We spoke last week about beauty, the beauty that is found in nature, in the arts, in the inner core of each person. On many occasions, I have come across the image that speaks of who we are, our unique identity, as our song. Author and counsellor, Wayne Muller, situates this image along with many others when he speaks of our self-discovery.
The search for our essence, our identity, is fundamental … When I listen deeply to my inner life, what do I hear? What is the substance of my soul, the core of my being? What is my true nature? …What is our song? How do we name ourselves? Which word, when we speak it, reveals what is most deeply true about this inner voice, our deepest heart, our fundamental nature?
Many years ago, a kind of story welled up within me that used that image. I’ll repeat it here.
The Boy Who Sings the Songs That Break down Walls
There was once a little boy with no name. He woke up one day in a barren, desolate place. It was all grey. Nothing grew anywhere. There were only stones and rocks on the dusty ground. He looked around and saw no one. Yet he felt strange, as if he were being watched. He felt uneasy and afraid.
So he took the rocks and stones and build a wall around himself . There he stayed, inside the wall. He looked out, half fearfully, half expectantly. This continued for a while. Then, one day, he noticed that a little water was seeping through the ground at the bottom of his enclosure.
He put some rocks down to cover it. But the water kept slowly welling up. He thought to himself, “The water will come up and push my walls away and leave me all alone in the open with nothing to protect me.” And he felt very anxious.
The water kept coming up, stronger and stronger, faster and faster. Finally, it burst forth and blew all the walls away and carried the little boy with it. He flailed his arms and legs in a desperate panic.At last he just relaxed and found that he was carried by the flow of water. Then the water turned into music and flowed into his heart.
He found himself standing in a grassy area Everything was green and swaying softly in the gentle breeze. He did not know where he was or where he would go or what he would do. But he knew that his basic task in life was to sing that music in his heart.
And from that day on, he was no longer the little boy with no name, but the boy who sings the songs that break down walls.
Among other things, this little story suggests that beneath our anxieties and fears, and the walls we put up in alleged self-defence, there is our inmost self. Our basic life task is to discover or uncover that underlying self, to live from that self, and to share it with one another in whatever ways are appropriate in varying life-situations. The image of that core identity, the heart of who we are, is our song.
This image also emerged in the final words of my tribute to my late wife Lorraine, at her funeral. I expressed the conviction that the song of her life, the song of who she was, would sing always in our hearts.
It is who we are, the unique song that is each of us, that is our fundamental gift to one another. It is deeper than yet our gifts, our words, our actions, our life. Yet, unless obstructed by hurts or hears or hostilities, it is that song that flows into our gifts, our words, our actions, and our lives. It is essentially through the song that we are that we truly reach one another. This appears to be the theme of the story of Rapunzel. The story tells the inwardness of her isolation in a tower finds expression in song. The beauty of her singing, that is, the inner beauty of who she is (and by implication the inner beauty of each of us) rings throughout the forest. It reaches the young man who was profoundly moved by it. The song of who we are may also reach all who are open to hear it.
The story suggests that out of the solitude that allows us to get in touch with and express our deepest self, the result is something that reflects its beauty. It further suggests that it is in fact who we are, our unique song, that is best able to reach and help and heal one another.
Later in the story of Rapunzel, her singing is again heard by the now blinded young man as she sings to their two children. As she sees him approaching, she runs to embrace him and two of her tears fall on his eyes and restore their sight. Like our song, the tears of our joy and sorrow, that come from a place within deeper than the differentiation of feelings, can also provide vison and healing to one another.
In sum, it is our presence, who we are that is most effective. And so our task is to discover that deepest self, to experience its beauty and sacred worth that frees us, and to let it gradually break down the walls behind which we hide, and flow, like the water of life, like the music of our song, into our words and actions and life. In this way, may we help to bring one another to life and to contribute our song to the human chorus, and to the song of the earth which is our home.
May you come to discover and to sing the song of who you are as a fulfilling life for yourselves and as a healing and life-giving presence in our world.