In L.A. on Skid Row, a project called Street Symphony, composed of homeless musicians alongside professional players, has developed a tradition of playing Handel’s Messiah around the holidays. In the article I read (New Yorker, Jan 1 issue), the author muses about how the language surrounding spiritual epiphany and redemption can so often sound corny and canned, unless and until one actually experiences or witnesses a human victory over the darkness of abject despair that accompanies a seemingly hopeless, ruinous existence. For many of the homeless on Skid Row, their burdens most often stem from addiction, or mental illness, or both. The grace of the music becomes real, conveyed by those who’d almost lost all light, but overcome enough to live again – affirming their residence within the creative spirit, even though still weighted by the lack of residency in a home. It’s an honest read, with the author feeling a sense of shame as he leaves the camp, elevated by the music, knowing that those who inspired him remain behind in the cold and gloom.
I keep thinking about how words require the breath of reality in order to function as an actual message to the human psyche, mind, soul. Another example might be found in America’s Founding Documents, which often seem to exist in a realm of rote recitation, familiar phrases recognizable but detached from the contemporary parlance of our everyday existence. Boring maybe, perhaps corny, superficially skimmed, and certainly archaic.
Until the principles of Liberty and Justice, and what is meant by Equal, are known to be under threat. When citizens experience or witness the outrage of those written ideals, then those words can transform into a righteous message of truth, able to inspire and ignite the determination to grant those principles actual life.
Our great Civil Rights leaders applied an abiding faith in the basic dignity accorded by the language of the Declaration and the Constitution, and so worked to create a place where those principles could live true. Unburdened of the sterility accorded to mere dead words on paper, to become a message believed because comprehended through the channel of the higher frequencies of the human soul, growing hope among those who are willing to hear the music and so better see the light.
Witnessing and experiencing the dissolution of this nation’s best principles of Union and Equality, we are in a position now to revive ourselves by granting those words the power of truth through actual life. As an outline for peace and happiness and justice and freedom, it’s all meaningless, unless and until we reclaim the will to understand and to create the vision contained within the words.