March 30, 2016

Publication: The Sounds of Devotion

Imagine you’re walking in a torrential rainstorm on a dark forested hill. You’ve been hiking for hours and your legs ache. It’s approaching winter and the weather is cold and bleak. Due to the low, heavy clouds and thickening mist, you’re not really sure where you are. Heavy raindrops are striking the leaves, making a pleasant hissing sound. While you appreciate the beautiful vista of windswept trees and low patches of fog lingering on the hills below the forbidding purple sky, it is getting dark, starting to storm, and you are wet, cold, hungry, and exhausted. Every few minutes you think you hear rolling thunder and sometimes a lightning strike displays the darkening landscape. You really wish you were sitting by a crackling fire at this moment, with a hot meal in front of you and perhaps a good book or pleasant companion to accompany it, comfortably listening to the rain hit the roof and windows outside this warm, safe shelter.

Suddenly, in the distance, you hear, very faintly, the sound of tinkling wind chimes. They have no particular melody, but they sound beautiful and mysterious. They give you hope and remind you that amid this stunning but inhospitable landscape something human exists. You aren’t doomed to wander these desolate hills forever. Perhaps just around the corner there is a town with a warm, welcoming tavern or restaurant. Perhaps you’ll run across a country road and a kind individual who can give you a ride to such a place. Or maybe there’s a peaceful, unlocked church ahead into which you can slip to get out of the drenching rain.

If you’d like to hear this for yourself, try this link.

I liken the sounds of the wind chimes heard on a cold, stormy night to that of a loyal, devoted a slave repeating her mantra, her words of devotion to her master, as all around her the stormy wilderness of selfish, demanding ego, the me-centric attitudes, the incessant drums of desire, and the extreme hubris of common humanity (including herself, at times) rages unchecked. The random noise of everyone out for himself or herself, everybody trying to fulfill themselves and reach their own personal potential, the standard “me first” call of our culture, has its own sort of beauty, just as a tempestuous storm does, but it can quickly become exhausting. The mindless, selfish, plodding, cacophonic tones of “each man for himself” can drain those exposed to them day after day of warmth, energy, and wonder, making us forget what makes life really worth living. The haunting wind chimes of a slave’s spoken mantra remind her that there is another path she can take, a path that leads to calm valleys of sanity, humanity, generosity, and love. The clear, clean tones of loyalty and willing obedience ring faintly but purely behind all the chaotic, me-centered madness that is modern, ordinary life.

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