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The heard the music

On my flight home, I enjoyed watching August Rush. I do love movies that are good for free-flowing tears, and healing for the heart. This one a reminder that “music is everywhere, all you have do is open yourself up, all you have to do is listen.”
The story of a musically gifted orphan who runs away from his orphanage and searches New York City for his birth parents. August says, “Sometimes the world tries to knock it (the music) out of you. But I believe in music the way that some people believe in fairy tales. I like to imagine that what I hear came from my mother and father. Maybe the notes I hear, are the same ones they heard, the night they met. Maybe that’s how they found each other. Maybe that’s how they’ll find me. I believe that once upon a time, long ago, they heard the music and followed it.”
But here’s the deal; in a world upside down, there are times when we can’t hear the music. Times when we can’t hear our song.
So. What is it that gets in the way?

Every evening when the guru sat down to worship, the ashram cat considered himself a welcome participant. But the cat was there to make friends, and his commotion distracted the worshipers (each of them hoping to reach a heightened meditative state and a feeling of oneness with God). Resourcefully, the guru ordered that the cat be tethered to a pole—outside the front door—during evening worship.
After the guru died, the disciples continued to tie the cat to the pole.
This ritual became a habit—the customary routine for everyone at the ashram.
First, tie the cat to the pole, and then proceed into the temple to meditate on God. After several years, the habit hardened into a religious ritual, becoming an integral part of their devotional practice.
In time, no one could meditate until the cat was tied to the pole. Then one day the cat dies. Everyone in the ashram is unnerved, because it has become a considerable religious crisis.
How is it possible to meditate now, without a cat to tie to a pole?
It is not surprising that the guru’s disciples wrote treatises on the religious and liturgical significance of tying a cat to a pole during worship. I expect that there was even some debate as to the proper breed of cat.
At what point does our worship (our desire for God, for the holy) become lifeless (without music)?
I return to Robert Capon frequently. Mostly, because it resonates. “We live like ill-taught piano students. We are so afraid of the flub that will get us in dutch, we don’t hear the music, we only play the right notes.”

Here’s my question: what happens when the cat is gone? My confession is this; I too easily move from my heart (filled with passion, joy, zeal), to doing my best not to ruffle feathers.
It reminds me of the story of the Sunday School teacher with first graders who were acting up. To calm them she said, “Kids, let’s play a game. I’ll describe something to you, and you tell me what it is. Okay?  It’s a furry little animal with a big bushy tail that climbs up trees and stores nuts in the winter.” Silence. No one said anything. “Come on,” the teacher encouraged, “You’re a good Sunday School class, you know the right answer to this question. It’s a furry little animal with a big bushy tail that climbs up trees and stores nuts in the winter.” One girl raised her hand. “Emily?” “Well teacher,” Emily said, “it sounds like a squirrel to me, but I’ll say Jesus!”

So, yes. When I see only the cat (the “right notes” or the “right answer” or the “right stuff”—the “right box” for life, something about control and order), I miss…
…hearing the music when my world shaken,
…learning and change,
…grace and transformation.
In other words, I choose procedure and creed, over journey and faith.

Speaking of stories. I’ve always loved this one. When a woman in a certain African tribe knows she is pregnant, she goes out into the wilderness to pray, and listen until she hears the song of the child she bears. This tribe recognizes that every soul has its own vibration, expressing its unique flavor and purpose. Then the mother to be teaches the song to the other members of the tribe.
The tribe sings the song to the child at birth.
They sing when the child becomes an adolescent, when the adult is married, and at the time of parting and death.
But there is one other occasion when the villagers sing this song. If at any time during his (or her) life, the person causes suffering to another member of the tribe, they gather in a circle and set him (or her) in the center. They sing the song, to remind them not of the wrong done, but of their own beauty and potential. When a child loses the way, it is love and not punishment that brings the lost one home.
When we buy any label, or any script, we forget our song. We forget that music (the gift of grace) unlocks the heart, and we are restored (take a step) to our self.
I cannot tell you your song. But I can tell you this: you have one.
Count on it. And if you sit still, you may hear it.
It is the song that reminds us we are beautiful, when we feel ugly.
It is the song that tells us we are whole, when we feel broken.
It is the song that gives us the power to dance, even when we feel shattered.
It is the song that allows us to take a step when we feel stuck, or shut down.
When someone asks me what I believe, it wouldn’t hurt to tell them, “I believe that once upon a time, long ago, they heard the music and followed it.”

I am glad to be back in the PNW, ready for some down time, and it helps that here we are sunny, and close to seventy degrees. (In other words, July weather.)
Hope you celebrated a happy Saint Patrick’s Day.

Quote for our week… If I had influence with the good fairy who is supposed to preside over the christening of all children, I should ask that her gift to each child in the world be a sense of wonder so indestructible that it would last throughout life. Rachel Carson

Note: “The Guru’s Cat” story is from The Song of the Bird by Anthony De Mello.  The story was adapted and popularized by Elizabeth Gilbert in her book Eat, Pray, Love.


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Letters that do my heart good…
–Terry, Safe travels My Friend. Leaving is difficult. The memories you take with you, sustain you. You are coming home to beautiful weather, welcome. Take care. Pat
–Dear Terry, Wishing you a soft landing back in the great Northwest. It’s been such a treat to vicariously visit France with you, even just a little bit. Such a special land. Take care, Mary
–So grateful that you have had this week of rest and soul nourishment. I sure those sheep would have enjoyed a short homily! Safe travels back to Seattle. The sun is out. And promises to stay with us for a few more days. Jo
–Thank you, Terry Hershey! I could picture your train ride through your description and the quote from Steven Charleston brought me to tears. Just beautiful! Glad you had a wonderful week with friends and good wine. Becky
–Good morning Terry, Hope you are enjoying a lovely time in France! I read this at the end of Anne Lamott’s latest article in the Washington Post. I thought of you sharing how you wanted to work on a softer heart. I thought maybe you and possibly your readers would appreciate this wisdom! “Age is giving me the two best gifts: softness and illumination. It would have been nice if whoever is in charge of such things doled them out in our younger years, but that’s not how it works. Age ferries them across the water, and they will bring us through  whatever comes.” Peace & grace, Cathy


To laugh, is to risk appearing the fool.
To weep, is to risk appearing sentimental.
To give without regard for reward, is to risk misunderstanding.
To reach out to others, is to risk involvement.
To seek justice, is to risk reprisal.
To open your heart, is to risk vulnerability.
To expose feelings, is to risk exposing your true self.
To place your dreams before a crowd, is to risk their loss.
To love, is to risk not being loved in return.
To live, is to risk dying.
To hope, is to risk despair.
To try, is to risk failure.
But risks must be taken,
because the greatest hazard in life is to do nothing.
The person who risks nothing,
does nothing, has nothing, and is nothing.
They may avoid suffering and sorrow,
but they cannot learn, feel, change, grow, love, live.
Chained by their certitudes, they are a slave,
they forfeited their freedom.
Only the person who risks can be free.

It is possible and imperative that we learn
A brave and startling truth
And when we come to it
To the day of peacemaking
When we release our fingers
From fists of hostility
And allow the pure air to cool our palms
When we come to it…
Have the power to fashion for this earth
A climate where every man and every woman
Can live freely without sanctimonious piety
Without crippling fear
When we come to it
We must confess that we are the possible
We are the miraculous, the true wonder of this world
That is when, and only when
We come to it.
Maya Angelou, A Brave and Startling Truth

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