Last year my word was VOICE. It inspired me to speak truths, to have courage to cross lines I might have otherwise stayed behind. I sang in a choir and learned more about music. I got older. I asked for help when my mother fell and broke her hip and I did not know how best to advocate for her. I spoke my truths even when it meant that I had to leave a group of women whom I had grown very close to, and whose support had encouraged me to own my voice. Ironic.
It’s also ironic that the word VOICE predates this year’s word, LISTEN. Oh, now I get it: I’m supposed to listen before I say something!
So this word choice is in response to some lessons I learned with last year’s word. But I was also inspired to choose this word by a powerful song my choir sang last month for our winter concert. Composer Gwyneth Walker adapted the words from a 19th century poem by John Greenleaf Whittier called “Oh Brother Man.” Her song is called “The Tree of Peace.”
Oh my sister and my brother, all who walk upon this earth, fold to your hearts each other. Where mercy dwells, the peace of the Lord is there. To live rightly is to love one another, each kindness a gift, each deed a prayer. Oh my sister and my brother, fold to your hearts each other.
Listen, listen to one another. Listen, listen to one another.
Walk with reverence in the steps of those who have gone before, where forgiveness and wisdom have stood. So shall the wild world become a temple, each loving life a psalm of gratitude.
Listen, listen to one another. Listen, listen to one another. Listen. Listen. Listen. Listen.
Then shall all shackles fall. The violence of war over the earth shall cease. Love shall tread out the fire of anger, and in its ashes plant a tree of peace.
There’s a lot of repetition in the song, and a crashing frenzy in the music with “listen to one another” over and over and over. The music turns this song of peace into a cry of desperation, but it resolves at the end, leaving me with hope. The promise of hope. I melt with each poignant return to “Oh, my sisters and brothers: fold to your hearts each other.”
Isn’t that a beautiful image? Fold to your hearts each other.
My heart aches. There is so much ranting these days, so much delight in building up the energy of anger in our world. I need a balm to that energy. I want to sing a chord that resonates across all of creation and calms us. I want to listen to the resulting vibe. Hear it. Breathe it in. Become it.
Can we listen in love? Can I?
Anyway, that’s my inspired goal for 2020. You can hold me to it.