Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Missing Beauty

I recently wrote an article on the Fine Arts News page for our school about audience etiquette.   The subject is near and dear to my heart because I work with students in the arts.  The art they produce is meant for an attentive and hopefully an appreciative audience.  They bathe each and every performance in prayer with the desire that it will touch someone who needs it most and bring them closer to Christ.  Not every piece we sing or play is about God, but everything we sing is God-honoring.  

Our society does not have experience in listening.  We do not have many opportunities that require us to practice this skill.  We live in a noisy world that has made entertainment and audio available to us in ways that do not require us to be still, wait, or listen.  

Pause.  Stop.  Fast-forward.  Play.  Shuffle.  

People have great difficulty sitting through a movie without needing to get up, stretch, use the restroom,  get a snack, take a phone call, make a phone call, or check email.  Our wonderful age of technology has given us easy access to people without actually having to speak or come in physical contact with them.  We bore easily.  Movies and music are so doctored with technology that anything without high-tech help bores most people.  

Take instrumental music for example.  The prelude at church, before a wedding or program is often done by a solo instrument.  The purpose of the prelude in church is to help the Christian get in the frame of mind to worship.  People often use the prelude to fellowship.  Carrying on a conversation over music becomes difficult and therefore we talk louder and louder.   When is the last time you saw people enter the sanctuary or worship center with awe and reverence?  Whenever I ask this question people sometimes get offended and say that church is where they fellowship with their fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.  They need to reach out and talk to their friends.  I totally agree.  I believe there is a place and time for this.  Some churches do this before Bible Study/Sunday School.  Some do it after the service.  The problem is no one wants to come early or stay late, therefore they want to use the worship time as a one-stop shop for all their Sunday needs:  fellowship, singing, relaxing, a quick spiritual pick-me-up, and social and business networking....a Christian multi-vitamin approach.  

Last night two beautiful young ladies brought us music before a program at school.  It struck me hard as I tried to listen to their music that our society doesn't really know how to listen.  I don't think people do it to be rude.  I honestly believe no one has been taught or given the opportunity.  To sit still and listen is often viewed as a waste of time.  The music played by these wonderful girls last night was very difficult.  It was meticulously practiced.....for hours.  I know.  I have learned these pieces and know what sweat and work goes into being that good.  Many people missed out on the beauty.  Sure, they heard a little, clapped a little, and noticed there was some sort of music playing.  I wonder how much more they might have been blessed had they heard from the first note to the last the beautiful song played by a child of God--a human being--created in His image--with a talent given by Him---and skills perfected by their hard work.  

"A painter paints his pictures on canvas. 
But musicians paint their pictures on silence. 
We provide the music, and you provide the silence." 
Leopold Stokowski

When you go to church this Sunday, think about the purpose of the prelude.  It is a good place to start learning to listen.  Pray.  A good musician puts much prayer and practice into the offerings they present.  Prepare yourself to receive the blessing and gift offered before God to bring you into a time of worship.  The next time you go to a concert, notice the music played beforehand.  Appreciate the gift offered by being the silent canvas on which they are able to paint you a beautiful blessing.  

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