Depression-era rural Arkansas was difficult.
Living off the land wasn't a romanticized option.
It was how people survived.
My mom and her five siblings (two sets of twins in) have told stories my whole life about tending to cotton rows all summer, then picking the bolls until their fingers bled.
Most of their stories had little to do with hardship.
Photo by Justin Clark on Unsplash
They talk of times when people would come from miles around to pick their stringed instruments, sing old tunes, and make beautiful music.
Since the onset of social distancing, musicians have lifted our spirits.
Some have entertained their urban neighborhoods from high-rise balconies.
Others have taken requests via live stream and have hooked us up with their talented BFF entertainer friends via FaceTime to sing duets.
This past weekend was Easter.
Saturday night, my mom and I watched the Grand Ole Opry Live.
Sunday after our Easter meal, we watched Andrea Bocelli sing what he called prayers of hope from one of the largest cathedrals in the universe.
What is it about music that comforts us and brings us together - despite social distance and even ideological distance?
Perhaps part of the answer is found in Psalm 98 - which is said to have been the inspiration for the lyrics to Joy to the World, penned by Isaac Watts.
There are exhortations for us to grab our instruments and to sing praises to the creator of the universe - for this life and the next, and for the beauty that surrounds us.
Let the sea and its fish give a round of applause,
With everything living on earth joining in.
Let ocean breakers call out, “Encore!”
And mountains harmonize the finale—
A tribute to GOD when he comes,
When he comes to set the earth right.
He’ll straighten out the whole world,
He’ll put the world right, and everyone in it.
~Psalm 98:7-9 MSG
As I read this passage this morning, I was reminded that I'm not the center of any universe.
It's not how I was designed, and it's certainly not how the universe was designed to function.
No wonder I create such misery and inner turmoil when I try to place myself at the center of all things - when I try to bend people and laws of nature to suit my desires and my limited understanding of most everything.
Is THIS the magnificence of the sounds described in Psalm 98?
- That I cannot create choral harmonies alone?
- I cannot replicate the sound of a string quartet of my own volition?
- Or that I do not have the power to bring thunder to the skies or crashing waves to a beach?
What happens to us:
- When we spend just a few minutes listening to brand new neon green leaves being rustled by a spring breeze?
- When we take in the unmistakable sounds of a hummingbird chirping in the distance, then buzzing past our heads toward a feeder?
- When we turn off the noise of our devices every evening to hear the frogs croaking nearby?
I have no data to back up my hunch, but I think perhaps we are reminded that the world is - at best - indifferent to us, and that it is, in fact, liberating to accept the world as it is, not as we would have it.
Here's my encouragement for you today -
If it's safe to do so, step outside. Take a walk if you can. Leave your earbuds at home and instead take a pencil and a notebook. What do you hear? Write it down.
Let me know what you discover.
I'd love to hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org or @tracyplaces on Twitter.
Peace be with you.