Today, at All Saints Pasadena, we sung wonderful works by Bruckner and by Hovhaness. I'll discuss the wonderful sermon by Susan Russell in another post, but this posting is about the evening Jazz Vespers and its theme of listening.
Our composer in residence is Bill Cunliffe. He and his trio performed his medley on West Side Story, a work that this year won him a Grammy. It was joyful, full of love and hope. Jazz has an amazing way of focusing the mind and yet opening the heart. I simply amazes me that less than a century ago, many people found it antithetical to religion.
Christina Honchell's homily was on listening, which touched me deeply. Lent is about listening to God, to your heart, to your past, present and future. She talked about listening to music, specifically jazz, as a metaphor for listening to God and to each other. I found the sermon quite relevant to me this weekend, given all the music I enjoyed. Moreover, it finally is motivating me to put my more of my Lenten journey down in this journal.
I've been touched by stories of loss and suffering this year. Though my family has escaped direct loss so far, there have been a couple close calls and surgeries. Something is metaphorically whispering in my ear, but it's hard to hear and I'm unsure what the message is.
Then, in the space of a week, an employee and a dear college friend both lost close relatives. Again, this whispering, this buzzing, this calling for me to listen pestered me. I don't know what it's saying or what it means.
I do know that I'm grateful that it's Lent, and I'm paying attention. I'm listening.
Of course, listening is an active act. Merely hearing, on the other hand, is passive. We hear all the time, but I dare say we know what's going on. In fact, in our crazy world, we spend more time filtering out the cacophony, trying to find peace and quiet. We're trying to not hear all this fuss. Yes, we're actively trying to not listen.
So, Lent to me is that season where I try to do the opposite, to pay attention. And lo, what a great weekend of listening. By coincidence, it was a weekend of music.
Friday night, I joined friend Glenn at a Silverlake piano bar and delighted in local singers, sharing their joys and love. An amazing older woman brought me close to tears with her smoky rendition of Roberta Flack.
Last night, friend Ted performed with the Occidental-CalTech Symphony. We heard quite amusing and thoughtful compositions: "Caminos" by Silvestre Revueltas and "Variations on a Nursery Song, Op 25" by Erno von Dohnanyi. What a feast to hear mariachis-cum-Rites of Spring followed by a highly developed study of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star!
One other thing that I listened to this weekend. The rain came in odd waves yesterday afternoon. Sometimes it tinkled with petite droplets, other times it pelted us with hail. The wind blew branches against my windows at some points, and other times the howling was roared into a whisper.
Then, this evening of jazz. To tie it all together, I'll share this evening's Vespers reading, a poem. I found it amazing and will be something I'll ponder this season.
It's by the now well-known Sufi poet and philosopher, Jalal al-Din Rumi (1207-1273). The following translation is from Coleman Barks' "The Glance: Songs of Soul-Meeting". I share it because it tied everything so well together tonight.
I share it with you in love. Shalom...
What is the deep listening? Sama is
a greeting from the secret ones inside
the heart, a letter. The branches of
your intelligence grow new leaves in
the wind of this listening. The body
reaches a peace. Rooster sound comes,
reminding you of your love for dawn.
The reed flute and the singer's lips:
the knack of how spirit breathes into
us becomes as simple and ordinary as
eating and drinking. The dead rise with
the pleasure of listening. If someone
can't hear a trumpet melody, sprinkle
dirt on his head and declare him dead.
Listen, and feel the beauty of your
separation, the unsayable absence.
There's a moon inside every human being.
Learn to be companions with it. Give
more of your life to this listening. As
brightness is to time, so you are to
the one who talks to the deep ear in
your chest. I should sell my tongue
and buy a thousand ears when that
one steps near and begins to speak.