Early in their first set of songs at the 50th anniversary performance of the Oregon Trail Pitchpipers, the gentleman sang a number which I found to be deeply moving. The song, which I was not familiar with, although it is very likely to be an old song, as many barbershop numbers are, talks about the loyalty of friends and the love of a wife and family, with the idea that this will provide fun for just one lifetime. Being a person for whom fun is often elusive, given the fact that it is extremely difficult for me to find unmixed pleasure, given that most of what I find pleasant has melancholy or bittersweet undertones or manages to increase my anxiety or concern in some fashion, I found the song to be a deeply moving one, but a melancholy one as well. Barbershop groups often sing love songs , and tend to be the sort of music that one passes along from father to son, and in that context almost all of the people I have seen or known in barbershop are married with a strong focus on family. Enjoying the company of other men (since barbershop groups tend to be gender segregated) while singing old-fashioned songs about love and family and God is something that tends to be most enjoyable when one already has a wife and family and one can sing out of one’s personal satisfaction, rather than sing out of melancholy longing.
Earlier today, of course, I sang in Salem with our coed a capella choir made up mostly of teens and young adults. Due to various factors, we had a shortage of altos, and so a couple of the ladies whose voices are low enough to sing tenors sang alto, and I happened to stand beside them and loan them my music, which they did return. Our practice went well, and the performance went well from everything I heard, at least. It is probably not a coincidence, or all that surprising, that even though the Salem congregation is just over half an hour from where I live, about equal distance as Portland to the north, this happens to be the first Sabbath I have ever attended down there, simply because I seldom travel to a congregation unless I have some sort of business there, and I did not have any sort of business in Salem until a group I sang in was scheduled there. The congregation is friendly and full of adorable small children whose parents are around my age. If you want a scene full of melancholy longing, today was certainly one of those.
Today, even though I visited a congregation where I do not usually attend, I sat in my usual spot, and being that close allowed me to heckle the songleader, even if he wasn’t paying attention to it, because he drew attention to the fact that we were singing his favorite hymns, which makes sense since he chose them. Why would anyone ever choose a song to sing that they hated, after all? The young man giving the sermonette spoke about the need to admit ignorance in order to seek wisdom. He brought out something that it is easy to understand theoretically, and that is the fact that wisdom comes through admitting ignorance and seeking understanding, and is incompatible with pretending as if one already knows everything and does not need to learn or grow any longer. The sermon, given by the pastor of the congregation, spoke about fellowship, and gave some sound and straightforward principles for fellowship, including showing concern for others and being inclusive and not ostracizing people .
In listening to the sermon, though, I wondered about myself, as I often do. Although I tend to be a person who lives a fairly isolated life, isolated enough that I have averaged reading about two books a day this year so far, which is only something one can do if one spends a lot of time alone, since socializing and reading do not tend to go together well, I also socialize pretty often as well. I could likely spend more time with others, if it was convenient to do so without ruining my sleep, for example, or travel all over creation to visit friends (and family). It is one thing to talk about fellowship, and another to enjoy it on a practical basis , but listening to a message like that, my native instinct is to ask myself questions, such as: Do I make it easy for others to enjoy fellowship with me? Am I the sort of person who is fun to be around? Are others built up and encouraged in spending time with me, or do I drain them of life? Am I good company? Do I place barriers that keep others of different ages or personalities from fellowshipping successfully with me? Not all of those answers are easy to know, nor do I pretend to know them all, but still I feel compelled to ask.
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