The Music Abideth Forever

One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh: but the (music) abideth for ever.
– paraphrase of Ecclesiastes 1

Mom asked me if I’d like to go downstairs and listen to the music program in their retirement place with her. I thought this was a fine idea. Dad was taking a nap and she asked me to wake him so he could join us. I went in and kissed his forehead. His eyes blinked a couple times and opened. He saw me and smiled. “Hi, neighbor!” he said. I asked him if he wanted to go downstairs and listen to music with Mom and me and he thought this would be a great way to spend some time.

The music was fun – songs I’d never heard before. The residents all seemed to be familiar with the lyrics and sang along with some of the tunes. 

It occurred to me, then, that in maybe 10 or 20 years the music that will be blasting out of retirement homes will be The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Bonnie Raitt, Tom Petty, The Beatles, Neil Young, The Grateful Dead, The Doors, The Eagles, Simon and Garfunkel, The Hollies… and the idea of that cracked me up. 

“Who shall declare this generation?” Who shall decide what truth and love are?
– Mary Baker Eddy

 

Return Engagement at the UU Fellowship

In order not to seem a spiritual quadriplegic to strangers trying to get a fix on me, I sometimes say I’m a Unitarian Universalist. So that denomination claims me as one of their own.
– Kurt Vonnegut

Last Sunday I had the great good privilege to return to the local Unitarian Universalist church as their guest speaker. Oh, but I love that little congregation!

My husband and I brought my mom and dad with us this time – they just moved near us a few weeks ago and I wanted them to meet their new neighbors at the Skagit Unitarian Universalist Fellowship – I knew they’d be made to feel welcome and at home. And sure enough! – as soon as we entered the doors to the hall we were met by friendly hand-shaking people and surrounded by cheery laughter and smiles. In fact, one of the members was the widow of one of Dad’s old mountaineering friends and they immediately got in conversation about old times and mutual friends.

This was no hushed, sanctimonious, dignified fellowship. There was no one standing at the doors trying to usher people to seats, or bid them be quiet. There was no one trying to maintain any kind of decorum. Everywhere was laughter and old friends greeting each other, and new friends meeting for the first time, and love expressed. Everywhere was joy.

About ten minutes after the service was supposed to begin, the celebrant finally saw an opportunity to close the doors to the room and chime the service into being.  Songs were sung, announcements were made, there was the sharing of griefs and joys – and laughter throughout. Attending a Skagit Unitarian Universalist Fellowship service is like being at a comedy club. I always feel at home there.

By the time it was my turn to speak, any nervousness I might have felt had disappeared in the laughter.

“The Healing Power of Love” was the subject of my talk. I talked a bit about my upbringing – raised by a non-religious father and a  Christian Science mother – and how my parents had raised me to be a really happy skeptic: My dad taught me to question political and religious dogma; my mom taught me to question everything I saw, heard, and felt with the material senses. “My parents might not have shared the same religious beliefs, but they shared the same values,” I observed, “and they taught my brothers and me to keep an open mind, to not be hasty to judge others, to appreciate the beauty of nature, and to look for the good in people.” My UU friends nodded their heads at this – open mindedness and looking for the good in others is probably one of the cornerstones of the Unitarian Universalist church. Now and then I would bring my mom (who was sitting in the front row with my dad) into my talk – at those times I felt like George Burns feeding lines to Gracie Allen. Mom should do stand-up comedy.

I explained that I don’t speak for any other Christian Scientists when I speak about Christian Science – I’m only speaking for myself and my own experiences with this way of life.

I talked about how “God” is defined in the Christian Science church and gave the seven synonyms the discoverer of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, gives for God: Principle, Mind, Soul, Spirit, Life, Truth, and Love. Lately I’ve been practicing substituting the word “Love” for “God” in my favorite Bible verses, and I shared some of those verses with the UU congregation: “Fear not, for Love is with thee… Be still, and know that God is Love… All things work together for good to those who love…” and here the congregation filled in the blank with me, “Love.”

I’ve come to a place in my life, I told the congregants, that if something doesn’t come from love or lead to love, I don’t want to waste my time with it. And they nodded their heads in agreement. I love these people. 🙂

Then I shared a healing I had experienced by drawing my thoughts close to Love: When I was in labor with my second son I was told I would need to be given a cesarean – my son was in distress. As I was being wheeled down to the Operating Room I asked my mom to call a Christian Science practitioner for prayerful support. When I got to the OR they hooked me up to a machine to monitor the baby. I prayed – and in Christian Science prayer doesn’t mean to plead with some anthropomorphic god to come down from the clouds and help us – praying, for me, just means to draw my thoughts close to the presence and power of Love. I could feel the love from the doctors and nurses – I knew they wanted to help my baby and me. I knew that everything was unfolding as it should – under the direction of Mind. I found a place of peace. And suddenly the medical staff was looking at the monitor, looking at me, looking back at the monitor – and then they were all yelling, “Push! Push!” and my baby was born the old-fashioned way. One of the nurses was crying – she said she’d never been able to witness a vaginal birth before, and it was so beautiful. When I asked the midwife what had happened to allow my baby to be born naturally, she said, “We don’t know.” And when I asked my mom what the practitioner had told her when she called her, Mom said the practitioner had said, “Life loves that baby!”

It tells you something about the UU congregants that I felt completely comfortable sharing that healing with them. I knew they would understand the feeling of love that lay behind it. (After the service one of the congregants whose father is in the hospital thanked me and told me how helpful my thoughts had been to her – that meant so much to me.)

Maybe the thing I enjoy most about the Skagit Unitarian Universalist Fellowship is that they let me have fun with them. They know how to laugh. They are natural Humoristians.

And they know how to love.

Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God… If we love one another; God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us… God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.
– I John 4

“God is Love.” More than this we cannot ask, higher we cannot look, farther we cannot go.
– Mary Baker Eddy

 

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Skagit Unitarian Universalist Fellowship Quilt Panels

Sitar Magic

And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.
– Roald Dahl

It’s been a crazy month, and yesterday I hied me up to Bellingham – my spiritual home – for a much needed recharge.

As I was walking along the path to Boulevard Park – on the edge of Bellingham Bay – I ran into a man with a sitar. I asked him about his instrument and he talked to me a bit about how a sitar is put together and why it makes the unique sound it makes. He let me touch the strings and run my hand over the smooth kaddu ka tumba. He’d found this sitar in Texas and had learned how to play it from a master sitar teacher in San Francisco. The sitar had been in an Indian family for seven generations before it came into his hands.

He didn’t want his face photographed – and I respected that – but he let me record his hands bringing out music from the strings.

I told him he had no idea how much I needed his music just then, and he said, “Oh, I do.” And then he played for me. I closed my eyes and opened my hands to whatever came to me – opened my thoughts up to the beauty and magic of that moment, and felt myself enveloped in harmony and peace – surrounded by a universe of Love.

Ancient sound. Ancient music.

I took a deep breath and he played the last note as I opened my eyes. The music only lasted a minute maybe – but it was all I needed.

I brushed the tears from my eyes and thanked him. He said, “Bless your heart.”

I went a little further on my walk then. On the way back I looked for him, but he had disappeared. And somehow that felt right to me – it made the moment when he played his sitar for me more magic somehow.

Mental melodies and strains of sweetest music supersede conscious sound. Music is the rhythm of head and heart.
– Mary Baker Eddy

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Sitar in Bellingham