Creativity and Music

It is one of those unfortunate facts, bemoaned by me on this blog and by virtually every human on this planet, that we all grow older, every single day. Its not that the new adventures, when we’re actually out having them, are not welcome, or that we are necessarily enamored over our past. But we know that at some point, this ride here on earth will end and when it does, we really don’t know what will happen.

Let me review that last sentence for a second and, since most of you reading this will classify yourselves as Christians, note that I said ‘know’, as in 'certainty’, and not 'have faith in’ or 'believe that there is something else beyond this life.’ Faith is just that, believing in something unseen, not knowing it for sure. If we saw what would happen after this life, and not just what people seeing bright lights have told us the afterlife is like, it would no longer be faith, but certainty. I don’t believe God deals in that kind of thing, as people a lot more spiritual than ever have I been, did not have certainty, but had faith.

And so, most of us, even those who would be stricken to admit it, will likely in the deep dark parts of their being, know that they are enamored with this planet we call Earth, this Sun around which we orbit and this Universe in which we are an integral, if tiny, part. Despite all the hardships and pain this world brings, the joys and peace we find in our lives comfort us and make us want this to be permanent, at least in some way or another.

So we strive to stay here. We strive to make our place, hoping that our place will not leave us, all the while knowing this is not the case. I am definitely one of those people.

I look back at my past, the years since I consider my adulthood to have begun, and wonder at the changes which have occurred. It was the end of my sophomore year in college, and the first real decision of my life was before me. The music degree had lost its luster long ago and nothing new was on the horizon. I knew my window for changing my degree and still completing college on time was small. Much extra work would be required to me if I were to complete college with the same group of people with whom I had started that four year journey.

But in making that decision to leave my floundering vocal career, I never realized the path on which my feet would find themselves. Music had always been one of the biggest parts of my life. Some of my earliest memories were being on stage at church, singing and performing, sometimes quite badly, and never did I think those days would end when I walked away from a music degree.

Looking back, its obvious that moving into a business degree, I wouldn’t have quite the same musical schedule that my life had been used to up until that point. Of my 25 credit hours in high school, 7 of them had been band or choir. Of my then 67.75 college credit hours, 36 of them were music and 33 of those were no good to me in my new major and minor. That amounted to throwing away half of the last two years of academic study. The numbers alone should have been a sign but they were not.

When my new advisor and I were planning out the next two years of my life, she was incredibly unhappy at one single choice I had made in my schedule. I would delay taking Theology, the cornerstone class in my new minor, until my very last semester. Why? I really, really, really wanted to audit jazz band. Quite silly, looking back on it, give that I ended up sitting next to my ex-girlfriend two days every week for the next two semesters, reliving the pain our summer breakup had caused, over and over.

And that was just the beginning. My senior year, I didn’t have even jazz band any longer. BSU took over my free time and music became something I heard only when popping in a CD or heading to church on Sunday morning. I stopped attending recitals, even though the people now performing were my good friends, whom I had known since my first days of college.

After graduation, the trend continued. Instead of having music playing around me whenever I wasn’t in class, I had a job and that meant for nine hours every day, I had no music. A few years back, it got one step worse when I traded in listening to music radio and found a new friend in NPR. My two hour commute just wouldn’t be complete without Morning Edition, Marketplace or All Things Considered.

Where music used to be the major creative outlet in my life, the driving force if you will, it is now relegated to an occasional background noise that plays when I’m doing some mind-numbing task… or blogging. :)

A couple years ago, my high school choir director, who I respect and love immensely for the love and passion of music she instilled within me, had a reunion in which all her former choir members were invited back to sing as a group once again. I declined to participate. She was bewildered at my choice, and spent much time emailing with me in hopes of convincing me to change my mind and put in an appearance. I just couldn’t do it. Music held no longer held sway over my life.

Now, my creativity is sparked by different things: home repair, carpentry, technology, reading and writing. None of these things are bad, they are really good, yet when viewed in the light of the music, they just somehow seem to pale in comparison with the memory of what melody used to mean.

I also wonder if music wasn’t more than just some creating outlet for me, either. It seems as the music has faded from my consciousness, so has the desire to practice my faith. Even my mother has figured out by now that her darling boy doesn’t often grace the pews. I’m not blaming my lack of musical desire on my lack of church attendance, but part of me wonders if there isn’t a deeper connection.

I’ve never been one who was much moved by traditional hymns. I remember when, as I graduated from high school and began my trek to college, my music minister at the time, gave me a hymnal. An odd gift I thought, and somewhat still do, but it was obvious that, to him, it meant something special, and his front cover inscription, hoping that it would one day become a devotional guide to me, proved his belief in the book as a tool of faith.

Four years after that, I helped take my home church’s youth group to summer camp. During that week, I had a discussion with a minister from another church, after a rousing hymn one evening. He pondered why it was that, during times of crisis, people always returned to hymns and not to the new choruses that were all the rage. I had to burst his theory, explaining that although I had been a music major in a conservative Christian school and had grown up in church, I didn’t know any of the lyrics to the song that had just been sung. He was astounded at my admission.

Yet, in the last few months, I’ll catch unlikely snatches of hymns hundreds of years old, the sounds of which had not passed my ears in years if not decades, and they will be stuck in my mind for days. Is it subliminal? Repressed memories returning in a time of need? Deep words of comfort imparted to my from the God with whom I’ve had no more than a passing relationship over the last 4 years? I really don’t know.

Despite part of me wanting that to be God sending out a kind reminder of his presence, very different than the club upside the head He used on me as a child, I just don’t know that it is. Its been a long time since we talked, and I’m not sure that I’m ready to talk again yet. There is a bit of me that wants that club, that is comforted by the very real reminder of its reality, but at this point in my life, I think I would be happy with just the still, small voice I’ve heard, and preached about, in my life.

My musical passion is long gone. The passions that remain to me are small and dispersed in comparison. I want to find something else in life which can ignite such a flame inside. I’ve looked in lots of places, but nothing seems to satisfy. Maybe one day, something will again.