01/07/2011 11:47 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

The Untaming

Aristotle -- godfather of categorical thinking -- identified the five major human senses as: sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell. This is not an exhaustive list, but for now we'll leave off subsequent (and often troublesome) sensational additions like pain, time, temperature, and balance. Of the big five, olfaction is the one identified most strongly with memory. My recollection receptors, however, seem to sit in my ears not my nose. Nothing transports me back in time like music. It is my magic carpet ride to another time's forgotten space. And I dig that, for no tub of popcorn is going to take me anywhere near as evocative a made-moment, as would a soundboard tape from a brilliant live show or the happy rewind of a favorite riff.

Strangest thing though, this week, my ears have conducted me to totally untrodden ground. I've been listening to a band that beckoned me back in the '90s. I'm not sure I was equipped then to hear these pieces the way I do now. Where these songs used to wash over, they now flow through me, and it feels like the first time. Enigmatic and raw, teasing and urgent, hypnotic and arresting, they command grace in a hurricane. Yeah, I know that's a bit strange, and it is that, of course, which so fascinates.

I turn up the volume and imagine myself floating mid-air inside an airplane hanger, watching a storm through the open roof. Above me the furious lashings of mother nature at her most ingenious and impressive, and beneath me, the slipping, grinding gear-driven sound of machinery, the makings of man. Somehow, spine-tingling harmony is the result.

I can assure you that that this profoundly resonant sensation has no basis in memory. It's a wholly planted experience. The songs are the seed, the ground imagination. The Band's or mine or ours together, I don't know. But I do know that I crave more of these moments suspended between thoughts of past and considerations of the present. I'm totally attracted to the idea of spending imaginative equity in the land of the undiscovered, incomparable, and unexplored.

Too much Aristotelian analysis has done me in. Less categorizing, parsing, and debating will do me good. Untethered imagination. Living in the possible, not because of what has been or what should be, but because it's simply a place where incredible things can happen with and through a permeable mind.

Hear that? A wild mallard thought (hailed by Thoreau) is pecking free of its shell, cracking itself into being from the inside. Fly.

If you want to make every word you say full of meaning
full of philosophy
it's not that hard you need only
blindfold yourself
and imagine that you are walking uphill
with a flashlight and thinking like a shark

-- Yu Jian, translated from Chinese by Wang Ping & Ron Padgett