I love listening to music but listening to it cannot take the place of participating in actually creating music. This past month has my mind circling around in a conversational cul de sac with itself. “What happens now?”, “ What happens later?”, and “Are pants crucial to Zoom meetings?”. We’ve lost something crucial to our spiritual health, But our friend Dick Mills shared a musical meditation with me from The Book of Awakening by Mark Nepo, and there was a phrase that really stuck with me, and allowed me to meditate on my spiritual health.
“Such a simple secret: by letting things out, we also let things in. So if you’re cut off, in pain, estranged, numb – sing, give voice to anything. It needn’t sound pretty. Simply, bravely, open despite the difficulty, and let what it in out, and what is out in. Sing, and your life will continue”
The communal aspect of making music in the moment is the essence of choral singing, and it’s been taken away for the time being. There’s a moment: our bodies and senses are fully engaged, our ears are saturated with beautiful voices around us, and our hearts are filled with gratitude; It’s as if Heaven stoops to meet us and we are transported to a higher plane – a plane in which too few are fortunate enough to access on earth. These times when all is right with the world and the cares of everyday life are suspended is what I am missing. I’ve had little opportunity to let things in simply by letting out. It is truly a challenging time with many obstacles…I can’t “let out” the way I’m accustomed to.
Greek philosopher Marcus Aurelius writes about how a fire turns everything that is thrown into it into flame. He says that obstacles are actually fuel: “The impediment to action advances action.” He continues, “…what stands in the way becomes the way.” When the chaos of my inner monologue subsided, I found there are challenges to our thinking or to our work that would normally appear as obstacles to progress. These disadvantages force us to adapt and be better prepared against future difficulties. Viewing such challenges as “desirable” is knowing challenges only help to sharpen ideas and bolster the resolve to move ahead. Educators loosely refer to this as “growth mindset”. It is a beautiful way to approach the world, and ultimately, the only one suited for a time such as the one we are in now. To avoid difficulty would mean complete retreat, not only from social interaction, but from life. Instead, we can embrace the moment we have and strive to welcome challenge. I now choose to rejoice in the unexpected and work to turn despair into something new by owning it…I’ve never made a virtual choir in my life and never thought I would have to. I’ve never had to teach piano online and never thought I would have to. I have found that tension is my wake-up call to new levels of learning and experience and growth. The Lobster must shed its shell to
I long for the day when choirs sing in person again, but in the meantime I hope you all construct
something with these obstacles. I hope you become fire.