The Present of Past

The funny thing about reminiscing is that we no longer feel the physical sensations we felt when whatever we’re remembering actually happened.  For instance, when my father, in the heat of an argument with his volatile daughter, labeled me something one should only reserve for a female dog, I can tell you that I remember my toes, my fingers, my throat and everything in between suddenly went numb and then throbbed with pain, but because I cannot seem to muster up the same feeling now even though I’m trying to think about it, all I can do is re-analyze the moment, and without that pain, I confess I only recall now that the title was earned, and my current “feeling” is sorrow over my part in that episode.

The majority of the memories I have of my father are tinged with sadness, but none of the actual pain – whether emotional or physical – remains to haunt me.  And so as I think back on him in the present, I still here on this earth and he passed on to that “next” realm, even the sad memories soften and most turn to a sort of “fond” nostalgia, as they should.

I don’t want to actually “go back there,” and yet I find that it’s comforting to take a little time now and again to revisit this “new” past in my imagination, perhaps learning from it still.  Perhaps continuing to know myself better for doing so.

I was not allowed to sing Schubert’s beautiful song cycle, “Frauenliebe Und Leben” (Woman’s Life And Love) in my early college years at IU Jacobs  School of Music.  The Song Literature professor was adamant that an undergraduate such as myself simply had not yet lived through enough to invoke the necessary emotions for such pieces.

Perhaps he was right, (I did sing them in spite of his protests my senior year, with my teacher’s permission) but I can say with certainty that my emotions were far more raw and extreme in those “dating” days than they are now!  Life in the yoke of Christ has tempered me–calmed me down– considerably.   I would love to sing those songs again in concert now at 56, but the question is, would I be able to actually muster up the necessary thrill of being in love for the first time, or having a ring placed on my finger, or the wonder of my new baby?  When is it “time” to express one’s emotions and be the most “real”?  In the heat of the moment?  Or when one has had the opportunity to see an event from the eyes of all involved?

Ok, so I need to bring my best acting chops into it if I want to sing this cycle at my age!  I agree.  But I can certainly bring a perspective to the woman of this work that even she herself could not, in that moment, possess.  Perhaps that counts for something.  At any rate, the songs don’t exist until someone opens her mouth and allows them to breathe again.  Music, ah music!  Written to express a present reality felt deeply by the composer in the moment, brought to life again and again by those who wish to keep it alive.  NO ONE could bring to these pieces exactly what that woman felt whom the poet channeled.  So what?  Better remembered than not, and perhaps all the sweeter for the distance, richer for the lessons learned along the way.


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