The Common Good

Waiting for the Music

I am waiting for the music to return — the sonorous graces of laughter and kitchen clinking, of bird call on the hillside. 

Cienpies Design/
Cienpies Design/

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I am waiting for the music to return — the precarious arrangement of hope and memory that uplifts and guides. 

I am waiting for the music to return — the band, the orchestra, the seisiún, the jam, the people who make and craft sound.

Instead, I am stranded in an eschatological posture like pause on my mp3 player. The Wifi Spirit does not respond and even if I could connect, the playlist I have randomized is sore lacking. I miss the people who make these sounds. I miss their voices. 

Have you ever sat in a small room as somebody made beautiful music? Maybe for you it's the singer-songwriter. Or maybe it's the saxophonist. Perhaps it's the kora. I'm not so certain it matters what, but more where and who. Have you ever been in a place where the music surrounds you and the musician stands close? Have you ever been graced with that attention?

I've been the recipient of such a gift. I've also tried again and again to offer it. I've stood in bar, sanctuary, nave, and concert hall. I've sounded my barbaric yawp until I was hoarse. I have strummed and plucked until I bled. I have listened for the sudden, astonished intake of breath and the breathless beer-spilling songster alike. 

The attention that comes from being lost in the space, the time, the sound, in one another, grounds me like none other. I feel each breath. I lean into each sound. I hear the room, the hall, the cathedral, the space between us, and I hear all of us as we join one another in a symbol. I feel my own voice or the resonating instrument strapped to my chest. I listen for all of these. I breathe with all of these. 

Bodies sound. 

We craft a symbol in which we may all dwell a while, not transported, but graciously made aware of who we are and to whom we belong. "It is in the shelter of each other that the people live," so the old Irish proverb goes. "Ubuntu!" exclaims the bishop from South Africa. "We are one body in the One Lord," the editors of hymnal remember for us. 

"Ever-present" is the Lord God, the Almighty. Right here. With us. You. Me. He. She. We. Them. 

Not "out there" or "far away" in some other place above and beyond this one, but so "further up and further in" as to feel elsewhere when all the while we are being awoken to what is always and ever right here, right now. 

Right here, right now. Jesus Jones was right ... on Earth as in Heaven. 

We are building a sonic theology. Those who have ears, listen. 

Tripp Hudgins is a doctoral student in liturgical studies at the Graduate Theological Unionin Berkeley, Calif., and is Director of Admissions at American Baptist Seminary of The West. You can read more of his writings on his longtime blog, "Conjectural Navel Gazing; Jesus in Lint Form" at AngloBaptist.orgFollow Tripp on Twitter @AngloBaptist.

Photo: Cienpies Design/

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