My Song

Thoughts from Jack Kornfield, in his book A Path With Heart:

There is a tribe in east Africa in which the art of true intimacy is fostered even before birth.  In this tribe, the birth date of a child is not counted from the day of its physical birth nor even the day of conception, as in other village cultures.  For this tribe, the birth date comes the first time the child is thought of in its mother’s mind.  Aware of her intention to conceive a child with a particular father, the mother then goes off to sit alone under a tree.  There she sits and listens until she can hear the song of the child that she hopes to conceive.  Once she has heard it, she returns to her village and teaches it to the father so that they can sing it together as they make love, inviting the child to join them.  After the child is conceived, she sings it to the baby in her womb.  Then she teaches it to the old women and midwives of the village, so that throughout the labor and at the miraculous moment of birth itself, the child is greeted with its song.  After the birth, all the villagers learn the song of their new member and sing it to the child when it falls or hurts itself.  It is sung in times of triumph, or in rituals and initiations.  This song becomes a part of the marriage ceremony when the child is grown, and at the end of life, his or her loved ones will gather around the deathbed and sing this song for the last time.

Truly lovely.  And I ask myself what song I would have my mother choose for me.  To see me through the length of my life.  I’d want it to be sung for me during the tough times, when I was stripped bare of my usual comforts, standing naked before the agony of the moment.  I’d want it to rock me gently, like floating in some amniotic fluid.  I’d want the words and music to be something I could come back to again and again.  Something like this:

Be Not Afraid

You shall cross the barren desert but you shall not die of thirst
You shall wander far in safety though you do not know the way
You shall speak your words to foreign men and they will understand
You shall see the face of God and live

Be not afraid
I go before you always
Come follow me
And I will give you rest

If you pass through raging waters in the sea you shall not drown
If you walk amid the burning flames you shall not be harmed
If you stand before the powers of hell and death is at your side
Know that I am with you through it all

Be not afraid
I go before you always
Come follow me
And I will give you rest

Blessed are your poor for the kingdom shall be theirs
Blessed are you who weep and mourn
For one day you shall laugh
And if wicked men insult and hate you all because of me
Blessed, blessed are you

Be not afraid
I go before you always
Come follow me
And I will give you rest

And who is the “I” that goes before me always?  Something interior rather than exterior, and yet something up, up and away.  A part of me that embraces fear and everything else as merely a passing show.  A storm coming in, raining hard, and then disappearing.

May I be sung to as I die.

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