Music: The Places Life Cannot Reach Without It
I have a parrot who does not sing. She cries a lot if I leave the room—if anybody leaves the room actually. She screams for whatever she needs—though it’s your responsibility to figure out what that may be. She talks to herself by stringing a long list of very clear but totally useless syllables together while she chatters in my ear.
But when I sing to her, or play music for her, she stands stark still and listens without making a sound. She just perches there. Almost breathless. Almost frozen. It’s totally out of character—and totally understandable—at the same time. It is something that fascinates me. I watched her over and over again and then I got it: I do the same thing myself.
Here, in the music, is all the protection I need from my restless or anxious or empty self. Maybe music is the basic living instinct, I think: common to us all—parrot and person alike. It is the one thing in life that gets into my soul, that cuts it off from everything but the electrical impulses of the universe, that encapsulates me.
I began writing articles to music as a young teenager. I would choose a march or a symphony or a piano solo and “write” the outline of a sentence in march to its rhythm, to its accents, to its phrases. Or, I would string out a wispy dream, or punch up a great, sweeping grand symphony by writing lines in an equally long cadenza. Then I would put words to them rather than chords until the sentence on my paper sounded like the rise and fall of the end of the opera or the volley of the street band.
Strange, I know. But important to consider. The truth is that music is not a melody, it is a place in time. It is somewhere to go where no one else, no noise, no interruptions can intrude. It takes us in and closes us off from all the clamor of the universe.
It gives us balm. It touches our souls. It saves us from the straggle and cacophony of the world. It takes our noisy, crowded lives and quiets us in the orbit of the sublime.
Music is the only sound of heaven we’ve ever been given. Play it often. Play it well. Play it to put yourself back together again after noise and confusion of sound leave you tired and alone and lonely on the floor of life.
Then, one thing and one thing only can accompany us into ourselves—our memories, our hopes, the pace of our soul and the power to quiet us to everything except distraction. Indeed, music is where the soul goes to put into notes what cannot be said in words. Happy listening.
—from The Monastic Way by Joan Chittister