Cedric's Pagan Thoughts

The spiritual meanderings of a NeoPagan shaman, an eclectic Wiccan, a Celtic musician, a world traveler, a bard, and an uncompromising cat-loving Bast-worshipper

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Love and Resonance

I remember watching an episode of an old sitcom, the name of which I don't recall, that opened with the main character saying something along these lines:

"Falling in love is an amazing, magical, once-in-a-lifetime experience. I should know, because it happens to me all the time."

I know how he feels.

We've all felt it, I'm sure—the instant attraction, the sensation that we've known someone forever, the feeling of destiny upon meeting someone who makes us fall in love.

A lot of people explain it in just those terms. As I discussed in my entry called "The Myth of True Love," many people explain that experience by saying that it really is destiny that they met that special someone. Reincarnationists often feel as though they've met that special someone in a past life, and they've spent this whole life looking for them.

As I explained in that previous post, I reject that idea. (I'm not saying that souls never meet up in successive lives; I'm just not convinced that it's the only reason we feel for someone. Read the post if you want more explanation.) That leaves me, however, with a problem. How do I explain that feeling we all know?

Resonance—that's how. You'll have to bear with me while I discourse on resonance for a while.

I'm a musician—check out my band's link on the side there—and music is nothing but ordered sound. Sound is nothing but vibration. Every thing in this world has a particular frequency at which it vibrates, called pitch. That's why an E string on a guitar sounds different from an A string; they're vibrating at different frequencies. If a string is a little out of tune, that means it's not vibrating at exactly the right frequency. Tightening or loosening it will bring it into tune. (For every note that the western ear accepts as a note, there are approximately ten other tones the human ear can distinguish, which explains why it's so tricky to get some instruments in tune.)

Vibration engenders vibration. I'm sure you've felt it when loud music shakes the ground beneath your feet, or when someone with an overzealous bass speaker rattles the windows in your car.

Like begets like. When you play a note (i.e. create a vibration), anything else that has the potential to vibrate at exactly the same frequency will do so, in what is called "sympathetic vibration." Not only will it vibrate, but it will actually produce the same note. Anyone who has listened to a sitar, a hardangr fiddle, or a fancy hurdy-gurdy has heard sympathetic vibration, a ringing sound produced by strings on the instrument that are never touched. (Readers familiar with the occult will recognize the similarity to sympathetic magic here.)

When two notes are in harmony, there is a precise mathematical relationship between the frequencies at which they vibrate. Even a slight deviation from that mathematical relationship produces discord, which is unpleasant to most listeners. I suspect that even the non-musicians reading this will know the feeling of comfort and satisfaction that comes when discord resolves into harmony.

In addition to the basic frequency at which a note sounds, there are additional vibrations at higher and lower frequencies, called overtones. These are what gives a note its character (called timbre by musicians). It's why the same note sounds different when played on a flute versus how it sounds played on a bagpipe. It's why one pair of voices might sound good together while another doesn't, even when they're all on pitch. Overtones can clash or harmonize just as the main note can.

So what does this have to do with love? Well, it gives us a metaphor to understand that feeling of destiny and rightness we feel when we meet someone special to us. I propose (metaphorically, or maybe literally) that every soul vibrates at a certain frequency; or to put it more poetically, every soul sings its own note—a note that is silent to our mortal ears but audible to our subtler senses.

When we meet someone else whose soul is singing the same note, or a note that harmonizes with ours, we fall in love, and we feel that sense of destiny. It is, in my metaphor, not destiny, but sympathetic harmony that we feel when we fall in love. Indeed, like a string that is still until another sings near it, our whole being shakes, quivers, and hums in response. Anyone who has felt a harp or a guitar as it sounds a note will recognize the intense feeling of new love.

So I argue that it is harmony and sympathetic vibration, not fate and destiny, that provide the wonder and magic of falling in love.

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At 10:48 PM, Blogger Kate said...

Oh Cedric, I adore this. What a beautiful alternative explaination for the way we feel when we fall in love. What a wonderful idea that stands alone, separate from a belief in fate, destiny or past lives. What a powerful tool to allow love and falling in love to be a choice and a responsibility - instead of a mandate from heaven.

Thank you for this... it came at a wonderful time.



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