Finding practices that recall us to ourselves – so that even the humdrum and ordinary can be imbued with some sense of wonder and aliveness – is something of an art that we each have to discover for ourselves.
I wrote a little about this yesterday.
Have you considered how music could be part of this for you?
Let’s distinguish for a moment between music that’s designed to distract – music for the ‘background’, jingles and muzak and much that’s still heard on commercial radio stations – and music that is courageous enough to express the heart of human experience in a true and honest way.
This second category includes music of all types and genres, of course. But, for today, perhaps you’ll consider listening to just one piece: the first section (on a CD or download, the first track) of Brahms’ Deutsche Requiem, a ‘humanist’ requiem written in response to the death of Brahms’ mother and of a close friend. It’s widely available to download and a first listen will take no more than ten minutes of your time.
Even if you’re not familiar with choral music, you might hear within the sound and texture of Brahms’ work a passionate commitment to living. He’s beautifully captured the sense of awe and amazement that comes from understanding our unlikely place in this most unlikely of worlds, and from knowing that our time in it is finite. This is music, written from a deep understanding of death, that can bring us searingly and beautifully into engagement with life.
And when you’ve finished with Brahms himself, give yourself half an hour to listen to the amazing episode of BBC Radio’s Soul Music (free on iTunes here, or from the BBC website here) filled with stories of how Brahms’ Requiem has played a pivotal role in people’s lives.
Of course, you’ll need to find your own music or other art form that can wake you up to your life when you forget. Today I wanted to share with you one of mine, in the hope it might be strong enough to be of some use.