Meditations on Singing a New Song

Nature is the one song of praise that never stops singing. — Richard Rohr
 
A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song. — Joan Walsh Anglund

Bless the poets, the workers for justice, the dancers of ceremony, the singers of heartache, the visionaries, all makers and carriers of fresh meaning—We will all make it through, despite politics and wars, despite failures and misunderstandings. There is only love.― Joy Harjo
 
Let people catch something from your heart that will cause no discomfort, but help them to sing. — Rumi

“Ah, music,” he said, wiping his eyes. “A magic beyond all we do here!” ― J.K. Rowling

Music can change the world because it can change people.― Bono

SONGS about SINGING & MAKING MUSIC:

I WILL SING a NEW SONG Howard Thurman

The old song of my spirit has wearied itself out.
It has long ago been learned by my heart;
It repeats itself over and over,
bringing no added joy to my days or lift to my spirit.

I will sing a new song.

I must learn the new song for the new needs.
I must fashion new words born of all the new growth
of my life – of my mind – of my spirit.
I must prepare for new melodies that have never been mine before,
that all that is within me may lift my voice unto God.
Therefore, I shall rejoice with each new day
and delight my spirit in each fresh unfolding.
I will sing, this day, a new song unto the Lord.

Singing in the midst of evil is what it means to be disciples. … we, like Mary, are bearers of resurrection, we are made new. … To sing to God amidst sorrow is to defiantly proclaim, like Mary Magdalene did to the apostles, …that death is not the final word. To defiantly say, once again, that a light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot, will not, shall not overcome it. And so, evil be damned, because even as we go to the grave, we still make our song alleluia. Alleluia. Alleluia — Nadia Bolz-Weber

LET IT BE — Paul McCartney

When I find myself in times of trouble, mother Mary comes to me,
speaking words of wisdom, let it be.
And in my hour of darkness she is standing right in front of me,
speaking words of wisdom, let it be.

Let it be, let it be, let it be, let it be.
Whisper words of wisdom, let it be.

And when the broken hearted people living in the world agree,
there will be an answer, let it be.
For though they may be parted there is still a chance that they will see,
there will be an answer. let it be.

Let it be, let it be …

And when the night is cloudy, there is still a light, that shines on me,
shine until tomorrow, let it be.
I wake up to the sound of music, mother Mary comes to me,
speaking words of wisdom, let it be.

Let it be, let it be …

Meditations on MUSIC & SONG

I have the opportunity, once more to right some wrongs, to pray for peace, to plant some trees, and sing more joyful songs. — William Arthur Ward

Because Music is a language that lives in the spiritual realms, we can hear it, we can notate it and create it, but we cannot hold it in our hands. ― Joy Harjo
 
We die. That may be the meaning of life. But we do language. That may be the measure of our lives. — Toni Morrison

Who hears music, feels his solitude Peopled at once. ― Robert Browning
 
I like beautiful melodies telling me terrible things. ― Tom Waits

Music has always been a matter of Energy to me, a question of Fuel. Sentimental people call it Inspiration, but what they really mean is Fuel. I have always needed Fuel. I am a serious consumer. On some nights I still believe that a car with the gas needle on empty can run about fifty more miles if you have the right music very loud on the radio. ― Hunter S. Thompson

Adversity in life does not rob your heart of beauty. It simply teaches it a new song to sing. — Karen White

Music produces a kind of pleasure which human nature cannot do without. ― Confucius
 
And could love free me from the shadows? Can a caged bird sing only the song it knows or can it learn a new song? —Angela Carter
 
It’s a new day, it’s a new season, it’s time to sing a new song and it’s time to put on the dancing shoes. – — Euginia Herlihy
 
Music is the great uniter. An incredible force. Something that people who differ on everything and anything else can have in common. ― Sarah Dessen

The poets of each generation seldom sing a new song. They turn to themes men always have loved, and sing them in the mode of their times.—Clarence Day

Music, once admitted to the soul, becomes a sort of spirit, and never dies. ― Edward Bulwer Lytton
 
Sing me a new song; the world is transfigured; all the Heavens are rejoicing.— Friedrich Nietzsche
 
The heart is sometimes tainted with the songs of yesterday. Sing a new song today.— Steven Aitchison
 
It’s nice to play new songs, but it’s nerve-wracking. — Samuel Ervin Beam

It was the moment I realized what music can do to people, how it can make you hurt and feel so good all at once. ― Nina LaCour

Music acts like a magic key, to which the most tightly closed heart opens. ― Maria von Trapp

Beethoven tells you what it’s like to be Beethoven and Mozart tells you what it’s like to be human. Bach tells you what it’s like to be the universe. ― Douglas Adams
 
I’m self-deprecating, but I’m an artist, too. I have to write new songs to chronicle stuff for myself. I write a song like ‘Middle Age’ or ‘Responsibility’ or ‘I Just Work Here,’ and it’s about how bleak life can be. But it’s real. — Steve Forbert

When I hear music, I fear no danger. I am invulnerable. I see no foe. I am related to the earliest times, and to the latest. — Henry David Thoreau

Life seems to go on without effort when I am filled with music. ― George Eliot
 

I have no reason to sit home and write songs all day without going out and playing for the folks. And I have no reason to go play for the folks unless I’m writing new songs so they can sort of feed off one another. And I just try to do the best I can. — Guy Clark
 
Where words leave off, music begins.― Heinrich Heine

My heart, which is so full to overflowing, has often been solaced and refreshed by music when sick and weary. ― Martin Luther

He took his pain and turned it into something beautiful. Into something that people connect to. And that’s what good music does. It speaks to you. It changes you. ― Hannah Harrington

Where words fail, music speaks. ― Hans Christian Andersen

I do feel most at home playing live, but the feeling of getting into the studio to see the new songs take shape was really incredible. — Jason Mraz

Music is the universal language of mankind. ― Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

HISTORY of MUSIC — wikipedia.org, article: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_music

Although definitions of music vary wildly throughout the world, every known culture partakes in it, and music is thus considered a cultural universal. The origins of music remain highly contentious; commentators often relate it to the origin of language, with much disagreement surrounding whether music arose before, after or simultaneously with language. Many theories have been proposed by scholars from a wide range of disciplines, though none have achieved wide approval. Most cultures have their own mythical origins concerning the invention of music, generally rooted in their respective mythological, religious or philosophical beliefs.

The music of prehistoric cultures is first firmly dated to c. 40,000 BP of the Upper Paleolithic by evidence of bone flutes, though it remains unclear whether or not the actual origins lie in the earlier Middle Paleolithic period (300,000 to 50,000 BP). There is little known about prehistoric music, with traces mainly limited to some simple flutes and percussion instruments. However, such evidence indicates that music existed to some extent in prehistoric societies such as the Xia dynasty and the Indus Valley civilisation. Upon the development of writing, the music of literate civilizations—ancient music—was present in the major Chinese, Egyptian, Greek, Indian, Persian, Mesopotamian, and Middle Eastern societies. It is difficult to make many generalizations about ancient music as a whole, but from what is known it was often characterized by monophony and improvisation. In ancient song forms, the texts were closely aligned with music, and though the oldest extant musical notation survives from this period, many texts survive without their accompanying music, such as the Rigveda and the Shijing Classic of Poetry. The eventual emergence of the Silk Road and increasing contact between cultures led to the transmission and exchange of musical ideas, practices, and instruments. Such interaction led to the Tang dynasty‘s music being heavily influenced by Central Asian traditions, while the Tang dynasty’s music, the Japanese gagaku and Korean court music each influenced each other.

Historically, religions have often been catalysts for music. The Vedas of Hinduism immensely influenced Indian classical music, while the Five Classics of Confucianism laid the basis for subsequent Chinese music. Following the rapid spread of Islam in the 6th century, Islamic music dominated Persia and the Arab world, and the Islamic Golden Age saw the presence of numerous important music theorists. Music written for and by the early Christian Church properly inaugurates the Western classical music tradition,[1] which continues into medieval music where polyphony, staff notation and nascent forms of many modern instruments developed. In addition to religion or the lack thereof, a society’s music is influenced by all other aspects of its culture, including social and economic organization and experience, climate, and access to technology. Many cultures have coupled music with other art forms, such as the Chinese four arts and the medieval quadrivium. The emotions and ideas that music expresses, the situations in which music is played and listened to, and the attitudes toward musicians and composers all vary between regions and periods. Many cultures have or continue to distinguish between art music (or ‘classical music’), folk music, and popular music.

CAGED BIRD —  Maya Angelou

A free bird leaps

on the back of the wind   

and floats downstream   

till the current ends

and dips his wing

in the orange sun rays

and dares to claim the sky.

But a bird that stalks

down his narrow cage

can seldom see through

his bars of rage

his wings are clipped and   

his feet are tied

so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings   

with a fearful trill   

of things unknown   

but longed for still   

and his tune is heard   

on the distant hill   

for the caged bird   

sings of freedom.

The free bird thinks of another breeze

and the trade winds soft through the sighing trees

and the fat worms waiting on a dawn bright lawn

and he names the sky his own.

But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams   

his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream   

his wings are clipped and his feet are tied   

so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings   

with a fearful trill   

of things unknown   

but longed for still   

and his tune is heard   

on the distant hill   

for the caged bird   

sings of freedom.

FAITH-BASED COMMENTARY

There are many ways to the Divine. I have chosen the ways of song, dance, and laughter. — Rumi

… Thank you for the reminder that theology may divide but hymns always unite. — Randy Biery

Let us sing a new song, not with our lips, but with our lives. -— Saint Augustine
 
God is always working to make His children aware of a dream that remains alive beneath the rubble of every shattered dream, a new dream that when realized will release a new song, sung with tears, till God wipes them away and we sing with nothing but joy in our hearts. — Larry Crabb
 
      … Many of us may or may not intellectually assent to the same doctrinal and theological propositions we were taught, but the music that we made from our bodies, the vibrations of song created and shared in communal expression is still ours. And I believe that the sentiment these hymns can evoke from within us …that that is also faith. (These days, my idea of what constitutes “faith” keeps expanding!)
Sometimes hymns are my creeds, my first language, the texts of my faith which have formed me from even before I was born. If I grow to be an old woman whose mind softens at the edges of reality, I may not know my own name or the names of my children and grandchildren, but I am certain I will still know every single word to Great Is Thy Faithfulness. No matter what my mind holds, agrees to, or understands, I will always be standing on the promises of God, because the hymns I have sung throughout my life will never let me go. And for this I give thanks. — Nadia Bolz-Weber, full post: https://thecorners.substack.com/p/singing-hymns-alone

       It is a season of new songs. 
       It is a season of new people, new prayers, new questions. 
        At first, the liturgy of the Episcopal Church captured me with its novelty. The chants and collects, calls and responses were a refreshing departure from the contemporary evangelical worship I’d come to associate with all my evangelical baggage.  I liked confessing and receiving communion each week. I liked reciting the Lord’s Prayer and the Apostle’s Creed together in community. I liked the smells and bells. Each Sunday I’d stuff the sandy-colored bulletin in my purse so I could go home and study the rhythm of this worship, imbibing the poetry of those holy words. 
        We didn’t know many people then. I kept my eyes on the floor as I walked away from the Table on Sundays, afraid of exchanging too many warm smiles, afraid of becoming too familiar to these kind, religious people who, like all kind, religious people will inevitably disappoint and be disappointed. The melodies of the hymns remained largely inscrutable to my untrained ears, except for when the director of music, (raised Pentecostal),  threw in an “Amazing Grace” or “Rock of Ages” and I sang loud and badly just to hear my voice grip those solid words again.
       But we’ve been showing up for nearly six months now, and so it is a different sort of beauty I encounter on Sunday mornings these days—the beauty of familiarity, of sweet routine.
       I know the order of service now. I know it well enough to have favorite parts, to skim ahead when I’m hungry or restless, to get the songs stuck in my head. And we know the people too, not merely as strange faces gathered around the Table but as the Alabama fan, the new mom, the student who loves talking theology, the quilting club, the recovering fundamentalists, the friends. Yesterday, my eyes clouded with tears as the choir sang I Shall See,” somehow pulling every frantic, disparate prayer from the week into a single sweet plea. The music director told me  the song made her think of me. 
      It is a season of new songs.
      It is a season of receiving, of being loved just for showing up. 
I am holding all these gifts gingerly, like fragile blue eggs I’m afraid to break. I am holding them the way I hold that white wafer in my cupped, open hands—grateful, relieved, and still just a little bit frightened of what will happen when I take it and eat. — Rachel Held Evans, full post: https://rachelheldevans.com/blog/new-son

MUSIC in JUDAISM — My Jewish Learning.org

Music has been a part of Jewish life since biblical times, and remains integral to the Jewish religious and cultural experiences. At the moment of Israel’s birth as a nation — the Exodus from Egypt — the Bible tells us that Moses led the people of Israel in a song of divine praise. Music was part of the sacrificial worship in the Temple, and later became part of synagogue prayer services and at-home religious observance. Jewish music tends to blend unique elements with aspects that reflect the cultures in which Jews have lived, composed, played instruments, and sung…
     Jewish religious music includes cantorial music — the music of the professional prayer leader; nusah, the melodies to which traditional prayers are chanted, with different tunes used for different services; modern liturgical music, in which composers set excerpts of Jewish prayer to choral or other music that is not necessarily inherently “Jewish”; cantillation, which is the notes for chanting public readings of the Torah, haftarah(selections from Prophets), and other Jewish sacred texts, such as the Scroll of Ecclesiastes on the festival Sukkot; and nigunim, which are wordless melodies. Different Jewish communities throughout history have produced their own distinctive forms of these different Jewish religious expressions. However, as the global community has grown increasingly connected, so too have the different Jewish communities, resulting in a cross-fertilization of musical styles between Jews of different countries and different denominational affiliations.

JUDEO-CHRISTIAN MUSIC History

Worship with instruments in the Bible starts off in Genesis 4 with Jubal who “the first of all who play the harp and flute.” Moses mentions tamborines and dancing in Exodus as they celebrate the victory at the Red Sea. Then in the days of David and Solomon at the height of temple worship, they had choirs, ram horn (shofar) blowers, cymbal bangers, tamborines and various other percussionists and some stringed instruments (fore-runners to guitars like the lyre, ….) at the temple for celebrations of worship. It was probably very loud, and quite dissonant to our ears. And when people complain about the loud drums, besides the Psalm 150:5 “Praise him with the loud/clashing cymbals” you can check out 1 Chronicles 15 and 16 and notice that King David put Asaph in charge of the worship music and his instrument was… the cymbals? Why? Pragmatic of course: the cymbals are louder and more rhythmic of all the instruments, so it is the most logical for helping to keep the band in time! This orchestration lasted for many years, depending on the state of the temple. See Nehemiah 12 for a description and remember every time you read “trumpet” that you are talking about a shofar, not a modern finely tuned diatonic instrument. Psalm 150 makes it clear that we are free to use all the instruments we can find to worship God with. — musicacademy.com, full article: https://www.musicademy.com/history-worship-music-old-new-testament-to-rock-and-roll/

MUSIC and ISLAM — Hussein Rashid, Hofstra University, article: https://asiasociety.org/arts/music-and-islam-deeper-look

… The debate among Muslims is not about the permissibility of audio art, but about what kind of audio arts are permissible. The Qur’an, the first source of legal authority for Muslims, contains no direct references to music. Legal scholars use the hadith (saying and actions of Prophet Muhammad) as another source of authority, and have found conflicting evidence in it. The consensus that has emerged is that the audio arts fall into three broad categories: legitimate, controversial, and illegitimate. Qira’at, the call to prayer, religious chants and the like are all considered legitimate. Controversial audio arts include almost all other types of music. Illegitimate audio arts are considered to be those that take people away from the commandments of the faith. Music that leads to drinking or licentious behavior is considered illegitimate. Depending on the community of interpretation, one can find devotional music legitimate, controversial, or illegitimate.
    
Sufis, a broad category for a group of Muslims who generally take on a more personal and esoteric approach to the faith, argue that devotional audio arts must be bound by three things to be considered legitimate: time, place, and companions. Al-Ghazali, the famed 11th/12th century Sunni Muslim, argues that a good time is one that allows you to complete religious and societal obligations and no diversion should take time away from performing obligations. The place for the performance of audio art should be an appropriate setting– no concerts in masjids, and no performances in bars. Finally, the companions, the people surrounding the listener, should encourage the best in the listener.
    
The 10th century philosophical group, the Ikhwan as-Safa, argue that the truest audio art is the Voice of God, which the Prophet Moses heard at Sinai. When Moses heard the Voice, he moved beyond the need for earthly music. Based on this moment, the Ikhwan as-Safa believe that human audio arts are necessary echoes to remind us of the true music. The 15th century Persian mystical poet Jami says that in the Qur’an, when God says He is blowing life into the form of man (38:72) it should be understood that human beings are the first musical instrument. The famous Sufi poet Rumi (13th century) also plays with the idea of human beings as musical instruments. He opens his work the Mathnawi, perhaps one of his most famous poems, with the lines, “Listen to the reed as it tells a tale/ a tale of separation,” a statement on the human condition of removal from the Divine. It is also argued that the Prophet David (who authored the Psalms according to Muslims) and the Prophet Solomon both had beautiful voices and sang freely….

Meditations on blindness and sight, perception and awareness: songs, prayers, poems and brief commentary on themes that rise up in John 9

I think we all suffer from acute blindness at times. Life is a constant journey of trying to open your eyes. I’m just beginning my journey, and my eyes aren’t fully open yet. — Olivia Thirlby

Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind … — William Shakespeare

I have looked into your eyes with my eyes. I have put my heart near your heart. — Pope John XXIII
Songs about ‘Blindness’:
Blind Leading the Blind by Mumford & Sons (rock)
Blind Fools by Megan Davies & Curtis Peoples (country)
I Am Free by Newsboys (Christian rock)
I Go Blind by Hootie & The Blowfish (rock)
I Wish I Were Blind by Bruce Springsteen (rock)
Seeing Blind by Niall Horan & Maren Morris (country)
Sky Blue by Peter Gabriel with Blind Boys of Alabama (ballad/gospel)
Blind Boy by Musical Youth (pop)
Loving Blind by Clint Smith (country)
Love Is Blind by David Coverdale/Whitesnake (rock)
Lord You’ve Been Good To Me by 5 Blind Boys (gospel)
He Saw It All by the Booth Brothers (Christian country)
If You Me To by Ginny Owens (Christian)
Live Music with Blind Boys of Alabama (gospel)
Blind Man by Aerosmith (rock)
Blind Love by Tom Waits (country)
You’re Blind by Run/DMC (rock/rap)
Blind by Dababy (rap – includes explicit lyrics/some cursing)

Songs about Sight & Seeing: My Father’s Eyes by Eric Clapton (rock)
Have You Ever Seen the Rain? by Creedance Clearwater Revival (country/rock)
Doctor My Eyes by Jackson Browne (rock)
Look at Me by Sarah Vaughan (jazz/blues)
I Only Have Eyes for You by The Flamingos (rock/soul)
The Light In Your Eyes by LeAnn Rimes (country)
When I Look at the World by U2
I Look to You by Whitney Houston (rock)
The Way You Look Tonight by Frank Sinatra (jazz/big band)
Eyes Open by Taylor Swift (pop)
Close Your Eyes by Meghan Trainor (country)
Fresh Eyes by Andy Grammer (pop)
In Your Eyes by Peter Gabriel (rock ballad)
Don’t Close Your Eyes cover by Tim McGraw
In Another’s Eyes by Trisha Yearwood & Garth Brooks (country)
In My Daughter’s Eyes by Martina McBride
Sue Looks Good to Me by Alicia Keys (pop)
Look It Here by Public Enemy (rap)
Look Me In the Heart by Tina Turner (rock)
Look at Me Now by Kirk Franklin (rock/rap/gospel)
Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You by Frankie Valli (rock)
Close Your Eyes by Peaches & Herb & again Close Your Eyes The Five Keys (soul/rock)
Total Eclipse of the Heart by Bonnie Tyler (rock ballad)
When I Look in Your Eyes by Firehouse (rock)
Close Your Eyes by Michael Buble (pop)
Close My Eyes Forever by Ozzy Osbourne & Lita Ford (rock ballad)
Take a Look at Me Now (Against All Odds) by Phil Collins (pop ballad)
Angel Eyes by the Jeff Healey Band (rock)
My Eyes Have Seen You and I Looked at You by The Doors (rock)
Sight for Sore Eyes by Aerosmith (rock)
Look at Me Now by Charlies Puth (pop)
Ocean Eyes by Billie Eilish
The Way I Am by Ingrid Michaelson (pop ballad)
The Eyes of a Woman by Journey (rock)

PRAYER by Richard Rohr
God of all Light and Truth, just make sure that I am not a blind man or woman.
Keep me humble and honest, and that will be more than enough work for you.

PRAYER by Nadia Bolz-Weber
God of desert prophets and unlikely messiahs, humble us.
Show us that there is more to see than what we look for.
More possibility. More love. More forgiveness …
Restore our sight so that we may see you in each other.

PRAYER by St Augustine
Late have I loved you, O beauty ever ancient, ever new.
Late have I loved you. You have called to me, and have called out,
and have shattered my deafness. You have blazed forth with light and
have put my blindness to flight! You have sent forth fragrance,
and I have drawn in my breath, and I pant after you.
I have tasted you, and I hunger and thirst after you.
You have touched me, and I have burned for your peace.

At the End of the Day: A Mirror of Questions — John O’Donohue
What dreams did I create last night?
Where did my eyes linger today?
Where was I blind?
Where was I hurt without anyone noticing?
What did I learn today?
What did I read?
What new thoughts visited me?
What differences did I notice in those closest to me?
Whom did I neglect?
Where did I neglect myself?
What did I begin today that might endure?
How were my conversations?
What did I do today for the poor and the excluded?
Did I remember the dead today?
When could I have exposed myself to the risk of something different?
Where did I allow myself to receive love?
With whom today did I feel most myself?
What reached me today? How did it imprint?
Who saw me today?
What visitations hd I from the past and from the future?
What did I avoid today?
From the evidence – why was I given this day?

RICHARD ROHR COMMENTARY   (from Center for Action & Contemplation)
Finally, the great theater-piece Gospel is about a man born blind. … We can only touch upon the surface here, but enough to point you beneath the surface, I hope. Let me list in quick succession the major themes so you cannot miss them: 

  • The “man born blind” is the archetype for all of us at the beginning of life’s journey.
  • The moral blame game as to why or who caused human suffering is a waste of time.
  • The man does not even ask to be healed. It is just offered and given.
  • Religious authorities are often more concerned about control and correct theology than actually healing people. They are presented as narrow and unloving people throughout the story.
  • Many people have their spiritual conclusions before the facts in front of them. He is a predefined “sinner” and has no credibility for them.
  • Belief in and love of Jesus come after the fact, subsequent to the healing. Perfect faith or motivation is not always a prerequisite for God’s action. Sometimes God does things for God’s own purposes.
  • Spirituality is about seeing. Sin is about blindness, or as Saint Gregory of Nyssa will say, “Sin is always a refusal to grow.”
  • The one who knows little, learns much (what we call “beginner’s mind”) and those who have all their answers already, learn nothing.

Doing as others told me, I was Blind.
Coming when others called me, I was Lost.
Then I left everyone, myself as well.
Then I found Everyone, Myself as well.
― Rumi

COMMENTARY on the STORY of the BLIND MAN

… Of the two choices, Jesus picked a third, unbinding sin from the body, deformity from purity.  Before sight was restored, God’s presence was invoked in this marginal space, this “inappropriate” body.  God’s presence was invoked within the blind man – within the “imperfect”, within the “other”.  And when his eyes were opened, God’s light came pouring out from this man, casting into stark relief the social and religious ideas that had kept him out for so long. — Eliza (UCC minister see full posting on her blog)

Jesus doesn’t ask the blind guy when he heals him what he’ll be looking at for the rest of his life. — Anne Lamott

It will make a weak man mighty. it will make a mighty man fall. It will fill your heart and hands or leave you with nothing at all. It’s the eyes for the blind and legs for the lame. It is the love for hate and pride for shame. That’s the power of the gospel. — Ben Harper

It was here in the midst of my own community of underside dwellers that I couldn’t help but begin to see the Gospel, the life-changing reality that God is not far off, but here among the brokenness of our lives. — Nadia Bolz-Weber

ON SEEING & BLINDNESS as STATES of SPIRITUAL PERCEPTION

It’s not like ‘I once was blind, and now can see’: it’s more like, ‘I once was blind and now I have really bad vision’. — Nadia Bolz-Weber

Optimism does not mean being blind to the actual reality of a situation. It means maintaining a positive spirit to continue to seek a solution to any given problem. And it means recognizing that any given situation has many different aspects—positive as well as problematic. — Dalai Lama

We are only as blind as we want to be. ― Maya Angelou

Spirituality doesn’t mean a blind belief in a spiritual teaching. Spirituality is a practice that brings relief, communication, and transformation. Everyone needs a spiritual dimension in life. Without a spiritual dimension, it’s very challenging to be with the daily difficulties we all encounter. With a spiritual practice, you’re no longer afraid. Along with your physical body, you have a spiritual body. The practices of breathing, walking, concentration, and understanding can help you greatly in dealing with your emotions, in listening to and embracing your suffering, and in helping you to recognize and embrace the suffering of another person. If we have this capacity, then we can develop a real and lasting spiritual intimacy with ourselves and with others. ― Thich Nhat Hanh

Had the price of looking been blindness, I would have looked. — Ralph Ellison

Blindness is an unfortunate handicap but true vision does not require the eyes. — Helen Keller

Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see. — Mark Twain

Our very eyes, Are sometimes, like our judgments, blind. — William Shakespeare

There are not sacred and profane things, places, and moments. There are only sacred and desecrated things, places, and moments-and it is we alone who desecrate them by our blindness and lack of reverence. It is one sacred universe, and we are all a part of it. — Richard Rohr

Man’s basic vice, the source of all his evils, is the act of unfocusing his mind, the suspension of his consciousness, which is not blindness, but the refusal to see, not ignorance, but the refusal to know. — Ayn Rand

An eye for an eye leaves everybody blind. — Martin Luther King, Jr.

NOBEL SPEECH (excerpt from FULL LECTURE) by Toni Morrison
“Once upon a time there was an old woman. Blind but wise.” Or was it an old man? A guru, perhaps. Or a griot soothing restless children. I have heard this story, or one exactly like it, in the lore of several cultures. “Once upon a time there was an old woman. Blind. Wise.”
      In the version I know the woman is the daughter of slaves, black, American, and lives alone in a small house outside of town. Her reputation for wisdom is without peer and without question. Among her people she is both the law and its transgression. The honor she is paid and the awe in which she is held reach beyond her neighborhood to places far away; to the city where the intelligence of rural prophets is the source of much amusement.
     One day the woman is visited by some young people who seem to be bent on disproving her clairvoyance and showing her up for the fraud they believe she is. Their plan is simple: they enter her house and ask the one question the answer to which rides solely on her difference from them, a difference they regard as a profound disability: her blindness. They stand before her, and one of them says, “Old woman, I hold in my hand a bird. Tell me whether it is living or dead.”
     She does not answer, and the question is repeated. “Is the bird I am holding living or dead?”
Still she doesn’t answer. She is blind and cannot see her visitors, let alone what is in their hands. She does not know their color, gender or homeland. She only knows their motive.
     The old woman’s silence is so long, the young people have trouble holding their laughter.
     Finally she speaks and her voice is soft but stern. “I don’t know”, she says. “I don’t know whether the bird you are holding is dead or alive, but what I do know is that it is in your hands. It is in your hands.”
     Her answer can be taken to mean: if it is dead, you have either found it that way or you have killed it. If it is alive, you can still kill it. Whether it is to stay alive, it is your decision. Whatever the case, it is your responsibility.
     For parading their power and her helplessness, the young visitors are reprimanded, told they are responsible not only for the act of mockery but also for the small bundle of life sacrificed to achieve its aims. The blind woman shifts attention away from assertions of power to the instrument through which that power is exercised…

I look at the worldLangston Hughes

I look at the world
From awakening eyes in a black face—
And this is what I see:
This fenced-off narrow space   
Assigned to me.
 
I look then at the silly walls
Through dark eyes in a dark face—
And this is what I know:
That all these walls oppression builds
Will have to go!
 
I look at my own body   
With eyes no longer blind—
And I see that my own hands can make
The world that’s in my mind.
Then let us hurry, comrades,
The road to find.

Sonnet 19: When I consider how my light is spent — John Milton

When I consider
how my light is spent,
Ere half my days,
in this dark world and wide,
And that one Talent
which is death to hide
Lodged with me useless,
though my Soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker,
and present
My true account,
lest he returning chide;
‘Doth God exact day-labour,
light denied?’
I fondly ask.
But patience, to prevent
That murmur, soon replies,
‘God doth not need
Either man’s work
or his own gifts;
who best
Bear his mild yoke,
they serve him best.
His state
Is Kingly.
Thousands at his bidding speed
And post o’er Land and
Ocean without rest:
They also serve who only
stand and wait.’

Love on the move. Themes from Gospel of John

Bending down to wash and anoint someone’s feet. What story do our feet tell about us? How we live? How do we love? How do we touch the earth?

Indeed, what amazing gifts might must be ours if we could kneel and honor the humanity in another? I imagine we might just start to see the holy there as well. — Janet Hunt

My Grandmother Washes Her Feet
in the Sink of the Bathroom at Sears (excerpt)
Mohja Kahf My grandmother puts her feet in the sink         of the bathroom at Sears to wash them in the ritual washing for prayer, wudu, because she has to pray in the store or miss the mandatory prayer time for Muslims She does it with great poise, balancing herself with one plump matronly arm against the automated hot-air hand dryer, after having removed her support knee-highs and laid them aside, folded in thirds, and given me her purse and her packages to hold so she can accomplish this august ritual and given me her purse and her packages to hold
so she can accomplish this august ritual
and get back to the ritual of shopping for housewares
Respectable Sears matrons shake their heads and frown
as they notice what my grandmother is doing,
an affront to American porcelain,
a contamination of American Standards
by something foreign and unhygienic
requiring civic action and possible use of disinfectant spray
They fluster about and flutter their hands and I can see
a clash of civilizations brewing in the Sears bathroom …
Standing between the door and the mirror, I can see
at multiple angles, my grandmother and the other shoppers,
all of them decent and goodhearted women, diligent
in cleanliness, grooming, and decorum …

On Feet: Walking and Washing

I would say that there exist a thousand unbreakable links between each of us and everything else, and that our dignity and our chances are one. The farthest star and the mud at our feet are a family; and there is no decency or sense in honoring one thing, or a few things, and then closing the list. The pine tree, the leopard, the Platte River, and ourselves – we are at risk together, or we are on our way to a sustainable world together. We are each other’s destiny. — Mary Oliver 

And forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair … ― Khalil Gibran, The Prophet

Be sure you put your feet in the right place, then stand firm. — Abraham Lincoln

What does love look like? It has the hands to help others. It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has eyes to see misery and want. It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men. That is what love looks like. — Saint Augustine

You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose. You’re on your own, and you know what you know. And you are the guy who’ll decide where to go. — Dr. Seuss

When food comes you open your mouth; when sleep comes you close your eyes. As you wash your face you find your nose, when you take off your shoes you feel your feet.  At that time, if you miss what’s being said, take a torch and make a special search deep in the night. How can you attain union?  — Joshu

The greatest form of praise is the sound of consecrated feet seeking out the lost and helpless. — Billy Graham

Look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Try to make sense of what you see, and wonder about what makes the universe exist. Be curious. — Stephen Hawking

This is love: to fly toward a secret sky, to cause a hundred veils to fall each moment. First to let go of life. Finally, to take a step without feet. — Rumi

… Walking meditation is really to enjoy the walking — walking not in order to arrive, just for walking. The purpose is to be in the present moment and enjoy each step you make. Therefore you have to shake off all worries and anxieties, not thinking of the future, not thinking of the past, just enjoying the present moment. … We walk all the time, but usually it is more like running. Our hurried steps print anxiety and sorrow on the Earth. If we can take one step in peace, we can take two, three, four, and then five steps for the peace and happiness of humankind. … If we can transform our walking path into a field for meditation, our feet will take every step in full awareness. Our breathing will be in harmony with our steps, and our mind will naturally be at ease. Every step we take will reinforce our peace and joy and cause a stream of calm energy to flow through us. — Thich Nhat Hanh

From our feet, we can tell how the rest of our body is doing. The way we follow the Lord reveals how our heart is faring. The wounds on our feet, our sprains and our weariness, are signs of how we have followed Him, of the paths we have taken in seeking the lost sheep and in leading the flock to green pastures and still waters. The Lord washes us and cleanses us of all the dirt our feet have accumulated in following Him. This is something holy. Do not let your feet remain dirty. Like battle wounds, the Lord kisses them and washes away the grime of our labors. — Pope Francis

Extravagant Love: Washing and Anointing

… we don’t separate a self from its environment, and cleaning expresses our respect for and sense of wholeness with the world that surrounds us. Shoukei Matsumoto

A monk asked Joshu, “I have just entered the monastery: please give me some guidance.”  Joshu said, “Have you had breakfast yet?”
The monk said, “Yes I have eaten.”  Joshu continues, “Then go wash your bowl.”
— Joshu, Buddhist Koan

In this text, Mary continues the theme of extravagance in the form of costly gestures involving expensive ointment. … Now is no time for frugality. This extravagance on earth is participating with the work of heaven. — Lynn Miller

Do you see this person that you are judging?  Do you see her humanity, her profound child of God-ness, her generosity, her capacity for compassion?   — Joy Perkett

Sounds like a horrible idea to me, trying to get ​closer​ to God. Half the time, I wish God would leave me alone. Getting closer to God might mean getting told to love someone I don’t even like, or give away even more of my money.It might mean letting some idea or dream that is dear to me get ripped away. — Nadia Bolz­-Weber

So Mary might have given Jesus this stunning gift of extravagance as a thank-you or as a prophetic witness as to what would soon be. Perhaps her motivation was a mixture of both. But what if another reason Mary poured it all out that day was simply because she knew deep down that her gift would make a holy difference to Jesus. Her gift, her generous offering, could remind him who he was and how much he was loved. — Shannon J. Kershner

What amazing and wonderful thing can she do, what can she say not with words but with her whole self: Mary takes the best she has to give and in an hour of need, as death looms over this little band of disciples, Mary takes the best and breaks it open over the feet of Jesus, the one she loves, the one she is about to lose…even if only for awhile…but we suspect she does not know that, yet. — Kathryn Matthews Then again, we might ask whom God might work through next. And if you ask that question, then invite your people to look at those sitting near them. For God may be about to use each of them in a surprising way to care for their neighbor, to offer a listening ear, to do their work with faithfulness and courage, to stand up for those who are less fortunate, to resist peer pressure at school and offer an alternative to those watching. Who knows? What we do know is that God is regularly about the business of surprising us with where God shows up, whom God uses, and what God accomplishes. — David Lose

Mary’s extravagant love for Jesus makes it possible for Jesus to show extravagant love in what follows — washing the feet of his disciples, handing himself over to be arrested in the garden, carrying his own cross, dying, rising, and ascending. Mary loves Jesus into his future as the fulfillment of, “for God so loved the world.” — Karoline Lewis

Jesus’ commandment to love one another is not a commandment to feel affection, but a commandment to act in a loving way, even when we would rather do otherwise. — Elisabeth Johnson

Remembering her may help them leave him alone while he finishes delivering his message. At home in Bethany, the storm clouds are still piling up against the door when Mary gives the forecast: it will be bad, very bad, but that’s no reason for Jesus’ friends to lock their hearts and head to the cellar.  Whatever they need, there will be enough to go around.  Whatever they spend, there will be plenty left over.  There is no reason to fear running out–of nard or of life either one–for where God is concerned, there is always more than we can ask or imagine–gifts from our lavish, lavish Lord. — Barbara Brown Taylor


Reflections on songs & singing

Poem ― Charlotte Eriksson
… so this is for us.
This is for us who sing, write, dance, act, study, run and love
and this is for doing it even if no one will ever know
because the beauty is in the act of doing it.
Not what it can lead to.
This is for the times I lose myself while writing, singing, playing
and no one is around and they will never know
but I will forever remember
and that shines brighter than any praise or fame or glory I will ever have,
and this is for you who write or play or read or sing
by yourself with the light off and door closed
when the world is asleep and the stars are aligned
and maybe no one will ever hear it
or read your words
or know your thoughts
but it doesn’t make it less glorious.
It makes it ethereal. Mysterious.
Infinite.
For it belongs to you and whatever God or spirit you believe in
and only you can decide how much it meant
and means
and will forever mean
and other people will experience it too
through you.
Through your spirit. Through the way you talk.
Through the way you walk and love and laugh and care
and I never meant to write this long
but what I want to say is:
Don’t try to present your art by making other people read or hear or see or touch it; make them feel it. Wear your art like your heart on your sleeve and keep it alive by making people feel a little better. Feel a little lighter. Create art in order for yourself to become yourself
and let your very existence be your song, your poem, your story.
Let your very identity be your book.
Let the way people say your name sound like the sweetest melody.

So go create. Take photographs in the wood, run alone in the rain and sing your heart out high up on a mountain
where no one will ever hear
and your very existence will be the most hypnotising scar.
Make your life be your art
and you will never be forgotten.

Continue reading “Reflections on songs & singing”

Themes from Matthew 25 about giving and receiving: doing unto others (and Thanksgiving)

Contemplating Thanksgiving— receiving and giving support — as themes from Matthew 25 about separating goats from sheep and “doing unto others.” When do you need to hold out your hands and open your arms and accept the grace available to you, and when may you be a tangible source of grace for others?

What does love look like? It has the hands to help others. It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has eyes to see misery and want. It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men. That is what love looks like. — St Augustine

Pie with Spirits Mary Wellemeyer
This is the very pumpkin pie
my grandmother made—almost.
She was a modern woman
who knew how to follow recipes.
Receipts, she called them,
 because they had been received.
She had a rule for pie crust that was constant
until, from time to time, it changed.
I have that rule, in turn, and it has moved on,
just a bit, from where she left it.
This is my special shared moment
with her, departed a quarter century.
As I work, I am all ages of myself,
and the thought of my tall son comes to join us,
though he hardly knew her.
He makes pies with wild abandon,
sculpting them from material and artistry.
He has received pie somehow at the level of soul.
The three of us make pie together,
preheating the oven,
cutting butter into flour, adding water,
flouring a board, rolling the crust.
To honor her, I follow the recipe.
To honor him, I change just one thing.
To honor myself, I take my time and smile.

Receiving Help: Accepting Grace

None of us got where we are alone. Whether the assistance we received was obvious or subtle, acknowledging someone’s help is a big part of understanding the importance of saying thank you. — Harvey Mackay

Somebody help me, tell me where to go from here, because even Thugs cry, but do the Lord care? — Tupac Shakur

You can’t change the world alone — you will need someone’s help — and to truly get from your starting point to your destination takes friends, colleagues, the good will of strangers and a strong coxswain to guide them. — William McRaven

“You should ask for help,” he said. “I don’t know how to do that, either.”
Benjamin Alire Sáenz, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

I take to me the services which thou hast done to him. — C.S. Lewis, character Aslan speaking in The Last Battle

Being first to ask for help in a friendship takes courage and humility. ― Afton Rorvik, Storm Sisters: Friends Though All Seasons

… for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me. — Matthew 25

Gracious acceptance is an art – an art which most never bother to cultivate. We think that we have to learn how to give, but we forget about accepting things, which can be much harder than giving … ― Alexander McCall Smith

A lot of the time we don’t know when we’re surrendering that we’re actually, at the same time, maybe establishing connection … to a power greater than ourselves — or something in the next concentric circle out whose name is not me. So, that to me is where help begins. You know, we’re often ashamed of asking for so much help because it seems selfish or petty or narcissistic, but I think, if there’s a God — and I believe there is — that God is there to help. That’s what God’s job is. — Anne Lamott

No man is an island, Entire of itself, Every man is a piece of the continent, A part of the main. — John Donne

Inter-being: Tiếp Hiện (接現) is a Sino-Vietnamese term. Tiếp means “being in touch with” and “continuing.” Hiện means “realizing” and “making it here and now.” The translation “Interbeing” (French: Interêtre) is a word coined by Thich Nhat Hanh to represent … Buddhist principles … to describe the essential interconnectedness of the universe … If we look deeply into the nature of our universe we can see all things as profoundly interdependent.

… Without a cloud, we cannot have paper, so we can say that the cloud and the sheet of paper inter-are. If we look into this sheet of paper even more deeply, we can see the sunshine in it. If the sunshine is not there, the forest cannot grow. In fact nothing can grow. Even we cannot grow without sunshine. And so, we know that the sunshine is also in this sheet of paper. The paper and the sunshine inter-are. And if we continue to look we can see the logger who cut the tree and brought it to the mill to be transformed into paper. And we see the wheat. We know that the logger cannot exist without his daily bread, and therefore the wheat that became his bread is also in this sheet of paper. And the logger’s father and mother are in it too. When we look in this way we see that without all of these things, this sheet of paper cannot exist. — Society of Interbeing, Thich Nhat Hanh

Offering Support:
Small Acts of Grace

Non nobis solum nati sumus. (Not for ourselves alone are we born.) ― Marcus Tullius Cicero

The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well. — Ralph Waldo Emerson

No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another. — Charles Dickens

The best antidote I know for worry is work. The best cure for weariness is the challenge of helping someone who is even more tired. One of the great ironies of life is this: He or she who serves almost always benefits more than he or she who is served. ― Gordon B. Hinckley, Standing for Something

No one has ever become poor by giving. ― Anne Frank, diary of Anne Frank: the play

Frankly I’m not religious, but I believe in the cause of humanity — doing good work. — Sukhwinder Singh

It’s not enough to have lived. We should be determined to live for something. May I suggest that it be creating joy for others, sharing what we have for the betterment of personkind, bringing hope to the lost and love to the lonely. ― Leo F. Buscaglia

Human kindness has never weakened the stamina or softened the fiber of a free people. A nation does not have to be cruel to be tough. — Franklin D. Roosevelt

Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive. — Dalai Lama XIV

While we do our good works let us not forget that the real solution lies in a world in which charity will have become unnecessary. — Chinua Achebe, Anthills of the Savannah

The simplest acts of kindness are by far more powerful then a thousand heads bowing in prayer. — Mahatma Gandhi

We are not to simply bandage the wounds of victims beneath the wheels of injustice, we are to drive a spoke into the wheel itself. — Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Little GoatKatie Ford
God is not light upon light, no more
than goat is need upon need
although there, where it grazes, it is sun upon coat
within which ticks and stray-blown feed burrow
into the pocked skin of such foul scent
covering the underflesh heart that could eat
this farmer’s grain or the barren mountain’s bark
high in the solitude of sheer animal peace
laid over sheer animal terror.
We ask the animal afflicted by its time,
its impoverished American meadow
that drove it to find birch from which to strip its easy feed
to abide with us.
It does not need us. We think it needs us.

We must forgive God God’s story.

The Black-Faced Sheep (excerpt) — Donald Hall
Ruminant pillows! Gregarious soft boulders!
If one of you found a gap in a stone wall,
the rest of you—rams, ewes, bucks, wethers, lambs;
mothers and daughters, old grandfather-father,
cousins and aunts, small bleating sons—
followed onward, stupid
as sheep, wherever
your leader’s sheep-brain wandered to …
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