by Father Mark Goldasich
A couple of weeks ago while surfing the KCTv5 Web site, these two words leapt off the screen at me.
Believe it or not, in one of our Kansas City suburbs, a young man was charged with aggravated assault and disorderly conduct after he attacked another guy with a knife and a frying pan. The victim warded off the attack with a banjo. (You just can’t make this kind of stuff up.) It probably wouldn’t surprise you much to know that the two were drinking at the time of the incident. By the way, they got into this argument over a band.
I think it’s safe to say that these two gentlemen will probably not be invited to celebrate International Music Day on Oct. 1. The day, begun by American violinist and conductor Yehudi Menuhin in 1975, seeks to promote the arts in “all sections of society” and to advance the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) “ideals of peace and friendship between peoples.”
As we enter October, set aside as Respect Life Month by the church, perhaps it’s appropriate that International Music Day starts us off. If you think about it, music is a universal language. A quarter note is a quarter note in both Quebec and Qatar; a coda is a coda in Moscow and Minneapolis. It’s also a great unifier: If you can read music, then you can come together with others around the world and produce beautiful, harmonious sounds — despite the fact that individually the violinist speaks French; the flutist, Flemish; the cellist, Filipino; and the trumpeter, Farsi.
The key to promoting a harmonious life begins with respect — for god, for our fellow human beings, for the creatures that roam the earth, and for nature. Sadly, the world today is a very discordant place. People seem more determined than ever to notice, not what unites us, but what divides us. We tend to zero in on the worst, rather than the best, in others. When respect diminishes, it becomes much easier to consider others “less than” us — less deserving of our time, our treasures, our compassion, our attention.
Music can prove a great antidote for this attitude, if we give it a chance to transform us.
Unfortunately, because music is so readily available today, it becomes little more than background noise for us. If, though, we take the time to sit down, close our eyes and really open our ears, the melodies we hear will only calm us, but actually motivate us to bring harmony into our daily lives.
As we begin yet another Respect Life Month, maybe we can keep this little Chinese tale in the back of our minds:
There was once a man of great wealth who demanded that he be given a place in a court orchestra because he wanted to perform before the prince and thereby increase his influence. The only problem was the man didn’t know how to play a musical instrument.
The conductor reluctantly agreed to let the man sit in the back row of the orchestra. He was handed a flute. Whenever the other flutists raised their instruments, he’d raise his, pucker his lips and move his fingers. He would go through the motions of playing, but never make a sound. This deception continued for years.
One day, though, a new conductor took over. He told the orchestra that he wanted to audition each player individually. One by one, they performed in his presence. Then came the fake flutist’s turn. He was frantic with worry and pretended to be sick. The conductor was having none of it and insisted that the man appear and demonstrate his skill. With great shame, the man had to confess that he was a fraud. He was, in short, unable to face the music. (Adapted from Brian Cavanaugh’s “Sower’s Seeds of Encouragement: Fifth Planting.”)
Although it’s doubtful that the expression “face the music” originated as described in the story above, its meaning is still clear: There will come a day when we will have to accept the consequences of our actions.
Respect Life Month can be a time for all of us to “face the music.” Many times, particularly in the area of respect, we’re like that fake flutist. We go through the motions, but never really contribute anything. We’re great talkers — to God, to others, and even to ourselves — but sometimes not so great “doers.”
My recommendation for this month is to make music a big part of your life. As you listen to bands or orchestras or singers, let the music penetrate your heart and soul and move you to bring harmony into your dealings with others. Respect is the most powerful opening note.
One day we will have to face the music before the great Conductor. When that time comes, will we be glad that we spent time practicing our faith . . . or sad that we wasted time just faking it?