Arthur H: his inner life

- through Francois Leclercq

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Portrait of a singer with a unique voice.

We got to know each other and ran together on the beaches and in the meadows, even though I didn't even know his name. We then followed the same courses in the dojo of the martial artist Albert Palma. Shintaido comes from Egami Sensei's shotokai karate (a non-dualistic form of karate, which does not see the opponent as an enemy, but on the contrary someone with whom to help each other grow mutually). The founder of Shintaido, ex-dolphin of Egami, Hiroyuki Aoki Sensei, was born a Shintoist, but he walked in the footsteps of the Buddha in India. He was also interested in Christianity and holds the Gospels in high esteem – just as he studied other martial arts around the world, including capoeira invented by the black slaves of Brazil.

"Everyone wanders in the wasteland of his own freedom, chooses a few masters he meets along the way to try to make some bits of his inner desert fertile. »

Created in the 1960s, shintaïdo (or New way of the body) tried to draw inspiration from the best of these creations in interdependence with each other, and to breathe their spirit into a new art of movement. An art based on openness (of the hands, of the pelvis, of the whole body, of the heart, of the gaze), the vertical axis, the projection to the horizon and a permanent reversibility between the "mousso" attitude (suppleness of the seaweed in the flow) and the “kaïcho” attitude (the maximum opening of the dazzling cut of the sword).
One day, I heard Arthur's voice on the radio, and I learned that he was a singer – the bugger had never boasted about it in front of me. His father is Jacques Higelin, whom I consider to be the greatest poet of French music since Charles Trenet, along with Nougaro and Brel. Heavy legacy, which could have crushed Arthur. But after a runaway adolescence, the boy with the broken voice and the somewhat "Gainsbourgian" face succeeded in the feat of clearing a singular path in song. Its success has made our encounters rarer. But it's always a joy to find him. When I ask him the key question of my investigation, I wonder all the same damn what he will answer me.

Arthur, what is the inner life for you?

The exterior life is a pale reflection of the interior life, which radiates very paradoxically since we do not see it. All life is born and created in darkness. People make love in the dark. The fetus unfolds in dark intimacy. The plant grows underground. Everything is born in the shadows. In the unseen. My interior life nevertheless constitutes my hearth, my axis, my structure, the whole construction which makes that, quite simply, I exist. It is as primordial and primitive as that.
I was very surprised, while going to look for memories under hypnosis, to realize that everything I had experienced was recorded in an extremely precise way. Our whole existence remains engraved somewhere. I was thus able to walk in my past, like in a film where I was able to come and go back and forth as I pleased. Everything was extremely alive and available to my mind from the moment I managed to put myself in a certain state of availability, relaxation, openness to a dimension where everything exists.
There begins another interior life, essential and fabulous. Because this opening leads to something radically unknown, which escapes me completely. I don't know what it is, but I know I can connect to it. It concerns in particular everything that is in the field of artistic ideas, musical creation, poetic inspiration. I have the impression that it is enough to put oneself in a certain state, a certain internal vibration, to automatically access an infinite possibility. The universe of possibilities is truly limitless. I feel it very strongly.

Is putting yourself in this “state” easy?

I have stuff, in particular for composing or performing. Addressing the universe, that is to say the unknown, I simply express the request to be connected to this "something" that is completely beyond me. And I notice that it works: this request has a tangible effect! Whether it leads to a creation that interests people or not, I find in it a form of quality of being, a state, an experience. And it's really happening inside of me. As if a door opened onto a kind of infinity.
In fact, it may just happen when you raise your energy level. I'm a musician and tend to think of life as a sum of vibrations. I'm not sure of anything, but if someone tells me that there is a continuity between our thoughts and the vibrations of the universe, that speaks to me. I cannot prove it, but I realize that there are different levels of vibrations and frequencies, which I can modulate according to my desire by certain means, for example by choosing the place where I am. If I'm in front of the sea, I won't have the same vibration as in the subway - although I can also choose to resonate with a very high vibration in the subway. But I still get more help when facing the sea.
I also achieve this state by harboring elevated thoughts…which can be thoughts of surrender, in the sense of giving up one's will, giving up control, accepting that deep down we are nothing. Or almost nothing. It's about accepting that our “I” only represents the bare minimum of being. And so I reach this state through a form of solitude, because you have to get out of any social identity conditioning, and so you end up alone. But we can then raise our level of vibration very high, which puts us in contact with inspiration, that is to say, after all, with the primary source of all information.

Should we renounce everything to receive everything?

Yes, letting go, to make yourself available. In fact, there is a dialogue between our outside and our inside. If you are alone at the edge of the ocean, your inner life will tend to go into a contemplative mood. If you're in a disco, you're drinking whiskey, the music is loud and girls are dancing around you, you're going to find yourself in a very sexual vibration and your inner life will soak it up. At the same time, we should be able to free ourselves from prejudices. In absolute terms, there's no reason to be less creative in a nightclub, surrounded by drugged and Dionysian people, than alone on a beach. Theoretically, it shouldn't be the location that matters, and my inner life should have some degree of autonomy. In practice, it's not always easy...

But doesn't our interior life depend enormously on others?

I don't know… Certain beings have a lasting influence on you, that's for sure. A music teacher, a master of a martial art, a follower of the yoga of sound thus offered me, each at a time and in their own way, a piece of spine - by teaching me a technique, an art of gesture, a relationship between body and soul, a taste for rigour. But it was so short, so imperfect! Freeing yourself from the weight of traditions and habits is wonderful, but what a space it leaves! What a void! Everyone wanders in the wasteland of their own freedom, chooses a few masters encountered along the way to try to make some bits of their inner desert fertile, while waiting to find their own pulse, the depth of their unique intimacy.

You speak of an “art of the gesture”. Has learning a gesture ever revealed to you a link between your outside and your inside?

I think it's all in the action. In my case, I think in particular of the movement of my fingers on a keyboard. My grandfather was a pianist, my father was a pianist, I am a pianist, they transmitted to me the love of the piano. When I first put my fingers on the keyboard, I recognized something inside of me that spoke to me incredibly loudly. I was suddenly in my inner castle. No doubt, no question. For once, the mother tongue of the soul passed through the masculine. And it was done without learning, without construction or on-call duty. Just a long, uncertain crossing. For their initiation, American Indian teenagers were thrown into nature alone, without help, without anything; it is up to them to try not to die and to survive. This concerns us too. You have to pay the price for your freedom.
That said, to come back to the influence of the outside world on our inner life, it is not only humans who can be sources of inspiration. Animals too. Or the plants, which are in permanent contact with the telluric fluid, that is to say with the soul of the earth. I see plants as our great-great-grandmothers. They have been there much longer than us, they have always helped and supported us with so much generosity! Just like animals, like everything that breathes on the surface of this planet.

Can you imagine an interior life which would not push you towards creation, but towards contemplation?

No problem ! But what I find magnificent in the inner life – and as mysterious as the jungle – is that it is intransmissible. One can indeed feel a very strong, very personal emotion, by becoming aware of the drive for life inside oneself, but basically one cannot transmit it in any way. It is an experience that lies outside of all communication. On the other hand, someone who has a strong inner life gives quality to everything he does. And it shows, but indirectly: this quality, we feel it. We don't see it, we don't explain it, but we feel it and it nourishes us somewhere. This person will never be able to share his vision explicitly, but he will transmit it in terms of presence, radiance, light. It's so subtle it's almost unidentifiable. Yet, I have the impression that without this presence, the world would be much more bland than it is.

Isn't the characteristic of an artist precisely to know how to express on the outside what he feels inside?

No doubt, but the expression is never complete. When I gave solo concerts, I often had visions while I was singing or reciting poems. I saw sorts of angels busy making up every word I uttered. I saw them literally working on every syllable. A whole team visible to me alone worked on each word and sent it back to me. I had the impression that each sentence unfolded towards me in slow motion, in another space-time, and it lasted for an eternity, while I spoke at my usual speed. These beings seemed to be in rather heavenly places, where words are made, where poetry is elaborated. And I saw these words there mixing with light and sound. And these angels sent them to me one by one, quietly, so that I pronounce them by articulating them with the greatest attention...
Obviously, if I tell people that, I come across as a wacky guy, a delirious madman. How to explain to them what I was nevertheless well obliged to note: when I had these visions, each of the words that I pronounced had a much greater charge than usual, I adhered to them more than ever! As if their aura in me was pushed to its extreme. I felt them in the depths of my cells. Everything fell right into place. Everything was fair, square. There was no more struggle or resistance. My inner life flowed perfectly smoothly.

And your audience felt it too?

Exactly, no! They were good concerts, but, in their eyes, nothing more. Afterwards, people didn't tell me: “It's incredible! What happened ? You have never sung so well. Their compliments remained within the norm. While it could happen, conversely, that I was given great praise after a concert which, from my point of view, had not been accompanied by any exceptional upheaval. In other words, a great internal disturbance is not automatically transmitted to the exterior. It is never even integral.

Do you do silence or meditation sessions?

No, I do not have time. I observe from time to time small moments of emptiness, of silence, where I manage not to think anymore. Sometimes while walking, I say to myself for example: "Hey, until I get to such and such a building, I don't want to have any more thoughts." And that is always very pleasant, and even enjoyable! It is a highly sensual inner experience to manage to remain in a simple presence, to walk while managing not to think. In fact, I then practice a natural meditation.

Extract from the book In search of inner life (Albin Michel, 2015)

photo of author

Francois Leclercq

François Leclercq is the founder of Buddhist News, a website which aims to disseminate information and practical advice on Buddhism and spirituality. François Leclercq was born and raised in Paris. He studied Buddhism at the University of Paris-Sorbonne, where he graduated in social sciences and psychology. After graduating, he devoted himself to his passion for Buddhism and traveled the world to study and learn about different practices. He notably visited Tibet, Nepal, Thailand, Japan and China.

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