SONG: Aware of Emptiness


“Aware of Emptiness.” [Download]

ARTIST: grant.

SOURCE: Based on “China’s dark-matter satellite launches era of space science”, Nature, 17 Dec 2015, as used in the post “Monkey King goes in search of dark matter.”

ABSTRACT: Is it tacky to use something sorta competitive as a writing prompt? Because that’s what I did. One of the folks from Song Fu 2012 has started a thing – it’s over here:

The challenge issued there was to write a song about packaging, and to include a woodwind instrument. My brain turned that into “Write a song about *containers* and include a woodwind,” and then I wrote a song about the Monkey King rocket seeking dark matter because it’s dark matter that makes our home planet seem like a container that’s keeping us in, since we can’t see it from here and don’t know what it is, only that there’s something up there. Kind of like we’re at the bottom of a well and trying to figure out what’s going on outside.

And being inside a well is an astrophysics thing anyway, since we’re inside a gravity well.

The fun thing about Monkey King (Sun Wukong) is that he’s the hero of an old, funny, wise Chinese story called either Monkey or Journey to the West depending on which translation you have. It’s about a stone monkey who, once animated, raises a little hell and then joins up with a Buddhist monk to bring sutras to China. Along the way, he becomes enlightened.

And a friend of mine reminded me that his secret name is “aware of emptiness” – so thank you, Mr. White.

The Monkey King is going on his journey to detect unseen things because he is Aware of Emptiness. That’s kind of perfect.

Whether or not Earth’s atmosphere and gravity count as “packaging,” I don’t really know, but there is a woodwind – a hulusi. I really should get a full-sized one some day. There’s also a couple of guitar tracks, including one pitched up an octave and run through an effect called a “paranoia mangler.” And there’s a fakey fake organ and a fake Rhodes piano playing a bass line.

And harmony vocals. I like those.

It all came together on this cloudy solstice night – the longest night of the year.


We were raised inside a well
Sealed under the atmosphere
Something more than we can see
Something more than empty

Aware of emptiness
Something’s outside
Aware of emptiness
It hides and tries to get in

Sit in a cave for seven years and watch the walls
Blinking in the darkness
That nothing can fill
and it does

Aware of emptiness
Something’s outside
Aware of emptiness
It hides and tries to get in

The monkey climbs container walls
And makes his observations
Shadows over deeper shade
Moving far away

Aware of emptiness
The monkey rises
Aware of emptiness
On tongues of flame
Aware of emptiness
His secret name
Aware of emptiness
And measuring the void.