Applying our Hearts Unto Wisdom

Teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.”
Moses, maybe

When last I blogged, I decided to work on my howl. Howling to find my pack.

Perhaps because of that, a friend who Tom and I last saw years ago (as in over 40), came to dinner. He was in town for a high school reunion. Kelly was a part of the group called Auxiliary Players – a group comprising audacious high school and home-for-the-summer college students – that produced plays and performances during the summer.

Our friend Jim joined us. Tom has known Jim since they were both in the seventh grade. I’ve known him as long probably; his mom was my mom’s best friend. They played bridge together for more than 40 years. Marge sorely misses my mom. They were the only liberals in their bridge group.

The conversation turned to memories of high school and what they have done since. There were no stories of missed field goals, favorite cars, or even girls that got away. Instead they talked about music – and how their experience in high school nourished them as musicians.

At one point, Tom put on the CD recording of Psalm 90, a psalm that he set to music when he was nineteen. The recording was of the 1969 a cappella choir’s performance – a high school a cappella choir.

Tom set Psalm 90 to music after hearing it recited over the graves of four students – eighteen-year old boys – who had been killed in a dorm fire set by a disturbed resident. For Tom, I think the most important verse is the one that reads “ . . . establish thou the work of our hands upon us; yea, the work of our hands establish thou it.”

Let our lives matter.

His mentor, the high school music teacher, asked the choir in September if they were up to the choral piece – a fairly complex piece of music (anyone who knows Tom’s music knows of what I speak). Kelly told us that he thought if Tom wrote it, it would be okay. The choir worked on it through the year and performed it for their Spring concert.

As we listened to the recording, Tom heard the voice of a friend of his who died fifteen years ago of brain cancer. Kelly reminded him that the friend he had visited a day earlier was in the choir as well – a friend who is desperately ill with cancer and is not likely to live much longer. He asked for a copy of it so he could share it with his friend on his next visit, scheduled in two days.

The next time we saw Kelly, he had just returned from visiting his friend. Midway through the recording, Kelly said, his friend broke down in tears.

And I understood that this was my tribe.

People who transform and are transformed. These are not tiny-hearted men. They are men with enormous hearts. Men who had the courage as adolescents to follow the call of their creative souls and now, with the fragility of life staring them in the face, speak with a wisdom of the heart that had its seed in adolescence.

For me, the verse that resonates is the one I quoted at the beginning of this blog, “ . . . teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.”

For me, that means being willing to experience life through a mortal body. To be willing to own what being alive means to me, and not shrink from either the joy or sorrow that might bring.

To honor my spirit.

To howl.

Note: The verses that precede my favorite one talk a lot about god’s wrath. I’m not big on that. But given who wrote these verses (Moses, maybe, then translated into English during the time of Shakespeare, by people who think monothesitcally) I think that the point is if you really want to piss off god, waste your life by not living it.

And on another note: I’ll see if I can post the recording of Psalm 90. Stay tuned.

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