When I am agitated, prayer soothes me. When I’m feeling down and weak, it empowers me. Prayer can be a warm cup of tea for the soul, a map for the mind, or a tool for the heart. Other times, it’s a rambunctious parade filled with people of all shapes and sizes with costume wings strapped to their backs, singing and dancing and throwing confetti out in the air while the band – composed of hundreds of different instruments – plays and dances and giggles to the same tune, parading throughout the streets, stopping traffic while handing out big red balloons that have things like “isn’t this great!?” and “all you need is love” hand-written in glitter on them.
If the spiritual world is an infinite one, then there must be an incredible variety of ways to express our spiritual selves, to pray, to interpret the knowledge available to us through the Holy Writings. And if this mortal plane reflects the eternal realm, then everything around us can serve as a tool to extol and further understand the Divine.
About a decade ago now, a friend of mine explained to me his understanding that everything in this world had a spiritual significance. This concept had a huge impact on me. Since that conversation, I’ve tried to see the spiritual significance in everything; in my actions, in the trials and victories of the world, in the books I read… I did everything to connect and compare my thoughts and actions to nature and art and history and the Holy Writings; gauging everything that would happen around me against this one question: what is the spiritual significance?
I made it my life’s mission to find that significance — sometimes to a fault, other times to no avail, but at least I always made the effort. Fathoming the scope of this life-long task sometimes feels more like a never-ending volume of “Where’s Waldo”… but maybe that’s the whole idea.
With time, I learned to accept that even though I could not understand the universe and control the outcomes of others, I could at least do my best to find the spiritual significance of my own actions and thoughts. And I wanted to put this idea into action with music:
Intone, O My servant, the verses of God that have been received by thee, as intoned by them who have drawn nigh unto Him, that the sweetness of thy melody may kindle thine own soul, and attract the hearts of all men. Whoso reciteth, in the privacy of his chamber, the verses revealed by God, the scattering angels of the Almighty shall scatter abroad the fragrance of the words uttered by his mouth, and shall cause the heart of every righteous man to throb. – Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 295.
I not only wanted to find and sing the spiritual significance of this Holy Verse, but I also wanted to reflect on its potency as clearly as I could.
At first, I wasn’t sure how I was going to do this — but I knew how this quote made me feel. So I started with that feeling. I knew for a fact that I felt light and playful when I read it, so I ran with it… I ran with it so fast that I didn’t even really have time to think about how my light and bouncy song would even be received by the listener. And frankly, it didn’t matter, because all I really did was listen to the quote and sing its song back to it. I found the places it reached for in my heart and fell in without hesitation. The trumpets, the glockenspiel, the horns, the piano, the guitar, the harmonies… they all seemed significant and important to the sharing of this wonderful quote!
The more I sang the melody back to it, the more I loved where it took me — out of the box, out of the pre-conceived notions of devotional music, out of the staid western conventions of what we think reverence looks like. I felt strongly that this music did not come from me, so this could only be the right song. I truly believed it then, and I still believe it now.
The music needed to be significant. The joy, the energy, the sweetness of that melody needed to be reflected through the mirror of my heart and guitar strings. Because who doesn’t need a little joyous confetti in their life once in a while?
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Read the previous article in the series: The Canopy of God’s Grace