Thursday, May 20, 2010

You don't take a high note, you collapse into it

Most people carry within them some hidden talent or passion - something they have not been able to express or practice properly, due to various kinds of circumstances. Because this longing, this unfulfilled gift or dream is often part and parcel of their inner being, the way they really are, they tend to feel restless… until such time as this secret need or longing has at least in some way been met, expressed and fulfilled. For some it can be the romantic longing to act or to dance or to make wild music. For others it can be the more mundane need to set up an own business, something that draws on their special interests and abilities – it could be a bakery, a clothing shop … it could be starting a blog or taking up further studies.

In my own life I related to music I was introduced to by my father and by inspiring teachers. From an early age I was touched by voices singing. I virtually fell in love with opera in my primary school days. In the same way that our children now collect CDs, I collected records; my first ones were wonderful sound tracks of Caruso, Gigli, Bj√∂rling, Merril, Galli-Curci, Sutherland, Callas. And I wanted to sing along…always. The longing to sing did not subside as I grew older. I remember moments when I was listening to live performances of music that by then I knew by heart, how it felt almost unbearable not to be able to just stand up and join in, even take to over the show! I truly felt capable on some occasions to perform even better than the artist himself.

Eventually I actually found an opportunity to respond to my longing to sing some of the really great pieces of music. For two years I took singing lessons and although I realised very quickly that I was not bound to become a second Pavarotti, these lessons became one of my very rewarding life-experiences. I learned many new things: the importance of how you breathe, of posture, of standing and projecting your voice, putting yourself out there without being abashed or self-consciousness. I learnt the art of relaxation. A short sentence, a brief piece of advice from the teacher, will always remain with me: “Remember, you never take a high note, you collapse into it”

I often return to this little remark, because it not only expresses one of the most basic principles of singing very concisely - it also quite tellingingly expresses an aspect of what is essential of a true spiritual way of life. As Christians we believe that we are called to really occupy high planes, to be a the light for the world, a shining star in heaven as Paul puts it in Phil 2:15 - to sing out, to echo songs of the psalmists, giving voice to songs that express human experience: low notes in songs of woe, but also the high notes of joy and jubilation, of praise and compassion to which we are called and need constantly to learn. As believers we also know that we can only reach this goal, can only express our true calling, when we are prepared to let go, to collapse into grace, to allow God to be our rock, our security, and to take us where we need to be, to where God’s dream for and in us is fulfilled. In short: things come together when we are willing to become part of His flow – the flow of the Holy Spirit.

This is a liberating truth and challenge – especially during this time of Pentecost where we believe that the Spirit has been poured out and is already moving within us.

Carel Anthonissen

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Count your blessings ...

A dear friend of mine suffers not so much from depression as from a deep melancholy which affects his whole life. His outlook is pessimistic, his mood usually sad. For the sake of family and friends (and I dare say for his own sake), he tries to overcome or at least to control this dullness of spirit, but it remains an uphill battle.

Once, discussing his malady (for malady, dis-ease it is), he told me an interesting tale. The other night, he said, held captive by a deep darkness which seemed to envelop his very soul, and in a desperate attempt to find some light, he started recalling his blessings and reciting them aloud : I have a roof over my head, I have food on the table, I have the use of all my limbs, I am employed, I have beauty around me, I can read….

And an hour later, still finding yet another blessing to name, he fell blessedly asleep.

Like a coin, my friend’s tale has an obverse side which became clear to me some years ago. It was May in Johannesburg and autumn had already come. But the two young children of a friend who had dropped in for a cup of coffee, insisted on swimming. We were sitting next to the pool in the dappled shade of a white stinkwood tree, and the pool certainly looked inviting. But although the sun was shining, the water was already very cold. A mother would never had allowed the little ones into the water, but the father obligingly helped them to undress and watched them go naked down the steps of the pool, where they splashed and played until they were practically blue with cold. Then he took them out, and rubbed them warm and dry with the towels I had brought from the house.

And as they stood, happily smiling, next to his knee, a sudden small whirlwind wrapped itself around the tree, shaking off its yellow leaves, and causing them to fly about. And just for a moment the naked children stood there amazed and laughing, in a shower of gold.

The two sides of one coin….

Some of us must strive to count every blessing to become aware of God’s love, but others, like children, accept the shower of blessings as their due and laugh at the sheer joy of it.

But laughing child or melancholy adult, both thrive in the blessing of God’s grace.

Cecile Cilliers