On a recent Thursday evening I arrived late for rehearsal. The choir was already finished with the warm up and well into the first piece of the evening. It took only a moment to realize that the piece was one that I know almost entirely from memory, even though I’ve sung it only a few times since first learning it about forty years ago.
Several lifetimes ago, when I was in college, I decided to join the choir at the church I was then attending. Unlike most of the other choir members, I had not sung in school choirs during my K-12 career. I could carry a tune, but I could not read music. I learned tunes by listening to them repeatedly. When I walked into the choir room and joined the bass section, I listened to the men around me and tried to connect what they were singing with the black squiggles and dots on the paper. Those men–and the choir director–were very patient with me and in time I learned enough to be a competent chorister. I owe a debt of gratitude to them for a gift of measureless value.
Connections between what is heard and what is printed on the music sheet seem easier to make because there are words associated with the notes, so the singer has a syllable to associate with a note and vice versa. The same connections do not come as easily when it comes to instrumental music, although if I were sufficiently disciplined to put in the hours of practice that I should be putting in, perhaps they might come a bit more readily. Age probably has something to do with it as well.
In thinking about the fact that I can still recall the notes, rhythm, and lyrics to that piece of music after forty years, I am impressed by the importance of what we consume, and especially by what we devote time and energy to learning.
Beyond what we make a conscious effort to learn, even the things to which we have only a fleeting or casual exposure become part of our substance. When the Lord of the Rings trilogy was being made into a series of movies, I decided it was time to read the books. It was important that I read the books and form my own mental pictures of the characters, scenes, and action before going to see the movies. A character, Boromir, who dies at the beginning of the second book is actually killed at the end of the first movie version. Before he is killed, Boromir does battle with a menacing Uruk Hai and lops off its head. In discussing the movie with an acquaintance a few days later, that person mentioned that, having seen the movie, she had images in her head that she would rather not have there. The beheading of the Uruk Hai sprang to mind right away, and it still springs to mind when I think of images that I would rather not have in my head. (Yes, maybe I’ve lived a sheltered life.)
The Apostle Paul wrote about that in his letter to the Philippian church: “Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.” (Philippians 4:8-9, The Message)
What do I choose to consume? Will what I watch, read, listen to? What benefit will it provide in years to come? What good will it help me to accomplish?
Thanks as always for stopping by, and cheers!