In my feeble attempt to convert Waverly, a predominantly German community, to a Norwegian community, we host a huge Norwegian party at Christmas called Lille Jul Aften, meaning Little Christmas Eve in Norwegian. It is a festive affair filled with Scandinavian foods and delicacies, singing, toasting, storytelling, and joke sharing. Our little condo is packed full of people…shoulder to shoulder. It is pure fun and everyone feels so full of love and goodwill singing their hearts out! Last week after the party was held I was looking at the pictures, pictures that reflected the little house, stuffed to the brim where you could barely move, and it reminded me of something shared by our Swedish bus driver from one of the Waldorf alumni choir tours Donnie and I led to Norway and Sweden years ago. His name was Soren. He had thoughts on many things, insightful thoughts. One day after the bus of alums had burst into song, Soren said, “When you sing together, you cannot remain angry with one another. Just think if the Russian leader and American President would be in a room and just sing together. Perhaps we would find peace!” Wow!! Soren was on to something.
What is it about singing that takes away ill will, anger, and sometimes even fear? For what purpose was the creation of music? Sometimes in moments when my faith fancies a bit of doubt, I remind myself that we are not some accidental life form that eventually became humanity, because how could we make our vocal chords go from speaking to creating music that literally touches the heart of people? Isn’t that totally amazing? What is it? Why is music here if not for some wide, divine, out of our understanding purpose?
Sure, we get pleasure from listening to music, performing it, being a part of it in groups, but could there be a greater purpose? Many of us have turned to different kinds of music to sooth our souls when we hurt, to whistle or hum tunes when we are content with life, or to hear a song we resonate with only to find that it makes us soar to the greatest heights of enjoyment and inspiration. Music motivates us to be more. Music motivates us to heal. Music motivates us to love.
I will never forget the time when we had the opportunity to talk casually with Tony Butala, who helped start the famous music group, The Letterman, after one of their concerts. My friend Jean Yeager was telling him that their records (vinyl records in the 60’s/70’s) helped her get through her mother’s death when she was 16 years old. She would sit in her room and listen them for hours while she grieved.
A tool I suggest to people struggling with anxiety is called self-talk. When we repeat a phrase or several positive words in our mind over and over, negative words cannot break through. It’s literally impossible to say both positive and negative internally at the same time. So, it may be with music. Mister Rogers used the piano, dark and crushing chords to release the anger he at times had to deal with, but he was then able to follow that dissonance with sweet harmony. Choosing this divine and mysterious creation to alter our mood, send messages of love or friendship, and unite a group of people as one, could be a greater purpose than we realize.
If God is love, music must indeed be God’s language. It is universal…it is the way God intervenes and communicates with us. It is so simple, isn’t it? All we have to do is tune in and let the music of God speak to our hearts and let the music of our lives speak to God. It may not change German communities to Norwegian communities, but it will certainly allow people (and maybe even leaders of conflicting countries!) to share a heavenly harmony of peace together.