Also known as “Dave Gets Deep,” this section includes reflections on art, life, and the human condition.

shot_1411036245972Once a year or so, Rev. Aija lets me take the reins (and the pulpit) for what we call “Music Sunday”—a worship experience that’s all about music, except when it’s not.  Coming up with a theme for Music Sunday is always pretty easy—there’s always a song I’ve wanted to find an excuse for the choir to sing, or a topic I’ve wanted to write a song about, or a story I’ve wanted to tell.  Except for this year.

This year, as America’s democracy seems to have devolved into a battle of mudslinging and “who’s evil-er than whom,” and as ever-improving and ever more ubiquitous technology makes it harder for injustice to disguise itself as rumor or hyperbole, I find myself feeling inadequate.  There is too much wrong with the world for one little sermon or one new choir anthem to fix it.

My prayer habits are quite a bit different now than they used to be, but my spirituality is still one of stubbornly second-person theology: I no longer even pretend to understand fully who or what God really is, but I know it’s not me.  So after struggling for too long to find the right focus for Music Sunday, I threw my hands up and asked the Universe for a hint—and silence was the response.  Not silence-the-absence-of-response silence.  Silence-the-potent-beginnings-of-all-that-is silence.

It started with a Facebook post from a friend of mine:

snap

One line in particular caught my eye, because I hear it a lot from people of color when they express frustration with the “shallow understanding from people of good will” that so often describes the reaction that I and other white allies fumble to manage as we work for justice.  “Have a seat and study some more.”

In other words, shut up and listen.  There are important things to be said, and you need to hear them.

So this Sunday at UUCV we’ll be seeking silence.  Talking about silence.  And singing about silence.  And most importantly, spending more time in silence than nearly any of us are comfortable with, because growth is hardly ever comfortable.

We’ll also be hearing some breathtakingly gorgeous music, of course.  You know I love to show off my little choir, and they are working magic with the Mark Hayes arrangement of “The Sound of Silence”—last night’s rehearsal left me with goosebumps.  Adding Dani and Marc, who will be backing us up on Sunday on drums and bass, will just take things to a whole new level.

We’ll also be premiering a new choral piece I wrote for the occasion, called “Sing It.”  The lyrics follow; I do hope you’ll join us on Sunday at 10:30 AM to hear the choir give it wings—and I hope it moves you to the right kind of silence.

Sermon audio

Choir video

“Sing It”

words & music ©2016 David M. Glasgow

In the silence,
without noise, without words to save the day,
I can hear me, but I’m not sure what to say.
Rage against?  Stand behind?
Play it safe?  Play the hero?
Do I ever say a word that starts inside?
Now I finally have the chance, and I hide.

Then I hear it—
though at first I’m afraid I’m not alone—
soft and clear, it speaks a truth I recognize as my own.
And it speaks, without words, of a strength here within me
that could change the world if only I would try.
So I slowly close my eyes, and breathing deep,

I sing it soft and low and gentle
like the breeze that runs its fingers through my hair.
I sing it deep and true and wordless,
like the beating of a heart that’s always there.
I sing it silently within, and let the music work its magic
in the veins that carry life to every corner of my soul.
When I finally claim the silence,
I sing it gentle.

Eyes are open,
and at last I can see I’m not alone.
You’ve been singing too,
and your spirit harmonizes with my own.
And we sing, and our hearts gather strength here among us
that can change the world if only we will try.
And when we know we’re not alone,

we sing it loud!  We sing it strong!
We sing it boldly from the mountaintop,
and bravely at the coffee shop,
and lovingly to everyone we meet!
Love is born in silence,
but for love to survive,
we must sing it loud!

12829043_10154764219683747_1422757073247409189_oMy good friend Jeremy Patterson has a new YouTube interview show called the Capital Area Theatre Show.  Guess who he invited to be his second-ever interviewee?

Tune in below or on the show’s YouTube channel to hear our milkshake-fueled conversation about art and life and idols and dreams and fears and insecurities, and why we do all that we do.  (And he eventually was able to steer me back around to Pippin, which was supposed to be the point of the show to begin with….)

CAUTION: DO NOT ENTERI say a lot of things I have no right to say.  I’ve been known to comment on race (from a white perspective), nationalism (from a US-native perspective), physical disability (from an able-bodied perspective), gender identity (from a cis male perspective), religion (from a mainline-Christian-turned-Unitarian-Universalist perspective), and socioeconomics (from an upper-middle-class perspective).  And, occasionally, I do it right here in the (ahem) “privacy” of my own website, where anyone in the world can read it, even if they’ve never met me before and have no idea what a delightfully quirky and fabulously nuanced human being I am.[1]

Why?

Because, while I believe conversations about “isms” are crucial in the world right now, the white, US-native, able-bodied, cis male, mainline-Christian-turned-Unitarian-Universalist, upper-middle-class perspective is the only perspective I have.  I simply can’t speak from the perspective of a black person, or of a woman, or of an immigrant, no matter how many (trigger warning) “friends” I have in any of those groups.  And that makes me both profoundly sad, and profoundly grateful.

It’s upsetting to recognize the pain, frustration, and anger in those who write lists of “8 Things Transgender People Do Not Owe You.”  Or “10 Things You Shouldn’t Say to Someone Who Uses a Wheelchair.”  Or “29 Stupid Things White People Do.”  I confess to being snared by the “gotcha” in the title of Charles Davis’s Vice column, “‘Microaggression’ Is a Stupid Word You Should Take Seriously.”   And this wonderful Everyday Feminism article—in which Jennifer Loubriel (a Woman of Color) gently, firmly, and very effectively supports a “no white tears” rule for cross-cultural conversations—was a difficult, difficult read.  The very act of seeking to empathize with a fellow human being, when done from a place of privilege, can be hurtful.  There’s no one for whom that doesn’t suck.

So with all that pain, with all those seemingly insurmountable obstacles between souls, where can I find cause for “profound gratitude”?

I’m profoundly grateful because the narrowness of my own perspective reminds me that only through connectedness can we approach perfection.  And I’m grateful too that we can only approach perfection: omniscience does not exist in the human animal, so we simply have to rely on one another to share wisdom, experience, and insight.  Our limitedness makes it essential that we nurture community, for the sake of our very survival.

Two videos showed up providentially on my personal Facebook feed within hours this past week.  The first was Julie Bindel’s opinion piece in The Guardian, reminding us that censorship, while it can be a tempting response to opinions we find upsetting, is generally counterproductive.  (“Political movements such as civil rights and feminism,” she reminds us, “have made such progress because we were able to hold people to account.”)  I know that some of my most cherished growth moments have come after my demonstrated ignorance, thoughtlessness, or naïveté were named and corrected, rather than simply being silenced.

The second video was this delightful out-coming by 24-year-old Australian train driver (and transman) Henry Tadebois, who requests that his friends and family begin to use his new name and appropriate pronouns, but assures them that “Don’t worry, I won’t get offended” if they slip up, before inviting them to “ask me any questions you might have.”  (And while this is indeed wonderfully generous of Henry, I will reiterate here the caveat I shared when I first re-posted the video on Facebook: Coming out definitely ≠ inviting your questions about stuff that doesn’t affect you. The revelation and the invitation are two different things.)

These two videos—the one, a warning against censorship; the other, an invitation to awkward curiosity—are opposite sides of the same coin, I think.  They both point to a truth that’s as fundamental to humanity as it is terrifying: No genuine community can exist unless we express and demonstrate a willingness to be offended.

That’s why wedding vows don’t specify that two people are joined “until one of them really crosses a line.”  It’s why my home congregation’s Covenant of Right Relations names very explicitly the fact that we expect to disagree with one another, but that we commit to “staying at the table” in spite of those disagreements.  And it’s why, whenever I come out to a new person or group of people, I always invite the audience to ask whatever questions come to mind.

I’m a white, US-native, able-bodied, mainline-Christian-turned-Unitarian-Universalist, upper-middle-class cis male.  The “gay card” is really the only strike against me in the Privilege lottery, so I’m all but immune to oppression and bigotry.  Not everyone can stand in this place of safety and speak as boldly as I do.  But if there’s something you wonder, or something you’re curious about, or something you feel a need to say, please say it.  If it’s none of your business, I may tell you so.  But more likely, I’ll answer you as forthrightly as I’m able.  That’s the best way for both of us to grow.


[1]And modest. I’m also very modest. Be sure you mention to people how modest I am when you tell them about this blog.

 

woodbowlYou’d think, for all the times I’d shouted “STRONG AND WRONG!!!” at my students with clenched fists in the air and mock rage on my face, that I’d be better at it.

But every time I get ready to upload a new recording to my Demo Recordings page, the script starts again: “Is this really ready to share?  Shouldn’t I listen through again to be sure it’s okay?  Couldn’t I hit that note a little more in-tune?  Shape that phrase a little more precisely?  Bring out that nuance with a little more agility?”

“Someone to Fall Back On,” from Jason Robert Brown’s first solo album, Wearing Someone Else’s Clothes, is one of those songs that just reaches into my chest and makes me feel.  “I am no prince,” he says; “I am no saint.  And if that’s what you believe you need, you’re wrong….”

I have loved singing this song since I first discovered it.  I’ve used it at workshops, in worship, and in concerts.  And I’ve never once sung it perfectly.

There’s that out-of-nowhere high A in the last line of the bridge.  The high G at the end that I want to hold two beats longer than my lungs want me to.  And of course the fact that I can’t actually make it through the whole song without choking back tears.

But every time I’ve sung it, I’ve heard that sound in the audience after the last note fades away: the silence of held breath, of self-recognition, of mute gratitude for the blissful agony of shared pain.  Something in us needs to remember—and to be reminded, often—that to be human is to be flawed, and that therefore to be flawed, in some perplexing but profoundly important way, is to be perfect.

This recording is flawed.  The song doesn’t sound as good here as it does in my mind when I daydream.  But when I listened through just now, before uploading it, I thought of all the people in my life who I’ve been able to “fall back on,” and all the people in my life I hope trust they can fall back on me, and I had the kind of cry that feels really, really good.

Be well, y’all.

frederic-chopin-1838
Frédéric Chopin, 1838. Oil on canvas, by Eugene Delacroix.

One of the things I love most about my career is that I get to experience a never-ending stream of new repertory—between my work at UUCV, at Open Stage, at CASA, and elsewhere, I never have time to get bored with the material I’m working on!  The downside to this excitement is that I seldom have time to really dig in and master a piece of music in a way that feels “complete.”  Or rather, I seldom take time to really dig in….

So today I spent a few hours procrastinating all of the work I’m “supposed” to have gotten done today, and instead put some time into brushing up on one of my all-time favorite piano solos, Chopin’s E Minor Nocturne.  I first performed this piece at senior piano recital in high school, so it seemed appropriate to use this as my first experiment with digital recording.  I played the piece on my Yamaha P-140 digital keyboard into GarageBand on my Mac using Garritan’s amazing Abbey Road Studios CFX Concert Grand Virtual Piano, and produced a recording that sounds almost disconcertingly like the way the music sounds in my head when I think about playing it.  (Did that make any sense at all?)

Anyway.  Take a listen, and let me know in the comments what you think.  There will, I hope, be many more of these “demo tracks” to come!  But for now, I’m going to take this Nocturne as my cue to head off to bed.  In six minutes it’ll be New Year’s Eve!