It might be hard to find a concept more universally recognized by spiritual traditions than song. Music is almost inherently spiritually transcendent—whether heard or sung, a musical note as an almost magical quality that resonates in the heart.
Some spiritual traditions consider certain sounds to be the seat of the sacred—consider the syllable “Om” for example, which is Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism represents the essence of eternal truth. I once read a recounting of a Native American story in which the creation of the universe began with singing: In the beginning, there was the song.
It’s fitting, then, that we end this semester’s Big Words program with a song by celebrating the universal role music plays in spirituality. Big Words: SING is this coming Monday, April 29, and we were very grateful when Dr. Timothy Peter, Dean of Stetson’s School of Music, enthusiastically embraced the idea of working on a collaboration between the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life and the School of Music to explore the way song helps shape the sacred.
Dr. Peter will lead the program, which he designed to allow for lots of participation and inclusion. The songs will span several cultural and religious traditions, bringing them together in a way that will allow everyone to be involved, regardless of musical experience or lack of experience.
Each Big Words event presents an interfaith perspective on a concept or value important to different religious and spiritual traditions. Many, if not all religions, use music in one way or another to communicate spiritual values and create a sense of community.
Dr. Peter and I talked about the program as the plan started coming together. Singing together—or chanting, drumming or dancing—allows us to join our spiritual community together in a shared purpose. However, singing can also be very personal, a very intimate way to feel a personal connection to the divine.
“When you’re singing, you are the vessel” of the sacred, Dr. Peter said. “You become filled completely with it, so you’re purged” of the other mundane concerns that block our ability to freely experience of transcendent.
The end of the semester is a perfect time to gather with others to sing—while students are getting ready for finals, for graduation, and for other transitions. Song lends a voice for the joy we experience in our lives, as well as a method to process difficulties.
“When you sing, you can let go of the stresses—the worries, the problems—about school, about relationships, about society, all those things,” he said. “So it also just feels good to sing.”
We hope you will join us in song Monday evening. Of course, no end-of-the-year gathering is complete without food (and another chance to earn cultural credit). Since we’re starting at 7:00, we’re focusing on some very nice hors d’oeuvres and dessert items—think baked brie and mini cheesecakes!
Big Words: SING will be Monday at 7:00 p.m. in the CUB garage. Food will be served and cultural credit is available for this event.