I love music. All types of music. Music which makes me dance, music which makes me laugh, music that touches my soul, and music makes me cry. Some of the greatest moments in my life were moments when I was connected to music as it allowed me to sense the purpose of its composer. I would think, “I can feel the composer’s heart breaking, or sense the joy in their lyrics or melody.” A good composer can draw the hearer into the music, allowing the hearer to sense, feel, and participate in the world that the composer was attempting to portray. It is extremely important to know who we are. If we know our own story, then it becomes easier to tell a story. Stories captivate our hearts and a good story teller can paint the most intricate picture of life, creating for the listener the hope that in our world we are not alone. Loneliness is broken through coming to the knowledge that we are indeed, not alone. We are people who were created for each other and when the connection with each other is made, the power of thinking our story is insignificant is dismantled. I have listened to another tell their story and been overwhelmed with joy that I am not alone. We need to tell stories, because in telling a story, I have moved toward truth telling, because I can also begin to understand that in the social web of relationships, my story is not the final word. As I tell my story, it can become painfully obvious that much of what I am saying is the attempt to justify myself. When we begin to open our mouths to each other, we can begin to see “I” mention “I” a lot. The “I” is important, but as Martin Buber has stated in I and Thou, we can only discover our humanity in relationship with each other and in relationship to God, the Eternal Thou.
I am a feeling based person. My feelings have always been a central and integral part of my life. The times when I have been the most disconnected from life and other people were times when I was disconnected from the natural way that I see life, which is mainly through my feelings. As I was maturing, I can remember being deeply affected not only by my own feelings, but the feelings of other people. I remember feeling deep empathy for people who were being ridiculed or laughed at when I was in school. This sensitivity was being implicitly and sometimes explicitly pushed aside in favor of the greater attributes that our society uplifts, such as characteristics of “strength”. Being sensitive does not win awards, make money, or progress along with the cultural fad of the hour. But in a society which prides itself on its ingenuity, being shallow is almost expected of people. Through story telling, our worlds grow deeper and more intricate. We are allowed to see the roots which give life to the trees, and to develop a greater appreciation for the trees which contribute to life for us all.
As Thanksgiving approaches, we could benefit from attempting to know our story, not only as individual people, but as Americans. The beauty of stories is that “good and evil” seem to intersect its very path. Scripture is wrought with stories of people whom society deemed as castaways, but whom God saw as invaluable to the purposes of redemption. Christianity has always been known as a confessional faith, because we confess the known and unknown evil in our stories, past and present. As theologian Paul Tillich has stated, “The first duty of love is to listen.” Listening though means the laying aside of the ability to attempt to control outcomes and sometimes suffering the anxiety that listening can cause.
As people of the story, the first commandment was always, “Listen; שְׁמַע…”