IMCC COMMUNITY CHOIR
WRITING PROMPT SUMMARIES – SPRING 2013
la) “What you spend years building, someone may destroy overnight. Build anyway.”
“People are often unreasonable, illogical and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.”
Wasn’t it Will Rogers who said, “Be kind to everyone you meet on the street.” They are all going through terrible straggles. We often don’t see it on the outside…it doesn’t make sense to resent or become angry with people who are difficult…Not only is it a good idea to “forgive them anyway” and try to sidestep the whole entangling mesh of action and reaction, perhaps its even a good idea to thank them!
How is it that in this life we are all individuals, doing what we do to survive & hopefully thrive, yet we live among an entire planet of living creatures? How can we more thoroughly understand that all our actions impact the greater whole?
“It’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.” …(apply) to what you have invested your blood, sweat and tears into creating… Quote from Children of Dune “Are you sure we’ll succeed?” Ghani asks. Leto answers, “I’m more sure that if we don’t try, we’ll have failed.” This is a sort of life quote for me-I’ve made a choice, to reject fear of failure as a reason not to do something..
We can probably all relate to this in some way… While it is hard to remember in the thick of an argument that the “other guy” is not out to deliberately hurt me I can usually look back later and understand that they were probably also feeling hurt…I have found that compassion and tolerance of our differences…are essential to eventual forgiveness and real love. Communication is a prerequisite to this compassion and communication requires trust…A veiy wise person once advised me that instead of waiting for an apology, I might try apologizing first…This can work miracles in allowing the other personto let down their defenses…and perhaps open the door to mutual forgiveness.
lb) Write about a favorite memory of our December concert.
The Dec. concert was so neat! I feel it was the best concert since I started (5th). The song “The Bright Side of Life,” was my favorite, and of course “Sing Unto the Lord,” wasn’t too bad either.
I have many things I’ve often regretted…our Dec. concert filled that empty space left by regret. I am not a great singer but I felt I owed it to them and our other visitors and myself to put a full effort in it. And when I received my CD I was proud. I felt like I was rewarded for my effort.
1 c) Read any good book lately?
I am currently reading the series “A Dream of Eagles” or “The Camulod Chronicles,” by Jack Whyt.e … It is about the founding of Camulod (Camelot)..! really enjoy the book and the whole series because it gives an original account of the Arthurian legend that sounds almost plausible.
The End of Your Life Book Club, by Will Schwalbe..! loved the author’s conversational, intimate voice and his letting readers see his vulnerability…a tribute to his dynamic mother…Though his mother may be too ill to travel and work to help refugees…the two journey together through books: “Reading isn’t the opposite of doing,” Mary Anne believed, “it’s the opposite of dying.” I particularly like one of Mary Anne’s insights about the notion of joy after she read The Elegance of the Hedgehog: “though the novel ends in death…it’s a kind of reverie about life…Joy is a product not of whether characters live or die but of what they’ve realized and achieved, or how they are remembered.”
2a) Where is the JOY?
I find joy with loved ones..! also find joy helping others, giving back.
Finding the joy while incarcerated is a different process for everyone. For me it includes appreciating the small things that lift the spirit; a good movie, a good book, or bringing a smile to somebody’s face. But it also includes trying to not think about a lot of other things, such as family problems that you have very little ability to affect without actually being there…Then there are things like Choir, Song Writer’s Workshop, and Writer’s Workshop that bring joy to more than just me.
Where is the JOY? First of all, God brings me joy. Second, my wife and family bring me joy. Third, the Choir
brings me “Wonderful joy.”
I think that finding joy means taking pleasure in something…One of my favorite places to look for joy is in my pets.
My husband and I share our home with two dogs and three cats…My husband and I discovered exactly how much joy
our dogs bring us when we lost them on a nature walk 60 miles from home…The loss sucked so much joy out of our
lives so suddenly that our hearts felt like they’d been freeze-dried. The story has a happy ending.
For me, right now, I’m finding particular joy in recalling my own mother’s love of books and reading, and how she
instilled that love in me. My mother entered Hospice care yesterday…I’m reading to her when I can…while I read, I
remind her that I’ll always remember her in relation to good books that she’d read to my brother and me when we
were kids. One book stands out in particular, Heidi…The fall I turned eight, my mother read the story…It must have
been a book she selected as much for her benefit as my brother’s and mine.
So many are deceived into thinking, “If I just had these things or those circumstances I would have joy.” But such a
pursuit becomes a chasing after the wind. There will always be something more to want. True joy, however, springs
from a heart that is grateful for all that one has, knowing even challenges can have a beneficial purpose.
3a) “True nobility is not being better than anyone else. It is about being better than you used to be.”
“The only difference between a flower that is alive and one that is dead, is the live flower is growing.”
Noble means to me be true to yourself, strive to be someone that people enjoy being around…There was only one
person that was perfect, that was Jesus, the Son of God.
This statement struck a chord with me because when I was very young, I heard the phrase “Noblesse oblige” in a
movie, The Scarlet Pimpernel. Literally translated, it means “the obligation of nobility.”… If you have been granted
any form of power, you are automatically obligated to use it to serve those who do not have power…”With great
power comes great responsibility.” … It’s not about being “Noble” … it’s about doing everything in your power, day
after day, choice after choice, to live up to the obligation your blessing has placed on you…if you bend your will
toward this goal, you will grow more and more into the nobleman or noblewoman that you were meant to be.
It reminds me of some events that happened the week my dad was dying…He was a person who was always looking
to learn from the experience and grow from it, and then shared it with us, his kids… I hope to keep growing each day,
like my dad. The choir is one way to do that.
Choir is not for the most talented to say, “Look at me.” It is for those who would like to develop an appreciation for
music, improve their musical skills, and be a part of something bigger than themselves. To be a live we strive to
continue to grow, to be better than we were before as musicians, and perhaps even more important as members of a
community, for music can be a healing balm to those broken.
3 b) Thoughts on Choir
I was enthusiastic about joining the choir after Trish mentioned it…I don’t think I’m imagining the feeling of
cheerful camaraderie when I enter the room. There are plenty of smiles and laughter…I don’t know what it would feel
like to be “inside”…once I enter the practice room I’m just a part of a group of people who are happy to have a chance
to sing together. I believe this is a tribute to Mary, who not only created this choir but manages to keep the
atmosphere upbeat and cheerful while keep u sW task.
Yay! I can call myself a returning choir member (after participating for the first time last semester). For me, it’s
really true that ultimately, any worthwhile experience I’ve ever had has initially been scary… I shed my anxiety after
the first couple of rehearsals because,” along with this being a positive challenging experience, the choir is the most
welcoming, encouraging and joyful group I’ve ever had the privilege to participate in. (THANK YOU again and
again, Dr. Cohen, for your amazing energy, skill and good humor.) The choir is FUN! …allows each person to see and
accept each other for who we are…continues to provide a strong sense of community…with, each member contributing
to the whole, embodies consistent and profound joy…From this experience I receive a natural high that stays with me
long after we all “Walk in Beauty” and say good bye until the following week.
3 c) Ear worms
The song that usually sticks in my ear is “Innocent Blood.” It truly is a touching piece of music.
3a) “The only difference between a flower that is alive and one that is dead, is the live flower is growing.”
My first reaction is, “I don’t think that’s accurate. There must be more…but I do understand the idea…Either you are growing, or you are dying. Human beings aren’t good at simple maintenance. Without obstacles to strive against, we stagnate…Every single time throughout history that I have ever heard or read of any form of advance that has ever been achieved has either been surpassed or lost, never just held onto…Which begs the question… are you growing?
4b) Getting ready for the future
There are many ways I’m trying to get ready for the future. First was to realize there is no promise of a future at least here as I know it. And to live each day with love and peace as if it were my last…I’m taking some classes to help learn about the only things I can control…my attitude about myself, others and how I react to things that happen around me…Recently I learned about the power of choice, I am learning about how important it is to make the right choices to get better outcomes in life.
Being incarcerated is not conducive to preparing for the future. Especially since the future is going almost totally digital and prisons are afraid of allowing their residents access to technology. The only thing we can do to really prepare for the future is to read and try to stay healthy.
4c) Favorite Song So Far
My favorite song this year is “Shut de Do.” It’s upbeat, fun and fast-paced and it always puts me in a better mood. It’s message of shutting out evil is also good one that I try to take with me when I leave our practices.
I like the cathedral -space feel of St. Francis, myself, but “Shut de Do” is a lot of fun.
5a) “LORD, let me be an instrument of Thy peace.”
“Peace is the result of retraining your mind to process life as it is, rather than as you think it should be.”
At an early age three paths were set before me: 1) Insist on fairness and be in constant conflict with authority,
2) Give up, thinking “Why try?” which leads to, “Why care?” or 3) See things as they are and do what I can do, even if no one else helps or notices…There are lots of people without peace and joy in their life. Some despise those who do, as though there is something wrong with them. But you find, rather than being depleted, you have even more when you share peace and joy with others.
A Truth (with a capital “T” for me) I’ve learned so far: I need to accept whatever chaos comes. All I can control is my own response/ behavior. Viktor Frankl (Holocaust survivor, psychiatrist and writer) has written:
“Between stimulus and response is a space. In that space lies our freedom and power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and freedom,”
If I stop and actually take a deep breath, I can tell myself: Okay. This is the situation now. What will I learn about myself?
I have spent endless time and energy as well as pushing stress levels to new highs, trying to change or control things.. .Sometimes it just takes seeing others peaceful ways and joy to inspire us to get out of life’s ruts. Life truly is a road with many twists and turns and sometimes we’re just along for the ride without the wheel at hand.
To overcome the negativity we encounter in a place like this, we need to have faith, to get up every day and say to yourself, “I am someone,” and try to make a difference…God gives me peace…like the stillness of a clear lake, no wind, no waves, just you and God in the boat.
I think there is great wisdom in finding gratitude in difficult and pleasant life situations. I just read a prayer on of the inside singers shared with me:
May the feelings of joy that arise from our thanksgiving be seeds of grace to those [including ourselves] who are afraid to feel.”
Today, for fun I am going to prelude each part of my day with a short prayer of gratitude.
These excerpts were taken from 31 contributions made by 4 inside singers and 6 outside singers
“MOURNING IS BROKEN”
On April 30 and May 16, the I.M.C.C. Community Choir will be presenting a concert with the theme, “Mourning is Broken.” Many of the songs being prepared, touch on the ideas of change and joy. Rather than waiting for the world to change, to fit my ideas of how things should be, Michael Jackson would inspire us to start with the “Man in the Mirror.” Similarly, hundreds of years earlier, St. Francis encouraged many to bring needed change to the world by seeking God’s help to change within. “Make me an instrument of Thy peace…Where there is sorrow, let me bring joy.”
“Mourning is Broken,” was adapted from Psalm 30 by an offender desiring to share the hope that can come with a new day, a new perspective, a grateful heart. “At night tears may flow, joy comes today.”
Some situations, however, take a little longer to find the joy. After the shooting at the elementary school in Connecticut, in December, another offender was inspired to write, “Innocent Blood.” While not being able to answer the most obvious question, “Why did this happen?” He does get us thinking about what we can learn from this, about God and the world around us. Besides mourning this great loss, he gets us thinking, “Is there something I can do?”
Soon one discovers this choir is not just about singing and music. Finishing up its fourth year, this choir is all about growing as individuals and as a community, committed to each other. It starts with God, who puts music in our hearts, leading many to write on what they have seen and experienced. It continues with Dr. Mary Cohen from the University of Iowa, who with her energy, skill and humor, draws the message forth. Now all that is needed are some ears to hear and ponder the message to be shared. Will you join us?
“Mourning is broken, it’s time to dance.”