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Music

It’s quiet in our street, and wet and still with that dripping-after-rain stillness. Birds chirp softly, the falsetto call of a pee-wee rings out across the neighbourhood, a dog barks—and much further out— the mechanical-ocean noises of the highway groan and moan in a cacophony of soft murmurings, honkings and roarings that somehow fit like the background soundtrack to a Jason Bourne film. And we are told that our universe is an elegant dance of such vibrations: particles or waves of light, of sounds and of smells, of touchings and tastings: everything connecting with everything else.

And there it is, the dappled green and yellow waves of morning sun on the trees in our front yard, somehow joining with the music of the birds and the machines that’s reaching me where I sit in our lounge room. And—as if following the musical score to some kind of crescendo—a flood of colour comes towards me from a window-sized star-lantern that radiates ‘stained-glass shapes’ of colour: lolly green, navy blue, and deep red, with a white Edelweiss flower as the centrepiece.

But this star is not just ‘out there’ for me to look at, it’s ‘in here’ in my memory and imagination because for weeks I watched my wife working with the cane struts, cutting out all the different coloured bits of paper, then playing with the design and finally putting it all together. Then, a few weeks ago, it hung from a high ceiling above my daughter while she sang, danced and played in a stage production of The Sound of Music.

And these are just the tip of the iceberg. Deeper and further back in this lantern are astonishing mythical vibes that came out of my wife’s soul. She didn’t have to make it. She has good reasons for being the kind of woman who would never do anything like that and who would go with the grey of despair in order to make the world remember the betrayals and disappointments it has inflicted on her: especially the religious world. Yes, she’s the first to tell you that she hasn’t had anything really terrible happen to her. But I don’t agree: sometimes the deadliest wounds are those that come from the most unexpected places.

Thankfully, a long time ago, she chose to go with the music of colour—and to follow the Voice of Easter, which said ‘I am the resurrection and the life’1—and since then she has made thousands of little choices in the direction of forgiveness, reconciliation, light and grace. This star being one of them. You could say it is a ‘prayer made visible’. As a Russian priest once said: ‘All the food of this world is divine love made edible.’2 And if souls needs food then this prayer-star is divine love made edible in another way.

Then there’s the remarkable journeys of the other members of the cast, one of whom—the lead man in the play—is the son of a good friend whose family has been on a deep journey of pain, and who have become a fountain of grace and hope to countless others. Then there’s the woman who directed and trained the cast and her story which you could write a book about. And then there’s the story of the school that decided to include it in it’s curriculum, and all the other helpers, and the orchestra, and so on. Not to mention the original story of the Von Trapp family in a Nazi dominated Austria, which inspired the production.

All these journeyings and interlocking stories—some in contest and others in harmony—being made into songs, dances and films that revolve around themes of love and hate; joy and despair, start to look a bit like that ‘elegant dance of vibrations’ coming through my window. Not that this should surprise us.

CS Lewis, in talking of the point of view of Medieval thinkers, tells us that the Medieval man would walk out under the night sky and feel that he was looking in on the mysterious and beautiful goings-on of heaven. He explains that a Medieval mind would think, ‘We watch “the spectacle of the celestial dance”3 from its outskirts. Our highest privilege is to imitate it in such measure as we can. The Medieval model is, if we can use the word, anthropo-peripheral. We are creatures of the Margin.’4

In speaking of how the Medieval mind understood God—the Prime Mover—moving things, Lewis says, ‘How then does he move things? Aristotle answers … “He moves as beloved.”5 He moves other things, that is, as an object of desire moves those who desire it. The Primum Mobile is moved by its love for God, and, being moved, communicates motion to the rest of the universe.’6 The sound of such music is what moves even the most cynical among us to talk and—’god forbid’—even start behaving like, worshippers lost in endless adoration.

  1.  John’s Gospel 11:25
  2. Bloom A. School for Prayer
  3. Chalcidius, LXV, p.132
  4. Lewis CS. The Discarded Image (an introduction to medieval and renaissance literature) p.58 Cambridge University Press 1964

5 Aristotle, Metaphysics 1072b

6 Lewis CS. The Discarded Image (an introduction to medieval and renaissance literature) p.113 Cambridge University Press 1964

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