.

    • Prioritizing . . . that’s definitely one of my issues, as well. I love new projects, new adventures. But deciding what needs/deserves my attention, and allotting sufficient time to it, is an area I can certainly stand to improve.

  10. Hi Mark,

    When I have followed a simple idea from beginning to end, it’s such a great feeling seeing a tiny concept grow into a big thing (in my most recent case, a short film script). That being said, I’ve definitely had a few (in my opinion) great ideas, that did not produce results right away and which I let fall by the wayside, or which I never acted on to begin with. But thinking about it, who’s to say I can’t reignite these ideas?

    • Hear, hear, Tom! I’ve certainly had some [what I thought were] good ideas come and then get dumped for other projects. It’s probably not a bad idea to keep a list of those little gems, just in case there ever is time for them down the road. Perhaps they will resurface again at a more opportune time . . .

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Email: powersdrums[at]gmail[dot]com