I'm driving down the highway as some music blasts from the car stereo. It envelops the moment, suffusing each thought and gesture with self-evident meaning. The thought strikes me: do I rely on music to believe, fully, in a moment? to let it signify something real? Has the formative experience, perhaps, of the film score—accompanying some choreographed emotional arc—left me dependent on the swell of an orchestra or DJ to invest a feeling with wholeness? Certainly the spectacle has captured our recognition of the real in other ways. “It was like a movie,” people reflect about their most vivid impressions of the world. If a sunset manages to be “picturesque” and a humorous blunder “cartoonish”, do my felt intensities aspire to being “soundtrackish”?
After living with this thought for a while, another idea cuts through me. Maybe, instead, we retain in our bones a time when the leaves rustling against the soft trace of the sky, the throngs of swifts in their listing and swooping, the marsh frogs belching, the raven creaking riddles, the brook laughing across boulders, the choral whirr of myriad insects—when all these voices conspired to buoy our hearts along their course. Maybe we remember when the world itself sang to us, when no feeling passed through us unaccompanied by the beating heart of the land.
Eight species of forest bird finally vanished from Hawaii last year. They took their songs with them. Those creatures who move across the earth travel in fewer numbers, their havens dwindling. If the spring has fallen silent, if the stampede of civilization chases the gods from the land, what song is left to us?
The world we were born into still hums its tunes if we can listen; it sings with fewer notes. The brook still glistens downhill, the wind scrapes gusting across the snowbound hill, the coyote chatters and whoops melancholy thrill into my heart. My shoes crunch rhythms through the frozen meadow. Your sensuous body still stretches bowed across the thrumming string of the world. The rocks cry out. Go forth silent and sing you the world a song of creation.