How to Pray, Part I: Music
(Posted September 12, 2019)
“Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything.” ― Plato
When I was a kid growing up in Upstate New York, there were some special things about music that I learned, especially when staying with my best friend and her mother. It wasn’t your ordinary 1960’s house. You see, my friend Carolyn Hopkins’ mother – also named Carolyn – was the President of the Syracuse Symphony Orchestra, and their lead harpist. The living room of the Hopkins house was filled, not with sofas and La-Z-Boys, but with harps. Two big concert harps, and several little Celtic harps.
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As kids we were given free rein to gently and respectfully try to play the harps. It was worth hours of fun, trying to make lovely notes come out of discordant plunking of ten year-old fingers. But whenever Carolyn Senior would come out to sit and rehearse on the gorgeous concert harp, along with her would come their Dalmatian dog, Brook. That dog just waited for these occasions. You see Brook, like many Dalmatians in that era of overbreeding, was deaf. By all expectations, we thought that she couldn’t hear anything. And yet whenever Carolyn sat and began to play the harp, the speckled dog would come running from the farthest corner of the house to sit by the harp, and place her chin against its sounding board. It was quite clear that Brook not only could hear the vibrations the harp put forth, but enjoyed every bit of her own encounter with music. I will never forget the sight of that pup with her head leaning on that harp for an hour as Carolyn played.
The truth is, whether four legged or two-legged, we all deeply need music in our lives. It truly is a form of prayer, since the feelings and hopes that develop through the notes, and the pregnant pauses between them, is a gateway to feeling the presence of God. This Sunday, as the first in my series on “How to Pray,” we’ll immerse ourselves in the incredible experience that music affords us when we open our hearts to let the notes cascade inside. There will be a surprise musical offering to stir your soul as well. it’s also a good Sunday to bring a friend or two who will enjoy the sheer joy of listening.