January 9th, 2009

Generic Meditation Issues: Words and Music

";;;;;that place in life where you know all the words but none of the music."
                   --Sue Monk Kidd*, "When the Heart Waits"

I'm not sure I've got this right, but here goes.  The brain is divided into two hemispheres.  Though it is not the soul, or even the mind, it is a pretty remarkable organ.  Reduced from the miraculous to the scientific, it goes something like this: The left hemisphere controls the right side of the body and is responsible for language, objectivity, etc.  The right hemisphere ("right brain") controls the left side of the body and is responsible for music, subjectivity, etc..  Although language comes from the left brain, song lyrics come from the right brain.  Since poetry could be considered lyrics that have not yet been set to music, I imagine poetry comes from the right brain as well.

While I dislike all theology that pretends to tell us about God and God's will, I have no problem listening to hymns that express the very same ideas.  If you tell me, I'll turn you off; if you sing to me, I will listen and probably enjoy.  If people sing their truth at me, am I being brainwashed?  Maybe, if I am not aware of the difference between prose and poetry.

Shelby Spong reminded me that  Hymns are love songs to God and that love songs always exaggerate the virtues of the beloved.  I can sing "Did you happen to see the most beautiful girl in the world..." which is absolutely ridiculous.  There are over three billion human females in the world so, even assuming an objective criteria for beauty, how could anyone know whether he or she had seen the most beautiful one or not?

I said "I can sing..." actually that's not true.  I can't sing.  I'm not tone deaf.  I can hear music and enjoy it.  I can remember some tunes, and even after 75 years of proving the contrary, I think if I open my mouth, a song will come out.  It doesn't.

My spouse hears the music of the spheres, there is always indescribably beautiful music playing inside her head.  She says this and I believe it because she never lies.  Music doesn't play inside my head, but I think that if I open my mouth and try to sing, music will come out.  It doesn't.

But "music" is also a metaphor.  Kidd means something more than song when she says she knows all the words but none of the music.  Music is magic, music is closer to the soul.  I need to get more "music" into my life, even if I can;t sing.

* forget Oprah, forget Secret Life of Bees, this is a spiritual writer who has something to say.  Her obvious Christianity (Episcopalian) does not intrude,