Sunday, September 13, 2020

How We Sing

One of the more interesting Facebook posts I’ve seen recently is about the Stockholm Syndrome, a bizarre psychological state where the captive held hostage develops a pathological affection for the captor. The post was comparing Trump voters to this situation and it is certainly worthy food for thought. 


But there is a larger mythological, spiritual dimension to the notion of being held captive, to being imprisoned not solely by others, but by ourselves and our own notions about who we are and who we could have become had we not been so afraid and refused the inevitable heartbreak—and joy— of accepting the soul’s invitation. I attended a poetry seminar today in which the poet talked about people in whose presence you become more fully alive. And speaking to someone who awakens me in that way, I came up with this sentence:


“In your presence, others come alive because they sense that you are an invitation that has answered itself.”


And then consistent with the world’s serendipity and co-participation when you are brave enough to face such things, I found this poem. Also fits with the singing theme of the last two, not only suggesting that we sing, but also how we sing, whether to others trying to mute our voice or our own voice that we refuse, with our “form straight up.”


Take your time with each line and think: How are you held captive? Who —and what part of yourself—do you hold captive? What kind of courage do you need to face the imprisonment of mortality? Where do you find it? How will you sing?


What Are Years?


What is our innocence,

What is our guilt? All are

naked, none is safe. And whence

is courage; the unanswered question, 

the resolute doubt,—

dumbly calling, deafly listening—that

in misfortune, even death,

encourages others

and in its defeat, stirs


the soul to be strong? He

sees deep and is glad, who

accedes to mortality

and in his imprisonment rises

upon himself as 

the sea in a chasm, struggling to be

free and unable to be,

in its surrendering

find its continuing. 


See he who strongly feels,

Behaves. The very bird,

grown taller as he sings, steels

his form straight up. Though he is captive,

his mighty singing

says, satisfaction is a lowly

thing, how pure a thing is joy.

This is mortality,

This is eternity.


     -Marianne Moore


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