According to singer/teacher Chloe Goodchild in her book The Naked Voice, the Himba people in Namibia believe that every person’s soul resonates with its own unique expression, its own song. A birthdate is the day the child’s mother decides to have a child, the day she goes off alone to sit under a tree to listen until she hears the soul song of the child that wants to be born. Once she knows the song she returns to the village and teaches it to the father. They sing it when they make love to call the child to them. The mother teaches the song to the midwives and old women in the village so they will sing it to encourage and welcome the child while the mother is in labor. The rest of the village learns the song too, so that later when the child needs comforting or calming, they can sing it. When the child does something wonderful the villagers sing the song to them. When the person marries, the village sings the songs of both bride and groom at the ceremony. And if the villager should commit a crime or violate a taboo, the village circles around and sings the song as a reminder of the person’s inherent goodness. As a person lies dying, the village sings their song to ease their passing.
I love this idea. I think you must feel really seen in a culture like this. And how delightful to be surrounded by so much singing!
In our culture, where we don’t invariably learn our soul song, I wonder if the sounds that deeply move us might be clues. Is it possible my love of the oboe—I almost always cry when I hear it—is related to the song of my soul?
And there is a song that has moved me ever since I was a girl—not just that I like it and it makes me happy, it has always felt important to me in some mysterious way. In my thirties I began to realize that it holds a reminder of who I am. In the last ten or fifteen years I don’t listen to it as often as I used to—perhaps I don’t need a reminder so much now—but I heard it again the other day and it remains powerful for me.
That song is Rodgers’ and Hammerstein’s Sound of Music, which I learned years before the movie was made. I especially love the introduction:
My day in the hills has come to an end, I know; A star has come out to tell me it’s time to go, Yet deep in the dark green shadows, are voices that urge me to stay, So I pause and I wait and I listen, for one more sound, for one more lovely thing, that the hills might say. (Check out the link above for the rest.)
When I hear the song it activates the deepest Me who mystically knows all the earth is alive, who hears voices in the woods and fields, who feels loved and at home there, and who loves to sing the joy of that connection.
Which instruments or sounds feel like food to you when you hear them? Is there a song that calls to your soul, reminding you of who you are at your core?
I’d love to hear.
A song is a gardener
It picks up a shovel and starts to dig.
Tenderly tips the blade into the burnt and brazed,
Crusted, cranky, depleted, impenetrable soil
at the surface of the heart
Tosses and turns over and around all the scraps, remnants, remains,
All the crap, cruelty and craziness
Amending, softening, sifting
Activating, aerating, enlivening
A song is a seed
It is not derailed, discouraged, deterred by gated, guarded hearts
It finds every shortcut, crack and crevice
It flits, floats, meanders, winds, works its way in
Wakes us up to what is and what can be
It will knock down the wall and fashion a bridge from sundered stone
Enter the soul’s secret garden
Subtly scatter seed
A song will not change a policy, re-write the laws, topple dictators,
End discrimination, stop deforestation
House the homeless, feed the hungry, heal the land
The singing of songs, the piping of poems,
The drumming, dancing, delving, digging, delighting, daring,
Beautiful boldness of art
Will merely crack open the hard shell
of the dormant heart
And hearts awakened are unstoppable.
May a song, a story, a poem, a painting, a puppet
Tap you on the shoulder
Trickle to your heart
Invite you to Dance
Ripple, rhyme, resound
a pebble tossed
an echo of peace