Magazine article The American Organist

Pleasing the Giver of Our Musical Gifts

Magazine article The American Organist

Pleasing the Giver of Our Musical Gifts

Article excerpt

MANY of us know something of Thomas Merton, the prolific .Trappist. We keep learning from his pages and his life, especially those of us who need contemplative time in the midst of our "worlds of action." Recently, I had occasion to share a well-known prayer of his from Thoughts In Solitude on a retreat. It reads in part:

Why does this ring so true? For me, Merton's prayer speaks precisely to a recurring sense of not knowing all that lies ahead when I have agreed to take on a project - whether musical, literary, or a set of new relationships - when it is not clear how I will proceed, how much it will actually demand of me, or even if it will ever get done! Many of us have a history of not achieving a particular goal ("Why did I ever say 'Yes'?"), much less arriving at the place we hoped for. So, this prayer is for us.

Perhaps more challenging than the uncertainty of not having a clear idea of how to "get somewhere" - whether with a choir or a group of students or a major performance of a new work - is the fact that we do not "know ourselves." It is true, as Socrates said so long ago, that the "unexamined life is not worth living." But there are times when we don't know what or how to "examine." Perhaps we try but still remain a stranger to our own motives and desires. To be a musician or artist often makes this more difficult because of an overactive imagination, or we simply have "too much" going on in our minds and hearts. Sometimes we romanticize our lives or simply have fantasies about what we are to do. If so, we need "contemplation. …

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