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Friday, March 31, 2017

Stoplight Song


As I came to a stoplight, I happened to glance over at the driver in the car next to mine and discovered that he was playing an oboe. Since his window was rolled up, as was my own, I could not hear whatever song he was playing. Was it something classical? A piece by Bach or Mozart?

Was he playing jazz? It's uncommon for jazz to have any pieces for oboe, but perhaps he was playing the oboe section from "Sketches From Spain" by Gil Evans and Miles Davis.

Or maybe he was performing one of my favorite pieces from cinema: Ennio Morricone's "Gabriel's Oboe" from a movie I love, The Mission? As soon as I considered this, I began to hear its haunting and plaintive melody in my head. It was a song that is both beautiful and tinged with sadness.

I don't know what song choice he made, only that he chose, in that moment, to play.

Was he simply playing for himself and his own enjoyment?

Perhaps he was playing for God?

That I cannot say, either. I can only say that it gave me joy to get a brief glimpse of this man playing at a stoplight before it changed to green.

Playing that oboe for such a short momentary span of time, filled some deeper need in him. It was an act of creating beauty - brief, ephemeral beauty. To change breath into the notes of a song is no less a miracle than the very breath of God that gave man life and breath to live and play music.

Ruach.  Breath. Spirit.

That moment was a sacred one, even if he did not believe in a God or Spirit. All acts of creation, of beauty, are a reaching out to the eternal, to something beyond ourselves. He could simply have chosen to look at social media or even text on his smart phone. Or he could have merely listened to music on his radio. But he didn't. Something within himself needed to play music - to actively participate and create. This was not an act of escape or distraction but a deeply spiritual need to be present, to create, to offer up this song no less than a congregation does in church on Sunday.

How did that brief moment, that simple act of playing an instrument change his day? Even though I never heard a single note, his playing changed mine. It made me think of something the great German composer Johann Sebastian Bach wrote, "The aim and final end of all music should be none other than the glory of God and the refreshment of the soul."

That man took the ordinariness of sitting at a traffic light and transformed it into something extraordinary and wonderful.  Whether he meant to or not, he reminded me that there's a God who not only lovingly created us but delights in our joining Him in the act of creation. I couldn't help wonder how different the world would be if all of us, at some time, choose not the obvious reaction to a situation but a sacred one: to create something of beauty. To suddenly sing for no other reason than to sing because there's a song in you that needs to be sung. Or to dance, like a child twirling in the grass, for the sheer joy of the movement. Or to play an instrument. Or to paint or draw or cook. Those are all forms of worship that we offer up, not only on the altar before our Creator, but for anyone who happens to be there in the moment. It does not matter if we have talent or grace or skills. It only matters that we create. That we use the spaces we exist in to change the world in a small, momentary way, for ourselves and others by revolting against the harshness, the chaos, and the loneliness that exists in this world by a simple act of creation. 


Certainly, I cannot help but think of my favorite painter, Vincent Van Gogh, who, even while he was in the sanitarium, managed to find deep and lasting beauty in the world around him despite his suffering. "Art," he wrote to his brother Theo, "is to console those who are broken by life." Here is a truly great artist, who in his suffering, is creating in order to be a balm to others who are suffering. Is that not a more Christ-like act of generosity and healing?  Is it not one that we, each of us, could undertake in some small way in the lives of those around us? 

All it takes is the courage to try, to fail sometimes, but, even in our failures, to transform the moment into something holy and pure. All that is required is that whatever we do, that it be done in love. Any act, no matter how small, when done in love, is an eternal one with significance that lasts longer than we could ever imagine. Who knows how we might transform the day of someone who has lost hope, who feels alone, who feels emptiness, feels suffering and that there is nothing of beauty in this world anymore. 

To create, not matter how imperfectly, is an attempt to create wholeness. Another word for wholeness is shalom. When we offer others the acts of our creation,we are, in a sense, offering them peace, offering them glimpses of grace. We are showing them that, this life is about more than mere endurance, it is about eternity, about the endless and everlasting wonder of a God who creates all things and declares it, "Very good!" Any act of creation is merely a marker, a sign, pointing to an infinite love that is without boundaries or conditions. When anyone creates, it is offering the reminder to each person that they, themselves, are fearfully and wonderfully made. They are beloved acts of creative beauty in and of themselves.

Let us go out then and create that we might glorify our Creator and offer hope to the hopeless, beauty to the broken, and loveliness to the lonely. 

1 comment:

  1. Oboe-ing behind the wheel would probably violate Ontario's Distracted Driving laws ... but I know that's not the point of your post. :-)

    Creating is a wonderful way in which we image God. In our competitive and results-oriented world it is easy to get discouraged by our creative efforts: my submissions got rejected; their posts are more popular than mine; what if I fail; what if people laugh; etc. Creating takes a lot of courage and trust in something beyond the results. What a loss it would have been to the world if Van Gogh had given up painting in the face of his despair and failure.

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