Last week in this space I wrote about the joy and power of music, the way it captures and catalogs times and places in our lives.
A deluge ensued. I got emails. I got phone calls. It made me smile. I was happy that people seemed to so enjoy describing how particular compositions had etched themselves into the granite wall of memory — good and bad.
One reader described a lifelong love affair with Italian composer Antonio Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons”: “I still can sit — eyes closed and headphones on — and sit raptured listening to that man move through sun, wind, clouds and rain as if he had actually been there, floating out-of-body in the stratosphere.”
Wow, ma’am. You should consider a writing career.
She lamented our modern day wherein it seems fewer and fewer people appreciate classical music. I share her lament.
Another reader picked up a baton from my column and ran with it. He remembered a song affixed tightly to his mother: “Since you mentioned your mother, I (think of) a song that reminds me of my mother (she’s still around thankfully) — ‘Total Eclipse of the Heart.’ She liked that song a lot when I was a kid, and I grew to like that song. It’s a powerful song. And I will always remember my mother as she was at that point in my life. Happy Mother’s Day!”
Scores of folks remembered songs attached to their experience of great love. That particular song by which they danced at their wedding reception. A song oozing from the radio at the moment of their first kiss. A song they made love to. One reader offered up a song that had emerged later in her marriage and perfectly captured the whole of the enduring journey:
“ ‘Remember When’ by Alan Jackson. It is a culmination of who we have been and are, as each verse progresses a couple through the joy, the heartbreak and a return to that joy, stronger and better for all they have shared. It makes the world around me stop and rends my heart every time.”
One reader questioned my statement that it is wrong and destructive to ask a mortal to rescue us from our own existential alienation: “Why not have the expectation of meeting a mortal who would love that part of your type? I don’t believe you believe it to be wrong or destructive to proffer up such hopes.”
The question misunderstands what I was trying to say. Indeed there is nothing wrong with hoping to have a life partner who loves your type — its genius and its burdens. That someone would understand us and love us. But, simultaneously, our mate should expect us to take radical responsibility for the “shadow side” of our type. It’s one thing to understand the foible of personality type, even to hold it dear. But that does not mean we grant it license.
Every human being experiences existential alienation. And probably everyone in some fashion leans unduly and unfairly on love relationships to resolve that alienation. All I was saying is that my type (Enneagram 4) is known for especially pernicious attempts to expect and demand to be rescued. Makes me think of Dan Fogelberg’s lyric:
“I had this woman who gave me her soul/ But I wasn’t ready to take it/ Her heart was so fragile and heavy to hold/ And I was afraid I might break it.”
It is perfectly fine, right and proper to expect your beloved to hold your heart in safety, respect and security. To understand you. To accept you. But it is too much to ask any mortal to do for us what only God can do.
Then, the voice mail from the 68-year-old man, married 47 years:
“I came from a broken home. My parents didn’t love me. I grew up in foster homes. I went to church. My favorite song is ‘Jesus Loves Me.’ (Because) I always knew if somebody loved me, then life was worth it. If all young people would know that they can overcome the odds like I did! You just have to grab something that’s bigger than you. Then there’s the song ‘Did You Ever Know That You’re My Hero.’ Between Jesus and my wife, they are my heroes. Because they both love me.”
Wow. A musical bridge from abandonment and brokenness to wholeness and freedom.
My readers rock.
Steven Kalas is a behavioral health consultant and counselor at Las Vegas Psychiatry and the author of “Human Matters: Wise and Witty Counsel on Relationships, Parenting, Grief and Doing the Right Thing” (Stephens Press). His columns appear on Sundays. Contact him at 702-227-4165 or skalas@ reviewjournal.com.