Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The Hills Are Alive...With My Quiet Talents

In my religion - that of the LDS - we are encouraged to cultivate and share our talents. In my CULTURE - that also of the LDS, but which brings with it some quirks, social oddities, and hair colors that really don't have anything to do with the religion but more of the "culture" that has sprung from it - the talent that everyone cultivates and shares has some foundation in advanced music something or other; be it singing (like angels), playing an instrument (or 5), singing different "parts" perfectly on key for a four verse hymn, whatever. Not only are LDS people musical, and ridiculously good at it (read MoTab), but I've felt for a long time that we are all EXPECTED to be brilliant musicians to be a good LDS person (and I'm going to go ahead and say woman specifically). I'd LOVE to be a brilliant musician - or mostly just sing like an angel. I play the piano - but I'm not an incredible proficient by any means. Truth is, I am not a brilliant musician - but I am LDS.

Growing up most especially in Utah, there have been times in my life where I have, as Elder Wirthlin suggested in his Conference address Concern for the One, "feel as though they don't belong...perhaps because they are different." I know some of you who know me find this odd. But I've always felt like I'm stuck in some oblivion of middleness - I'm not the fully eclectic type of member, nor am I the "BYU girl" what with her amazing homemaking abilities and homegrown aspirations. There are things about me that are culturally "spot-on", and things that set me apart from the "usual LDS cultural" crowed. I don't feel like I belong to one - or the other - but rather am a swinging pendulum between the two extremes. I get along with everyone. I can be friends with anyone. And I've created many an awkward group when I've tried to meld my variety of friend groupings together. MANY. An. Awkward. Group.

Music is one of those things that makes me feel like I'm not "LDS" enough. I know, right? But I know many a non-musically inclined LDS person has felt the pressure, or at least the worthlessness, of not being able to sing in Sacrament Meeting or inspire congregations with their own piano rendition of "Come Come Ye Saints." I think music has always been something I'm drawn to and love - as mentioned I do play the piano and though I don't sing like an angel - I love to sing anyway. You should hear me in the car - I really get going! I remember watching Mary Poppins and singing along with her to every song and then rewinding it and doing it again. I love Julie Andrews and she's always been one of my heroes. She's so beautiful and so talented. I remember always wanting to be like her. However, though Julie Andrews can sing 9 octaves (yes ! You realize that's only 2 less than all the octaves on a regular piano), I'm what you'd call a "campfire or choir voice" IF I'm not feeling intimidated by my clearly more musically inclined "campfire/choir" compadres (did I spell that right?). I've participated in my share of High School Honor Choirs, Missionary Farewell Quartets, and Karaoke Revolution matches (I seriously love this game! LOVE IT!), but dear Internet if I can tell you something between you and me, I've always wanted to be that beautiful angelic soloist inspiring the congregation with my sweet vocal notes or be part of a incredible duet be it "The Spirit of God" or the "Elephant Song" from Moulan Rouge (mostly the Elephant Song - I have both Kidmans and McGregors parts down pat...go ahead...try me) But alas, thus far it is not my talent to fully enjoy. So for a long time, I felt like I didn't really have much in the way of talents - just because my musical ability wasn't even comparable to some of my brilliant LDS counter-parts. As far as music is concerned - I'd like my pendulum to swing to the "BYU culture" side. I even think it would make me far more appealing for what all LDS singles are ardently in search of - eternal companionship. I just totally swung culture-side with that comment. But hey, we all have our silly insecurities. And usually the kind of guy I like is very much BYU (so cute) and thus very much "expectant" of a few of those cultural "bonus" qualities.
And then Elder Wirthlin said this, "Tied to this misconception (that members feel they don't belong) is the erroneous belief that all members of the Church should look, talk, and be alike. The Lord did not people the earth with a vibrant orchestra of personalities only to value the piccolos of the world. Every instrument is precious and adds to the complex beauty of the symphony. All of Heavenly Father’s children are different in some degree, yet each has his own beautiful sound that adds depth and richness to the whole."

Clearly the irony for me is he's using a musical analogy - ha ha - BUT his words bring me comfort that it's okay for me to embrace my differences compared with the cultural stipulations Utah LDS-ism brings with it, and that those difference don't ostracize me, but actually increases the richness of what I can offer. I don't sing. I'm not a brilliant musician. That I know - but then I started to wonder what talents I DID have. What CAN I do and what AM I? Then, as I had been struggling with the idea of my worthlessness and LDS unattractiveness because of my lack of musical genius that so many value in the Church, Elder Uchdorf spoke to the sisters in the General Relief Society Meeting on Sunday and brought me some much needed peace and confidence to my soul. He explained that women at many times feel discouraged, disheartened, and inadequate; that we don't "measure up" no matter how hard we try. However, he explained that we all have talents, that we all have gifts, and that we should cultivate what we have and recognize what we have to give to others, as well as how much or Father in Heaven loves us. He explains we were created to "experience a fullness of joy" to seek and experience "eternal peace", and to do this we must create things. It made me feel that I was part of the symphony and not "less of an LDS woman" because of what I seemingly lack.

Some people are blessed with the incredible ability to utilize music for the inspiration and uplifting of others. This is a talent I greatly admire and in some small level get to add unto in my tiny way (entertainment value if anything - eh?). However, it's not the ONLY talent valued. It's not the ONLY talent out there. Although my talents may not be seen from the pulpit or manifest themselves as beautifully as singing or being a concert violinist, there are still things I can do to help uplift and inspire others. I do have the desire to CULTIVATE my musical talent and with work and practice I can add to my musical abilities. I may never be Mary Poppins -but I can surely find joy in campfire songs with friends and family. Also, and most importantly, there are talents I have right NOW which help me realize MY worth and that I have something to offer (hear that BYU boys? BIG things). My culture does value music - I value music and want my kids to have music abundant in their lives (I've planned at the age of 8 they will each start music lessons of their choice...yes yes), and perhaps they'll have the talent for vocal performance I don't have - but my religion, my Heavenly Father, values ALL talents, even the quiet ones that aren't as readily or easily recognized. Everyone is needed - singers or not.

Well, as for one talent I recognized within myself, I think I write okay. That's one of my quiet talents I can cultivate and utilize to build the Kingdom. The pendulum is happily swinging in both directions - and I'm okay with that. And besides, there has to be someone to appreciate the musically brilliant.


Sapphire Sting said...

Being a singer, Andrea, let me let you in on a little secret. We singers are very glad for people like you. Not simply because it means there's less competition (which is, admittedly, a factor), but because all the singers in the world are useless without an audience. If you're in a ward where you're the ONLY person who isn't in the ward choir, don't despair - it means you're the one person who gets to hear the choir as a whole, and the choir will love you as their audience. It's something we don't think about very often, but it's very true. Thank you, Andrea, for being an appreciative audience - the ability to appreciate music is a talent in and of itself.

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