Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Simple Suggestion #114... Sing a song

I'm still really enjoying Edward Hays' Chasing Joy: Musings on Life in a Bittersweet World (Ave Maria Press 2007, ISBN 13: 978-0-939516-78-0). Today I had to go back a few chapters to reread the ones about singing, just because they made me feel happy when I read them the first time.

Fr. Edward writes about how music is one of the best motivators for living a good and generous life, and I wholeheartedly agree with that. So often it's only taken the simple power of a good piece of music (the He's a Pirate Theme from the Pirates of the Caribbean really gives me a rush!) or a lively song like Phil Collins' You Can't Hurry Love to lift my spirits... and I can recall many times when work that seemed like drudgery somehow became more pleasurable because one bored person in the group decided to sing. It happens in our kitchen as our girls do the dishes sometimes. We also have videos of summer holidays where we were rowing a long stretch down a windy mountain lake and someone started singing 99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall. Before we knew it, there were several additional harmonies and side versions and we had reached the far shore... in much better spirits than before we sang.

In ages past, people sang all the time. Soldiers sang as they marched... do they still? People in the civil rights movement sang to encourage one another in their rallies against injustice, and labourers sang as they worked. One of my favourite saints, Vincent de Paul, who had been sold into slavery (because a ship he was on had been captured by pirates), sang until the lady of the plantation noticed him in the fields and made him her "house servant" instead... a considerably cushier job. He eventually won his freedom.

Unfortunately, in our world of music videos, cable radio and iTunes, a lot of us have forgotten about the joy of singing, alone or in a group. We've become passive listeners a lot of the time because it's Adele who has the pipes, not us. But by denigrating our own talents, great or small, we're doing ourselves a huge disservice. I'm not saying that we should all leave our homes in the morning as though we were the stars of our own version of Hairspray or any other hit musical you care to name. I'm just suggesting that adding a little more homemade music to our lives can't be a bad thing. It costs us and the planet nothing if we sing a few songs to lift our spirits. Few things make me happier than seeing someone singing in the car on their way to work. It's almost as good as listening to a little child un-self-consciously inventing her own words to a pop song!

Fr. Hays also reminds me that singing has healing power. He mentions how Alzheimer patients respond well when their caregivers sing... perhaps because the subconscious feels that if someone is singing, everything is alright somehow. And I suspect he's right when he says that "a song a day keeps the blues away."

So here's another one of my favourite tunes, from my favourite Coen Brothers movie, O Brother Where Art Thou. It's been stuck in my soul lately, so I've been singing aloud even though I don't have Allison Krauss' sweet voice. Why fight ear-worm music, I figure -- I might as well sing it until another piece comes along and takes its place. This one makes me happy in ways that I can't explain... maybe because it brings back memories of the first time I saw and heard it in the movie theatre, and felt like I was standing in the forest with the hilarious Soggy Bottom Boys, surrounded by the choir -- goosebumps time. A good, singable piece. Your secret mission today is to sing it aloud, or choose one you prefer, and see if it doesn't raise your spirits, and maybe even the spirits of those around you!

P.S. Happy Birthday, Cathy! Thanks for the many times we have walked and sung together, whether people were listening or not! "When I first came to this land..."

P.S. Again: Looking for more Simple Suggestions? Try here.

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