As we near the end of yet another week in isolation, and begin a new month, I can’t help think about what this whole situation means. How will it be remembered? Is it more than an inconvenience unlike anything we’ve ever experienced? What does it tell us about who we are and what we value? Time will tell, I suppose, and I hope we learn the lessons that something of this scale can offer. But a part of me wonders.
It is no secret that there are some beautiful songs from Wales. Often called a land of song, there is a culture of choral and folk singing there that encompasses everything from church services to sporting events. They are a people that love to sing. This particular tune, Calon lân, is very familiar, although it doesn’t really have an English version. It is played and sung in all sorts of places – church services, on tv shows, in movies and, most famously, by the crowd before rugby matches! It isn’t exactly the kind of song one would expect to get a crowd going at a sporting event, but imagine what it would be to hear thousands of voices raised in song as they supported their team. There’s something very powerful in that act of joint encouragement. Particularly when you consider the words.
I don’t ask for a luxurious life,
the world’s gold or its fine pearls,
I ask for a happy heart,
an honest heart, a pure heart.
A pure heart full of goodness
Is fairer than the pretty lily,
None but a pure heart can sing,
Sing in the day and sing in the night.
If I wished for worldly wealth,
It would swiftly go to seed;
The riches of a virtuous, pure heart
Will bear eternal profit.
Evening and morning, my wish
Rising to heaven on the wing of song
For God, for the sake of my Saviour,
To give me a pure heart.
I appreciate that sports fans, or anyone really, may not be entirely focused on the meaning of the words they sing. I understand that music can mean different things to different people, at different times, for different reasons. But these words have a great deal to offer us in our current situation. In a way, we are cheering for our teams as we sit at home and wait. We are encouraging our researchers, our healthcare workers, the vulnerable. We are supporting them in hopes they will succeed and be safe. By the very act of staying home. Of relinquishing our day to day routines for the greater good.
We are not doing this for our own benefit. Some seem to think they are, but that’s not the case. We are doing this for others. We are doing this to protect our world, our neighbours, our grandparents, our children. This is a pure pursuit. Its results are eternal, not short term. And this seems to be a hard lesson to learn and to comprehend. What we’re doing is not for today, it’s for tomorrow. It’s for the ability to live in health and safety – six, twelve, eighteen, or more, months from now. It’s so we can return to our collective song with the full knowledge that the act of joining our voices will be filled with joy, not anxiety or fear of spreading pain and suffering.
So, for now, we sing alone. We sing with a purity of sound that is fairer than the prettiest lily. We sing in the day, we sing in the night. We wait for that moment when we will sing together again, and treasure these memories of a time when our lone voices joined to carry the entire world. There is a deep happiness to be found in our frustration, pain, anxiety and boredom. It is the sound of healing. It is slow, but it is beautiful. A happy heart is a complicated thing, but it is worth seeking with purity of intentions, with goodness and commitment.
Rise to the heavens with your song. And I will with mine. Together we are beautiful. Together we can remember. Together we are a choir of unexpected power.