Why we Sing

I rejected my faith once. It happened in the middle of a two-week Christian camp. While surrounded by others who exploded in their devotion to this Christian God, I stood as a doubter, seemingly alone in my heresy.

I don’t know if I’d ever felt that kind of loneliness before. Not even the calculated callousness of high school had managed to wake in me the chasm that I then felt between me and my fellow man. Nothing bites quite so hard as others’ fulfilment scratching at the glass of your emptiness.

You see, I had discovered that I had never before really taken a long hard look at my faith. Oh, I’d given it a cursory glance now and then, but never stared unflinchingly at its make-up, open to whatever I might find. What I discovered was that I did not have any first principles for my belief in the God of the Bible. I saw the coherence of the Christian Ethical framework; I could wholeheartedly agree with its picture of Humanity; I could see the life Jesus advocated and agree that, yes, this is the best way to be human.

But I could not tell you it’s true. I had embarked on a Cartesian voyage of doubt to try and find the origins of my faith and I had discovered that I could not muster up a single argument that I couldn’t take both sides on. I was at once a Christian and an Atheist.

I think that the discovery of apologetics saved me. I realised that there were men who’d fought the same fights as I had. They had spent their lives pondering the great mysteries and could give some kind of philosophical rigour to what had hitherto been an emotionally based intellectual pursuit. I could shake of this inconstant faith and step onto a more solid base.

With my discovery of philosophy and apologetics came my distrust and rejection of all things emotional. I had always tried to be as rational as possible, and had now found a methodology by which it could be done. I had discovered the enlightenment.

I distrusted church services. They seemed geared towards the manipulation of emotions. People sang, not because they loved God or believed what they sang, but because the band was awesome. The group instinct drove them to greater passion, together singing four lines over and over again. The mantra of the frenzied.

It seems that you create ghosts to replace the demons that you banish. With the advent of rationality I had lost my wonder. The analytical impulse is not helped by emotion, which causes trees to become fountains of green against the blue of a summer sky rather than collections of leaves and wood. Music became an instrument of manipulation. As a songwriter myself, I knew it intimately. Music is hardwired into your reptile brain.

The rediscovery of wonder came from many avenues, but mostly it came in a little package that would later become my wife. Jana once again opened my eyes to see that there is more than can be quantified. There is life to be discovered and revelled in.

I realised why we sing. We sing because we are forgetful. In the wandering pathways of our brains, we lose the colour of what we once knew in in our hearts and our minds. Knowledge that once stirred in our chests becomes dull, featureless fact.

So we sing. There is something in art that brings you back to what you know in your core. It chimes in a way that resonates in your spine while whispering to your mind. We sing, not because it stirs in us a memory of what we used to feel, but because it makes us feel those emotions all over again. We can again know the wonder of Grace and Love as if confronted for the first time. We can dance to what we affirm in our most sober of states.

I still believe in rationality. Religion is too important to be left to something as fickle as your feelings. People should never stop thinking about what they believe and why they believe it. Manipulation and delusion so easily dog the steps of the faithful.

But we should also not stop feeling. In the whirling dance of our hearts and minds we can find the calm centre where we come together as truly human and almost divine.

And then we truly sing.


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