I’ve lived with Bach’s “Goldberg Variations” for a long time now. More than half my lifetime. I would pull them out periodically, feeling that I was revisiting an old friend, but a friend who always has something new to share. I began thinking about Bach and mindfulness last year in a way that meant something to me. Each variation became linked in my mind with a word and that word became something like the “intention” that yoga students are sometimes asked to set for their practice. A word to mediate on and to help draw more from within. For the next 32 weeks I will post one of the variations and write about the word I associated with the music. Sometimes a connection will seem obvious, but more often it will be unexplainable. It became apparent as I worked on this project that I thought about things which I wanted to cultivate in myself, ways of being in the world that were positive. All of the recordings are to be made in my living room, playing the 9 foot Steinway that was gifted to me on January 5, 2016.
J.S. Bach’s Goldberg Variations are a journey of sorts, and all journeys begin in innocence. We can’t know where any journey will actually take us after all, or what we’ll learn along the way. Innocence is a word with many meanings, but I choose a definition that holds a lack of guile at its core, and one that implies the optimism that hope’s triumph over experience expresses. The innocence of children shouldn’t be carried into adulthood, because it would become a refusal to acknowledge some of the hard truths all adults face. Without burying our heads in the sand then, perhaps innocence in adults doesn’t first assume cunning in the actions of others, and looks like the open-heartedness that tries to see good in the people and experiences we encounter every day. The more I think about cultivating innocence in myself, the more I wonder if it will lead to wisdom. Journey with me.