“Going Into the Music” 8/6/2017

Story for All Ages: “The Very Hungry Caterpiller” told by the Rev. Jane Mauldin

READING:​ “Do you ever go into the music” by Aileen Hohmann

Do you ever go into the music,
to the very center, become
what it is?
Everything is very real
very important, as if
the eyes of dead painters
could for these moments
see again through your
eyes. Mondrian lines
appear, Carot colors
Rubens fleshness, Monet
pinkness.
Music is liquid painting,
is sculpture to be shaped
by your hands, music
speaks words and you
can understand and
you listen fascinated
by the words. /
Do you ever go
into the music?
No one ever talks
about it.
Do you ever go into
the center and become
what it is?

 

REFLECTION: “Going Into the Music”

Speaking of caterpillars, once upon a time I had an earworm. You know what an earworm is, don’t you? A tune that just won’t go out of your head? This one was a particularly empty one: the Farmers Insurance Company jingle. You know that one?

We are Farmers. Dum-da-dum-dum Dum-dum-dum.

Well, it really got stuck in my brain, and stayed a long while. So when I had a little time, I went to my computer and wrote this:

[hold iPad up to the mic to play the opening of the piece]

Scherzo from String Quartet #30

[The music continues playing while I speak:]

Why would I do such a thing?
When I was newly ordained, and still in the probationary period called Preliminary Fellowship, I had a mentor – that’s part of the process, you find a minister in Final Fellowship to consult monthly as a mentor. My mentor was the Rev. Dennis Daniel.

When I was installed in my first settled ministry in Riverside, California, I asked Dennis to come and give the Charge to the Minister. By this time he knew me well, and I knew that in giving the charge he would have a chance to distill his insights into memorable and profitable advice. And he did. But also on that occasion, Dennis gave me a gift: this beautiful polished geode.

IMG_1098

Now, you know what a geode is, right?
It’s a cavity in a rock underground that collects mineral or crystal deposits that fill up the empty space. Depending on the mineral, it can be any number of colors. The Museum of Natural Science in Houston has a stunning permanent exhibit of these, worth a visit if you find yourself in Houston. And polished up like this one, you can see how beautiful they can be.

When Dennis gave me this geode, he told me it was a symbol of spiritual growth and healing: the empty places get filled up with beauty.

That’s why we tell stories, at memorial services or any other time. A mere account of events is empty; a story finds the meaning and the beauty and polishes it up so that what is best in our experience can shine and be remembered, and give us peace in the present.

I began to sing and play and study music at an early age. I had a year of music theory lessons when I was five. I began to study the ‘cello in elementary school. I sang in church and school choirs through high school. I formed a string quartet in college, and later taught myself to play the recorder. Most of us are introduced to stories that way: we hear them and learn something about how they’re put together from little on. And gradually through exploration we gain some skill in telling our own stories, stories we make out of the account of events that our memories retain, stories we polish up and remember, that give us peace and healing.

For me, that’s what it means to go into the music. Whether I go in by singing or by playing or by writing, I am entering a space filled up with the beauty of sound and poetry. That space is a kind of sanctuary – it has been consecrated by a musical artist, to fill a space of time with a spirit of beauty and meaning. And when I come away from it, the beauty of that space stays with me. I always hope that something like that goes on for all of us when we come and go from worship on Sunday.

The added benefit of getting that Farmers earworm out of my system was that now, when that commercial comes up on TV, I hear that jingle and think of the beauty I made with it. And it doesn’t get stuck any more. In its place is this reminder, to take the empty things of life and fill them up with beauty.

[hold iPad up to the mic through the end of the piece]

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