Music In My Life

Therese at the piano

Many people have said music is the language of God.  I am not sure if God needs a language, but I do know that music has a way of getting deep into one’s heart and soul.  In some sense, it is a universal language that everyone seems to understand without much explanation. It leads us into certain moods, distant memories. It heightens our different senses in unexpected ways. It carries messages deep into our psyche. It organizes our thoughts and it frees our thoughts at the same time to allow creative expressions.

In a recent article that advertises a new composition to be performed in the San Francisco area

http://www.mercurynews.com/music/ci_28304501/performance-unveils-tangos-jewish-connection ,

there was the mentioning of the  connection between Argentina’s Jewish community and tango – how Jews who fled from Russia in the 1880s arrived in Argentina, using music as a way to integrate into the new community that they had to now call “home.” Back then, many of the Jews were classically trained violinists who found their part in the society by playing in ensembles, performing tangos which are popular in the Argentine culture.

With the universality of music, it is no surprise that the Jews are able to use their ability to perform the community’s most popular music genre, to communicate and, therefore, to integrate into the society.

I once heard a story where a Chinese immigrant was looking for a job in Canada.  As his education in China was not recognized in North America, he was willing to work for just any job.  However, language seems to be a barrier for him in job hunting.  He was very frustrated one day after being turned down at an interview for a job as a waiter in an Italian restaurant.    As he was leaving the restaurant, he started singing “O sole mio.” All of a sudden, the owner stopped him at the door and asked him why did not mention that he sings!  Apparently, he had studied voice in China and had learned to sing a few Italian songs. The owner would love to have someone on staff who can “entertain” patrons on special occasions.  Anyway, this revelation landed him his first job in a new country!

I love telling this story as it is clear that this immigrant’s life is changed solely because of his ability to sing in foreign languages.

Personally, music has been important in helping me settled in many new environments.  Many years ago, I had my struggles when I first came to Canada and enrolled in high school.  While I had studied English Language and all subjects in English, except for Chinese Language and Chinese history, all throughout my school years in Hong Kong, I was very shy in communicating with other fellow students in the beginning, keenly aware that I was speaking with an accent.  So, apart from the necessary exchanges in school, I kept mostly to myself.  One morning, I arrived at school a little too early and decided to entertain myself, playing the piano in the empty classroom next door.     When I started playing, there was not another soul in the entire corridor of classrooms. Little did I know, other students and teachers started arriving while I was playing my favourite pieces.  After that, I was invited to play “O Canada” for the school assemblies (and I learned to play “O Canada” before I learned to sing it). Next thing I know, I was accompanying the school choirs, participating in the fundraisers, their outreach events for seniors (which included musical entertainment), etc.   By the end of my high school year, I think I knew everyone in my grade and they all knew me.  Playing music not only helped me feel comfortable in a new environment, it helped get me integrated into the life of the student community at my high school.

Similar events happened again when I began my university career.  The large student body at the university never provides an easy environment for an introvert.  Let’s be frank, introverts do not do well in open crowds and there are usually plenty of those in the life of students. However, volunteering to play the piano for Sunday liturgies and the occasional dinners at student residence not only let me participate in student life, it also allowed me to participate confidently as it gave me a purpose in those social situations.

As for life outside an educational institution, the most obvious environment where I encountered music was the church.  Obviously, the mass is always easy to follow in any country. Though it might proceed in different languages in different countries, the order of the mass is always the same. Many hymns also share the same hymn tunes.  Again, the lyrics may be different, in different languages. However, hearing familiar tunes, as simple as the Alleluia,

Alleluia

just make one feel right at home.  When you think about it, it is so important for the baptized to feel right at home in the house of God!

So, is music the language of God?  Who knows?  But music is probably created by God to allow communication among His children, to allow us to communicate to Him and for Him to sink his thoughts in us!

A Magnificent Domino Trick

Domino effect - freedigitalphoto.net by renjith krishnan

I came across one YouTube video on domino effect yesterday. https://youtu.be/ARM42-eorzE

It’s amazing how one can set up domino tiles so that that the falling of a single small piece can lead to amazing consequences.

In this particular video and its accompanying one, a simple marble was set in motion. As it moves, it leads to the creation of an amazing visual pattern, the changes of one pattern to another beautiful pattern, a hidden message revealed, cards over-turned, the mingling of different coloured pieces of tiles, the colours of the underside of the tiles revealed, the breaking of a wall of blocks, the destruction of a structure,  the propulsion of other objects in line, and the odd times when motion seems to go backwards before it moves forward again.

Now, what if you are that one marble about to be set in motion by God, what might be the consequence of your actions?  What if you do not respond to God’s call?  What will happen to the amazing plan that was to be, the changes that were supposed to happen, the missed messages, the new face that was not revealed, the people who did not meet one another, the wall that did not get broken down, the evil thoughts that did not get shelved, the goodness that was not pay-forward, others who did not get to follow God’s direction as a result. What then?

We are all members of the body of Christ.  We are connected to one another.  We might be the marble that set things in motion. We might be one of the tiles in the chain of dominos. God, of course, is the one who arranges the tiles. Now, as the reaction time between any two tiles will likely be affected by the distance between the two tiles, how we relate to one another will affect the timing of various events. Our height will also determine whether we will collide onto the next tile at all.  If we are shorter than the gap between ourselves and others, the chain reaction will stop with us! So, what determines our “height”?  I will suggest that it is our own faith.  Of course, there is no way to measure faith. However, if we do not do anything to nourish our faith, broaden our knowledge on what we believe in, to get to know that church of which we claim to be members, I suspect we will never be “tall” enough to reach the next person.

So, just like the domino tiles, in order to be part of a magnificent domino trick, we have to be willing to answer the call, relate to one another and nourish our own faith!