Commuting to work early this morning, driving east, driving almost into the rising sun it seemed, one of my favorite pieces of music started playing, a remnant of my beloved choir days. Water Night, a complex and stunning choral piece that, 15 years after first hearing and singing it, can still bring tears to my eyes. The chords squeeze my heart, rhythmically, matching the beat of the song, leaving behind a memory that never fades. Most of my memories do fade, or never form in the first place, but this song leaves its mark. The voices are woven together so tightly, sometimes 20 different, cacophonic notes held at once, in the most haunting way. They don’t blend, but they do. They don’t go together, but I can’t imagine them apart. There is almost a palpable tension in that lack of melody, the lack of harmony amongst the voices. The tension builds and recedes, drives forward, striving for rare moments of melodic bliss within the dissonance.
Isn’t that a little what it’s like for us in our lives as well? Moving through our dissonant moments, aching to get back to harmony, wanting to hear the melody we know (we think) is coming. We try to rush them, thinking that if we can just get through this work week, or this holiday month, or this birthday, we will be so happy once it is over. Once the consonance has been restored. The suffering during the tumultuous times can seem endless, unendurable, if not for that release we expect to eventually experience.
What is so lovely about this song is that even in the discord, you can hear, you can FEEL the beauty. There is no rush, just movement, each movement as beautiful and deliberate as the next, as the one before.
Can we learn how to find this beauty throughout our lives, especially during the inharmoniousness? Can we stop wishing away the tough days, and instead go deeper into them, finding what they are meant to teach us, and walking away even stronger, with more purpose AND more love?
I stumbled across a gorgeously written blog yesterday by Jo Knowles, titled “Live Your Life: A Theme And Challenge for 2013”. In it, she references and plays a last interview between author Maurice Sendak and NPR. He is aging, and speaks with sadness about the losses he has faced. He has learned his lessons late in life. He cries while talking about being happy.
He says, “There’s something I’m finding out as I’m aging. That I am in love with the world.“
The call to action in this blog is to not wait until you are at the end of your life, but to live your life NOW. No more wishing away the difficulties and only appreciating what comes easily. It is beautifully and simply articulated by Jo Knowles:
“In order to live your life, you have to love your life. And sometimes, that is very hard.”
This week I have been traveling west, to the ocean, to watch the sun set each night. “Chasing sunsets” as my friend Jen might say. That same sun, always rising and always setting each day. The sameness of it soothes my soul. It wouldn’t be enough though, all of that sameness without change, without discord. Without sometimes being hidden, without being orange some days and pink on others, without rain and wind and snow and traffic and all of the other things that can stand in the way of our perfect sunset photo in our minds. We would never feel so alive, so thoroughly blessed, if that sunset didn’t disappear sometimes. It’s always there, even when hidden to us.
Says Mr. Sendak, “Live your life. Live your life. Live your life.”
That eternal push towards melody may always be within us. But maybe if we can tread slowly and mindfully through the dissonance, the world will expand to show us the beauty that surrounds us at all times, whether we can hear the harmony or not. And open us up to more love than we have ever imagined.