I’m working on a new “real” post for this blog. This one is just kind of an interim thing.
The other day I was at Amoeba Records and found a CD called Spectre by Robyn Hitchcock and the Egyptians. It is a CD sent out by A&M Records to radio stations to promote Hitchcock’s 1993 album Respect. It contains all the songs from Respect preceded by short introductions by Hitchcock explaining each song’s origins.
This is one of my favorite tunes from the album, When I Was Dead. What’s amazing is that near the end of the introduction, Hitchcock gives the most concise explanation I have ever come across of the Buddhist concept of skandhas. As far as I know he never studied Buddhism, or if he did he isn’t keen to publicize it. Here’s what he says:
“Given the existence of the universe, all the molecules in it — nuclear fission apart and black holes apart — have been here for billennia or something. They just keep juggling around. So you’ve got three of Shakespeare’s molecules and you’ve got two of Himmler’s or whatever it is, you know. Part of your fingernail was part of St. Joseph of Aramathea’s frontal lobe or something. And you know, large parts of you were once a daffodil in Nova Scotia or something. You know, your feet used to be Winston Churchill. The same things keep getting recycled. It could be that when we pass away our psyches dissolve into lots of sort of strips of feeling. All the things that comprised us that were held together by our bodies dissolve. You know, hence ‘I wasn’t me to speak of just a thousand ancient feelings.’ Feelings that have been around since the beginning of human time.”
A skandha is usually clumsily explained as a “heap” of physical/psychic substance that makes up a human being. It is Buddhism’s answer to the idea of atman or the soul. The five skandhas as I first learned them are 1)form 2)feelings 3)perceptions 4)impulses and 5)consciousness. There are a number of other English translations. Most agree on numbers 1 and 5 and disagree on the rest. But it’s not terribly crucial to the concept to get all the specific divisions correct. Each of the skandhas bleeds into the others anyway. They’re just categories, places to make lines in the sand and pretend they’re borders until the wind or the sea comes and wipes the lines away.
I don’t really have permission to upload this. But I’ve noticed A&M Records doesn’t seem to police these things terribly thoroughly. In any case, they might come along and yank this video down so listen soon.
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