Sunday, October 29, 2006

The Music of the Spheres

Music is very important in Christianity, for good reason. Is there any sense as primal and yet as perspicacious as hearing is? From the deep boom of the cannon fire, to the patter of soft summer rain on leaves, from the rising chorus of Gregorian chant to the sigh of a sleeping baby, sounds move us in important and mysterious ways, and none more than music. In our own Christian tradition, we see the notion of chant and song being important components of worship. Why? What is it about music that affects us so deeply?

The answer, I think, is that we glimpse the underlying nature of reality in music: the glissade of the wind instruments mimics the continuous, while the sharp percussion reflects the discrete. Wave and particle, energy and matter. A sea of smooth waveforms flowing effortlessly into one another, but lapping at the shores of the islands formed by packets of notes. A wind born of brass and wood, caressing the sharp upthrusts of a forest of percussive beats. Music inspires because fundamentally music is.

Music exists, fundamental and distinct from ourselves, because God has willed it. Why has God willed it? This, I cannot answer. But I hear the Universe, an endless, ever-varying symphony, playing for all eternity in the heavens. It is a glorious Song, sung together by God, the angels, the planets, and ourselves. For we sing too. We raise our voices, not in rage or hate, but in joy, the never-ending joy of existence. Our voices are small, but the grand Conductor gestures his baton in our direction too, and coaxes ever more pleasing notes from us, and the planets and stars, whose voices far outweigh our own, smile indulgently and encouragingly towards us.

Come. Let us sing together.

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