Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Your Older Self Counts On You to Make Good Choices Today

On Sunday, we went Christmas caroling to shut-ins. I am always amazed to see these people, who often don't know where they are or who we are or who they are, singing along with us. Somewhere, deep inside, these songs reside.

I've heard other people say the same thing about elderly people and the Creeds, or the Lord's Prayer. They can't remember family names, but they can say the Apostle's Creed or the Lord's Prayer.

As a child, the constantness of the liturgy irritated me. We had other services in the hymnal--why didn't we use those? Why didn't we make something up? Why did we have to do the same thing, week after week? Didn't the grown-ups know how BORING it all was?

As an adult, I understand the value to repetition, especially repetition set to music. When we do something day after day, week after week, it wraps its way into our bones and our blood. As an adult, I try to think about what patterns I'm perfecting by practicing every day.

And I try to be alert so that I don't let bad habits take root. Repetition can have both positive and negative effects, after all.

I've always told my students that if they want to remember something, they should set it to music. Pick a familiar tune and figure out a way to sing what they need to know for the test.

Poets know some of the same skills as songwriters. Rhythm and repetition and rhyme can make an art form memorable--or miserable, as the case may be.

If we want to have something to cling to as we age, as everything we know about ourselves gets stripped away (our health, our memories, our very sense of ourselves), we should be laying the groundwork now.

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