Earlier this year I rediscovered a CD titled Considering Lilies, an album of Christian music written and performed by a sister duo by that name. I started listening to it whenever in the driver’s seat, and became particularly fond of the first five tracks. It was neat to find a set of vibrantly uplifting messages set to modern-yet-not-blandly-predictable accompaniment, and I gradually found it to be a great deal of fun to sing along to as well.
While listening to “Beautiful You,” the second of the album’s tracks, I had the unusual experience of hearing a musical line in my head that had not been perceived by my ear. This half-heard harmony kept recurring whenever I listened to the song – and so, one afternoon, driving along with the wind whipping about and the road whizzing beneath me, I made a tentative attempt at singing that line. And it worked.
Most of it, that is. A few notes sounded pretty off. And so, disheartened and abashed, I stopped singing, preferring to listen in silence to the recording unmarred by the dissonance of my attempted addition.
But then a flash of thought appeared in my mind, challenging the deeply-rooted perfectionistic mindset I carry throughout nearly all aspects of life.
“Zopers, think about this for a moment. There’s a chance, you know, that you don’t have to get this right the first time ‘round. If you try out a harmony and it doesn’t work out, guess what happens? The recording keeps right on going, and you can move along with it and try it again differently the next time. There is no living person in this vehicle to be jarred by a sour note – and there is no true reason why you ought to be embarrassed in front of yourself. It’s okay to slip up, it’s acceptable to play around – to state it simply, it is alright to not be perfect.”
I do realize that this mental monologue of self speaking to self is a statement of the obvious and that it ends up sounding rather cliché. To me, however, it was truly a brand new thought. This concept that I can experiment with harmonies, try to vocalize what I hear in my head, add on to what already exists... and that I need not keep a record of how many times I “messed up” before “finally getting it”... that, in the end, they’re just sound waves floating through the car, not getting in anybody’s way – and not condemning me.
Thus inspired I continued on my way, singing along and translating thought to sound. And it was fun. And, when all was said and done, it even sounded good.