On this, the shortest/longest day of the year, depending where you are on the earth, we mark the end of darkness and the beginning of return to the light. The ritual celebrating the Solitice is very old, and has similarities to lighting the candles of the days of Hanukah and to the symbolism of Christmas, which celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ, often called “the light of the world”.
We have long associated ignorance with “living in darkness” and education with “illumination”, of bringing light into an area of darkness. We “light the way” when we lead others, and we “lighten up” when we make the mood merrier, allowing others to feel less burdened by the sorrows we all bear from time to time. The idea that learning brings us to a better place is in many cultures and many fields of endeavor. There are, however, those who do not want to be illuminated. They do not want to be “lifted up out of the darkness into the light”. They want to remain in the dark.
Darkness can be comforting. Darkness as we imagine it in a womb is benign. It can be a place to find solitude and peace. Light is usually thought of as being a good thing but if there were no darkness we would not be able to know that it exists. We need the darkness in order to know about light.
Such it is with all things. When we look at singing, we can look at it in the darkness or in the light. If we keep the topic in the darkness, it means that we don’t look at it at all. If we bring it out into the light, we must examine it in comparison to the darkness or what we didn’t know, because that is the only way we understand what it is and is not.
The potential for singing of any kind is only limited by our imaginations and by our abilities to make sung sounds. Singing, when fully revealed in all its glory and magnificence encompasses the messy, the awful and the not in any way “good”. We need every kind of singing in order for it to be fully what it is.
The value that singing has for us has to do with what we know about it. If we know little and care little, singing has little impact upon us in our lives. If we live with singing, spend time with it, listen to it, look at it, and generally think about it a good deal of the time, it increases in value. The more we embrace all it’s extremes, the more value it has for us and the more it can have an impact on who we are and how we live. To deeply and fully embrace singing — the good, the bad and the in between — is to become unafraid and non-judgemental. In this calmly accepting state, we can really decide what kind of singing matters to each one of us, personally, and why that would be. We can decide for ourselves if we want to engage with singing, our own or others’, and in what way we would do that. We can totally commit to whatever singing is or becomes but we do not risk losing our way, because we understand that singing is just singing, and not life.
No matter what kind of singing you do or teach, embrace all of it. Get to know all of its forms, styles and espressions, it’s history and it’s conventions. Every time you learn something about one part of it, it makes what you know about the rest of it richer. Don’t hide in the darkness, in fear or in denial, because singing is a big, broad topic that asks a great deal of you if you are to be its master. Step into the light. Put your feet on the yellow brick road and follow it. You will know when you arrive in Oz.