Sunday Morning

And visitors, how should they treat the cathedral? Here’s what I think: You need to take your time in Chartres Cathedral, you can’t hurry, like the tourist groups; you should take a seat, study the windows, then stand up and stroll around, forget that you’re in a cathedral, then remember again, and after a while you’ll sense something undescribed in any guidebook, a kind of strong longing or desire that isn’t contained within the cathedral’s walls or its windows, it’s in the air, in its very lungs. After some time, after you’ve circled the cathedral several times, crossing its zones of light and shade, purely visual impressions recede while this ever-growing desire comes into focus. We don’t know why the cathedral inspires such longing. Why its dark interior gives rise to longing.

~ Adam Zagajewski, Slight Exaggeration: An Essay


Notes:

  • Photo: Chartres Cathedral, France. The first Gothic cathedral ever built, Chartres Cathedral has stood for over 800 years. With its soaring arches and unmatched stained glass windows, to enter Chartres is to have a spiritual experience. Photographer: Michael Brewer.
  • Related Posts: Adam Zagajewski

Oh, that is absolutely gorgeous, grass wind and pine wind.

Sometimes you trip into something, something that is so big, and so right (this Sunday morning), that you don’t want to soil it by sharing a few excerpts. (But I’m going to do it anyway, of course.) I urge you to listen to Krista Tippett’s entire 51 minute interview with Gordon Hempton where the conversation is sprinkled with Hempton’s nature recordings. Hempton is an acoustic ecologist, a collector of sound all over the world. You can find the entire transcript and audio recording here: “Silence and the Presence of Everything.” I’ve shared a few passages below:

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“OK. So I get out of my car, all right? We’ll still hear the pinging of its engine. We’ll hear other cars and other visitors, and we’ll hear the “beep-beep” of our modern world as people are locking their cars and the rustling of our artificial fabrics against our bodies. Some people will be chattering away on cell phones. But then the sound of my backpack goes over my shoulders, and we head off down the trail. And no more than 100 yards along these tall, tree-lined, ferned path with moss drapes that add sound-deadening to the experience, we’ll hear the call-off twitter of a Winter Wren, this very high-pitched twittering sound that might be coming from 100 feet away…And then we’ll hear further away the sound of the Hoh River that drains the Rain Forest echoing off the far side of the valley…And if we were taking this hike in the fall, we would hear the bugling of the Roosevelt elk… Up close, it’s actually quite a guttural, adrenalin-filled assertion of what it means to be male and wild. But when you hear this experience from a couple of miles away, isn’t that amazing? When you’re in a quiet place, your listening horizon extends for miles in every direction. When you hear an elk call from miles away, it turns into a magic flute as the result of traveling through this place that has the same acoustics as a cathedral. […]

Yeah. Oh, grass wind. Oh, that is absolutely gorgeous, grass wind and pine wind. We can go back to the writing of John Muir, which he turned me on to the fact that the tone, the pitch, of the wind is a function of the length of the needle or the blade of grass. So the shorter the needle on the pine, the higher the pitch; the longer, the lower the pitch. There are all kinds of things like that, but the two folders where I collected, I have, oh, over 100 different recordings which are actually silent from places, and you cannot discern a sense of space, but you can discern a sense of tonal quality, that there is a fundamental frequency for each habitat. […]

But I found the sound that I enjoyed most was the sound of the silence in the volcano. The measurement of decibels actually goes into the minus point, but there still is a sense of presence, of where you are. Then once you get over the rim of the volcano, you begin to pick up what I call the mantra of the islands, and that’s the distant beating of that drum called the Pacific Ocean. […]

We’re about to enter into a giant driftwood log. It’s a Sitka spruce log, the same material that’s used in the crafting of violins, and it has a special property where that, when the wood fibers are excited by acoustic energy — in this case, it’s the sound of the ocean itself — that the fibers actually vibrate. And inside, we get to listen to nature’s largest violin. […] [Read more…]

Walking Cross-Town. Or, on the Highway to Hell?

It’s late evening, the sun is setting, the end of a long day. I’m sitting in a Metro North train car on my commute home reflecting on the day. Cool air streams down from the overhead vents.

Summer has arrived in Manhattan, and despite this 23 square mile piece of land being surrounded on all sides by water, the Island can be 10-20° F hotter than it is at home in the suburbs – billions of tons of concrete, steel and asphalt broiling under the late day Sun.

I had read his essay the prior week, and it was still rooting its way into my core, into the marrow of my bones.  I flip open my e-reader to re-read the passages that I have highlighted in George Yancy’s “Is Your God Dead?” where he speaks to leaving our God in our places of worship or in our good intentions.  [Read more…]

It’s like a great oak that rises up from the center of the human race and spreads its branches everywhere

Choral music is not one of life’s frills. It’s something that goes to the very heart of our humanity, our sense of community, and our souls. You express, when you sing, your soul in song. And when you get together with a group of other singers, it becomes more than the sum of the parts. All of those people are pouring out their hearts and souls in perfect harmony. Which is kind of an emblem for what we need in this world, when so much of the world is at odds with itself…that just to express, in symbolic terms, what it’s like when human beings are in harmony. That’s a lesson for our times and for all time. I profoundly believe that.And musical excellence is, of course, at the heart of it. But, even if a choir is not the greatest in the world, the fact that they are meeting together has a social value. It has a communal value. And I always say that a church or a school without a choir is like a body without a soul. We have to have a soul in our lives. And everybody tells me, who has sung in a choir, that they feel better for doing it. That whatever the cares of the day, if they maybe meet after a long day’s school or work, that somehow you leave your troubles at the door. And when you’re sitting there, making music for a couple hours at the end of the day, that’s the only thing that matters at that moment. And you walk away refreshed. You walk away renewed. And that’s a value that goes just beyond the music itself.

Of course, as a musician, I put the music at the heart of it, but all of these other values just stand out as a beacon. I think our politicians need to take note…my gosh do they ever! [laughs], and our educators, those who decide education budgets, church budgets, just need to remember it’s not a frill. It’s like a great oak that rises up from the center of the human race and spreads its branches everywhere. That’s what music does for us. And choral music must stand as one of the supreme examples of it.

John RutterThe Importance of Choir


Thank you Beth @ Alive on All Channels

St. Paul & The Broken Bones

St. Paul & The Broken Bones is a six-piece soul band based out of Birmingham, Alabama, which formed in 2012.

“Paul, according to all the reviews and stuff that are written of the band, he looks like your high school history teacher, or he looks like Drew Carey,” Phillips explains. “Bottom line is that we’re a bunch of kind of nerdy-looking white guys, and when this sort of earth-shaking soul roar comes out of his mouth for the first time, you can always hear the air being sucked out of the room.” Janeway wasn’t raised to be a soul singer. He grew up in rural Alabama in a strict religious household. “I could only listen to, like, gospel Christian music,” Janeway says.” And he got most of his musical chops from church. He even trained to be a preacher. “I learned more from preaching than I did singing in church,” Janeway explains, “because you learn a little bit more about how to interact with the crowd — feeling momentum, just feeling that intensity — and it’s not a whole lot different than what we do now.”

(NPR Music: From Preacher To Grass Cutter To Earth-Shaking Soul Singer)

Liked this? Don’t miss I’ve Been Loving You and All I Ever Wonder.

Find the group’s 2016 album Sea of Noise on iTunes

Sunday Morning

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Perhaps we wouldn’t need chapels if our lives were already clear and calm (a saint or a Jesus may never need to go into a church; he’s always carrying one inside himself). Chapels are emergency rooms for the soul. They are the one place we can reliably go to find who we are and what we should be doing with our own lives—usually by finding all we aren’t, and what is much greater than us, to which we can only give ourselves up.

“I like the silent church,” Emerson wrote, “before the service begins.”

~ Pico Iyer, Where Silence is Sacred


Image: Groteleur

 

What Motivates a Modern Nun?

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[…] Which provoked a question: What could lead a personable young woman from a happy family to give up everything — especially at a moment when women have never had as many opportunities before them?

It’s a reasonable question.

Yet amid the palpable jubilance of this jam-packed basilica, it is clear that this question is the wrong one. There are no sad sacks or martyrs on this altar today. These are happy, excited women. What is it they believe they have found?

Sister Bethany says it’s the “peace in your heart” that comes from knowing you are where you are meant to be. In this case it’s a place so countercultural, it’s almost un-American. For in a nation founded upon the God-given right to the pursuit of happiness, these sisters vow to put the happiness of others before their own. […]

~ William McGurn, What Motivates a Modern Nun?


Photo Source: Thank you Doug @ Eclecticitylight. Image from the 1947 film titled: “Black Narcissus

 

Sunday Morning: Shrinks back farther into the empty sleeve of the church

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Early in March,
in the shadow of the abandoned Assembly of God,
there’s a melting snowdrift shaped like a hand
whose five thin fingers reach
to soothe the grass on the neighboring lawn.
Each day this white hand shrinks back farther
into the empty sleeve of the church.

~ Ted Kooser, The Wheeling Year: A Poet’s Field Book 


Photograph: Ed Erglis (Minnesota)

 

Some keep the Sabbath going to Church. I keep it, staying at Home.

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Pico Iyer, Chapter 5: “A Secular Sabbath” from “The Art of Stillness: Adventures in Going Nowhere.”:

The need for an empty space, a pause, is something we have all felt in our bones; it’s the rest in a piece of music that gives it resonance and shape…the reason a certain kind of writer will include a lot of blank space on a page, so his sentences have room to breathe (and his readers, too). The one word for which the adjective “holy” is used in the Ten Commandments is Sabbath…

These days, in the age of movement and connection, space, as Marx had it in another context, has been annihilated by time; we feel as though we can make contact with almost anywhere at any moment. But as fast as geography is coming under our control, the clock is exerting more and more tyranny over us. And the more we can contact others, the more, it sometimes seems, we lose contact with ourselves…

This is what the principle of the Sabbath enshrines…the one day a week we take off becomes a vast empty space through which we can wander, without agenda, as through the light-filled passageways of Notre Dame. Of course, for a religious person, it’s also very much about community and ritual and refreshing one’s relationship with God and ages past. But even for the rest of us, it’s like a retreat house that ensures we’ll have something bright and purposeful to carry back into the other six days…

The Sabbath recalls to us that, in the end, all our journeys have to bring us home. And we do not have to travel far to get away from our less considered habits. The places that move us most deeply, as I found in the monastery, are often the ones we recognize like long-lost friends; we come to them with a piercing sense of familiarity, as if returning to some source we already know. “Some keep the Sabbath going to Church—” Emily Dickinson wrote. “I keep it, staying at Home.”


Notes:

Sunday Morning: The most blinding illumination

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What you must realize, what you must even come to praise, is the fact that there is no right way that is going to become apparent to you once and for all. The most blinding illumination that strikes and perhaps radically changes your life will be so attenuated and obscured by doubts and dailiness that you may one day come to suspect the truth of that moment at all. The calling that seemed so clear will be lost in echoes of questionings and indecision; the church that seemed to save you will fester with egos, complacencies, banalities; the deepest love of your life will work itself like a thorn in your heart until all you can think of is plucking it out. Wisdom is accepting the truth of this. Courage is persisting with life in spite of it. And faith is finding yourself, in the deepest part of your soul, in the very heart of who you are, moved to praise it.

~ Christian Wiman, My Bright Abyss: Meditation of a Modern Believer

 


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