“Sometimes the world tries to knock it out of you. But I believe in music.” August Rush
And yes, music is a part of our DNA, “woven into the very structure and sensorium of our bodies” (thank you, Maria Popova). As the great neurologist Oliver Sacks reminded us, “music can pierce the heart directly; it needs no mediation.”
I love this from Josephine “Jo” Phelps Fabian, “Through the invisible hands of music, the soul is touched and healed.”
This from Pablo Casals always does my heart good. “For the past eighty years I have started each day in the same manner. It is not a mechanical routine but something essential to my daily life. I go to the piano, and I play two preludes and fugues of Bach. I cannot think of doing otherwise. It is a sort of benediction on the house. But that is not its only meaning for me. It is a rediscovery of the world of which I have the joy of being a part. It fills me with awareness of the wonder of life, with the feeling of the incredible marvel of being a human being.” Pablo Casals (at age 93) embracing and being embraced by the way music grounded him in the gift and the sacrament of the present moment.
(Pablo Casals was one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century. Cellist, conductor, composer, humanist and staunch fighter for freedom and democracy, his legacy makes him one of the most widely recognized names in music and peace.)
This week I am so very grateful for the people and places in my life and world where I am reminded that the light still shines.
And I want to be a place where light shines, and spills.
So, I was grateful to read this reflection, by Cathleen Falsani.
“You are the light of the world.”
I can’t read those words without hearing them sung by Victor Garber’s Superman-shirt-wearing, face-painted, halo-haired Jesus and his band of holy fools in the 1973 film adaptation of the musical Godspell, dancing and singing words paraphrased from St. Matthew’s gospel on the deck of a tugboat on the Hudson River.
You are the light of the world!
You are the light of the world!
But if that light is under a bushel,
It’s lost something kind of crucial
You’ve got to stay bright to be the light of the world
How does one stay bright amidst what feels like the unrelenting gloom of our times?
This is where I love the poetic turns of Eugene Peterson’s para-translation of the Bible, The Message, which presents Jesus’ words to his followers from Matthew 5 this way (hear it in the voice of Ted Lasso, if that helps):
“You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives.”
We’ve been surrounded by darkness these last several years — whether covered by dank thunderheads of political storms, the pall of a global pandemic, ideological tunnel-vision, or a thick tapestry of populist (and popular) lies.
While we know the horizon exists even when we cannot locate it, the sun promises to rise, and that we will emerge, eventually, into the light of a new kind of day, for many of us, what has kept us moving forward of late is the light, however large or small, borne by others…
Perhaps the simplest lesson amidst these many metaphors is that we should be generous with whatever light we can muster because everybody needs it and even the tiniest of sparks can be seen from farther away than we might imagine when someone is trying to feel their way through the dark.
The light of kindness. The light of generosity. The light of neighborliness. The light of anti-racism. The light of radical inclusion. The light of creating art. The light of making music. The light of listening without talking. The light of calling people by the name they choose. The light of holding space for people until they’re ready to move into it. The light of deep breaths. The light of being a non-anxious presence in the world. The light of hope. The light of courage.
The light of love.
Whatever light you have, let your light so shine.
(Thank you to Sunday Musings with Diana Butler Bass)
“Sometimes the world tries to knock it out of you. But I believe in music.” From the movie, August Rush.
Fred Roger (“Mr. Rogers”) calls Yo-Yo Ma one of the “great appreciators of our world. It seems that people always walk taller after they’ve had an encounter with him. The only thing that’s larger than his talent is his heart.” Mr. Rogers tells the story about a day he was privileged to sit in on one of Yo-Yo Ma’s master cello classes. “During that master class one young man was struggling with the tone of a certain cello passage. He played it over and over and Yo-Yo listened with obvious interest.
Finally, Yo-Yo said, “Nobody else can make the sound you make.”
That young man looked at Yo-Yo Ma and beamed.
What a gift those words were not only to that cellist, but to everyone who was there. Nobody else can make the sound you make.”
“Well, nobody else can live the life you live. And even though no human being is perfect, we always have the chance to bring what’s unique about us to live in a redeeming way.” Fred Rogers
With a few exceptions, I do my best to see those around me with Mr. Rogers’ lens: Inside of everyone a light shines. Inside of everyone, there is a sound that no one else can make.
Of course I’m quicker to see it in others than I am to see it (or believe it) in myself. I know you can relate. The light inside does dim from time to time. The sound is muted. Or that’s what I tell myself. And if I’m honest, I know how easy it is to live small or to be diminished or to feel broken; by shame or exhaustion or discouragement.
Which kind of misses Leonard Cohen’s observation, “There’s a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”
And I would add, and that’s how the light spills out.
This week we remember (and embrace) Maya Angelou’s reminder, “Nothing can dim the light which shines from within.”
And speaking of believing in music and the light that shines, while here in Macon, GA, I visited Capricorn Sound Studios (studio where the Allman Brothers recorded) and had the permission to play a few notes on the piano where Otis Redding wrote “These Arms of Mine.” Let’s just say, the dancer inside comes to life…
Tonight, on a flight back home from Georgia, and going through my mind, Mary Oliver’s reminder (or is it an invitation and gracious permission?) “Sometimes I only need to stand where I am to be blessed.”
I spent the week with the good people at Townsend School of Music (at Mercer University). Grateful that I could tell the students (and faculty), “I’m glad you are bringing music to our world.”
Because here’s the deal: With music, light shines and spills. And it does our heart good. Or in the words of August Rush, “Sometimes the world tries to knock it out of you. But I believe in music.”
(And with new friends helping us discover Macon, we were introduced to some southern food that definitely makes the heart and soul sing.)
Last night, a concert with the King’s Singers (a group formed in 1965 by a few of the choral scholars of the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge). Their first concert officially took place on May 1, 1968.
I think last night’s group is the fifth or sixth grouping of singers.
This I know… “Music,” the trailblazing composer Julia Perry wrote, “has a unifying effect on the peoples of the world, because they all understand and love it… And when they find themselves enjoying and loving the same music, they find themselves loving one another.”
Here’s a bit of trivia that made the concert doubly enjoyable. In 1973-4, I was in University in London, England. And during my time there, attended a concert by the King’s Singers. We’ll call this a 50-year anniversary concert.
Prayer for our week…
Let us pray:
Jesus, we ask for the grace to find you in the Land of Unlikeness.
Free us from the “tyranny of personal preference,” especially when love or duty calls us to greater selflessness and freedom.
May we welcome people into the sphere of our lives
who are unlike us in significant ways.
May we face adversity and hardships with your courage and trust in God.
May we do the never-ending work of securing justice for all.
During this time of unlikeness, may we be open to personal growth, change, and the broadening of our perspective on life.
We ask for these graces through the power of your Boundless, Persistent, and Daring Holy Spirit.
Melannie Svoboda SND
Photo… “Terry, The gifts in the ordinary. Magnolia and bee. (Florida)” Suchin Rai…