All our days and nights are made of moments, tiny consequential invitations, quests, conspicuous and ephemeral all at once. Moments to propel us forward, hold us still, enable us to sway or even go backwards. How auspicious these moments are in our lives seems to be dependent on the value we give to them in our noticing. Perhaps they of such high value we see them coming or so ordinary and familiar they pass and we don’t even blink. At the threshold in the nano second between each moment we rarely have the luxury to hold onto the time to still it completely but the breath in and the breath out can always serve as a reminder of this crossing over from one moment to the next.
Moving at a different pace gives us a glimmer of a chance to experience these thresholds in preparation for each moment. Changing pace reminds me of how sound works and what we can learn from a tuning fork. Consider placing a metaphorical tuning fork to moments. Each moment would resonate, calibrate and send the waves and disturbed molecules before they settled and have clarity arrive. A tuning fork has two tones, one for each of its prongs (tines). These two tones are the fundamental and the harmonic, maybe another version of breathing in and out. Longer tines are deeper in sound because they vibrate more slowly and shorter ones higher because they move faster. And they have actually been made in quartz and used in fancy watches in the 0th century. I didn’t realise quartz precision in advertising was referring to miniature tuning forks to deliver the highest and more precise way of keeping time than previously used mechanical pieces.
As the year opens and inevitable questions about what is being planned for the year ahead and what are you taking in from 2020 or leaving behind from 2020 and what do you want to learn has been central this past week with reflecting conversations, in formal and informal settings with peers, friends, colleagues and sojourners. Listening in there are consistent themes of resilience, improvisation, creativity, surviving and thriving, loss and grief. 2020 started in my part of the world gripped in a drought, engulfed then by bushfires and then constrained by COVID19. Adaptation became visible as we adjusted to each new and changing condition, a reminder of just what kind of species we are, one that can adjust, and harmonise the discrepancies and differences we see around us and bring them together so we can work with what we have got or create something to fit the new.
Systems unable to adjust and their vulnerabilities in these conditions, cracks became more visible and adaptation more difficult for the masses and their systems. And we can see this in governments unable to protect its most vulnerable, communities that rally around each other to fill gaps left or never created by public institutions, consistent acts of kindness and organised volunteering from individuals and not for profits. Moments being met by compassion. Moments being met by fear. Moments being met by acceptance. Time and sound meeting together with the clarity of a bell. A chime for us to meet the moment as we hear the call to stillness, or perhaps it is a call to meditation or prayer. I love to hear the sound of the city clock or the angelus bells or a call to prayer when I am in places where they are in the soundscape. The morning song is as equal to these sounds. We are in a receipt of continuous invitations to meet the moment with three movements: stillness, calibration and clarity. Stay tuned.
The quartz moves with precision
As the breath moves in and out.
sharing the sky with the mournful black crow
Create a seductive binary choice soundscape.
Joy to welcome the day
Invitation to grieve
And with some rain,
Galahs calibrate and
celebrate dancing on overhead wires.
Gifted a ticket to hear Brahms’ Human Requiem I was moved by the generosity of those who bestowed this gift on me … and then there was the gift of the evening itself. It was and will be a gift that will keep on giving. The program notes tell me that “Brahms, a humanist and agnostic from the humblest of backgrounds, wanted this work to speak to everyone.” The inclusive nature of the performance had me entranced. We arrived with the performers in and around us, no distinction to differentiate them from us – a common humanity. We were silently invited in the simplest of ways, no words, to gather in a central location, make a paper cup, with each station adding a new step, and the going into the centre to drink minted water, which was deeply appreciated in the muggy night air. And for our home made cups we all drank – a communion of sorts – our common heritage of the global common gift of water – linking our bodies together in this simple act – we are all water – we all drink from the one fountain – we all then leave and go to our places to walk, listen, sit, stand, touch, mingle. We are one. Fitting ourselves around each other, being held in the spaces and sounds created when we all are in the same frame – this is what embedded inclusion looks and feels like.
The unifying moments we have when the auditorium sings a chorus together at a rock concert truly leave no-one behind and the residue of the experience can carry us into the possible in other domains which is what I need right now. Setting my self-compassion compass to north, I am discovering how much other people are contributing to my well-being and how I don’t have to do it all alone! This week I have received many gifts, invisible and visible, and been in gracious company for meals, music, theatre and activism. I have been held by sounds – the sounds of women cheering, the sounds of silence in the pauses between words of comfort, the sounds of the bells telling the time and calling us to prayer in the city cathedral, the sounds of the children skipping, dancing, doing cartwheels as if no one is watching, the sounds of choked voices sadly eeking out a phrase of distress and seeking my support, the sounds of democracy unfolding with all the familiarity of aging pollsters and aspiring politicians. Each sound carrying an invitation to belong to something bigger than myself, holding out a hand to me saying come listen, come rest and be held.
Surrounding yourself with sounds of love and grace are surely acts of self compassion however they might be delivered and Brahms knew what he was doing when he wrote his Requiem and the Rundfunkchor of Berlin took it to new plane. The sound infusing our souls with every breath in and every breath out. At the cellular level we were transformed, as we became one with no bodily fluids being exchanged. Choristers looked into our eyes with such empathy as they moved among their audience. Eye contact surely one of the most intimate acts we humans can participate in. Hearing a voice true and whole moving behind us, alongside of us and then fully expressed joining with another 59 voices (and the piano played by two people with a four handed score) brings the aural intimacy to fully consummate the experience of surround sound. I belong to an acapella gospel choir and it is wonderful when we can’t hear a single voice, just one sound, that is the perfect descriptor for me of unity.
We are all pilgrims moving through space and time, the great human endeavour to know we are finite and blessed to be a community of sojourners. It is together we travel best, in company and beauty and joy, to be held when we need to be held, to be in the spaces and silences when it is time for those moments. The invitation from others to join their journey, to be part of their story line is an invitation for them as much as for you, there is a mutuality in the gift offered and accepted.
The Requiem opens with a blessing for those that mourn to be comforted, this is a time for the living and I am comforted by the blessings of dear friends, surrounding me with sounds of love, delivering me grace.