It’s difficult to describe Latin as a “dead” language when the beauteous harmony of choral music most definitely seems alive as melody effortlessly rolls through the air. One of my most treasured memories of attending Birkmann Chapel each day at Concordia Lutheran College was sitting and listening to the choir sing from the choir loft in the back of the chapel. Although I was technically in the choir, there was just something about being a listener versus being an actual singer that persuaded me to, dare I say, skip my chapel choir duties on occasion. I loved hearing, but not being able see those who are singing. After all, it really didn’t matter who was singing. What mattered was what they were singing about and the sweet sounds that filled the room. I don’t recall many of the hymns. But, I do recall the harmony of the voices as they converged with the bellow of the pipe organ, also in the choir loft. I remember the peace I felt as I fixated on nothing but the serenity of the melodies that enveloped me within those chapel walls.
It didn't matter what was plaguing me in my life in that moment. All of my worries melted away in the tranquility of the music. I learned that music was the great tamer of the savage beast that is my mind, which can often be my own worst enemy. Sometimes it felt as though my mind was like 50 different television stations on simultaneously, each station starring a different personal situation, relationship, course, project, conversation, problem, hope, worry, something that happened 10 years ago...you name it, it was playing in my brain.
It wasn't always this way. But, just as in anyone else's life, there were times when stressful situations just seemed to compound, especially during mid-terms and almost always during final exams. I wish I has known about the healing power of music as a freshman. Fortunately, I got wise by the time I was a senior.
PERSONAL CHALLENGE 1- Pandora. Go to it and find the choral music category and set to play. Put your cell phone & all other devices out of reach with the explicit intention of depriving yourself of them for at least the next 10-15 minutes. Now just sit. Sit and listen. This might be difficult at first…perhaps painful. Do it anyway. It doesn’t if you are Muslim, Jewish, Christian, or nothing at all…just listen to the music and the incantations. And think. And let your mind wander. Let it be okay to let your mind wander. Have an original thought. Have an epiphany. Think about your life. Think about your relationships. Think about something. Think about anything. Think about the importance of introspection. Think about how annoying Pandora commercials are when you’re totally in the zone.
Forced solitude, with or without music, is hands down the best medicine for a mind that is difficult to tame. Aside from my epiphanies at Birkmann Chapel, weekly walks at Wild Basin Preserve sans all electronics, completely unplugged, forced to be alone with my own thoughts and nature...hands down the most beneficial growing experience of my life during my college years.
PERSONAL CHALLENGE 2 - Next time you are driving by yourself in your car, lock your cell phone in your trunk and keep the radio/CD/Pandora/anything media player off for the entire duration of your commute. Drive in silence...complete silence, although talking to yourself is absolutely allowed. The first few minutes might seem like hours because you'll be experiencing withdrawal-like symptoms. For example, what on earth will you do with your hand that usually holds your phone?! It's ridiculous awkward no doubt. I recommend using that seemingly purposeless hand to hold the other side of your steering wheel. Now it's time to just think. Don't worry. Something will inevitably come to you. No worries if you feel as though your initial thoughts are of little consequence...they will evolve. And don't worry if you continue to feel wildly uncomfortable. This is normal. Just stay the course.
By the time you reach your intended destination, perhaps you gave a pertinent issue the thought that it deserves, or perhaps you forced yourself to think about something that you been actively avoiding. Whether you solved world hunger or simply scratched the surface of issue that has been requiring your attention, you made progress, which is something to feel good about. Technology and media are valuable additions to our society But, don't forget the power of the unplug and what if can do for you in terms of personal growth by purposeful introspection.
Just unplug it. I double dog dare you.