Earlier I posted a link to a song that I intend to learn, and since have sung with my friend Doug over Skype. It is a song by Old Crow Medicine Show called "I hear them all." I knew this song before I left for Colombia, but only here did I feel touched by the song in a way that I cannot express. It felt like a new song.
It is difficult for me to describe how I have shifted in my experience and intuition regarding sensory experiences. I am completely aware that it sounds strange, but I feel a deep and profound change in how I see the world, how I hear things differently, taste things differently, etc. Sometimes, I feel this shift when I am more emotionally vulnerable, perhaps depressed. Sometimes, it comes when I am just overwhelmed with the world, pain, suffering, death. Sometimes I feel it when I am most grounded spiritually, or feel closest to God.
Anyway, this was significant to me this Holiday season as I heard traditional Christmas carols, and heard them differently. In the context of war, of a culture that has been repeatedly and communally traumatized, these songs sound different. When we are surrounded by stories of massacre, murder, fear, the words shift, the notes do too. They ring true in ways far beyond what I could have expected, and I sing them with more reference and longing than I ever have in the past.
"Comfort, comfort, O my people, speak of peace, now says our God. Comfort those who sit in darkness, mourning 'neath their sorrows' load...Hark, the voice of one who's crying in the dessert far and near."
"Joyful is the dark holy hidden God, rolling cloud of night beyond all naming, energy of love, word-in-flesh proclaiming. Shadowed stable floor, angels flicker as with exultation Mary hails the infant cry of need and blessing. Joyful is the dark depth of love divine, holy haunting beauty. "
"Ever o'er its Babel sounds the blessed angels sing... and warring humankind hears not the tidings which they bring - O hush the noise and cease the strife and hear the angels sing! Rest beside the weary road, and hear the angels sing."
"No more let sins and sorrows grow, nor thorns infest the ground - he comes to make his blessings flow far as the curse is found. He rules the world with truth and grace, and makes the nations prove the wonders of his love."
"O come desire of nations, bind all peoples in one heart and mind. Bid envy, strife, and quarrels cease, Fill the whole world with heaven's peace."
"Come, long-expected Jesus, born to set your people free - from our fears and sins release us, let us find our rest in thee."
"In the bleak midwinter frosty wind made moan, earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone. Heaven cannot hold Him, nor earth sustain; in the bleak midwinter a stable place sufficed. What can I give him? give to him my heart."
(Thank you, Deb Bergen for bringing many of these songs to my attention via Facebook Status Updates). Lyrics are from the Mennonite Hymnal.