Music Matters

I am just back from one of those powerful, ‘full of power’ week-long conferences. You know what I mean, events that renew your body, mind and spirit. Upon returning, I’ve experienced the familiar frustration of naming this “power” to those pressing me for its meaning.

​I found myself focussing on the leader, a typical fall back position. After all, the leader is up front, visible, the one most easy to blame or commend. I chose commending. I spoke of her inner freedom to offer fully who she is, her clarity of thought, her humor, her generosity and other such glowing, yet nebulous words. I gave some examples. I drew a few mental pictures.

​But, upon reflection, it was the “music” that empowered me. She helped us make music together. Her vulnerability invited ours. Her self-giving invited ours. Her wisdom invited ours. The power is from what happened between us — the invisible, immeasurable, mysterious — like a symphony. I most enjoyed what flowed through her, much like the music that flows through the violin and violinist in concert with other musicians.

​Then I remembered a quote from Anthony DeMello in Awareness. I pulled down from my shelf this favorite book in former years, leafed the pages, finding these words:

“What I really enjoy is not you; it’s something that’s greater than both you and me. It is ​something that I discovered, a kind of symphony, a kind of orchestra that plays one ​melody in your presence, but when you depart, the orchestra doesn’t stop. When I meet ​someone else, it plays another melody, which is also very delightful. And when I’m ​alone, it continues to play. There’s a greater repertoire and it never cease to play.” ​(p.54)

​That’s it. That’s the deeper truth. Last week I experienced a symphony, many variations on a theme, with numerous players involved and — yes, an authentic, skillful maestro leading us all.

​Then my mind jumped to another memory:

The surprise came at the end of a banjo lesson. Cary Fridley, my teacher, began describing the ​work involved in “cutting” her next CD: recruiting musicians, practicing privately, practicing ​together again and again — all in preparation for the final recording session coming up ​the next week.

​“I get increasingly anxious as we approach the recording,” she admitted.

​“Well,” I asked, “what helps you with your anxiety?”

​Her response was profound beyond her knowing.“When I can get to that place within myself ​and with others where the music is more important than me, then I am not anxious.”

​Maybe the music is what’s important, what really matters — the Music we experience through others; the Music others experience through us. Name it Love, Grace, Spirit, God, Sacred, Christ, as I am prone to do. But today Music is my word of choice.

4 Responses to Music Matters

  1. Mahan,
    I wish to affirm your thoughts on music. In my classes, I find that just starting them with a musical selection “sets a tone” for the class.

    I have discovered that we can be each other’s DeeJays pretty often. As I introduce classic “blasts from the past” to my students, they in turn introduce the rest of us to their own life soundtracks. We each remember a class-moment more when accompanied by music.

    Finally, I learned from the old NPR show “Sound and Spirit” that it is possible and enriching to seek to pair up any given moment at hand with a musical selection. This “enjoining” of music with the moment is a great way to celebrate the present moment. This practice intensifies/underscores, with an additional bodily sense, the encounter of two or more individuals with a theme or virtue worth celebrating.

    If I may name-drop, Stan Dotson is a Master at this.

    Thanks for offering us this reflection.



    • Ben Wagener says:


      A man whom I have never met came to our church today to install paper towel dispensers as requested. As he was doing his job, he told me with a deep bass-like voice that, although he had been out of prison for 23 years, he and his family had been turned down recently for buying a home due to his past jail sentence.
      As he shared more stories about himself, his current church experience, and his renewed Christian faith, I sensed, as you mentioned, a “music” beyond us both that created space to celebrate a gracious Presence.
      What a gift for both of us who had “eyes to see and ears to hear” at least for today.

      Ben Wagener


  2. Ken Sehested says:

    Spot on, Mahan! Loved especially the wisdom withing the DeMello quote.


  3. Mahan, thank your timely words that touch my soul, as they have in past posts. I love the music metaphor and will be musing on the meaning of it for this interesting time I am in.


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