Thursday, February 10, 2005

Patience and music

God seems to value patience. Remember "wait upon the Lord" and the instructions to the disciples to wait for the Spirit and the waiting for the Messiah and our waiting for His return and Mary waiting for the birth and "Now suffer your servant to depart in peace." Children don't hurry their growth because we're impatient, nor do crops grow, nor do we learn instantly. Almost nothing important happens right away; or only seems to because we overlook the hidden time. It takes practice and perseverance to become an athlete. I think we understand the perseverance part. The patience is another matter.

Yet patience and the need for patience seem to be built into the structure of our world. Why should that be? "To every thing there is a season." I think the key word is "season." Seasons are rhythmic, and in some senses so our our lives. We have the day and night, of course. A single life doesn't repeat itself (except insofar as we often become needy again in old age), but the pattern is the same in us all--somewhat like a pattern of notes in a song.

Imagine a symphony in which everyone was in a hurry to reach the exciting bits in their parts, and didn't wait for their measure. Awful, right? Music isn't just about sounds, but about sounds at the right times. I'm told that in some schools of Japanese art the blank spaces are as important as those with ink on them. That's not crazy--the blank spaces are filled by your mind, and help give shape to the lines surrounding them. And the empty waiting times in our lives aren't really completely empty, even if we only look at them in isolation. Together, I think we are meant to live a kind of symphony: not all playing at once but each keeping his measure and coming in at the right time.

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