“Song is not Truth, not Wisdom, but the rose upon Truth’s lips, the light in Wisdom’s eyes” (Sir William Watson).
HAVING A SONG IN OUR HEARTS, IF NOT ON OUR LIPS, MAY NOT BE THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IN LIFE, BUT IT’S MORE IMPORTANT THAN A LOT OF THE STUFF WE SEEM TO VALUE. Music is not an inherent good; it derives its value from the principles of those who compose it and those who enjoy it. But even though it is not, by itself, truth or wisdom, it is, as Watson suggests, “the rose upon Truth’s lips” and “the light in Wisdom’s eyes.”
Some of us are more musically inclined than others, to be sure. And just as surely, not all of us have beautiful voices. But I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that there is some value in choosing to sing once in a while, even if it doesn’t seem to come naturally. It’s healthy to sing. It’s good for us. When we do it, however unmusical the result may be, the act of singing nudges us in a number of good directions.
Our lives don’t have to be problem-free before we can enjoy the singing of a song. An old Chinese proverb reminds us that “a bird does not sing because it has an answer; it sings because it has a song.” There isn’t a day in any of our lives when there aren’t some worthy things to sing about. Whatever may be wrong with the world, it’s still true that the good outweighs the bad. And in fact, a determination to sing can be the noble taking of a stand against all that is wrong.
I believe it’s important for us to sing while we can. Whether we recognize it right now or not, there is some wonderful “music” in all of us. “Alas for those who never sing, but die with all their music in them” (Oliver Wendell Holmes). There may be some songs we’ll need to sing tomorrow, but we dare not let today’s songs go unsung.
If there is a conspicuous lack of singing in our lives (either our own or the singing of others that we enjoy humming along with), it would probably pay us to stop and wonder why. Think about hell, for a moment. An environment where there was no music at all would be an evil environment indeed, and to the extent that we never sing, we may be headed in the wrong direction with our lives. If our songs have been silenced, it may be that our characters have been crushed.
“The devil doesn’t know how to sing” (Francis Thompson).