We have a song to sing, one note to the next

In an interview with Krista Tippett, cellist Yo-Yo Ma reflects on the transitions inherent in life while quoting Isaac Stern: “The music happens between the notes.”

“What does this mean?” Yo-Yo Ma pauses to ask.  “How do you get from A to B? Do you glide into the next note, is it a smooth transfer, or do you have to reach—physically, mentally or effortfully to go from one note to the next?  Could the next note be part of the first note? Or could the next note be a different universe? Have you just crossed some amazing boundary and suddenly the next note is a revelation?”

Making music is infinitely complex.  It takes mental and emotional and spiritual investment.  A meaningful life requires the same.

As much as we would like it to, life never stands still.  I am halfway through a summer where I have spent some blessed downtime focusing on my first book project.  The thought of the academic year beginning in a few short weeks makes my heart heavy. But Yo-Yo Ma has made me pause here to ask, “How do I move from one note of life to the next?”

In Psalm 98 the Israelites are encouraged to “sing a new song” while living in exile.  They were far from home, living in a foreign land with strange new foreign ways.  It was a painful, uncomfortable time.  Yet the psalmist encouraged them to sing.  Find your way to the next note, I imagine the Psalmist advising, and, find the way your notes connect to make your song.

According to the psalmist, we each have a song to sing.  Knowing this can be a comfort in the in between times when we find ourselves stretched, uncomfortable, depressed, or grieved.  Our lives have meaning and purpose, but how we make our way from one note of life to the next determines the melody we make.  It would serve us well, then, to lean in and listen; to be intentional in the in between times; to find our way with purpose, confident that our notes will eventually connect in a song that only we are meant to sing.

[Feature Image: Pogo1]

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Facing Change

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I can, with one eye squinted, take it all as a blessing.
Flannery O’Connor

I am immensely grateful for my life. My husband is a talented, intelligent man who makes me laugh and is committed to growing with me in our relationship. I have two beautiful, healthy children who inspire me daily with their unbridled joy and wonder. I get paid for work I love, work that challenges me intellectually and spiritually. And yet there are days when I want it all to change. I want a new job, a different boss, more time to write, fewer committee meetings. I want my husband to be less cynical. I want my children to stop fighting, to stop yelling, “STOP!” I want things to change and I want them to stay the same. Every day is like this.

A poem by Randall Jarrell struck me today. Called Next Day, the poem shares a woman’s thoughts as she reflects on her life the day after attending a friend’s funeral. Here is an excerpt:

Today I miss
My lovely daughter
Away at school, my sons away at school,

My husband away at work—I wish for them.
The dog, the maid,
And I go through the sure unvarying days
At home in them.  As I look at my life,
I am afraid
Only that it will change, as I am changing.

I understand this fear of change, especially the change that comes with growing older. I feel the desire to slow life down when I sit on the back porch with my kids eating ice cream cones, then watch as they kick off their socks to gallop barefoot through the grass. I don’t want any of this to change. I don’t want to lose what is so precious.

But I also find change exciting. Something new is around the corner and I am curious, eager to see what this change will bring; A new and better version of myself? A new phase in my relationship with my husband? A new challenge at work? A new joy as a parent of rapidly growing children? While Christians refer to Christ as the solid rock on which we stand and sing about an unchanging God, Buddhists teach that all is groundless and that we must grow comfortable with change as our constant reality. As much as I would be comforted by the belief that God doesn’t change, I find myself agreeing more with the Buddhists.

So how can I live faithfully, wisely, attentively, comfortably in the face of all this change?  Maybe as Flannery O’Connor does in taking it all as a blessing, but with one eye squinted.

 

[Feature Image: Stephen Thomas]