If you’re a certain kind of metalhead, especially one who’s not averse to druids with guitars, the name “Randall Dunn” will probably ring some bells. If not, those bells will be mostly silent. After working mainly as a producer, he just dropped his challenging debut album ‘Beloved’, collaborating with an impressive roster of musicians and artists, including Eyvind Kang, Stephen O’Malley and Zola Jesus. In the beautiful video for the new single “A True Home”, Turkish director Mu Tunc conjures up a vision of Melisa Senolsun performing something between a pilgrimage and a ritual in the Omani desert.
I’ve always had a soft spot for the voice of Zola Jesus. It’s a soft spot that lies directly underneath the surface of my skin, giving me goosebumps every time.
The lyrics she’s channeling here, come from a 17th-century Zen-death poem by Gesshu Soko.
“Breathing in, breathing out / Moving forward, moving back / Living, dying / Coming, going / Like two arrows meeting in flight / In the midst of nothingness / Is the road that goes directly to my true home.”
Now, the buddhist concept of ‘nothingness’ is not one you’d be expecting to tumble into while you’re browsing around for new music videos, but hey, here we are. Why not go a little deeper? There is a famous buddhist story about a general who is pierced by an arrow on a battle field and thrown from his horse. As he’s lying on the ground and people are trying to help him, the general asks where the arrow came from, who shot it, who made it, what kind of wood is it, etc. He’s asking the wrong questions, basically. He’s dying. He is in pain. It doesn’t matter where the arrow came from. It doesn’t matter what he thinks he “knows” about the arrow. In much the same way, all of us are dying and and in pain. (Sorry. Spoiler alert!) This might sound a bit bleak, but you can also interpret it as: all is temporary and if we don’t accept this, we’re just going to cause ourselves suffering. We could be yanking that arrow (the illusion of permanence, holding on too hard, etc.) right out. But we’re not. We are asking the wrong questions. We think we are asking important questions about the world, gaining knowledge through concepts, language and historical facts. But what do we really know? The essence of reality is not to be found in concepts or context. If we are to experience true reality, we can only do so through empty awareness. Awareness that is empty of expectation, concept, language and even the self.