Gifted a ticket to hear Brahms’ Human Requiem I was moved by the generosity of those who bestowed this gift on me … and then there was the gift of the evening itself. It was and will be a gift that will keep on giving. The program notes tell me that “Brahms, a humanist and agnostic from the humblest of backgrounds, wanted this work to speak to everyone.” The inclusive nature of the performance had me entranced. We arrived with the performers in and around us, no distinction to differentiate them from us – a common humanity. We were silently invited in the simplest of ways, no words, to gather in a central location, make a paper cup, with each station adding a new step, and the going into the centre to drink minted water, which was deeply appreciated in the muggy night air. And for our home made cups we all drank – a communion of sorts – our common heritage of the global common gift of water – linking our bodies together in this simple act – we are all water – we all drink from the one fountain – we all then leave and go to our places to walk, listen, sit, stand, touch, mingle. We are one. Fitting ourselves around each other, being held in the spaces and sounds created when we all are in the same frame – this is what embedded inclusion looks and feels like.
The unifying moments we have when the auditorium sings a chorus together at a rock concert truly leave no-one behind and the residue of the experience can carry us into the possible in other domains which is what I need right now. Setting my self-compassion compass to north, I am discovering how much other people are contributing to my well-being and how I don’t have to do it all alone! This week I have received many gifts, invisible and visible, and been in gracious company for meals, music, theatre and activism. I have been held by sounds – the sounds of women cheering, the sounds of silence in the pauses between words of comfort, the sounds of the bells telling the time and calling us to prayer in the city cathedral, the sounds of the children skipping, dancing, doing cartwheels as if no one is watching, the sounds of choked voices sadly eeking out a phrase of distress and seeking my support, the sounds of democracy unfolding with all the familiarity of aging pollsters and aspiring politicians. Each sound carrying an invitation to belong to something bigger than myself, holding out a hand to me saying come listen, come rest and be held.
Surrounding yourself with sounds of love and grace are surely acts of self compassion however they might be delivered and Brahms knew what he was doing when he wrote his Requiem and the Rundfunkchor of Berlin took it to new plane. The sound infusing our souls with every breath in and every breath out. At the cellular level we were transformed, as we became one with no bodily fluids being exchanged. Choristers looked into our eyes with such empathy as they moved among their audience. Eye contact surely one of the most intimate acts we humans can participate in. Hearing a voice true and whole moving behind us, alongside of us and then fully expressed joining with another 59 voices (and the piano played by two people with a four handed score) brings the aural intimacy to fully consummate the experience of surround sound. I belong to an acapella gospel choir and it is wonderful when we can’t hear a single voice, just one sound, that is the perfect descriptor for me of unity.
We are all pilgrims moving through space and time, the great human endeavour to know we are finite and blessed to be a community of sojourners. It is together we travel best, in company and beauty and joy, to be held when we need to be held, to be in the spaces and silences when it is time for those moments. The invitation from others to join their journey, to be part of their story line is an invitation for them as much as for you, there is a mutuality in the gift offered and accepted.
The Requiem opens with a blessing for those that mourn to be comforted, this is a time for the living and I am comforted by the blessings of dear friends, surrounding me with sounds of love, delivering me grace.