Listen to The Music
February 1, 2016
Often someone will ask us, “what’s happening?” And we reply, “nothing.” But there is never nothing going on. Even when we are in a place of total solitude and quiet there is the music of what is happening. Even silence is the music of what is happening. Often, no matter what we are doing we are thinking or living in excited anticipation of what’s waiting in the future. The future being that marshmallow sundae we’re going to have as soon as we finish dinner. Thus we miss the music of the moment. It’s been said that life is a symphony, but some would say that it is a tragedy. For some life is meant to be lived for others endured. In the song “Time,” by the Pozo Seco Singers, one line goes, “some people never laugh, some never cry, some people never live, some never die.” It’s tragic that we so seldom live in the moment.
What do I mean by the music of what is happening? Life is filled with sound. There are cars and trucks rumbling by on the freeway, jets roaring across the sky, babies crying, people dying, mothers sighing.
Sitting in a quiet forest where nothing is happening, if one is listening, is also a place filled with music. Woodpeckers pecking, birds singing, bugs buzzing, or a deer unexpectedly walking by where you are sitting, crunching through the dried leaves and pine needles as it somewhat nervously moves quickly away after you have made eye contact. We often don’t hear the music of life because we don’t recognize it as music.
Fionn MacCumhaill asked his followers, “What is the finest music in the world?”
“The cuckoo calling from the tree that is highest in the hedge,” cried his merry son. “A good sound,” said Fionn. “And Oscar,” he asked, “what is to your mind the finest music?” “The top of music is the ring of a spear on a shield,” cried the stout lad. “It is a good sound,” said Fionn. And the other champions told their delight: the belling of a stag across the water, the baying of a tuneful pack heard in the distance, the song of a lark, the laughter of a gleeful girl, or the whisper of a loved one. “They are good sounds all,” said Fionn. “Tell us, chief,” one ventured, “what do you think?” “The music of what is happening,” said great Fionn, “that is the finest music in the world.” (John J. O’Riordan, The Music of What Happens (Winona, MN; St. Mary’s Press, 1997) 109-10.)
The music of what is happening can only be heard in the present moment, right now, right here. Too often much of life seems filled with busyness, noise, chaos. There is so much to do each day that we seldom live or fully experience whatever we happen to be doing, rather much of the time we are working to get it done so we can move on to the next task.
In his book, The Miracle of Mindfulness, (pg.74) the Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh in recalling a visit from a Christian leader named Jim Forest beautifully illustrates living in the now as excellent preparation for prayer.
So they finished dinner and Nhat Hanh said he would wash the dishes before getting the tea. Jim offered to do the dishes, while Nhat Hahn was preparing the tea; but Nhat Hahn said, “I am not sure you know how to wash dishes.” Jim laughed at him and said, “Of course I know how to wash dishes. I’ve been doing it all my life.” “No,” the monk said, “you would be washing the dishes in order to have your tea and dessert. That is not the way to wash dishes. You must wash dishes to wash dishes.”
Living in the ordinariness of every day, doing all those trivial tasks that seem meaningless is where real life is lived. And that’s where most of us live. Whether life for you is “Song Sung Blue Everybody Knows One,” or “Everybody Knows I Got A Happy Life,” fully live every moment of every day and listen to the music of what is happening.
City-Wide Prayer Breakfast
I had an opportunity to attend this event here in Bakersfield the end of January. It was so encouraging to see thousands of people gathered in the Civic Auditorium to pray for our city. In addition we were led in prayers for our nation, our national and local leaders, law enforcement, business people, the media, ministers, educators and countless others. We truly live in a city where much of it’s leadership is openly willing to talk about their faith and pray for each other. Thanks be to God for Bakersfield.
Continue to pray for this ministry. I will report in next month’s newsletter about my trip to Mexico. As I write this letter I am about to depart for Acapulco. Thank you for your prayers and support.