Monday 19 February 2024

Songs of solace, songs of hope, songs of the heart

We have entered the season of Lent. It reminds me that there are journeys we all have to make in life. Physical journeys. Spiritual journeys. Some journeys we can share with others, but other journeys lead us into the wilderness alone.

Some people give something up during Lent, others take something on. Whatever we think about this season of Lent, may we know that ours is a journey of hope and a journey of redemption.

I am sure there have been times in our lives when we have felt lost and lonely, out in the wilderness alone. When we have sought out solace in all kinds of places. I know I have. I may not have felt physically alone, I have been surrounded by people and yet I have still felt like I was lost in the wilderness, so lsts and alone.

I was talking with a friend about this recently, someone sharing similar feelings. A little later I shared with them a little clip from Youtube from the Walt Disney film “The Jungle Book”, it is the song “The Bare Necessities” Do you remember it:

 “The Jungle Book” is a wonderful example of what Joseph Campbell called “ The Heroes Journey” and I see direct parallels with his tale and Moses and his journey with the Israelites and of course the ministry of Jesus as it is told in the Gospels, beginning with his Baptism by John in the Jordon and then being cast out into the wilderness for Forty days, “tested by Satan, and he was with the wild beasts, and the angels waited on him.” The Jungle Book to me, or at least the animation I loved as a child, seems to be a retelling of this story, actually all the great stories as Campbell taught.

I remember being taken to the pictures to see the film as a child and was immediately enchanted by it. So much so that we were bought an album, which told the story including the songs, there are many classics in it. I would listen to it constantly when I ever I went to my paternal grandparents, it brought me solace then and continued to do so even when they were not in my life. It still brings me solace today, especially the song “The Bare Necessities”. It is my ultimate “Redemption Song”. It brings hope, when hope is hard to find, to quote another favourite hymn. It has been such a joy to share this song again recently.

Now many people have songs, “Redemption Songs”, their songs, that they carry them with, through the wilderness times of life; songs they know by heart, songs that make them feel that they belong. I wonder what yours are, perhaps something to think of during this season of Lent.

David Blanchard in his wonderful piece “Listening for Our Song” wrote:

“It takes a while for many of us to figure out which is our song, and which is the song that others would like us to sing…Some of us are slow learners. I heard my song not necessarily from doing extraordinary things in exotic places…What came to astound me was not that the song appeared, but that it was always there.”

I believe that each of us have a song in our hearts, that will bring us hope when hope is hard to find. We need to find a way to learn it, sing it and share it and thus help one another through those wilderness times, to times of love and joy, so we can enjoy the milk and honey.

Music, whether heard, or just as importantly felt, brings us to life in the life we are in. You don’t have to physically hear these songs, you can feel the vibrations move through your body. You see all of us have the music in us, we have to bring it to life. The songs, the music help us to understand ourselves and our relationships, whether calming us, exciting us, entertaining us, explaining us, teaching us, inspiring us, grounding us, or sheltering us. Finding our song can help us know who we are in heart and soul. It could be a hymn of praise, or a romantic love song, some bubble gum pop, a Disney Classic, or a protest song to inspire us. The song is your song, it’s the one that touched your heart and soul; it is the one that still touches your heart and soul.

It is “Redemption Songs” though that I am thinking of, those that comfort us during wilderness times. I noticed that a biopic of Bob Marely “One Love” was released on Valentine’s Day, perhaps best known for “Redemption Song”. My favourite band, who I have loved since I was a teenager have just released a new album “Unbroken” by New Model Army. One of my ultimate redemption songs is “Poison Street” by them, it has come to my heart at significant moments in my life. So many songs have become redemption songs for me. Another would be “Don’t bang the drum” by The Waterboys. I recently heard a wonderful performance of Tracey Chapman’s “Fast Car”, another lovely redemption song. A friend was sharing with me recently that she and her sadly deceased brother used to listen to this when they were young, driving in his car. It’s a song she carries when hope is hard to find. Another I often share with friends when they are finding life somewhat difficult is “All Will Be Well” a folk song by Unitarian Universalist minister Meg Barnhouse, based words by Julian of Norwich “All be well, all will be well, all manner of things they will be well”. A song offering hope in the very real struggles of life.

Now of course hymns, singing together, whether classic ones or newer ones can bring solace, can bring hope when hope is hard to find. We sang one earlier, which has become much loved by so many. That is “Come sing a song with me” or “Rose in the Winter Time” It is chosen more than any other for rites of passage, whether Child blessings, weddings or funerals, particularly funerals it seems. It has taken over from “Spirit of Life” as a favourite. I wonder what your favourite hymn is, again something to think about.

Songs sing to our hearts and souls, they help us feel that we belong. We have songs sung to us from early in our lives. It is impossible not feel joy when singing happy birthday to child or someone dear to your heart. I love to sing “Happy Birthday to You”

We respond to singing from the beginning of our lives. It is vital to sing to babies. As Anita Collins states in “The Music Advantage: How Music Helps Your Child Develop, Learn, and Thrive”

“From an evolutionary perspective, music and singing have a very ancient human history, at least as old as language. Babies understand the world through their ears as rhythm, pitch, contour, and timbre and they use sound to identify the important things, like who are their primary caregivers, who is part of the family or tribes and, possibly most importantly, who they can trust. One of the most effective mechanisms humans have to convey that information is through song.”

We learn songs from a very early age, these childhood songs are basically mantras, a bit like Zolee the lizard in today’s story. Toddlers quickly become Zen masters. Just think of those nursery rhymes, that always stay with us, such as “Twinkle, twinkle, little star”.As Philip Toshio Sudo has highlighted in “Zen 25/7: All Zen: All the Time”

"As children we learn to sing,

Twinkle, twinkle, little star
How I wonder what you are

"Through generations, the song endures because it is simple, innocent, and true, evoking the eternal mystery of the universe. Where there is wonder, there is zen — like a diamond in the sky.

"May wonder never cease."

I suspect we connect through simple songs, just as we did as babies and little children throughout our lives, certainly I know I do. These songs of our heart help us feel that we belong and that we are loved and can carry us through the wilderness, can bring us hope, when hope is hard to find.

I love the idea that David Blanchard speaks of that we each have our own song and that we find this song in all aspects of our lives, whether in the seemingly sublime or mundane. He says that “Our songs sing back to us something of our essence, something of our truth, something of our uniqueness. When our songs are sung back to us, it is not about approval, but about recognizing our being and our belonging in the human family”...(he continues)...“They can be heard as songs of love or of longing, songs of encouragement or of comfort, songs of struggle or of security. But most of all, they are the songs of life, giving testimony to what has been, giving praise for all we’re given, giving hope for all we strive for, giving voice to the great mystery that carries each of us in and out of this world.”

He says that it is good to know our own songs and to learn them by heart. This is because there will be days when we do not feel like we belong and we will not perhaps hear life singing our songs back to us. So sometimes we will have to hum our own songs until we find our way back home to that place where we belong.

What are your songs? What is that you sing that makes you feel that you belong? Maybe that’s something you could think about in the coming weeks, as we journey on through Lent. The songs that bring us solace, when we feel a little lost in the wilds of life, our redemption songs. Mine is definitely “The Bare Necessities”

Maybe you’d like to sing them as we move forward as a community in song. Remember though that we don’t necessarily have to sing in unison. We are free to sing our own songs, but we need to sing them together and sometimes we need others to remind us what our songs are. We all forget from time to time. We need to hear our songs from the lips of others from time to time.

We need to hear every song by the way, not just one or two. Each voice has something to offer; each reveals something of the truth. We enjoy here a free religious community. This is a place where I hope that you feel like you belong.

A place where you can sing your own song and if you haven’t yet discovered it; a place where you can find your song and take your first tentative steps to begin singing it; a place where you can hear the songs of others and perhaps begin to blend or harmonise with them; a place where we can discover new songs together.

So let’s journey on singing our song, the songs that bring us hope, when hope is hard to find.

Please find below a video devotion based on the material in this "blogspot"

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