Yesterday I took my violin to church… or rather, I made a trip back into the house after getting into my car the first time, and I grabbed my violin. I was about to take off, when I stopped again and ran back in to pick up my rosin. The weather was unseasonably moderate for August, so I had no fears about leaving the instrument in a hot car. I didn’t know why I wanted it with me – I just did.
After service was over, classes were starting. I ran into my good friend in the lobby, and she and I talked about the fact that our class leader was on vacation and there was an open plan for what we would do that morning. I mentioned the violin, and she said to bring it in and play it.
I did. It’s a new violin for me, and a very old one at that. Very inexpensive. Very beautiful sounding to me. I played a Celtic piece, and some hymns. By the time class was over, I had made new connections in ways I had not previously enjoyed. I met and talked with a friendly couple and their sons and made a new friend that I can attend music events with, all by sublimating a need to connect with others through conversation into my music. My music became the avenue through which communication was opened.
Why did I listen to that internal voice? I am a teacher. I know how to teach, and how to play. But this violin — one that my son has worked on — it has an expansive sound. I have an expansive sound. I am listening to the eternal voice of love in the present moment. My own voice – often muted in the past, shy, afraid — is changing. I am changing, and art imitates life.
This is my understanding of what sublimation is: When one is lacking in one area, rather than bemoaning that fact, which is a product of the circumstantial will of God, we may deal with it “…by directing the activities of the personality to some altruistic task which is (a) of use to the community, (b) satisfying to the self, and (c) in harmony with that self’s ideals.” In The Will of God, Weatherhead explains that under these three conditions, sublimation is an action that channels one need, due to lack in one area of life, into the energy of an outlet that can be used by God to bring about the fulfillment of his ultimate will. In other words, it takes and transmutes the results of the circumstantial will of God into something that is higher, better, and that might not have flowered into a beautiful result if the original circumstances had been more ideal.
So last night, I thought about how much I enjoy playing violin in nursing homes. There are still some areas of lack and loss in my life that I feel deeply; there are circumstances for which I can do nothing. But what I do know is that the last time I played at a nursing home, an elderly man told me he loved me. He didn’t know me, had never met me, and had no idea about the good or bad traits that he might otherwise have sensed about me, through a filtered perspective. Yet, as I’ve experienced many times before, there is an open, beautiful quality in these homes that is not possible anywhere else. And the blesser and the blessed often get confused as to who it is that is doing the what. Sublimation for me, is playing in the homes and feeling a sense of free and open love. Maybe sublimation is even not knowing why, where, or who I will be playing for. It is just being ready.
(Thanks, Dad, for keeping this book in your library. I’ll bet you never knew it was for me.)