On a recent morning, cup of coffee in hand, sitting on my bench in the meadow behind my house, dog chewing her most recent stick acquisition, I counted the bird songs. I was remembering how to listen to the world all around rather than only to things that have to do with me.
The window air conditioner above my left ear went on and off, and when it ceased the sounds of the birds became even more vibrant. I was aware of traffic noise on the other side of houses and trees, some hundred and fifty yards away or more. There were insect sounds as well, though I couldn’t quite put my finger on who they were.
I counted six different bird songs at first. Then I counted again and heard seven, then eight. Yes, eight, I thought to myself then heard another one that I realized had been there all along. It was a Mourning Dove.
Suddenly I realized that for the entire time I had been listening, the soft mournful coo of the dove had been sounding underneath all the other sounds. She was still there, no they were still there! One was to my left and one to my right, and one somewhere off in the distance behind me. They were offering a rhythmic chorus as if doo-wop singers behind the crooners out front.
The voice of God is like that, only I am not so sure it is a voice.
God might be more like the Mourning Dove’s song than a human voice. The sound of it is there all along, always. It is sounding even now, right now, but we have difficulty hearing it underneath all the other noises competing with one another in our head, not to mention the cacophony in the field around us.
The key is listening to the world all around us rather than only what has to do with us. Sooner or later, if we do, God’s song will bleed though.
Spiritual practice has been commoditized and commercialized, because that is what happens to everything in an economic culture. One result is that we imagine we have to buy a program to ‘become spiritual.’ In addition to the more traditional corner stores with names like church, mosque, and temple, there are other programs that promise to ‘make us spiritual’: yoga, Transcendental Meditation, Centering Prayer, walking a labyrinth, Tai Chi…to name but a few. Each of these has something to offer but truly the common sense practice of listening to the world all around rather than only to what has to do with us, will take us a long way down a spiritual path.