I’ve been on a Pharaoh Sanders kick for the past several weeks. There is something mystical-magical-inspirational about his work. As I sit here now, wrapping up another work week, feeling accomplished even though I didn’t get everything that I’d hoped for completed today, I’m listening to Hum Allah Hum Allah Hum Allah on Spotify. I love this graphic from the YouTube video for the song. My version is just over 15 minutes long. I love every note.
I am working with a student who lives on the other side of the planet from me. Our time to speak each week is early in the morning for me but later in the day for her because she is something like 11 hours ahead by time zone language. When we were scheduled a couple weeks ago, she connected to our call and whispered rather frantically that she needed a moment. When she got situated, she shared that she’d been out on the street just as the call to prayer began. She then asked, ‘Can you hear it?’
She and I fell silent as the song of the call rang across the city.
In her world, it is a crime to be on a mobile phone in the street during the call to prayer.
For those who do not claim any faith tradition, that might seem weird, but I invite you to listen to a recording of a Muslim call to prayer. Just play it and close your eyes while you listen. Then, find a version where the call is sung, live. Watch the singer as he does so.
It is … something special.
I do not follow the Muslim practices, but I can certainly respect them.
This same student called off our meeting this week because we were scheduled on what turned out to be the first day of Ramadan, a high holy month for adherents.
And here I am, listening to Pharaoh Sanders and his song with a title that translates (basically, if I have it right) to ‘Praise be to God’.
His lyrics include ‘Prince of Peace’ and something about ‘the ringing of the bells need never cease’.
The next song from the album Jewels of Thought is called The Creator Has a Master Plan. Spotify just kicked into that one.
It took me about 10 minutes to craft what you see so far because I kept pausing to listen, to feel, to think.
I find Pharaoh’s wailing saxophone and warbling yodels peaceful. I am able to get so much work done across the day when playing his music. I hear it in my imaginings, late at night when I should be sleeping. I think about the songs, the rhythm, the cacophony, when I’m not listening.
Earlier today, I had a teary-eyed moment when I again remembered sitting on the cold tile floor of the plasma donation center as an undergraduate college student, sharing a headphone with a guy whose name I might have known once but that has been lost to the annals of time, as he enthusiastically listened to Jimmy Cobham. I’ve written about him before. Despite his economically challenging circumstance, that cat was one of the most joyful people I’ve ever met in life. He exuded a peace that I would love to have.
So I’m going to keep listening to Pharaoh while I work and hope to infuse myself with peace.
Even if faith isn’t your ‘thing’, I encourage you to think about where your peace comes from. And if you don’t have any, I encourage you to think about what could bring it. Peace doesn’t come from having all the things, from having your bills paid (Especially since another one always comes next month. Or next week. Or tomorrow.), from a partner or spouse that meets every one of your needs (oh, and by the way, have you considered if you are meeting theirs?), or from getting what you want.
It’s all much bigger than that.
Go outside and look around — you can’t make that stuff up:
- no person could create that bush in front of your door that gets full of bumble bees,
- no person could create that neighbor you think is really strange,
- no person could create the stray cat that leaves dead rats as gifts on your lawn,
- no person could create those big floofy clouds drifting overhead.
It’s all so much bigger than you.
And that’s okay.
I’m grateful that somewhere, far beyond my pay grade, there is a master plan. Even if it doesn’t make sense or it hurts beyond measure today, change happens tomorrow.
In that, in all of it, I find peace. I hope you can as well.
Blessings to you this Ramadan and all the year through …
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