My oldest daughter got her first electric guitar yesterday and fiddled around with it for a few hours, filling the house with music. At sixteen she’s displayed a thousand times over not only how talented she is, but how passionate. Music is, simply, everything for her. Beauty is humbling and makes your heart ache, and I feel it viscerally when I listen to her sing.
I’m convinced that one of the reasons she expresses herself in such a heartfelt way is because it comes from her soul. She doesn’t do “organized” music. She takes a guitar lesson every other week, and did try out for the high-school a capella singing group, three times. She’s not organized, nope not at all (just peek into her closet). But while I’m a stickler for an organized room, I’m not a big fan of structures which seem to lend themselves to tangles. Organized music, like organized religion, makes its leaders judge and jury, determining who is good and who is bad, what is right and what is wrong.
I’ve noticed a trend of late in pop culture, and it disturbs me. Everyone, it seems is praying, which is a lovely thing… yet it seems that everyone is praying for things. They are praying to win the big game, to get an A, to get that promotion or that date or to score that goal, all pleas which are inherently selfish, aren’t they? It’s one thing to pray for strength, to pray for patience, for succor, for health or the well being of self or other, but quite another to pray that the numbers in your bank account increase by a zero or two.
My mother, who was never one for organized religion, and was a very gifted musician (catch the link there?) told me a story long ago about praying for something. She was a young girl and at the beach, hurrying to put on her bathing suit so that she could join her cousins, when she found it in a tangle. She struggled to unravel it but it was impossible, so she lay it on the bed and knelt next to it and prayed to God to please oh please untie the knots. Not sure what she promised in return. She swore until the day she died that when she opened her eyes there it was, perfectly laid out. Our own little family miracle. Knowing her, knowing her age at the time, I am certain that her prayer was of the purest intent. She went on to pray for other things, no doubt, one of which was to give her children a sense of what was right and wrong, good and evil, without dictating how exactly they should express that, taking us to mosque and synagogue, cathedral and temple, telling us of other cultures and showing us that there are many paths to the same destination and that what is inside is what matters.
Life is full of tangles, and here is what started me on this meandering thought process… I love to knit, and because I’m self-taught I struggle with excruciating delight. My new domestic goal is to knit a pair of mittens, and to do it using what they call “dpn’s” or double-pointed needles. Sounds scary and violent, and it is. You basically start out with the most confusing tangle of needles (not one, but five!) and yarn, and you struggle to keep them straight. But if you keep at it, and, as one virtual instructor said, “focus only on the two needles you’re working with and let the other ones fall where they may,” you end up with a lovely circle of beautifully aligned stitches and, eventually, something to show for it…
Tangles were made to be untangled, songs made to be sung. Just close your eyes and focus on those two needles, on those two notes, on what matters.