The Power of History

The Power of History

There is the old saying: what you put your attention on grows stronger. This is true not only in your apparent individual life but in the larger community as a whole. The Lord’s Prayer would be an example, made powerful by the attention given it by many over a long time. This power is less in the words and more in the feelings and attention. As the movie The Sound of Music put it, “The hills are alive, with the sound of music, the songs we have sung, for a thousand years.Denise Hagan spoke of how ancient melodies are revived by musicians periodically. The lyrics may drift but the power of the melody grabs us. Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah would be a good example there.

On a recent retreat, we were joined by a professional cellist. In an impromptu jam session, half the retreat joined Hallelujah in song. Sublime! As the cellist put it, the verses were just an excuse to get to the chorus.

Eastern traditions are more aware of this effect and some verses have been sung or recited for many thousands of years. The Lotus sutra, the Gayatri mantra, and others are famous examples. The power of mantra is then not just in the known good effects but in its long history of use by thousands. They become a chorus in consciousness that we join.

There are other memes that follow us through history that are not so useful, like we must destroy  those who think differently. Or that art requires suffering. Or there is not enough for everyone, so we must overcome. Survival of the fittest is a similar idea that did Not originate with Darwin.

In science, Rupert Sheldrake stirred controversy when he described the 10 myths of science due to the modern confusing of a materialist perspective with science. If you cannot separate world-view from science, then it is no longer science, it is no longer objective.

Thus becoming conscious of how we see the world, the stories we tell ourselves, and the beliefs we carry gives us a chance to not be ruled by them and perhaps to change them. To see the world with new eyes. And a great way to support that is to express the good that has long been with us in song and mantra.

Many traditions the world over tell us the world came (comes) into being through sound – through Word or song. Singing the songs of creation brings it alive in our own lives. And it is in enlivening those laws of nature that evolution unfolds.

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