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Mirror of the Soul
A Flutist's Reflections
By Tania M. DeVizia
Balboa PressCopyright © 2015 Tania M. DeVizia
All rights reserved.
The Good Shepherd
I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep.
Eternity is the "now" of time.
Shepherding can be traced back in history nearly five thousand years. Famous shepherds appear in both the Old and New Testaments in the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation. Abraham, Jacob, King David and Amos were all shepherds. Moses shepherded his people, and Jesus himself was the Good Shepherd. Shepherds care for their flocks, protect them from predators, guide them, feed and water them twice a day. Masters count noses and try to prevent illness by checking the sheep's eyes and hooves. The animals are accustomed to hearing the shepherd's call in the morning and thus recognize the sound of his voice. They follow the voice of the familiar only. Sheep are prone to severe stress if they sense danger, so the shepherd creates an environment of peace and tranquility, and the flock responds to that kindness by trusting the master's voice and following where he leads.
In the New Testament, shepherds are privileged to be the first to hear of the birth of the Savior. Angels announce the birth of the Christ child to the shepherds caring for their flocks in the fields:
"Have no fear," the angel said. "For I bring you good news of a great joy in store for all the nation. This day there has been born to you, in the town of David, a Savior, who is Christ and Lord. And this will be the sign for you. You will find the infant swathed, and lying in a manger." Then suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly Host, praising God, and singing — "glory to God on high, And on earth peace among those in whom he finds pleasure" (Luke 2:10–14 OEB).
Shepherds draw sheep first to themselves and in doing so gather their sheep closer to each other, uniting them as one flock. God sent his angels to shepherd the shepherds, leading them to the place where the Savior was born. These shepherds visited the holy family and reported to them about the angels' visitation and proclamation of the Savior's birth. Mary stored and later contemplated the memories of their visit in her heart (Luke 2:19). The shepherded, upon receiving the gifts of joy, hope, awe, and wonder, then return to lead their own flocks, perhaps a little wiser than they were before. Having had a life-altering experience that forever changed their hearts, they could trust that in drawing their flocks to themselves, they were drawing them closer to their experience of God.
The shepherd's life was a metaphor that the people living in Jesus' time fully understood. They had lived it. They easily identified with Jesus' reference to the Good Shepherd: "I am the good shepherd; and I know my sheep, and my sheep know me — Just as the Father knows me and I know the Father — and I lay down my life for the sheep" (John 10:14–15 OEB). The shepherd knows his sheep as intimately as God knows his children. As sheep so easily recognize the voice of their shepherd, so, too, do the children of God identify the voice of their Creator and follow him.
The master shepherd leads his sheep to food and water, and he searches for the animals that wander away from the flock. Lambs are more likely to get lost, but the good shepherd takes his hook, uses it as a walking stick or tool to ward off predators, catches the lost lamb by the neck or hoof, and leads him safely home. Lambs are symbols of purity or celestial innocence. They are as innocent as newborn children, and Jesus loved children: "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for it is to the childlike that the kingdom of heaven belongs" (Matthew 19:14, OEB). It is only fitting that the man who "gathered the lambs in his arms" became the sacrificial lamb who saved all the members of his flock (Isaiah 40:11). His sacrifice "by precious blood, as it were of a lamb, unblemished and spotless" ensured our redemption (1Peter 1:19 OEB).
If an artist were to paint the scene of a shepherd in his field, images of lush green grass, a steady stream, abundant vegetation, hills or meadows, or perhaps a gentle waterfall might fill the canvas. Pastel colors might bring to life beautiful flowers opening toward the sun, sheep safely grazing, or birds singing or soaring overhead. Upon completion, one might feast his eyes upon a peaceful, serene, harmonious sense of "time standing still" – a perfect reflection of Psalm 23:
The Lord is my shepherd: I am never in need.
He lays me down in green pastures.
He gently leads me to waters of
rest, he refreshes my life.
He guides me along paths that are
straight, true to his name.
And when my way lies through a valley of gloom,
I fear no evil, for you are with me.
Your rod and your staff comfort me ... (OEB)
The first line of this psalm reveals that with the Lord or Yahweh as shepherd, we lack nothing. All possible needs are met if we lean on the Lord. He gives us the means to satisfy our needs. Like sheep that know his shepherd's voice and trust they are secure in following it, we need to trust that inner-knowing that we are being shepherded by God. He will never lead us astray if we listen to his voice. In a chaotic world, it can be difficult to hear that voice, but God reminds us to "Be still, and know that I am God" (Psalm 46:10, King James Version). Silence or stillness creates a vacuum which nature abhors. The voice of God (John 1:1) created the universe. His name is "I Am." When one is still, one knows that "I Am" presence. Those two words are the words of creation. Quieting the mind and opening the heart allows one to hear that "I Am" voice, and one is free to follow it.
There is a fine line between hearing and listening. Sounds bombard our lives, but how many of us truly listen, comprehend and follow our inner guidance? Psalm 4:3 assures us that the Lord listens to us and works miracles for us. If he can listen to us, the least we can do is take the time to listen to him. Ideas are whispered in that vacuum space from the Creator himself, and those ideas can grow into the next business, work of art or musical composition. Like sheep who trust and follow the master's voice, we must hear him, listen to him and follow him. He will help us create something out of nothing. With Yahweh as shepherd, there is no lack.
On the journey of life, one experiences both happy and challenging times. God is the medicine that restores the spirit at all times. In good times, he is like a fortifying multi-vitamin, and, in challenging times, he writes the prescription tailored to each individual. When circumstances change, we experience growth. Change is always constant, but so is the love and guidance of God. He is with us every step of the way. Like a pendulum that swings back and forth, so do the circumstances of our lives change from hopeless to hopeful. Stillness can combat any storm. The center of the pendulum swing is the still point. All swings meet at the center. Staying centered will allow anyone to thrive during any storm. Psalm 4:4–5 advises us to "be still," listen to our hearts and to "trust in the Lord" (OEB).
In Psalm 23, we learn that the Lord will guide us on "straight paths" befitting his name. This particularly strikes me because of the mention of his sacred name. Historically, the name of Yahweh was never to be uttered by the Jews. They tried to respect and revere its sanctity. His name and the ground where it was revealed to Moses via the burning bush was "hallowed ground," and thus when Jesus was teaching the people to pray, he said, "hallowed be thy name." In later translations of the Torah, there were as many as 6,800 substitutions for the name, Yahweh (Goldman,p. xii). His name is not only sacred, but it is powerful. God says in Exodus 3:15 that he wishes his people to "invoke" his name from generation to generation. So, when the Lord guides us on paths befitting his name, he is leading us on a holy path to righteousness, the product of which will be holy ground. From that holy ground will flow abundant blessings ("my cup runs over" OEB). Following the Good Shepherd will ensure we will be surrounded by kindness and faithful love throughout our lifetimes, and when we finally cross over to the next life, we will live with Yahweh for eternity.
Time and Eternity
As a musician, time and timing have been integral parts of my life for over thirty-five years. Music students are taught to count simple rhythms from day one of private instruction. "Music is the pleasure the human mind experiences from counting without being aware it is counting," said Gottfried Leibniz (www. brainyquote.com). Each note has a specific duration, and it is placed carefully within the context of a steady pulse or beat. The pulse moves horizontally. Notes move up and down to create a memorable melody, so melody as well as harmony, move vertically and horizontally simultaneously. Adding meter and placing notes within the context of measures with a specific number of beats per measure allows the listener to feel and internalize the pulse. Composers in the Medieval and early Renaissance eras did not use meter or barlines, and their music had a greater sense of freedom, almost sounding improvisatory. Compositions from the late Renaissance to the twentieth century made use of meter and thus established continuity and equilibrium for the listener. Time and timing were consistent and reliable. Twentieth century composers like Messiaen experimented with time and timelessness by eliminating the need for meter and once again forcing the listener to adapt to rhythm without meter, mirroring God's time rather than earthly time.
Before the Big Bang, the universe existed in a state of timelessness or what the ancient Greeks referred to as kairos. Kairos is eternity or God's time. With the commencement of the Big Bang, linear time was born. Essentially, sound created linear time or chronos. This coincides with John's account in the New Testament: "In the beginning the Word was ..." (John 1:1 OEB). God's word, or, the sound of his voice, created the universe. Scientists call the beginning of the universe Alpha. Since the Big Bang, the universe has been accelerating towards absolute zero, which scientists refer to as Omega. In Revelation 1:8 we learn, "'I am the Alpha and the Omega,' says the Lord, the God who is, and who was, and who will be, the Almighty" (OEB). Absolute zero is only a theoretical concept that scientists can come close to reaching but can never quite achieve. All motion ceases at this zero point, and since life is literally vibration, absolute zero or -273.15 degrees Celsius, is unable to sustain life, as we know it.
At the moment of the Big Bang, the Alpha state was very disordered, and as the universe accelerated towards zero, it became more ordered. Zero is the ultimate balance point. The concept of order being created out of chaos is similar to a one-thousand-piece jigsaw puzzle being constructed. Out of the box, only random parts exist, which must be carefully assembled piece by piece. A person may choose to complete the border pieces first, or he may gradually build on each random piece that fits together. As more pieces are interlocked together, the bigger picture comes into focus. The final result is a highly ordered perfect picture, and the puzzle is solved. Absolute zero is that perfect picture. In order for absolute zero to be completely achieved, mass, energy, density, gravity and temperature would all have to reach zero at the same time. According to Gevin Giorbran in his book Everything Forever, sound, energy and matter are all "oscillations of waves," and when those waves are "stretched flat," silence ensues (Giorbran, p. 78).
American composer John Cage went on a quest to experience absolute silence – his absolute zero. He entered an anechoic chamber at Harvard University. Rather than hearing nothing, he heard two different sounds, one high-pitched and one low-pitched. Upon exiting the chamber, the sound engineer told him that the high-pitched sound could be attributed to his nervous system and the low-pitched sound was his bloodstream. One of Cage's most famous pieces is scored for solo piano and is entitled 4'33". The pianist walks out on stage, sits at the piano, gestures to begin and closes the piano lid. It is four minutes and thirty-three seconds of silence. His reasoning behind it is that he wanted to heighten the awareness of each concertgoer as to the miscellaneous noise that surrounds him – the ticking of a wristwatch, a hard candy being unwrapped, coughing, breathing, leafing through concert programs, or even grinding teeth. What I find is an interesting parallel is that if four minutes, thirty-three seconds is converted to seconds only, you get 273 seconds, and -273.15 degrees Celsius is absolute zero. Cage could no more achieve absolute silence than scientists can achieve absolute zero. John Cage once remarked, "I have nothing to say and I am saying it and that is poetry" (www. wikiquote.org). As long as there is life, there is sound. Absolute zero isn't really empty space or a void. Giorbran believes it is the "sum of everything, all possible states and all life and is Einstein's timelessness," just as Cage's "silence" is pregnant with sound.
Chronological time exists within timelessness or eternity. They literally overlap. When one visualizes a number line, he sees a horizontal axis and a vertical axis. Zero is the balance point on both axes. To the right of zero on the horizontal line are the positive numbers and to the left are the negative numbers. On the vertical axis, the numbers above zero are positive and those below zero are negative. The balance of zero is a still point. This mirrors Psalm 46:10, which advises us to "be still" in order to "know that I am God." People who pray or practice meditation wish to quiet the mind and open the heart. They are literally communicating with God by focusing their attention. Some can focus on the breath alone, and others repeat mantras or prayers like the rosary that are meaningful to them. Observing the breath, the life force, or repetition of prayers is hypnotic or trance-like. That hypnotic state is a piece of eternity or God's time – a type of zero state. It is where he can whisper the ideas that create miracles. Chronological time is temporarily suspended while the divine is experienced.
When one philosophically contemplates the past, present and future he realizes that his conception of time is relative. From a mathematical standpoint, "now" is a moment, and the length of that moment can always be shorter. Using a musical example: If a quarter note is the pulse, it equals one beat. If the quarter note equals 60 beats per minute, it is literally one second long. That single note can be subdivided: I can play 2 eighth notes per beat, 4 sixteenth notes per beat, 8 thirty-second notes per beat or 16 sixty-fourth notes per beat. The quarter note pulse (one second) is always constant, but the note values are decreasingly smaller. Quarter notes are the "now" of time, and thus each time you hear a quarter note, it is the present. However, 2 eighth notes equal one quarter, and once the first eighth sounds, it is past time, but half a second of the present is still left over. Four sixteenth notes equal one beat or second, and after the first sixteenth sounds, it is past, but three-quarters of the beat is still present. Past and present literally overlap. St Augustine said the "present occupies no space" (Chadwick, p. 233). He explained memories keep past events in one's mind. Since one lives in the present time, the memory image of the past is recalled in the present. Future events can be imagined in the mind's eye, and those events appear as if they have already happened. This imagining occurs in the present. So, the "now" is where past, present and future meet.
Our daily life is very similar to the above music example, and our sense of time is relative based on our perception. Present can refer to our morning activities like eating breakfast or taking a shower. These present time activities might take one hour or two. The great movie we spent two hours watching last night is past, and the baseball game we are looking forward to in the evening is future. The seconds continue to tick away, but our perception of "now" or present time is not from second to second but from activity to activity. Time literally overlaps, at least from a philosophical standpoint. Getting back to the number line, zero is "now" or the present. It is a still point that lacks vibration. The positive numbers are the future and the negative are the past. All before and after zero is vibration or sound. For me, all is music. What distinguishes music from either sound or vibration is meaning. Every note I play is meaningful. Every activity I engage in is meaningful. Every minute of my lecture is meaningful. Every one of my relationships is meaningful. Creations manifest because of the intent or meaning behind them.
Excerpted from Mirror of the Soul by Tania M. DeVizia. Copyright © 2015 Tania M. DeVizia. Excerpted by permission of Balboa Press.
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Table of Contents
Part 1: The Roles of Jesus with Art as Mirror, 1,
Chapter 1: The Good Shepherd, 3,
Chapter 2: Healer and Miracle Worker, 40,
Chapter 3: Carpenter and Stone Mason, 83,
Chapter 4: Fisher of Men, 121,
Chapter 5: Son of God, 155,
Part 2: Reflecting the Creator: '70's and '80's Pop Culture, 191,
Chapter 6: The Hero and the Antihero, 193,
Chapter 7: The Rainbow Connection and the Force That Will Always Be With You, 238,