When I was a child, I would sing with my parents in the car. It was a normal thing. Driving to school, there would be songs. Going to church there would be songs. Interestingly enough, we did it less at home, but my father still sings and makes up songs while he’s playing solitaire at the kitchen table. Singing “when two or more are gathered” has always been one of my favorite things.
I recently came across an article in Time Magazine about the benefits of communal singing. Not only does one’s heart rate lower, but it becomes synchronized with the hearts of the other singers in the room. It is no wonder that the movements which brought about social change included songs. The songs of apartheid in South Africa, the national anthems of the countries which were forced into the Soviet Union, and the songs of the civil rights movement are just a few examples of singing not only unifying people, but helping to bring about change. This is why I think communal singing is such a blessing. Whether we sit across from each other in the shape note square or chant together or sing Christmas carols together; that time spent in communal song rearranges our molecules and allows us to deeply feel something that we may only peripherally feel – our oneness. It allows the change to happen within us which causes the change outside of us.
There are times when singing in a group has moved me to tears. It has made me feel things so deeply – love for other humans, love for nature, even love for country. Country is a complicated concept for it is often used to divide us or to drive conflict. I entreat us to sing our national anthems with a love for the whole earth for we are singing to a part of the earth, a part of that pachamama that is a piece of a greater whole. In the connectedness with each other, we can sing of our nation, but in doing so, also sing of our world. In this time where it seems like division is rising at every turn, I now want to look for opportunities to sing to the wholeness, sing to the oneness, sing to the connectedness of us all. So maybe at our next baseball game, we can sing our national anthem together with the intention that our world becomes the world of the free and the home of the brave. Maybe as we sing the songs of the Paschal season, we sing together to the rebirth of the world in love. As we share songs around the summer campfire, we sing songs with the intention to light the hearts of the world with compassion. If you come to join me in any upcoming chanting sessions, we can sing together for us all