We had a musical meditation Sunday morning by a sister-brother acoustic threesome. The music was quite nice and was a bit of a landmark experience for me because I could hear decently, though not all the lyrics, and I heard the high notes as not in tune or not audible. The surgery I had two years ago to remove an acoustic neuroma and that resulted in significant loss of hearing left me with quite a lot of phantom noise in the operated ear that causes audio distortion, a roaring that was at first quite unpleasant and exhausting. The first time I heard congregational singing and our very excellent pianist play, I was appalled. Hearing the trio this Sunday was a marker of sorts of how far I had come. My hearing has not changed; rather, my brain has been busily working to make sense of what I hear and to filter what is not useful, and getting better and better at it with no intentional help from me other than to keep exposing it to sounds that I can’t understand. And it has learned how to help me hear precisely through exposure to what is unpleasant and confusing. My tendency at first was to back away from external sounds, away from communication; but through the din and uncertainty a thread of meaning has slowly emerged.
My life flows on in endless song above earths lamentation. I catch that sweet though far off hymn.
The response song Sunday to the musical meditation overwhelmed me. It is such a familiar song, and yet I apparently had not sung nor listened to the words in two years:
Through all the tumult and the strife I hear that music ringing. It finds an echo in my soul.
The underlying noise could not obscure the music I heard that Sunday. The good work of my brain met my memory of song, and of music generally, and restored a semblance of what I used to hear.
No storm can shake my inmost calm while to that Rock I’m clinging.
There was another side to this significant loss: at my lowest point, immediately after surgery (and I suppose mediated by the drugs involved), I was graced with a palpable and profound awareness of a loving presence with me in my drugged misery. It was not a presence that lifted me out and away from that misery, but which occupied the same space; the set of misery (to use a math metaphor) completely enclosed by the set of Love.
What though my joys and comforts die? What though the darkness gather ‘round?
In the following two years, as an almost mystical experience of love has given way to the realities of life which must also be lived on a mundane level, I am learning what I can do to inhabit that other consciousness, even as I recall it was/is a gift: the veil of normalcy is parted briefly at times, but it also necessarily closes. Our part is to be alert, to watch for it.
The peace of Christ makes fresh my heart, a fountain ever springing.
Take joy where you find it, as Mary Oliver advises in one of her prose poems. Yield fully to beauty and to love when they come to turn your carefully guarded soul inside out for a time. And in between times, when you come down from the heights of experience and feeling to live your love in more mundane or difficult ways, remember well what has been, and hope to welcome it again at the appointed time in new guise.
Since Love is Lord of heaven and earth, how can I keep from singing?