December 31–The Sacred: Growing in the Silence

The night I first heard Cage’s 4’33” live is memorable for what I heard during the silence.  (If you desire to ‘hear’ the piece https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JTEFKFiXSx4 )

I am the convener and leader for a music night.  One night, one of the musicians asked if he could play a piece he was working on.  He goes to the piano, arranges his music, then sits, and sits, and sits.

So there I am leader of this group and in my personhood a caregiver type.  I start by waiting, waiting, waiting. Then I start to worry about our musician.  Is he nervous? Does he need help? Should I do something?  What should I do?  Will I make it worse if I go up?  What would I do that wouldn’t make it worse?  Then I start to say, he’s got it under control.  He’s okay. But, isn’t it my responsibility as the leader to make sure he is okay?  His dad is one of the musicians, he would take care of him.  Then I started thinking, wait a minute, is this that piece that is about silence?  So I heard a little bit of the sounds in the room, the fan, my breathing, my heartbeat.  Then, back to worrying.  Back in my head with the discussion of should I or shouldn’t I DO something.  When the performance was over, we got the clarification we needed.  This was indeed Cage’s piece featuring silence.  So what I heard is self-talk that reminded that self-work is never done.

Toxic worry is big piece of self-work for me.    I learned through therapy – I need to find out what I am worrying about:

Is it my need to do things perfectly, and I am worried about doing it wrong?  Then, it is time to say: I am human, I will do the best I can. If it is not perfect, I will forgive myself and move on.

Is it my need to belong and I am worried that people won’t like me?  Then, it is time to say: if it is important to me, do it; I cannot control what someone else thinks about me.

Is it my need to take care of someone else’s troubles? Then, it is time to say: is there an action I can and am willing to take?  Sometimes it’s prayer, sometimes it’s well wishes and sometimes it’s caregiving. But do it, or leave it be, I am not responsible for the world.

So what I heard during my first live performance of Cage’s 4’33” is the voices in my head. It reminded me about my work related to toxic worry.  I wonder what I will hear in the silence the next time – how will I grow?

Barbara Stahnke

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