Writing weekly thoughts on the evolution of 7R has turned out to be an interesting exercise – far more textured and complex than I would have imagined. I have been surprised at just how often our linear trajectory – the ‘idea’ of what our life will be like – is interrupted by life as it actually is.
I had intended to write more this week about 7R production elements – the challenges of assembling so many disparate collaborating personalities and the strange and wonderful connections we discover along the way.
Then, Paris happened.
And an airplane full of Russians on holiday.
And, then, Mali.
I was in Portland for a conference on choral music Friday when I received the word about Paris. After an afternoon concert, I opened my phone to see numerous texts from my partner Steven, as the news unfolded. Then, I went for a walk around a city I didn’t know, staring through people and places I didn’t see.
It’s funny how these kinds of shocks bring sudden clarity to our lives – a heightened sensitivity; we notice things with greater detail and appreciation. New love is like that; walking alone at night, we marvel at a solitary crescent moon, and we wonder if he sees it too. Losing someone is like that; we imagine a brook is speaking to us inside the whispering sound of running water, and we want to share it with someone who is gone, with whom sharing only happens in our memory. I spent the rest of the weekend experiencing that kind of clarity,while searching for that connection in the choral music being sung; something to share, something to bring relevance, maybe even meaning, to my confused, sometimes empty head.
I was unsuccessful. Music isn’t healing for me, the way it seems to be for some. Instead, great music, delivered honestly, seems to sit down on the bench next to me and affirm my emotional life – yes, elation is balanced with pain; yes, love is base and immediate and dark and complicated. It’s like a brutally honest friend; I trust it, I love it, but it isn’t going to let up.
Affirmation: we are alone. Despite the manner in which emotions are trivialized and demeaned by the feigned collective responses pushed at us in the media, on Facebook, in journals of one extreme or another, we are alone. Such a paradox – that in this time of extraordinary connectivity, asking the big questions and sorting out the unsortable seems to be left entirely to the individual – to our own minds and bodies and memories.
This is the ‘why’ of 7R. We go back to its source - the tiny seed from which 7R springs: noticing the suffering of others. Not living, or solving, but being awake enough to observe in others that which we recognize in ourselves. Because suffering – be it the grief or rejection, physical or emotional starvation, or simply aloneness, while universal, is experienced in solitude. This is the motivation for Buxtehude’s 'Limbs of Jesus': that Jesus, like all of us, died alone. Would that we could kiss each limb and somehow change all that – to be a comfort, to share, to be a friend – and that someone would do this for us.
The nails in your feet,
the hard blows and such grievous marks,
I embrace with love.
What we do have are our little ideas – our imagination – and the attempt to daily make sense of the nonsensical. To give meaning where there may not be any. To refuse to accept that and to continue to define our world in poetry and music.
And, so, I share with you the more recent piece in that puzzle we call 7R: the poem that Icelandic composer Anna Thorvaldsdottir is setting for the project – a new work written for us by fellow-Icelander and novelist Eva Minervudottir. Let us give thanks for art and artists, for, in a few sparse words, Eva is able to say what I could not in these seven paragraphs.
Knees of Jesus
I fall to my knees
to my knees and ask
the beautiful, wild stampede of my fear
I fall to my knees
to my knees and into
the dark haze
of the purple, innocent sky
I fall deep into the sky and beg
and union of the soul
I give myself up
I give up
I fall to my knees
to my knees and worship
the eternal music