Mel's Healing Pilgrimage 2016

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Thursday, March 10, 2016

The Silence Between the Notes - A Lenten Meditation

Claude Debussy wrote that "music is the silence between the notes".
Sunset silhouette in Altadena

This statement points out that for beauty to be recognized, it needs a certain amount of space, of emptiness, to be complete. The space between the high notes and the low notes, the long and the staccato notes, allows us to hear the breadth of complexity in the music.

The long notes can resonate and reverberate, falling into the hum of the ether around us. The short staccato notes, so piercing and quick, would be a blur if notes melded into each other. Repeated notes would not exist if there was no space in between each note. Without this space, random notes show up and fade away but would likely be more of a texture, a backdrop, an oozing of sound.

A gorgeous impressionist painting can provide smooth colours that ease into other colours, without specificity. Sometimes, like in the photo above, spaces are in the silhouettes, and we only see a shimmer of a sunset with drifting colours in the distance. Other paintings, say by Rothko, have just vague colours. Without detracting from that beauty, it's tough to say what a painting without edges represents or means. It's a representation of emotion in some ways, shifting and drifting.

I sometimes think of heaven as that contourless nirvana where no lines separate one from the other.

And yet we don't live in a world like that. No matter what we try, there will be spaces between the notes and edges to colours. Pointilism in painting (think G Serat) is the use of thousands of tiny dots that from a distance show lovely edgeless fuzziness, but upon closer inspection still shows separate distinct dots. Minimalist music (think P Glass) may repeat and flow, but each note is still separated from the other notes because musicians must breathe and fingers must press, release, or strike an instrument key or string.

Our lives have spaces all around us. We define ourselves from our parents and loved ones by the differences and similarities between us. We are not clones. The space in between brings our separateness alive and makes our lives beautiful.

Likewise, people come into the orchestration of our lives here and there, filling the spaces and gracing us with whatever unique qualities and gifts were given to them.

And, eventually, someone leaves us, leaving only silence and emptiness.

Like some of my friends, I'm grieving over the loss of a dear soul, a loving woman who struck a melodic note in our lives. With her departure, we feel a silence in the music.

And as I'm sure you will understand, though I lament and am yearning for the note to return, I accept and appreciate that our notes, our lives, our loves, our friendships, would not stand out if we didn't have the silence in between. I pray that those who are listening to this silence will appreciate the beauty of both the notes and the rests, the tones and the silences, as we listen and compose the symphony of our lives.

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