Each year on Good Friday I walk home from my office, a walk of some 10 or 11 miles that usually takes me about 2.5 to 3 hours. Each year I start out hoping to have some spiritual insight or experience. I have learned that such events, if they happen at all, cannot be forced. I’ve also learned that all I can to is let go and be open. I also need to pay attention or I can miss the gift as I almost did this year.
In the Catholicism of my youth, Good Friday was a heavy day. The priests wore black vestments. The consecration bell was replaced with a wooden knocker. As I started out on my walk, I realized that there is much about Good Friday that I don’t understand. Specifically, when I am told that Jesus died for my sins, I have trouble grasping that. Oh I understand redemption. Any of us that have been saved from addiction understand redemption. But there is much about this day I don’t understand.
Somewhere along the way, I moved from Good Friday to thinking about mindfulness, a very “in” topic in my world of psychology. I was walking along trying to define mindfulness. Ironically, I was unmindful of my surroundings and almost missed the gift. Thankfully I didn’t.
From the eaves of a house were hanging seven or eight bird cages, each with several canaries. The birds were singing away, oblivious to the traffic passing by and the silent observer a few feet away. Their singing was beautiful.
These joyous singers reminded me of my friend Lou Popejoy. Once he came for a visit and brought 2 cages. When he removed the covers, a set of canaries was in each cage. The birds quickly began to sing and within a few short moments were singing in synchrony. It was mesmerizing and very peaceful.
Months later, as Lou lay dying, he told me he’d written some thoughts he’d like read at his memorial and would I read them. I was and am honored. In his written thoughts, Lou spoke of spiritual themes and then, in an abrupt shift, wrote: “I know what I am doing now. I am singing … like the canaries I loved so much.” Lou then reminded us that we each have a song within us and encouraged each of us to find that song.
What a beautiful image! Music has been a significant part of my life. One of my earliest memories is sitting by a Victrola (record player!)playing records, perhaps seeking comfort amidst the deep sadness in my home at that time. Music since then has comforted me. It has helped me articulate deep feelings. It has expressed profound moments such as time spent with persons approaching death. It has afforded healing and connection with loved ones. Thus nothing speaks to the wonder of dying like a portion of Holst’s “Jupiter”. Nothing captures my spiritual journey like John Denver’s “Looking for Space”. Nothing captures my love of family like Perry Como’s “Bless This House”.
The thought that each of us has a song within is a beautiful way of articulating what I believe is true — that each of us has within qualities that are profound, gifted, and beautiful. We are each called to find that song and to sing it with vigor, indeed making a joyful noise. For too many of us those songs get concealed amidst self-doubt and self-condemnation.
So perhaps the point of Good Friday this year is to remind me of that inner song and to allow it a resurrection so that it may fill my days.
Reflection: Are there any particular songs or pieces of music that you love and that might point toward some of your own inner beauty?