Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Conductors and Monks

I've spent much of my life playing violin in orchestras, and every piece starts the same way, with silence. There is a moment before the music begins when the orchestra (and the audience hopefully) are totally still, quiet and attentive. Everyone is focused on the conductor, waiting for that gesture that signals tempo, volume and mood. Waiting for the beat that signifies that it is time to play.

If the pause before the music does not take place then the music is diminished before it begins. If the musicians do not watch the conductor then the beginning is ragged and the music suffers.

As the piece continues the players are constantly listening to themselves to make sure they are on pitch, watching the conductor to make sure they are on tempo, and listening to each other to make sure they blend and are at the correct volume.

Stop. Look. Listen. Play.

Without those elements the work suffers. Great symphonies and simple ditties all require Stop. Look. Listen. Play.

In the Liturgy of the Hours the work for the day is prayed for and distributed at Prime. This act of prayer means that all work is entered into mindfully, no rushing into the task. First look at the tasks that need to be accomplished. Listen to them and listen to your own interior moods about them. When work is approached this way with attentiveness, then it becomes our servant rather than our master.  Every action we make, every task we accomplish can become a prayer.

Stop. Look. Listen. Pray.

There's a rush in the kitchen, there's monks in the hall 
It's past time for dinner, they're silent monks all 
The cook is a good man with ladle and plate 
He will not be rushed in the steam and the heat 

Though a simple man, he just seemed to know 
As it is above, so it is below 

He hums to himself all the hymns he has known 
While he pulls up the leeks, they're so carefully grown 
He doesn't like chapel bent down on his knees 
Just wasting his time with these words and decrees.

 Though a simple man, he just seemed to know 
As it is above, so it is below 

He does all his work in the presence of the Lord 
He is praying while salting the monks' holy food 
He fights the good fight with utensils as a sword 
He is peeling potatoes to the glory of God 

Though a simple man, he just seemed to know 
As it is above, so it is below

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