Iron Mountain ski jump

Iron Mountain ski jump

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Meaning & Music...Until Monday

Christ In Winter: Reflections on faith from the place of winter, Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, for people in their winter years…

I watched an interview with Michael Cunningham, who is Writer-in-Residence at the University of Iowa Writers Workshop. He wrote “The Hours,” a novel that he says is a “riff” on Virginia Woolf’s “Mrs. Dalloway.” I have read neither Cunningham nor Woolf, but I have read several Iowa Writers Workshop authors, such as Marilynn Robinson [Gilead] and Abraham Verghese [My Own Country] and Flannery O’Connor [A Good Man Is Hard to Find], all of whom I recommend.

Cunningham says that words have music as well as meaning, that if you read a sentence or a paragraph to a visitor from outer space, or simply someone who doesn’t know the language, it should still communicate something, simply by its sound.

I sometimes ask people, “If you could be fluent in all the languages of the world, or be fluent in playing all the musical instruments in the world, which would you choose?” Younger people almost always choose the languages, older people the musical instruments.

I think that is because older people have spoken and heard a lot of words that carried no meaning, so we don’t trust words all that much anymore. We suspect that we can communicate better with others, and with ourselves, through music.

So as Thanksgiving Day approaches, I give thanks for the music, both of language and song.

[Now try to sing this entire meditation. I suggest the tune of “Bill Grogan’s Goat.”]

May you have much for which to give thanks, and I’ll try to write meaningfully, if not musically, when I post again on Monday.


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