I love this time of year and the music that accompanies it. I especially like choral performances where we get to hear ancient music sounding perhaps exactly as it did when it was first experienced. Although not catholic myself, I can usually tag along with a catholic friend or two, to indulge in some history and ritual through the tradition of Christmas mass. If nothing else, religion has done a great job of preserving art, even if it has sadly failed at teaching us forgiveness and compassion.
The most primal part of my being will nearly always be brought to tears at the sound of a choir in an ambient cathedral. I close my eyes and imagine the energy of the performance emanating out in all directions, making one and all stop, cleansed in the beauty of the moment. Prayer through music.
One of my favourite ancient pieces we still enjoy today – O come O come Emmanuel, has been with us since the 12th century. It talks of an end to division:
Oh, come, Desire of nations, bind
In one the hearts of all mankind;
Oh, bid our sad divisions cease,
And be yourself our King of Peace.
We have not come too far in our desires or thinking in the last several hundred years.
In keeping religious tradition alive, we need to also explore the limited thinking it imposes on us. We will end the perceived problem of our differences when we start seeing these as what is particularly special and unique about each other. Our differences do not end, nor should they. Let us be students of history and cherish it for what it teaches us. Let’s cherish the art and the stories of our historical pasts, whilst letting go of this hard grip on them, when this is quite apparently getting very old.
As we move into the year 2012 my wish is for humanity to take stock in what we’ve achieved, to learn from past mistakes, and to rejoice at what we can become when we honour our differences alongside our great ability to work as a team.